The AMIBIOS makes another appearance on the MSI platform. All the usual suspects are present, such as Standard CMOS and Power Management features, but MSI did make several changes in favour of the enthusiast. You'll have to excuse the lack of images, but the BIOS options are almost exactly the same as the ones found in the Socket-754 version of the K8T Neo.
The memory options are something of a mixed bag. Maximum DDR support is DDR400, asynchronous. You can run async, but downwards only. We would have liked to have seen options like 4/5, 5/6, and so forth, but unfortunently, you're capped at 1:1 as the most aggressive setting. On the otherhand, there are plenty of options available when it comes to adjusting the memory timings.
Under Frequency/Voltage Control, this is where you can play with the overclocking. The FSB range is 190 to 280, but realistically, 280FSB will almost certainly be out of reach. You can also use the Dynamic Overclocking option, which can give you a boost from 1 to 11%. This is a feature of the CoreCell discussed earlier, and you can adjust the FSB and Dynamic Overclocking independent, or in conjunction of one another.
MSI K8T Neo2-FIR: Athlon 64 S939 3500+ (10x200: 2GHz), 2 x 512MB Corsair TWINX PC4000 Pro, AIW Radeon 9600 XT, 120GB Maxtor SATA 7200rpm, Windows XP SP1, VIA Hyperion 4in1 drivers v4.53, ATI Catalyst 4.8.
MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum: Athlon 64 S939 3500+ (11x200: 2.2GHz), 2 x 512MB Corsair TWINX PC4000 Pro, AIW Radeon 9600 XT, 120GB Maxtor SATA 7200rpm, Windows XP SP1, NVIDIA ForceWare 4.27, ATI Catalyst 4.8.
MSI K8N Neo: Athlon 64 S754 3200+ (10x200: 2GHz), 2 x 512MB Corsair TWINX PC4000 Pro, AIW Radeon 9600 XT, 120GB Maxtor SATA 7200rpm, Windows XP SP1, NVIDIA ForceWare 4.24, ATI Catalyst 4.8.
Test software will be:
SiSoft Sandra 2004
Business Winstone 2004
Unreal Tournament 2003
Quake 3: Arena
The comparison motherboards will be the MSI K8N Neo, running an Athlon 64 Socket-754 at 10x200, and a MSI K8N Neo2, running an Athlon 64 Socket-939 at 11x200. Cooling for all the A64 motherboards was provided by the Koolance EXOS. The Corsair modules will be run at PC3200 with 2.5-3-3-5 memory timings.
All our benchmarks were run on a 32-bit version of Windows XP. The 64-bit Windows still isn't ready for prime time, and we chose not to use the beta version for our tests as it may not be a true indication of the motherboard's performance. According to AMD, we may get a significant performance boost in a true 64-bit environment. In anycase, the Athlon 64 (A64) runs 32-bit code natively with no emulation.
SiSoft Sandra 2004
Although a synthetic benchmark, it's a popular one, freely available if you wish to make comparison benchmarks. We will be testing the CPU, MMX, and memory speeds, using the 32-bit 2004 version. We do have a 64-bit copy, but unfortunently it won't work on our current version of Windows.
CPU Arithmetic Benchmark
CPU Multimedia Benchmark
The K8T800 Pro takes a backseat to the nForce 3 250Gb in our Sisoft tests. The results are close though, and it isn't a total wipeout. Both motherboards scale appropriately in performance compared to the 3200+ powered K8N Neo.
ZD Business Winstone 2004
The ZD Winstone suite is a script that runs a series of actions and calculates a final score that measures a PC's overall performance.
The K8T Neo2-FIR is just over a point behind the K8N Neo2. Again, NVIDIA has a slight lead on VIA here.
Sysmark 2004 Office Productivity
Sysmark 2004 is BAPCo's latest revision of the mainstream office productivity and Internet content creation benchmark used to characterize the performance of the business client. It uses a number of real-world applications and runs them through a series of tests. We tested with the office, and content creation benchmarks.
As we've seen so far in the synthetic tests, the nForce 3 250Gb is a slightly faster platform in application testing. Let's move on to real-world testing and see if anything changes.