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MSI 845E Max2 BLR I845E Motherboard Review

By: Cameron Johnson | Socket LGA 775 in Motherboards | Posted: Jul 15, 2002 4:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 8.5%Manufacturer: MSI

MSI 845E Max2 BLR Features in Detail





First we have a look at the layout of the motherboard. MSI have scrapped their traditional layout of 1/5/1 and added an extra PCI slot for a 1/6/1 (AGP/PCI/Riser) expansion layout. This gives you the best possibilities for the boards future.


Placement of the Power connectors is rather dubious. The 20pin connector is safely tucked away up in the upper right corner of the board, right behind the FDD connector and in front of the DDR SDRAM slots. While this is more than satisfactory the placement of the 4 pin connector is less than ideal. Located at the front of the AGP slot, this means that the 4 pin wires need to drape over the CPU if your PSUs 4 pin cable is very short, and most of them pretty much are.


IDE and Floppy connectors are well placed up un the left hand corner of the board. This eliminates most of the cables being placed near the CPU and obstructing the air flow through out the case. Like MSI's 645E Max2, the 834E Max2 has the same heatsinks applied onto the voltage regulators. This is a very innovative idea to keep those voltage regulators cool when overclocking. While boasting 3 DIMM slots you are hardly likely to be using them all. Since the Intel I845 series chipsets (including the E and G) there's only support four bank memory up to 2GB of unbuffered DDR-SDRAM. This means that DIMM slot two and three share the same banks as each other. So if you install a Double sided DIMM into slot number two, you can't use slot number three at all. Same if you install a Double sided DIMM into slot three, slot two is rendered unusable. Slot one is of no consequence, install any DDR-SDRAM into this baby, she isn't affected.


Chipsets - Intel I845E



MSI have chosen to use Intel's I845E chipset paired with the ICH4 southbridge controller for this board. This chipset gives us 533Mhz FSB support, DDR-200/266 memory, AGP4x, ATA-100, Version 2.2 AC'97 Audio as well as integrated Hi-Speed USB 2.0 controller. Unfortunately we have seen that the Intel I845E is less than a stellar performer chipset compared to SiS. While being a very stable chip, it lacks the speed of DDR-333 memory for ultimate performance.


RAID and ATA-133 support



MSI have been adding RAID controllers to their boards for what seems like an eternity to me, and it has been one of the most requested/required components today. Most of the enthusiasts out there are using high speed SCSI Hard Disks or IDE RAID. Now we don't want to have to upgrade our board and find out we can't move our RAID array over. MSI have now given you the option to either use this controller as a RAID device or an ATA-133 IDE controller. In the BIOS under the Integrated Peripherals section you can set the IDE controllers BIOS to RAID or ATA. In RAID mode you can operate your Hard Disks as RAID drives. In ATA mode you can connect Hard Disks, CD ROMS and other ATAPI devices to the controller and use it as just another IDE controller. Fantastic.


MSI introduces for the first time, onboard Bluetooth



MSI have been known for innovative thinking, after all, they were among the first to give us Diagnostic Device known as D-LED. Now they have made history by being the first motherboard manufacturer to give us Bluetooth onboard.



The Package contains a USB Dongle for the remote PC, Bluetooth connection module and antenna. The expansion module itself is actually a USB device, its uses a 6 pin header to connect to the motherboard itself. MSI has colored one USB header section blue. This tells you if you use the Bluetooth you can't use the USB ports on this header as they are being used to power the Bluetooth. The Antenna connects into the back of the expansion module and transmits the Bluetooth signal for the receiver to pickup. The Dongle connects into any PC with a USB port for Bluetooth operations. In all a very well setup system which was a dream to use while testing.


BIOS and Overclocking



MSI uses a new AMIBIOS version 3.31. This BIOS is more like the Award setups we know but with a few new tweaks. Usually we have been against AMI setups, but from the looks of this one we found nothing wrong with it.


Under the "Frequency/Voltage Control" menu is where you will find all your overclocking options for this board. There aren't too many options here but all the options here are ultimately all you really need.


First on the list is the "SDRAM frequency" Option. You get three options - 200, 266 and Auto. In Auto Mode the motherboard reads the SPD on the memory modules to set the memory speed according to the timings of the modules. 200 and 266 options are self explanatory.


"Spread Spectrum" is next. Basically this has no effect on overclocking.


"CPU Ratio Select" comes third on the list. If you're using a locked multiplier CPU you will get the message saying "Locked." If you are lucky enough to have an unlocked processor you can set your CPU Multiplier from 10x to 24x. There are very few unlocked P4's out there, but its nice to have the option for it.


"CPU FSB clock" is the most important option we have available to us. From here you can set your CPU FSB from 100Mhz up to 233Mhz in 1Mhz increments. If you run a 133Mhz FSB CPU, 133Mhz is the lowest setting you can go to, after all, why underclock the CPU?


"CPU Vcore Adjust" is where you tell the system if you want to change your CPU voltage. You need to set this option to "Yes" which allows for Vcore adjustments


When "CPU Vcore Adjust" is set to "Yes", the CPU Vcore option becomes available. Here you can set your CPU voltage from 1.5v up to 1.8v. This is better than the 645E Max2 we reviewed which only allowed up to 1.6v but still, 1.85v or beyond would be nice.


DDR and AGP Power Voltages are next. These two options allow you to set the AGP voltage and DDR SDRAM voltages. The options for the DDR SDRAM voltage are 2.5v up to 2.8v in 0.1v increments. AGP is 1.5v up to 1.8v in 0.1v Increments.


Despite the 1.8v setting, we managed to overclock our system to a 172Mhz FSB. Not the highest we have seen, but a very good overclock for an I845 system.


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