Box, inside and outside
These days, fancy packaging becomes more and more important. People can literally buy their motherboard in a store and choose between different models. People need to know what the board is capable of when they look at the box. The one with the best looking design and most information often is first choice.
MSI's box is quite shiny (maybe difficult to see on the pictures). The light reflection of the box is nice.
Opening the box we find the accessories on top of the motherboard, which is wrapped in an antistatic bag.
The board comes with a pretty complete bundle :4 sata cables
2 molex to sata power convertors
Driver disk for both XP and Vista
A quick start guide
All of this is nice of course, but there's only one component inside which really matters:
The motherboard and its features
Let me guide you around this motherboard, starting with the CPU socket area.
As you can see, the socket area is not at all that spacious. The special designed heatsink Circu-Pipe is placed around the cpu area, cooling down the mosfets, the northbridge and the southbridge. The Circu-Pipe reminds me of a rollercoaster ... I wonder why.
Are you ready to thrill on this rollercoaster?
The Circu-Pipe has the advantage of keeping the temperatures of the chipset cool enough to allow users to set the voltage of the northbridge a bit higher. However, not everything is swell : The engineers from MSI decided to put the 8-pin power connector under the copper pipes going from the mosfets to the northbridge. Luckily, they've overcome this situation quite innovative by lengthening the power connector.
No more hassle when installing the 8-pin power connector
For our enthusiast readers I've included a clear photo of the socket area in order to inform you how difficult it is to insulate the area. As you can see, it won't be that easy, although I've seen more difficult boards.
Continuing the tour, we arrive at the I/O panel.
These are the backpanel connectors :
PS/2 keyboard and mouse
2 x eSata
6 in 1 audio
6 x USB 2.0
Optical SPDIF out
Quite complete, I must say, 6 usb ports is more than enough these days. The support for both PS/2 keyboard and mouse is well-chosen as many people still use those.
Next, we arrive at the PCIe slots:
Nothing special to say, almost all motherboards feature two x16 PCIe slots for using CrossFire. There’s more than enough space between two slots to be able to use dual slot cooling solutions.
Next up, the internal I/O connections.
No remarks at all about the availability of connections, quite complete:
1 CPU and 5 System connectors
Front panel audio connector
Front panel connector
Chasis intrusion connector
Serial port pinheader
3 USB 2.0 connectors
Floppy disk drive connector
5 Serial ATAII connectors
IEEE1394 connector support additional 1 port
H/W OC pinheaders
The only thing we'd like to mention is the new way of clearing the cmos. MSI opted for a small button instead of the classic jumper.
The tour's almost finished, the only area we have to pass is memory land.
As the name of the motherboard already revealed, this board supports both DDR2 and DDR3 memory. You can't mix DDR2 with DDR3 though, as you have to lock the memory slots you're not using. MSI designed a special memory slot locker (new word for the English dictionary ;-) ) on which they've added LEDs to create a nice visual aspect, useless if you're not a case-modder, nice feature if you are.