By Lori Grunin
A system's chipset may be low on your list of essential specs when buying a computer, but Intel's latest release of its i845 system chipset actually gives you something to think about. Instead of traveling the middle of the computing road, the chipset now takes up every lane on the highway. You'd think that the consolidation would make PC buying decisions a little easier--but, of course, it doesn't.
One chipset, many flavors
With charmingly named flavors such as i845E, i845G, and i845GL, you'll now find some variant of the chipset in Intel-based systems for all market segments. The i845E chipset will populate the high and the middle ends of the Pentium 4 market in fast systems such as the Dell Dimension 4500 and the Falcon Northwest Mach V. The i845G will serve the midrange segments of the market in consumer systems such as the Compaq Presario 6000T, the Dell Dimension 4500S, and the Gateway 500SE. Lastly, the i845GL chipset will be used mainly in budget and corporate desktops where performance is a lower priority. For more information about the capabilities of the different chipsets and their relative performance, read our explanation.
Choosing the right chip
According to our performance testing, if we had to boil our recommendations down to bullet points, they'd go something like this: You'll get the best bang for your buck with i845E or i845G-based systems using one of the new Pentium 4 (at the high end) or Celeron (at the low end) chips. If you must get integrated graphics, make sure you choose an i845G-based system with an AGP slot (i845GL systems really belong in a corporate, never-to-be-upgraded world), and always get at least 256MB of memory to compensate for what's stolen by the graphics subsystem. Check out our reviews of i845-based systems below to see how the chips fall.
A closer look at the i845 chipset
Want to know more about the new chipset? Here's the scoop.