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There has been quite a few changes in design of motherboards since the Pentium IV was released. Since then there have been quite a few chipsets that have been released. From the original i850 chipset for the Pentium IV, which used RDRAM for its memory, to today's i875 chipset, Intel has changed quite a bit. The choice of memory for their chipsets has changed from RDRAM to SDRAM to DDR RAM and now to Dual channel DDR RAM.
The supporting chipsets for these CPU's has changed in that time. The 850 chipset was the first and supported RDRAM, while the 845 chipset started off with only SDRAM support. Once the CPU's had changed from the original 423 pin configuration, to the current 478 pin configuration, Intel decided on updating its chipsets, and introduced the DDR based 845G/E series. Since then Intel released the 845PE/GE with support for Hyperthreading as well as PC2700 memory. Currently Intel has released recently the 875 chipset as well as its 'lower' end 865/P/PE/G chipsets.
MSI has been at the forefront of modern chipsets for quite a while, releasing motherboards based on both AMD and Intel based platforms very soon, or even when the chipsets are released to the public. This has continued with their release of the 875 based motherboards, as well as their 865 based motherboards, which we will look at today.
The MSI 865PE Neo2-FIS2R
MSI has been known to release motherboards that are very flashy and provide a very generous bundle, something that makes them stand out from their competition. Does this consumer level motherboard continue with this tradition? Lets look at some pictures to see if this is so. If you would like to take a look at MSI's specifications for this motherboard , though we will cover most of this information in our review.
It looks like MSI has continued their tradition of including many things with their motherboards. Lets look quickly at an itemized list of what you get:
- The MSI 865PE Neo2 motherboard
- 4 * Orange Serial ATA cables
- 2 * Dual connector 4-Pin to Serial ATA power connectors
- One Rounded ATA-133 cable
- One Floppy connector
- Intel ICH5 RAID driver disk, Promise driver disk
- Driver CD
- MSI Superpack CD
- Serial ATA RAID Manual
- MSI 865PE Neo2 Manual
- D-LED2 Bracket
- Firewire bracket, with 2 6pin connectors, and one 4 pin connector
- Audio Bracket, with SPDIF output and rear/center outputs
- MSI case sticker
The Motherboard - Layout
The name of the motherboard has a slight Matrix connotation, at least to me, with the word Neo. Besides that MSI has stayed with their standard naming system so the FIS2R stands for Firewire (F), gigabit LAN (I), Serial ATA (S), and two sets of RAID possibilities (2R). Lets take a closer look at the motherboard's layout. The addition of the 4 SATA cables and the associated power connectors was a nice addition. The inclusion of not just a standard ATA-133 cable but a rounded cable shows that MSI decided to add something special to the motherboard package, otherwise the packaging is fairly 'normal', at least for an MSI motherboard. The fact that this bundle is 'normal' is a testament to the quality of bundle that MSI offers, as many other companies only include the bare necessities with the motherboard, such as the manual, software, regular IDE cable, and maybe a extra USB connector and/or a SPDIF bracket.
Lets start with a general layout of the motherboard. There is a 1/5/0 (AGP/PCI/AMR-ACR) arrangement, which while not as nice as some motherboards with their 6 PCI slots, which allows for one more card to be added to the system. However as we will see later with all the pieces onboard, you will probably not need the extra PCI slot.
The back panel of the motherboard offers many of the connections that you need, and in large amounts, at least in the way of the USB ports. From left to right we see the two PS/2 connectors for the keyboard/mouse; next we see four USB ports, which is up from the standard two ports that most motherboards have here; then there is the standard parallel and serial connectors, though one serial connector has been removed as another model of this motherboard onboard VGA as well; after that we see the next two USB ports along with the onboard network connection; and lastly we have the basic three audio connectors for the onboard audio.
The motherboard obviously uses the Intel 865 chipset (Springdale), as well as the ICH5. This allows for the major features of the 865PE Neo2 motherboard, such as dual channel DDR memory, which the PIV can use to its full; Serial ATA hard drive support from the ICH5 chipset which means that you don't need to have an add-in hard drive controller such as a Promise Serial ATA controller (which is also present).
Near the ICH5 we see the Promise PDC20378 Serial ATA chipset. This chipset gives us the support for two Serial ATA channels, as well as one UDMA 133 connector. Also supported is RAID 0 support for both the Serial ATA portion as well as for the UDMA channel. Another very nice feature found here is that the connectors controlling the front panel connectors are color coded to make it easier to see what connects to what. Of course most will still need to look at manual to check on what the connectors still are. Also here we see the three Firewire connectors, which are connected to the Firewire controller located underneath the barcode and also in the second picture. This controller is a , which is ironic considering that this is an Intel based chipset, but otherwise provides the same 1394a standard capability as most off board Firewire controllers. Lastly on the bottom left of this picture we have the only USB ports that aren't already placed on the back of the motherboard.