The overall layout of the board is pretty good as far as design goes. Power connectors are placed where they won't get in the way of moving fan blades and the color coding of the different feature ports is a nice touch.
The socket sits close to the memory slots as may be expected. The board comes with both the plastic HSF mounting installed and a backing plate on the reverse side of the board. This is pretty common for the Socket 939 boards, but some of the older Socket 754 boards did not include the backing plate.
I'm not real sure about the designer behind the memory color scheme, but in my humble little opinion, he/she should go back to school. What do I mean by that?
If you were to look at the memory slot layout and use a bit of common sense, you would probably figure to use the purple slots together and the green slots together to have your dual-channel memory in working order. Well guess again, my friend.
You use slots one and two for dual channel as well as slots three and four. And if you happen to be the type who actually reads the manual, you'll even find a blurb where it says not to install the memory in this configuration. Alas, a little further down the same page shows the graphic requiring the use of subsequent memory slots for the dual channel to be in effect. Is anybody else confused here?
Needless to say, I went ahead and used slots one and two to get the dual channel capabilities working properly and had no problems. Just something to keep in mind if you happen to purchase this board.
Moving on to the peripheral slots shows a full complement of available upgrading room. You get a single 8x AGP port and five PCI slots to give you a huge amount of flexibility. Considering this board has a very workable audio setup and LAN built in already, you won't really need to add a lot of items, but you still have the option to do so if you want or need to.
Oh, you want to know about the pretty orange colored slot? It is a communications slot as well as a standard PCI slot. It will work normally if needed, but was designed to be used with an add-on communication device. Kinda reminds me of the old AMR riser slots placed on many boards a few years ago, but at least you can still use this one as another PCI slot if needed.
Sitting under the golden fan is the chipset. In the case of this MSI board, you'll find the mighty nForce3 Ultra hiding beneath those plastic blades. It also manages to handle the full workload of board communications as noted by the lack of a Southbridge chipset.
If you'll look at the upper right hand corner of the picture above, you'll see the rear portion of the AGP slot. I have been asked in the past about the use of larger cooling solutions on high-end video boards, but you won't have any problems. Even though the Northbridge is very close to the AGP port, the fan is a low profile type that won't get in the way of a large sized video board.
Also pictured above are two of the four SATA connectors available on this board. The other two are by the AGP slot. Not the greatest place for a drive connection, but the ability to have a total of four SATA drives is huge. It opens many possibilities for RAID or mass storage devices and still gives the full compliment of IDE devices as well.
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