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Albatron's PX915P-AGPe motherboard


Price (street)

PCI EXPRESS is undoubtedly the future of PC graphics, but it doesn't offer the easiest upgrade path. The crux of the problem is the fact that PCI Express x16 graphics slots aren't backward compatible with AGP cards. As of yet, we haven't seen core logic chipsets support both PCI-E and AGP, either. That hasn't deterred Taiwan from finding a way to offer both AGP and PCI-E graphics on the same motherboard, though.

Thanks to a clever bit of engineering, Albatron's Intel 915P chipset-based PX915P-AGPe is equipped with both PCI-E x16 and AGP Extension (AGPe) graphics slots. AGPe isn't quite AGP, though. Read on for more about AGPe and to see how the PX915P-AGPe stacks up against the competition.

The specs
As usual, let's get the ball rolling with a look at the PX915P-AGPe's spec sheet.

CPU supportLGA775 Intel Pentium 4 processors with 800MHz front-side bus
Form factorATX
ChipsetIntel 915P Express
North bridgeIntel 915P MCH
South bridgeIntel ICH6R
InterconnectDMI (2GB/s)
Expansion slots1 PCI Express X16
1 AGPe (AGP4X/8X only)
2 PCI Express X1
2 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory4 184-pin DIMM slots
Maximum of 4GB of DDR 333/400 SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
1 channel ATA/100
4 ports Serial ATA 150 via ICH6 south bridge
2 channels ATA/133 via ITE IT8212F with RAID 0,1, 0+1 support
Audio8-channel audio via ICH6 integrated audio and ALC880 codec
Ports1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
1 serial
1 parallel
USB 2.0 with headers for 2 more
1 RJ45 10/100 Fast Ethernet via VIA VT6105
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet via Marvell MV8001

1 line out/front out
1 rear out
1 surround out

1 bass/center out
1 mic in
1 line in
BIOSPhoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speedsFSB: 100-333MHz in 1MHz increments
Bus dividersLocked PCI speeds of 33, 37.7, or 44MHz
Locked PCI-E speed of 100MHz
VoltagesCPU: 0.8375-1.9V in 0.0125V increments
DRAM: default, +0.1-0.4V in 0.1V increments
North bridge: default, +0.1-0.3V in 0.1V increments
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed controlCPU

The PX915P-AGPe's defining feature is its AGPe slot, which makes the board compatible with existing AGP graphics cards. AGPe isn't an official standard, and it's not quite AGP. Because the AGP specification is derived from good old PCI, Albatron was able to hang an AGP slot off of the PCI bus and make a functional AGP slot, although with somewhat diminished capacity. Without the higher clock speeds and additional signaling tricks of AGP, this "AGPe" slot has only 133MB/second of bandwidth┬Śmuch less than AGP 8X's 2.1GB/second of bandwidth. Not only that, but a card in the AGPe slot must share bandwidth with other PCI devices in the system. AGPe should be responsive enough for basic 2D applications, but I wouldn't expect much from its gaming performance.

Although most enthusiast-oriented motherboards pair the 915P north bridge with Intel's ICH6R south bridge, Albatron uses the RAID-less ICH6 on the PX915P-AGPe. Without RAID support, having four Serial ATA ports on-board may seem a little excessive. However, the ICH6's Serial ATA ports support the ATAPI standard, so they're compatible with SATA optical drives.

You might not get Serial ATA RAID with the PX915P-AGPe, but the board serves up "parallel" ATA RAID thanks to ITE's IT8212F RAID controller. RAID 0, 1, and 0+1 arrays are supported, but perhaps more importantly, so are single drives. With the ICH6 only sporting one IDE port, it's nice to have a couple of extra ATA/133 channels on-hand.

On the audio front, Albatron takes advantage of Intel's new "Azalia" high-definition audio standard and specs the board with an 8-channel Realtek codec. The ALC880 DACs support audio up to 24 bits and 192KHz, while its ADCs can handle up to 20 bits and 96KHz.

Moving to networking, we have Gigabit Ethernet from Marvell and 10/100 Fast Ethernet from VIA. Both chips ride the board's crowded PCI bus, which must already balance the needs of an ATA RAID controller and AGPe slot. With PCI Express on board, it's disappointing that Albatron doesn't at least put the board's Gigabit Ethernet a PCI Express bus.

If it feels like something is missing, you're right. The PX915P-AGPe doesn't have any Firewire ports. Firewire has been a popular motherboard feature of late, and I've found it to be generally faster than USB 2.0. However, unless you're big into video editing, you probably won't notice Firewire's absence.