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MSI 925XE Neo Platinum Edition – a Motherboard Based on Intel 925XE Express Chipset

April 22, 2005



The new product from MicroStar is almost a complete copy of its predecessor MSI 925X Neo. The only difference between these two motherboards is their chipsets. Intel has designed a new chipset — i925XE — to support recently released Pentium 4 XE (Extreme Edition) processors. In its turn, such a large company as MSI couldn't ignore this event and designed MSI 925XE Neo Platinum based on the Intel chipset. This model supports 1066 MHz FSB and dual-channel DDR2 (operating frequency can be set up in BIOS: DDR2 333 / 400 / 533 / 600 / 667 MHz). The key feature of this product is CPU Ratio Unlock, which allows to modify the clock frequency of the FSB synchronously with the memory clock frequency (for the conformity of memory channel throughputs and FSB, as they say). As for the rest, this motherboard is practically no different from the Foxconn 925XE7AA, based on the same chipset, in its functionality and performance.




The PCB layout is standard — IDE RAID connectors are in the back, audio ins are in front of the PCI slots, density of the memory slots will hamper access to them. Access to the jumper may be hampered when the motherboard is in a chassis, its description is provided on the PCB. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates three 1800 uF capacitors and four 1000 uF capacitors. The memory voltage regulator includes three 1800 uF capacitors, five 1000 uF capacitors, and several ones of a lesser capacitance. The board contains a voltage regulator for the PCI-E x16 bus (2x1000 uF). The PCB contains no empty seats for chips and connectors. Motherboard dimensions — 305x245 mm (full-sized ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed). The Winboard W83627THF chip is used to monitor:

  • CPU voltage, 3.3V, 5V, 12V 5V Standby
  • RPM of 3 fans
  • CPU temperature (by the built-in CPU sensor), supports automatic power-off at overheating
  • Board temperature (by the on-board sensor)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors:

  • Processor socket (Socket LGA775, for Intel Pentium 4, Prescott, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition)
  • 4 x DDR 2 SDRAM DIMM (DDR 400/533 up to 4GB)
  • 1 x PCI Express (x16) (with a latch)
  • 3 x PCI (2.1)
  • 2 x PCI Express (x1)
  • Power connectors: standard ATX (24 pins) and a 4-pin connector for 12V
  • 1 x FDD
  • 3 x IDE (Parallel ATA 133) supporting RAID 1, 0, 0+1
  • 4 x SATA (Serial ATA) + 1 ATA supporting RAID 1, 0
  • 2 x USB 2.0 (for additional brackets)
  • 2 x FireWire (for an additional bracket)
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • D-Bracket connector
  • Headers for a bracket with Audio-Outs and S/PDIF
  • 3 fan headers (each with rpm control).

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)




  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • LPT, COM port, FireWire connector and Coaxial S/PDIF-Out
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Fast Ethernet)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 6 x Audio (Mic-In, Line-In, Front, Center/Sub, Rear, S/PDIF-OUT TosLink)



Package Contents

  • Package: an elegant and convenient box with a plastic handle
  • Documentation: a motherboard guide in English, a poster with brief instructions on installing SATA HDD
  • Cables: 2 x SATA, 1 x SATA with a power converter, 1 x ATA 66/100/133 (round) and an FDD cable (round)
  • Rear I/O shield
  • Rear panel bracket with WiFi
  • Rear panel bracket with two USB ports
  • CD with drivers and utilities

Integrated Controllers

  • Azalia link controller integrated in Intel® ICH6R chipset.
    8-channel CMedia CMI9880L audio codec:
    • Compatible with the Azalia 1.0 specifications
    • Supports Multi-Streaming function
    • Supports Universal Audio Jack (only Front Audio Jack)

  • Network, based on BROADCOM BCM 5751 KFB chipset, supporting 10/100/1000 Mbit/sec ( Gigabit Ethernet )
  • Network, based on Intel 82562EZ 10/100 PHY LAN supporting 10/100 IEEE 802.1
  • Dual Ultra DMA 66/100 IDE controller built into ICH6:
    • Supports PIO and Bus Master modes
    • Connect up to 2 Ultra ATA devices

  • Serial ATA/150 controller built into ICH6:
    • Transfer rate: up to 150MB/s
    • Connect up to 4 Serial ATA devices
    • RAID SATA AHCI controller supporting Raid 0, Raid 1 and Matrix Raid
    • Supports SATA hot plug

  • IDE RAID controller VIA6410:
    • Two IDE Ultra DMA 66/100/133 controllers
    • Supports RAID 0, 1 and 0+1
    • Connect up to 4 Ultra ATA devices

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.2 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

General results

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.20, -0.66
Good
Noise level, dB (A):
-84.7
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
87.9
Good
THD, %:
0.033
Good
Intermodulation, %:
0.046
Good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-79.9
Very good

General performance: Good (Details).

Proprietary technologies

  • CoreCell — fine tuning system parameters and enhanced monitoring capabilities
  • D.O.T. — dynamic overclocking technology
  • LiveUpdate3 (this motherboard is supported by the LiveUpdate software and the MSI web site, which can automatically update drivers and BIOS via Internet)
  • Active MOS (special "low-temperature" design and components)
  • CPU Ratio Unlock — this function allows to change the FSB clock synchronously with the memory clock frequency

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper
In PhoenixBIOS, BIOS W7053IMS v1.3
Memory timings
CAS Latency Time, DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay, DRAM RAS# Precharge, Precharge Delay (tRAS)
Memory frequency selection
DDR2 333/400/533/600/667
PCIE bus voltage control
  1.5V - 2.2V at 0.05V steps
PCI E bus setup
+
PCI and PCI-E frequency divider setup
-
PCI IRQ manual assignment
-
FSB frequency setup
266 MHz / 350 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier
x12-x13
CPU core voltage control
1.18V–1.49V at 0.01V steps
CPU voltage control
-
Memory voltage control
1.4V-2.8V at 0.05V steps
Chipset voltage control
-
HT bus frequency control
-

We used BIOS dated 24.10.2004, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests.

Preliminary test results

MSI 925XE Neo Platinum demonstrates good test results, which is quite expectable from a high end motherboard. We liked very much the irreproachable stable operation and the lack of any glitches. Differences between motherboards' test results are insignificant, so it's hard to say for sure which motherboard is faster. And a couple of seconds must not play a pivotal role when choosing one of these motherboards.

Test
Foxconn 925XE7AA (DDR2 533)
ASUS P5AD2-E Premium (DDR2 533)
Abit Fatality AA8XE (DDR2 533)
MSI 925XE Neo Platinum Edition (DDR2 533)
Gigabyte GA-8AENXP-D (DDR2 533)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
7:53
7:53
7:33
7:34
7:18
Memory read rate, MB/sec
2978
3021
2995
2992
3421
Memory write rate, MB/sec
1246
1362
1230
1220
1558
MPEG 4 (XVID) Encoding, min:sec
5:25
5:43
5:24
5:25
5:15
MPEG 4 (DIVX) Encoding, min:sec
3:57
4:14
3:56
3:56
3:51
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec
35:20
35:16
34:30
34:36
33:05
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Fast@800x600x32), fps
69
67
69
68
72
Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1280x1024x32), fps
64
63
65
64
68

Conclusion:

MSI 925XE Neo Platinum Edition is a motherboard that supports all modern standards. It's based on the top chipset for fast processors, provides non-trivial overclocking features, and is not slower than the competing motherboards based on the same chipset. All that makes it an expensive purchase, but this fact must not trouble those who want to be in the lead.

References






Senchihin Vladimir (sench@ixbt.com)
April, 2005.


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