Features of the MSI 865PE Neo2
- Package and Contents
Now that we have looked at the specifications, let's have a look at the actual product. First off we have the MSI 865PE Neo2. MSI has come up with a whole new product packaging since we last reviewed an MSI product. MSI uses a slide out box design with a carry handle, similar to what EPoX and Chaintech have done. While the look is essential to grab the buyer's eye, it's what's inside that counts.
MSI is always known for putting together a good bundle, and the Neo2 series is no exception. When unpacked, you get yourself the motherboard, two user manuals (one for your motherboard and one for the Promise Serial ATA controller), two Serial ATA cables, two Serial ATA power adapters, two IDE cables, one Floppy Disk cable, Driver CD, 5.1 Sound bracket, D-LED bracket with USB 2.0 ports and a three port Firewire bracket.
- The Board - High and Low's
MSI has done a very good job on the layout of the board. They use a red PCB for its board. MSI was one of the first manufacturers to use the red design for its motherboards, and it made MSI popular with case modders. MSI gives a layout configuration of one AGP slot supporting 8x and 4x transfer rates and five PCI slots for adding in PCI sound and various other devices, however, with the onboard features, there isn't much of a need for PCI slots unless you want TV capture capabilities.
Like most Dual Channel memory motherboards, MSI has color coded its DIMM slots. Two of them are dark blue and other two are light blue. This is used to help new users identify the two different channels - just match the DIMMs in each slot and you have Dual Channel mode enabled.
On the placement side of things, MSI has only made one mistake and that is with the four pin power supply connector. The IDE and FDD connectors have been placed behind the DIMM sockets in a perfect line one behind the other. Above these, the 20 pin ATX power connector is located; this keeps all the major wires well out of the way of the CPU to allow for much better case cooling. The 4 pin power connector as mentioned is the only problem we encountered, placed between the I/O ports and the Northbridge heatsink, you will need to have the 4 pin lead around the CPU which can cause a build up of heat - which is not the best in an overclockers system.
Since this is an i865PE shootout, it would be a bit weird if we used a different chipset. The Intel 865PE which has now started to shift the I875P out of the top of the line chipset spot is used on the 865PE Neo2. This chipset offers all of the functions of the higher end i875P Canterwood but without any ECC memory support or PAT. However, with some very cleaver BIOS tweaks, companies have been able to get the same memory performance out of the I865PE as the I875P, making it hard to justify the price tag of the Canterwood boards. MSI uses a rather large heatsink with a very low RPM fan to minimize noise while being able to deliver maximum cooling of the Northbridge; this is always good news for overclockers and silent PC builders.
The Southbridge is the ICH5-R. This variant offers eight USB 2.0 ports, AC'97 version 2.0 sound for 5.1 speaker systems with an adjacent AC'97 PHY, two Serial ATA ports supporting 150MB/s in RAID 0, 1 or 0+1 formats, giving the best performance and data security.
Now we get a look at the added extras that MSI provides that aren't standard on the chipset, first off we look at Firewire. VIA's VT6306 PCI Firewire controller chip has been added. Personally, this is my favorite Firewire chip out of all the IEEE1394a controllers. Compatibility wise, it has run all of my Firewire devices and has also scored at the top of the transfer rate side, making it the best for the bucks. MSI uses three green Firewire headers on the motherboard, coupled with a three port Firewire bracket, you get 2 x 6pin Firewire ports and 1x 4pin Firewire port.
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