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Review: SiS655FX dual-channel P4 chipset

by Tarinder Sandhu on 9 October 2003, 00:00

Tags: SiS (TPE:2363)

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AMD has taken the brave leap of designing a CPU that's equally at home in 32- and 64-bit environments. 64-bit computing, really, is outside the realm of the average user who wishes to build a power PC today. It's just as well then the various Athlon 64 derivatives are blindingly fast with good ole 32-bit OS' and code. Intel, on the other hand, is quite willing to extend the usefulness of 32-bit CPUs for the next few years, it seems. Its research shows that the benefits conferred by 64-bit computing aren't great enough to warrant jumping the present ship. That's why the upcoming Prescott and the present Northwood are solely 32-bit processors.

Before the launch of AMD's new range of CPUs, Intel had successfully moved its high-end consumer-level CPUs on to an 800MHz FrontSide Bus. Complementing motherboards, in the form of the i865PE Springdale and i875P Canterwood harnessed dual channel DDR400 memory and a compliant Memory Controller Hub (MCH) to provide a potential 6.4GB/s of juicy memory bandwidth to the CPU. The greater the memory bandwidth at any given speed, ceteris paribus, the greater the performance in a broad range of applications and games. It's a question of feeding the processor with enough data.

Intel also introduced a single-channel i848P chipset for those on a tighter budget, and VIA recently made a few waves with its single-channel PT800 chipset that ran surprisingly well. It seemed as if Intel-based dual channel chipsets were the only way to go if you wanted class-leading performance. The problem, however, is that Intel isn't known as a 'cheap' supplier of chipsets. Have a look at the average price of a decent Springdale or Canterwood example; seldom is it under Ā£100.

SiS Technologies had previously ventured into the Pentium 4 world with a number of single channel, decent, fast and relatively cheap chipsets. A number of recognised motherboard manufacturers had taken on the various chipsets and designed full retail boards. SiS is back with a bang. The all-new SiS655FX is a direct competitor to Intel's finest. A dual-channel (read performance) offering that attempts to match or beat the i865PE and i875P on performance and positively thrash them on price. It's mission impossible for SiS, or is it ?. Read on.