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Mega 12-way Intel 925 and 915 Motherboard Roundup

By: Cameron Johnson | Socket LGA 775 in Motherboards | Posted: Aug 30, 2004 4:00 am

MSI 925X Neo


- Package and Contents



MSI has moved into the ranks of the higher classed motherboard manufacturers, in fact, MSI has pioneered in being one of the first to add in dedicated hardware monitoring and overclocking systems to their motherboards. The 925X Neo is the flagship of the Pentium 4 Neo fleet and MSI packs in quite a bundle indeed.


For the top of the line a pretty liberal bunch in included with your user manual with both the motherboard and onboard RAID in the one book, one Rounded IDE, one rounded FDD cable, four Serial ATA data cables, 2x2 SATA power splitter cables and I/O shield. In the way of drivers, one CD with all the Windows drivers and one FDD with Windows 2000/XP/2003 RAID setup drivers is included.


- The Motherboard



MSI has done a reasonable good job on the layout of the 925X Neo, with the only problem being the placement of the 4 pin CPU voltage supply connector being located between the I/O ports and the Northbridge heatsink.


MSI has been the first we have seen so far to locate both the IDE and FDD connectors along with the 24 pin ATX connector directly behind the DIMM sockets. This is the preferred located for ATX layouts as cable clutter is in one area, where air circulation isn't a top priority.


Expansion slots are simply one PCI Express x16, two PCI Express x1 slots and three PCI legacy slots. MSI has also colour coded the DIMM modules for easy identification for Channel A and B. The Green is Channel A and the yellow is Channel B. Up to 4GB of DDR-2 Memory is supported up to a maximum supported speed of DDR-2 533.


The 925X Neo is also the first motherboard we have seen to use only a 3 phase power supply for its CPU. Intel recommends a 4 phase at minimum, however, to compensate for the huge amount of heat the three phase system causes on Prescott CPU's, MSI has added three extremely large passive heatsinks to cool the voltage regulators. In all when running a Prescott at full power, they do get quite warm but not overly hot.



MSI has also taken the passive cooling route, favouring silence as a major factor in its motherboards. The Northbridge heatsink is quite large, when under load at full voltage it gets very warm, almost too hot to keep your hand on. The Southbridge heatsink is rather small, since the ICH6R series doesn't generate an extraordinary amount of heat.



This is the very first time we have come across this chip from VIA. It is a VT6410 two Channel IDE RAID controller supporting a maximum of four drives including ATAPI units (optical drives). MSI has also tied this controller in to the BIOS allowing you to set the HDD parameters in the Standard CMOS setup when the RAID/IDE mode option is set to IDE, just as if it were integrated into the ICH6 Southbridge. This makes adding IDE drives to this motherboard simple without many constraints.



VIA's VT6306 three port Firewire chip shows up on the MSI 925X Neo. Rather than going Firewire B, MSI has kept the cost down by adding the Firewire A controller chip. MSI adds 1x 6pin Firewire port to the I/O panel at the back and two ports via and expansion bracket. If your case has front Firewire ports, you can connect them to the green ports on the bottom of the motherboard.



Dual Ethernet is a high priority for MSI these days. MSI has added a Gigabit and a 10/100 Ethernet chip combination. The Broadcom NetXtreme PCI Express controller chip takes care of the Gigabit Ethernet, while the Intel Pro100 PCI Ethernet controller chip is used for standard 10/100 Ethernet.


- Overclocking


MSI is now one of the few that use dynamic and manual overclocking options. Under the Core Cell menu in the BIOS is where both automatic and manual overclocking options are set.


Under the Dynamic Overclocking heading you have a choice of six different modes - Private, Sergeant, Captain, Cornel, General and Commander. Each setting has a different percentage of overclocking entailed to it when the CPU reaches full load. This is 1%, 3%, 5%, 7%, 10%, 15%, respectively. When in this modes, CPU voltage is also increased to allow a more stable system when pushing higher than rated clock speeds. You can of course disable these in order to overclock the system yourself.


When in disabled mode, you have access to FSB, CPU voltage, DRAM voltage and Northbridge voltage. While MSI do state on the front of the box that the PCI Express is locked at 100MHz, there are no divider settings in BIOS, nor any programs we can use to test this.


FSB adjustments are from 200MHz up to 500MHz in 1MHz increments which is the most any motherboard in our pack support. We managed 248MHz FSB which was quite fantastic given the very low clocking nature of the I9xx chipsets thus far.


CPU voltage is slightly limiting, however, you can go from 1.18v up to 1.5v in 0.025v increments. If using a Northwood core however, you can't go above the default voltage with BIOS we were supplied, so hopefully a future update will fix this problem.


DRAM voltage on the other hand is one of the biggest available, second only to Tyan. You have the option of 1.8v up to 2.4v on 0.05v increments. This is by far a great range of voltages for DDR-2 modules.


The Northbridge voltage is also the highest we have seen on any I9xx board as well - 1.5v up to 2.2v in 0.05v increments. At above 1.95v you will want to replace the passive cooler on the Northbridge with an active cooler as at 2.2v the heatsink become extremely hot and could lead to long term damage.


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