Features of the MSI 845 Ultra ARU
Here is the packaging that MSI ships the 854 Ultra ARU boards out in. Flashy box that comes with two brackets for USB ports and D-LED, CD with drivers, software and other goodies, a floppy disk for ATA-133 drivers, the board and an extremely thick manual with all the information you will need to help set up your board.
Here we get our first look at the board. A rather standard layout that we have come to know from MSI.
Here we have the expansion layout, simple AGP (4x 1.5v only), 5 PCI and 1 CNR slot. This is pretty much the factory default for an OEM/gamers board these days. While we could have done without the CNR and had an extra PCI slot instead, we can't get everything on the cheap.
First on the features list is the Promise ATA-133 RAID controller chip. This little baby gives you ATA-133 support as well as RAID. With the new BIOS update you can either select RAID or ATA mode for the controller, so you have the option of using the chip for RAID or just a plain old ATA-133 controller. Similar to Highpoint but only requires external settings for RAID and ATA mode.
MSI have been made famous for adding onboard USB 2.0 controller chips, and this board is no exception. Seen above, we find the NEC USB 2.0 controller chip that has been on just about all of the MSI high-end overclocker/enthusiast boards. This chip does add to the cost of the board a bit though. While VIA makes a more cost effective chip, it is somewhat slower than the NEC chip; better to have the quality I say.
C-Media sound controller chips have become one of the best value 6 channel sound chips ever. Producing reasonable quality sound (far superior to AC'97) this chip is an ideal replacement for aging SB Live values, SB PCI128's and those old Vortex A3D cards.
Here we see the cooler placed onto the Northbridge of the board. MSI has elected to go with an active cooling solution rather than passive. This promotes better overclocking and looks better. While the board has three DDR DIMM slots, the i845D only has 4 banks of memory. DIMM slot one takes banks 0 and 1, where 2 and 3 share banks 2 and 3. This means if you have a double sided DDR DIMM in DIMM 2, then you can't have any memory in DIMM 3. This is a limitation of the i845 that I hope Intel will remove in the newer revisions.
Here we see the brackets that are supplied. Top is the USB 1.1 controller bracket with MSI's D-LED. D-LED is a Diagnostic LED system that gives you light codes to tell you what your system is doing during the POST segment of boot-up. MSI used to have it internal, but now have moved it to external, a good move. The bottom bracket if the the USB 2.0 controller chip.