Soyo P4I Fire Dragon i845D socket 478

Monday, February 18, 2002


Introduction

Soon after their launch of their P4S Dragon Ultra P4-compatible super-board, Soyo seems to have planned for their next big hit: the P4I Fire Dragon. The P4I is nearly identical to the P4S. It includes the original's cornocopia of Overclocking functions, an ATA133 RAID controller, a C-Media sound-card, 4 USB ports, and even an integrated Intel 8256ET IEEE LAN 10/100Mbps Ethernet chip. The principal point of departure, it seems, is in the chipset - the P4I uses the i845D, rather than the SiS 645 - the on-board IEEE1394 (Firewire/iLink) controller, and the notable loss of support for DDR333 memory.

Clearly, this is a board worthy of some scrutiny. So, with that in mind, let's say we get down to the nitty-gritty, and take an up-close and personal look at what the P4I Fire Dragon has to offer.

Characteristics of the Soyo P4I Fire Dragon
CPU
Supports Intel ® Socket-478 Pentium 4.
Chipset
i845D
Form factor
ATX 30.5cm 23cm
Expansion
6 PCI - 0 ISA - 0 CNR - 1 AGP Pro - 4 USB
Memory
3X 184-pin DIMM sockets DDR SDRAM slots for up to 3GB
of DDR200, DDR266 memory.
FSB
100MHz to 255MHz in steps of 1MHz
Vcore adj.
1.1v to 1.85v in steps of 0.025
Vio adj.
2.52v to 2.68v
Audio chipset
C-Media CMI8738


Audio

The Soyo P4I Fire Dragon's sound capabilities are provided by an integrated C-Media CMI8738 audio-chip. The CMI8738 supports 5.1 speaker-configurations, with 4 to 6 lines-out, including a central base-line.

As part of its standard equipment, the Soyo has generously included the ability to treat incoming and outgoing digital & SPDIF signals via double optic, gold plated RCA jacks.

From a sound standpoint, the C-Media¨ CMI8738 has very little to envy of other audio-chips. It supports up to 32 polyphonic voices, EAX effects, and supports both Microsoft DirectSound 3D, and Aureal A3D. The CMI8738 is head and shoulders above the audio circuitry that is typically included as part of most chipsets, and its sound reproduction is simply excellent. Whether you're playing MP3s, CDs, or 3D games, the CMI8738's sound quality will often surprise you with its fidelity.



Configuration

Configuration of the P4I will be an entirely jumperless affair. The only on-board jumper of note, in fact, is JP5, which can be used to reset the BIOS - which is primarily and solely responsible for system settings.

Within "Soyo Combo Features" menu, for instance, users will find an option permitting the clock multiplier to be set to between 8X and 32X (Of course, it's worth noting that this particular function is of limited use to most people, as nearly every Intel CPU ships with an internal multiplier-lock).

Other functions include the ability to set the Vcore voltage to any of the values indicated in the table above, alter the DDR voltage, and set the AGP voltage to between 1.53v and 1.68v.

Finally, last but not least, the "Soyo Combo Features" menu includes a number of functions for tweaking memory timing options - though noticeably fewer options seem to have been included with the P4I, as with the P4S.



IEE1394 or the FireWire

Many readers may be wondering exactly what IEEE-1394 - also known as "Firewire", and "iLink" - actually is. The answer is actually quite simple. Firewire is a high-speed, peer-to-peer communications protocol - one that is often used for transferring digital audio and video data.

From the perspective of most users, Firewire can be thought of as a very high-speed serial port, much like USB. The most obvious difference is that, while USB 1.x is limited to 12Mbits/second, the P4I's IEEE-1394 "Firewire" controller can attain speeds of 100Mbits/second, 200Mbits/second, and 400Mbits/second.



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