The Motherboard in Detail
Normally in our reviews of motherboards we would start out with the package and contents. We weren't able to this time due to the nature of the sample we received. MSI only packed it in a brown box as this board is just out of beta stages and there was no packaging ready for this baby, however, that doesn't stop us getting down and dirty with the board.
MSI bases the 915GM Speedster on a Micro-ATX board measuring 24.5x24.5cm in size. While being small, it does pack in quite a bit of technology on the board. Being based on a new design, there is no set reference pattern for this type of layout but everything seems to be clean.
MSI has placed all of the bulky cables to the right hand side of the board. The 24-pin ATX power and 4-pin AUX power connector are located on the right hand side of the board with the FDD and HDD interface connectors.
Located at the top of the board are 4 memory sockets, however, you can't use them all at once. The green sockets are for DDR-2 and the blue sockets are for DDR. Depending on what memory you want to use you can only install a maximum of 2GB.
MSI has gone a smart way when it comes to the CPU and heatsink mounting. Rather than using a proprietary mounting system, MSI has gone with a Socket 478 heatsink mount. This will allow you to use any Socket 478 heatsink or water cooling unit on the market.
For power, a 3 phase power system is employed to give the CPU the stable voltage it needs to run. While an extra 3 phases would have been nice for extra stability, Dothan and Bannis cores don't need a huge amount of power to operate.
Being a new design, MSI has a new I/O shield layout. You get a standard set of ports but the layout is different than any other board out there.
Expansion slots are very clean and give enough for adding in any extra devices you may want. The PCI Express x16 slot allows you to use a separate graphics card. A single PCI Express and 2 PCI legacy slots make up the rest of the layout.
To power the board, the Intel mobile 915GM chipset with ICH6R Southbridge is used. The mobile Northbridge allows for the use of Speedstep technology as well as the Intel GMA900 graphics system. The ICH6R gives you 4 SATA ports, audio as well as all the other features that we come to know and love.
Firewire is a must have of the 21st century. To give the MSI 915Gm Speedster this feature, the VIA VT6307 2 port Firewire chip is added. This chip is connected though the PCI bus.
Lastly on the list are 2 PCI Express x1 controlled Marvell Gigabit Ethernet controllers. These are what give the board its dual gigabit compliance.