MSI Mania - IntroductionIntroduction
It has been a while since we have taken a step back from hitting the motherboards, video cards and all that really drives us to take a step back and have a look at some of the goodies that are being put out into the market.MSI are well known for their great ranges of motherboards and video cards, but there is much more to MSI than meets the eye. MSI is a well established company with optical drives, multimedia accessories, wireless networking and have now started moving into the SFF sector which already great success.Today we take a look at MSI's latest 8x DVD Dual Standard Recorder, the new Wireless 11g Series and the Mega Stick. Stick with us as we take a gander at MSI's latest offerings.
MSI Mania - The Products - Mega StickMega Stick 256
First on our hit list is the MSI Mega Stick 256. This is the newest version from MSI which includes an updated firmware for a better interface, improved sound clarity and a larger internal size of up to 256MB.MSI has packed the Mega Stick in a 3D see through box, so you can see the unit before you buy it. In the box you get the Mega Stick, instruction booklet for operations of the various features, Driver CD for OS's like Windows 98 that don't natively support USB Mass Storage Devices, USB extension cable and an earphone set. The unit itself has four major functions, these being: FM Radio, MP3/WMA player, Digital Voice Recorder and a USB Flash drive.The FM system has a built in Frequency Modulation Antenna that can pick up FM broadcasts from 83MHz up to 108.8MHz which covers the entire FM radio band within 99% of the world. If you have FM Radio in your country, this baby will pick it up.The MP3/WMA player is simply that. You store MP3 or WMA tracks on the root directory of the unit. When powered up and set for Music playback, all MP3 and WMA files located in the root directory are available for playback.The Voice Recorder function is something I personally welcome. I know I have been out on some trips or business meetings and wished I had myself a note taker or voice dictator. With the Mega Stick 256, that will never happen to you again. It has a built in microphone for voice recording. Simply press the record button on the top and then you're under way. This function is also useful for recording off the built in Radio. To do this you set your FM channel up and press the record button, this will then record the radio rather than voice.The USB flash drive is simply what you would expect. 256MB of storage space is provided for you to transfer files onto the unit by simply plugging the unit into the USB port. The only unfortunate part of this is that the Mega Stick uses the USB 1.1 specifications, so transferring 256MB of data to and from the unit can take a bit of time, especially if you are on the run.
MSI Mania - The Products - Mega Stick ContinuedMega Stick Continued
This photo shows us the actual drive from the front and the top. This is where 99% of the functions are controlled from. On the front you have your LCD display screen. This lets you navigate the menus, access the voice recordings and song files from the unit. Beside this is the play/pause/Power button. This button allows you to turn the unit on and off by holding the button for 3 seconds.On the top we have the Fn or Function button. This button is used to switch between MP3/WMA to FM radio functions. Beside this is the record button for the Voice Recorder or to record your favourite radio station. Beside this is the skip/Search toggle. This has three functions - First it allows you to skip songs or voice recordings, but when held for 2 seconds puts the unit to either fast forward or reverse, depending which direction you press. If you press down on the button it acts as the enter button for selection options within the menus. Finally you have the digital volume control; this of course needs no explanation.
MSI also packs in some rather useful goodies for your needs. As mentioned earlier, first you get a Driver CD for OS's that don't support USB Mass Storage by default (Windows 98 is one of these), a clear case to place the drive into with a chain to hang the unit from your neck as well as a pair of headphones to listen to the unit with. MSI also supplies 1 AAA battery which is all the unit needs. This is remarkable as the unit lasted 12 hours when playing music on a single AAA Alkaline battery. When we placed a 1200mAH battery into the unit, we managed over 18 hours which includes swapping to FM radio and doing voice recordings. In all this unit is ideal for busy people who don't have a lot of time to think about the battery life.Overall this product was very good. The sound clarity when playing back MP3/WMA files was better than what we have heard from the Nomad players or the Gecko MP3 players we have tested so far. The only disadvantage was the USB 1.1 transfer rates, but these can be tolerated.- Pros
Great Sound ClarityHuge 256MB storage spaceVoice Recording optionFM RadioLast 12hrs on a standard Alkaline AAA battery- Cons
USB 1.1 limits transfer speeds to 12mbpsRating - 9 out of 10
MSI Mania - The Products - MSI 8x DVD RecorderMSI DR8-A Dual Format 8x DVD Recorder
Before we take a look at the drive itself, here are the specifications of the MSI DR8-A DVD Recorder.- Specifications
8x DVD+R writing / 4x DVD+RW rewriting 4x DVD-R writing / 2x DVD-RW rewriting / 12x DVD-ROM reading 40x CD-R writing / 24x CD-RW rewriting / 40x CD-ROM reading BURN-Proof prevents buffer underrun and minimizes recording failures Supported over-burn feature Supported 99 (870MB) or 90min (800MB) CD-R disc Supported 8cm or 12cm disc diameter 2MB internal buffer Firmware upgradeable Enhanced IDE/ATAPI interface PIO Mode 4, DMA Mode 2 and UDMA Mode 2 Horizontal and vertical operation Supported optimum power control Supported DVD+R write speed at 2.4x, 4x and 8x Supported DVD+RW write speed at 2.4x and 4x Supported DVD-R write speed at 1x, 2x and 4x Supported DVD-RW write speed at 1x and 2x Supported CD-R write speed at 4x, 8x, 16x, 24x, 32x and 40x Supported CD-RW write speed at 4x, 8x, 12x, 16x and 24x Supported HD-BURN CD-R write speed at 6x, 12x, 18x and 24x- The Drive
The DR8-A from MSI is packed within a green box, which is now becoming the standard colour for MSI DVD drives. The unit is easily distinguishable with the big DVD +-R/RW logo on the front. This is actually MSI's second DVD recorder drive. This unit is simply the older unit with support for 8x DVD+R recording. It's important to keep in mind these write speeds are only for +R and not -R media. Don't expect to get this unit and run the -R media at 8x.MSI only packs a small bundle with the drive, but this bundle is exactly what is needed to start you off on your DVD writing adventures. Nero Burning Rom v 5.5 is included which contains support for DVD recording. Sonic MyDVD and Showbiz are included for editing Digital Video to create your own DVD videos from Digital Cameras and other digital media sources. One Blank DVD+R 8x media is included for you to create your first 8x DVD+R project. A small user manual that explains how to connect the drive to the PC is also included but no detailed instructions on how to use the drive are included, as that comes included under the recording software.
In this picture you can see the drive itself. As you would expect from a CD unit there is nothing special that puts this drive apart from the rest on the market. On the front is the standard stop/eject button along with a play/skip button for audio playback as well as your headphone jack and volume control. On the back you have your power, IDE and audio connectors, in all a no-brainer to setup.Overall the drive was a pleasure to setup and with Nero included with the unit, you all just about everything you will need to get yourself started.- Pros
8x DVD+R recordingSupports Both + and - recording formatsSupports HD BurnSupports CD-99 and CD-90 formatsATA-33 IDE transfer rate for faster recording- Cons
Only version 5.5 of Nero includedRating - 9 out of 10
MSI Mania - The Products - Wireless 11gWireless 11g
With the big push on wireless technologies over the last year and a half, just about everyone who is anyone has started to put their own Wireless networking products on the market, be it be a Router, Access Point or simply a Client access device. Wireless has taken a big bite in the networking sector, and why wouldn't it? After all, no wire connection, up to 100m line of sight transmission range, and with speeds of 54mbps, it's starting to take the place of 100mbps wired LAN. The 802.11x standard has taken on three forms at the present moment in time - 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g. 80211.b was the first protocol that was taken in and adopted as an industry standard. The 802.11b specifies a 2.4Ghz carrier signal and a maximum speed of 11mbps, this gave it a 1mbps advantage over half duplex 10mbps wired Ethernet - great for ADSL and cable modem connections.The 802.11a standard didn't really get off the ground due to some problems with speeds and transmission range. The 802.11a uses a 5 Hz carrier band and runs at 22mbps, double that of the 802.11b standard. However, the 5GHz operating frequency was easy to interfere with, reducing its transmission rage to around 50m. Due to the signals being different, 802.11a can't access 802.11b or g networks.802.11g is the latest standard to come out. Like the "a" standard, it is not an industry adopted standard yet and is still undergoing some final bug fixing. This though hasn't stopped quite a few 802.11g products hitting the market. 802.11g uses the same 2.4GHz carrier as the "b" standard, but runs its transfer speeds up to 54mbps. Since the 802.11g uses the 2.4GHz band, if you have other "b" devices in your infrastructure, you will be able to access them with the "g" series and vice versa which has helped make 802.11g popular in a short amount of time.
First we take a look at Wireless G PCI card for desktop systems. It comes packed in a new design box for the Wireless G products MSI is now unleashing. The unit is packed with a driver disk for installation as no OS supports the Wireless G series of cards, a simple installation manual and a unidirectional antenna for picking up the signal.
The card itself is very simple. All the electronic components are located under an EMI shield; this prevents the PC's peripherals from interfering with the signal and the Wireless signal interfering with PC operations. Only one external port is located on the back of the card. This is to connect the unidirectional antenna to. This simply screws onto the port and bingo; place the antenna on top of your ATX case for best reception.
MSI Mania - The Products - Wireless 11g ContinuedWireless 11g Continued
Now we move to the notebook Wireless g, that's right, MSI hasn't forgotten the mobile users. While Centrino units now have built in 802.11b wireless LAN, if you want to go to "g", you will need to either take out the internal "b" card or insert a "g" card. The other option is, and is for users of laptops without any wireless LAN to use the Cardbus adapter. MSI packs the unit in a similar Wireless g box with the Cardbus adapter logo on the front. Inside you simply get a driver disk and an information manual, as installation is just to plug the card into a free PCMCIA 32bit expansion slot, available on 99% of all laptops now.
The Cardbus unit itself is rather compact. MSI has placed all the circuitry under a metal protective layer to prevent EMI distortion within the wireless signal or the PC.One cool feature is the Active and Link LEDs. The Active LED comes on when the unit has been detected within Windows and the OS has made a bus link. The Link LED flashes when sending or receiving data from the Network and the coolest part is the fact that MSI has used blue laser LEDs, which do look great in the dark.One of the best features of the Wireless range MSI delivers is the SAP or Software Access Point program. If you don't have a hardware access point, you can use one of the PC's with the MSI Wireless controllers as an Access Point. You simply setup an AP name, IP parameters and any other wireless device can connect to your PC. This comes in especially handy if you want to share your broadband with other PC's in your home and don't want to sell out for a hardware Access Point router type device.Overall the MSI Wireless G series was a great success with the Software AP making it the top of the range for a wireless setup.- Pros
Supports 54mbps transfer ratesBackwards compatible with 802.11b hardwareSoftware Access Point program eliminates need for Hardware Access Point- Cons
No compatibility with 802.11aRating - 9.5 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Editor's Choice Award
MSI Mania - Final WordsFinal Words
As you can see, there are quite a few goodies out there, and today we have looked at just three of them. There are hundreds of goodies out there, and our goal is to now bring you information on some of the goodies from the major players and the lesser know entities without just focusing on the core of the industry - processors, motherboards and video cards.MSI is not only one of the best motherboard makers to date but also very good in its other PC and IT undertakings. Today MSI has proven they have done their homework and pushed out products that will not only benefit the end users but also help in making life more enjoyable.