nForce 550 Test Board
Now we are down to the value-end of the equation with the MSI K9N Neo using the nForce 550 chipset.
The MSI K9N Neo is a smaller board compared to the rest of the pack and this is to keep the price down as its not meant to cost a huge amount - it is aimed at users of the cheaper Sempron AM2 processor.
The layout is pretty reasonable considering the price range it's aimed at. The ATX power and 4-pin connectors are located between the CPU and the I/O ports, this would be a problem on the more expansive boards aimed at overclockers and enthusiasts, but this is more a value thing, not aimed at super power. The IDE port is located behind the DIMM sockets. The FDD is located at the bottom of the board below the expansion slots which is not the best place to have it.
The CPU area is extremely well done. 4 phase power is used even on the budget board, and these are cooled by alloy heatsink on the Mosfets.
The rear I/O almost resembles the K9N Plat series however it doesn't have the Firewire ports, the SPDIF out port or an extra LAN port.
Lastly we have the expansion slots - a single PCI Express x16 slot for graphics cards, two PCI Express x1 slots and three PCI slots make up the final arrangement.