In order for a desktop platform to become successful, two critical criteria must be met; it must be perceived as acceptably high-performance, and it must be affordable. Granted, other factors such as availability and marketing come into play as well, but if either of those two criteria is not met, the platform is certain to fail in the desktop segment. Ultra high-speed parts are great, but will go nowhere fast if not affordable. Likewise, low prices on their own aren’t sufficient, just ask Cyrix.
Intel’s Pentium 4 has had the first of those two criteria locked up since its introduction. At clockspeeds starting at 1.5 GHz, and recently hitting 2.0 GHz, the Pentium 4 is the clear performance champion in the eyes of average Joe consumer. What has been holding it back is the second requirement; affordability. The processors themselves were expensive, the 6-layer motherboards were expensive, and most importantly, the required RDRAM memory was expensive.
Naturally, Intel has remedied the situation with the release of its 845 chipset, and a slew of processor price cuts. Pentium 4 processors are now priced similarly to equivalently-clocked Athlons, and the 845 chipset has allowed cheaper motherboard designs, and use the inexpensive PC133 memory.
With the platform’s newfound affordability, motherboard manufacturers have hopped on the bandwagon, and are releasing more budget-oriented Pentium 4 boards. And while they may not pique the interest of the enthusiast community, the trend in general is a very healthy one for the Pentium 4. Elitegroup, the world’s second largest motherboard manufacturer, has released such a series of boards, and has afforded us the time to evaluate one.
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