Overall I was impressed with the abilities of both boards. Each has a huge list of features and the added overclocking capabilities of both boards will be a delight to even the most demanding enthusiast. While the ABIT board did better in the gaming arena, the MSI stood a bit ahead when it came down to processor/memory powered applications. This bodes well for those who are interested in photo and movie editing, as the extra power in this area will serve you well.
As far as overclocking goes, I'll have to wait a bit before I can give a decent assessment. While the processor being used kicks ass, it is a boar when it comes to adjusting speeds. As we continue to get new processors in for testing, I will look into addressing this issue in more detail. One thing to consider, though, is both these boards have the ability to lock AGP/PCI speeds. This was a huge issue when the first K8T800 and nForce3 chipsets hit the market, but the Pro and Ultra versions (respectively) have taken care of this issue.
With regard to price, both of our competitors today fall into the same category. The MSI board as tested can be found online for around US$139 while the ABIT board can be had for around US$129 as shown on DealTime. Considering the pricing of most modern motherboards (regardless of chipset and processor support), these boards will fare well against other possibilities on the market.
When it comes down to picking a winner, there are a few things to consider. For the MSI board you have the extra GigABIT LAN port and a pair of extra SATA connectors built onto the board. It is hard to look past these features as they don't exist on most other competitors' hardware right now. While overclocking won't weigh heavily in this particular review given the processor used for testing, the MSI K8N Neo 2 was still able to get a bit higher speed and run with a high degree of stability, so this bodes well if you have plans on this aspect of computing.
For the ABIT board we have the Guru Clock, which does an excellent job of monitoring internal data and the consistently higher scores in all gaming tests used. Whether playing an old faithful like Quake III or the latest in hardware killing games like Doom 3, the ABIT board simply did better from every angle. If you have big plans of gaming with your new Socket 939 rig, this aspect of the performance will be of vital importance to you.
So it all boils down to what you really plan on doing with your new toy. Since one board didn't outperform the other by a large margin in an overall sense, your own goals will have to be a deciding factor in your purchasing choice. Both contenders performed very well and with great stability, so figure out where you want to go and choose accordingly.
Oh, if you happen to be wanting PCI Express, you'll have to be patient still. While new boards supporting this feature are due out in the near future (from nVidia with the nForce4 and ATI with the RS480 and VIA with the K8T890), we're just not quite there yet but should before Christmas this year.
Important note regarding the Socket 939 platform and the use of power supplies. It is a given that when you step up to this level of performance, you are simply going to have to have a solid performing PSU. If you are in the market for this type of system board and don't have a quality power supply yet, please note that I was unable to get the Antec line of power supplies to work with any stability with either of these boards. I will see about contacting them and trying to find out if they are looking at this issue, but as of right now I would recommend staying away from this brand until the problem is rectified. This is really a shame, too, as the Antec is one of the best performing brands on the market, but stability is a huge issue. When I changed out to a Thermaltake model and left all other settings alone, the system worked flawlessly.
10-13-04 Update: As I mentioned before, I have been in contact with Antec and have received a confirmation for the ABIT brand motherboard. Below is a blurb from their company representative on this issue:
We've heard of problems with our TruePower's and Abit's AV8 motherboard.
Recently Abit reported that our True power series has compatibility issue with their AV8. The symptom is the system will be in reboot loop during startup. We've tested all Truepower models here and haven't been able to recreate the problem.
According to our engineers, the symptom is not happening to every unit, but rather to a few here and there. They have found out that the instability was caused by 5Vsb and they come up with a solution by changing a capacitor in the power supply.
As a service to our customers we're replacing problem TruePowers with these updated versions. We instituted an inline change for all TruePower power supplies so that in the near future exchanging the PSU's with us will not be necessary.
If you are having stability issues with your Antec TruePower PSU and the ABIT AV8 Motherboard, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
They are still looking into the issue with the MSI board and I will post any additional information I receive regarding the stability issue.
MSI K8N Neo 2 Platinum
Very good performance in memory and processor intensive tests
4x SATA with RAID capabilities for them all
Colored ports for easy installation
Dual GigABIT LAN ports
Better HDD performance
Only a single IDE cable
Retarded color coding of memory slots
Rating - 8.5 out of 10
ABIT AV8-3rd Eye
Superior performance in all gaming tests
More BIOS settings available
Priced slightly less
Only a single IDE cable
IDE connector on board will be hard to attach in tall tower cases
Rating - 8.5 out of 10
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