Hopefully this review may help others seeking an impartial opinion. To start off, il just outlay some brief specifications with opinions provided. Further specifications are available off the msi website.
Socket 775 for Intel P4 3xx/ 5xx/ 6xx/ Pentium D, Celeron D, Core 2 Duo processors. Also supports EIST and HT processors.
Really handy as it supports my current p4 prescott HT and allows upgrade potential. It might seem like an obvious point, but finding a reliable board that I could use indefinitely on a p4 HT and then a dual core in the future was challenging.
DIMM1 supports 2GB max DDR2 400/533/667 and DIMM2 supports 1GB max DDR 266/333/400.
From the image, you may have already guessed this is a micro ATX board, so you don't really expect four or more DIMM's. However the two DIMM's onboard may be a bit misleading to some for the following reasons.
As a starting point, DDR and DDR2 DIMM's are different because the DDR slot supports standard 184pin while the DDR2 slot supports the standard 240pin. This should be noted before purchase that they cannot be interchanged, so DDR memory cannot be inserted in to a DDR2 slot and vice versa.
With DDR2 being so cheap as I currently post, DIMM1 allowing 2GB DDR2 and of course a higher clock, its really a no brainer to choose DDR2.
On to an important point, running DDR2 and DDR memory at the same time. I assumed at first without giving it further thought that you would be able to run DDR2 and DDR at the same time and the DDR2 memory clock would be stepped down to that of the DDR clock. However, upon trying this with some memory I have kicking around it obviously didn't work. Upon browsing for this issue, I see others have tried it and even MSI has verified you cant run DDR2 and DDR consecutively on this board.
This would be a hindrance if we were talking about a full ATX board, however one active DIMM isn't really a big issue. In fact, the flexibility between DDR and DDR2 memory is quite welcoming.
Rear I/O panel:
1 x Serial port, 1 x PS/2 Keyboard and 1 x PS/2 Mouse, 1 x Audio (3 in 1), 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x RJ45 LAN jack, 1 x VGA
As well as flexibility with the memory and cpu the motherboard also offers two onboard USB blocks, which will support a further four USB ports, on the front panel for example. Quite nice, as some other micro ATX boards I have seen only offer one block, which can be a problem if you have more than two case USB ports.
Flexibility goes even further still. Full driver discs include drivers for XP and Vista. The VIA chipset is also supported on Linux. It makes a change from either having to purchase an archaic board so you have XP support or a modern board like this one, that only supports Vista.
The motherboard seems very sturdy as well. For example, upon installing the same CPU that has been used in a previous gigabyte board, i noticed the CPU clasp on the motherboard actually clipped the CPU down, instead of having an eerie feeling of a bent clasp like on other boards. Another point, which is implied in the picture is quite low lying capacitors around the socket allowing breathing room between the motherboard capacitors and the CPU heatsink.
The motherboard itself seems very solid as well. Upon screwing down the heatsink there was a more comforting re-assurance than with some others boards.
With the graphics being onboard and no onboard memory you're purely dependant on part of your ram being allocated for video memory. This isn't really an issue, except if you wanted to play any games from this century (2000 and after), then a PCI GPU would be required.
Now on to the negative point of this board. Although with a micro ATX you aren't expecting three or more SATA connectors, its a bit of a disappointment there is only one SATA port and one IDE. I would have liked an additional SATA port and wouldn't have minded the extra couple of pounds expense. It would have meant a micro system could be run with two HDD's and an optical drive.
Another possible negative point could be the limitation of just one PCI. You can get micro ATX boards with two PCI slots but being realistic, if you wanted a board with two, three or more PCI slots then you would be looking at full sized ATX boards and not micro ATX boards.
Driver support is also available on the link provided including win2k upwards and 32/64bit support. Another important point I nearly forgot to mention is the compatibility of the drivers. Temporarily I am using this board in a DVR system, until it replaces the motherboard in a testing system after that. In the past with all other motherboards I have used, the DVR PCI card driver installation has caused havoc with motherboard drivers, however with this board, I didn't suffer the same instability while installing drivers as I have in the past. Although this is an issue with the PCI card itself, how this motherboard handles troublesome hardware is very impressive.
If you're looking for a micro ATX board that offers flexibility between all OS's (win2k upwards), older hardware and newer hardware then this MSI board is a solid and reliable choice. As with any hardware, improvements could be made, but a solid base for most is essential, that is where this board delivers.
Last edited by wh666-666; 07-19-2008 at 11:52 AM.
Compaq A910em: T2330 dual core 1.6Ghz, X3100 384MB GPU, 160GB sata HDD, 2GB RAM
Gaming rig: Asus Striker II, Coolermaster GX 750w, E4600 @ 2.4Ghz, 2.5GB RAM, Zerotherm FZ 120, 9500GT 1GB
Server: Mac mini running W23k Server - 1.8Ghz dual-core, 1GB RAM, 1x80GB, 2x500GB externals + LTO1 tape backup