Beginning with its 645 chipset, SiS has enjoyed a fair amount of success manufacturing Pentium 4 core logic. Life is good when you hold a license for such things, isn’t it? Though Intel has managed to maintain a leg up on SiS in terms of performance and stability, the Taiwanese firm still manages to best Intel with regards to pricing. In fact, SiS-based Pentium 4 boards can be found online for less than $50!
Despite commanding a value advantage, SiS has encountered its share of problems as well. Our RADEON 9700 Pro compatibility issues are certainly no secret. Neither SiS nor ATI claims responsibility for the problem, so we’ve been left with a few 648 boards that have to be tested with older video cards. The other shortcoming of 648 is a lack of Hyper-Threading support. When 648’s successor, 655, was introduced, it was also missing a proper Hyper-Threading implementation. The chipset has since been re-spun and the B0 stepping functions as SiS had originally planned.
All the while, SiS has faced formidable competition from Intel. The i845PE chipset performs very well, especially considering it sports a single channel of DDR333 memory. E7205 (“Granite Bay”) is also a powerhouse, but it costs more than most enthusiasts are willing to spend on a new motherboard; most Granite Bay boards are in the neighborhood of $200. Even the i850E chipset is still a viable alternative.
SiS knows, though, that its fiercest competition is still waiting in the wings. Intel’s “Canterwood” chipset is expected to launch in the very near future alongside a new breed of processors running on an 800MHz front side bus. Needless to say, this is where we expect to see our performance leader.
Nevertheless, SiS still holds the value card. Motherboards based on the 655 chipset can be found between $90 and $240. Depending on the features you’re interested in, chances are good that there is a corresponding 655 board. We’ve selected a group of balanced 655 boards, taking performance and features into consideration with the intention of making a solid recommendation. The boards in question are MSI’s 655 Max-FISR, Gigabyte’s SINXP1394 and the AOpen AX45-4D. Keep in mind that although the 655 chipset may be outperformed by Canterwood, it will likely remain a more cost effective alternative.