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Sapphire Axion RS300-AA38FL - Sapphire Axion RS300-AA38FL
In the box you’ll find an IDE cable, a floppy cable, an S-ATA cable, a two port FireWire bracket and a TV-out bracket with support for composite and S-Video output. This is a pretty basic set of accessories but it’s pretty much everything you need to get started.
The supplied manual is of an acceptable standard, but it is far from the best I have seen. That said, any competent PC builder will have no problem gleaning all the necessary information from it.
In terms of performance the onboard graphics chip copes well with older 3D applications, but anything past DirectX 8 games will really struggle. Although I didn’t run any real world benchmarks on the board, due to its lacking performance in 3DMark03, you can still tell from the 3DMark 2001 scores that it’s not a scorcher. A Radeon 9200 AGP card performed better across the board, but as with any add-in graphics card, this adds cost to the overall system price.
On the other hand in terms of Windows application performance there is little to fault the new IGP9100 chipset, but if you compare it to any of the Pentium 4 motherboards we tested a while back you’ll notice that it still struggles to keep up with the competition. However, the Sysmark 2002 scores are more than acceptable and I would expect the performance to increase with new BIOS releases as well as new drivers. The PCMark 2002 result doesn’t improve things, with the scores proving to be satisfactory but not great.
What you have to think about is what you will be using a product such as this for. And it’s worth remembering that the integrated graphics solution is still far superior to products from Intel, VIA and SiS in terms of quality and performance, it’s just a shame that the rest of the motherboard isn’t up to scratch.
Trying to sum things up with regards to the IGP9100 chipset and the Sapphire Axion RS300-AA38FL is not easy as some of the features aren’t there yet and the performance is below the level I expected. Sapphire may not have a long history in motherboard manufacture, but it has been making quality graphics boards for a very long time. It’s therefore probably safe to assume that driver and BIOS support will be well catered for.
If you’re after a low budget motherboard for a Celeron based PC that will not be used for playing any recent games, then the RS300-AA38FL is a reasonable choice. The asking price of £104.58 is not horrendous, but there are far cheaper motherboards around and you can get a quality motherboard along with a Radeon 9200 based graphics card for about £10-15 more.
The Axion RS300-AA38FL is a difficult product to evaluate. The integrated graphics are a cut about the competition, but the rest of the board doesn’t quite compare. Improved drivers and BIOS support will no doubt help, but more mainstream P4 boards will still have the edge. Ultimately though, if you’re dead set on an integrated graphics the RS300-AA38FL is worth considering.