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MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital Motherboard Print
Written by Hubert Wong   
Friday, 12 October 2007
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MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital Motherboard
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Onboard Video Tests

The MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital uses the ATI Radeon Xpress 1250 GPU. The GPU is essentially an upgraded X700 in order to fully support Vista. The core clock is 400MHz can be allocated up to 1GB of system memory for the video buffer.

Image quality of the Xpress 1250 graphics controller is very good using the VGA interface, despite being an analog connection. We were effectively able to work at 1920x1200 on our Dell 24" FPW LCD without any issues and image quality was very solid. Colours were well saturated and the standard sized Vista Segue font was legible. We connected the MSI HDMI cable to an adapter (since we did not have such a connection on our Hitachi wide screen TV) and fired up Windows Media Center.

The TV itself was limited to 1080i or 720p, so we were unable to test the full potential of the interface. Blu-Ray and HD DVD for desktop PC's are not in big supply, so we may revisit this as soon as we can. On the DVI connection, the image quality was also solid, both on the Dell and the Hitachi.

Games look nice with the Xpress 1250 graphics controller, and you will be able to enable effects in most games you fire up. However, expect to pay the price. The Xpress 1250 is not something we would recommend for any game post-2005, even at relatively low resolutions. Here's some numbers comparing the two AMD 690G boards to the GeForce 6150 at 640x480 at maximum details.

Doom 3
Far Cry
UT2004 - BM
MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital

Unreal Tournament 2004, being the oldest of the three games, is quite playable though the resolution is not the preferred one we like to play at. Doom 3 and Far Cry were simply unplayable unless we turned off all the nicer image quality options.


The Zalman CNPS9500 for AM2 is a great cooler and we did manage a mere 8MHz overclock, ending in a 208FSB end result. We suspected the passive cooling was one of the limitations in our overclocking as the 690G's heatsink was much too hot to keep a finger on. We directed an 80mm fan over top of the heatsink and made a makeshift cardboard funnel to channel cool air into the heatsink. With this, we were able to squeeze an additional 2MHz out of the FSB to finish with 210FSB. Regardless of the voltage applied, we weren't really able to get very far with the board.

Final Words

Like the MSI K9AGM2-FIH before it, the MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital is a very solid choice if you're building a HTPC system. The board's extra expansion slots do allow for more options than the mATX board. The MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital is an ATX board, but not a larger one as many enthusiast boards are. This should still allow a user to use a smaller HTPC case so long as it can fit ATX boards with 6 motherboard screws.

Display options pretty much cover everything a PC user may need. All current mainstream monitors will either need an analog VGA or digital DVI connection. For HTPC users, the HDMI connection is another bonus. I've had to use an adapter since my television only has DVI, but for those of you with HDMI, you have this option to use for both video and audio. Remember you will need HDCP end to end for full 1080p support.

Performance-wise, the MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital often flip flopped between the GeForce 6150 equipped MSI C51PV and the 690G based MSI K9AGM2-FIH. Synthetic benchmarks still favoured NVIDIA slightly, and the application and gaming benchmarks ended in the AMD 690G's favour. We were surprised that despite some of the memory tweaking, the two 690G boards were pretty close in performance. Gaming-wise, stick with discreet video if that is your thing. With a modest 7900Gt, we were pretty happy with the performance. The onboard video wasn't terribly impressive, but it is more than enough for desktop use.

Despite the passive cooling, heat wasn't much of a factor except when it came to overclocking. The 690G's heatsink was searing hot, but not so much when running stock. At stock speeds stability was never in question, and the MSI K9AG Neo2 motherboard was rock solid throughout all of our tests. A byproduct of passive cooling is no noise, and while the Zalman CNPS9500 isn't silent, the options in the BIOS allows for adjustments here on how much noise you're prepared to deal with.

Unlike the MSI K9AGM2-FIH which is a near identical board to the MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital in terms of features, the K9AG Neo2 is much better suited for performance minded users without giving up a lot of the options that make HTPC use an obvious choice. From a strictly gaming and overclocking performance PC perspective, there are better choices out there. It performs well, but still isn't as fully featured as it needs to be. In our opinion, HTPC or Internet PC; i.e., a box for the non-enthusiasts in the household, the MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital is an excellent choice. The price point, and the fact that many key items are integrated, we feel the latter market segments is where the MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital fits best.

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