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MSI 945P Neo Platinum — a Motherboard Based on Intel 945P

August 25, 2005



  • Intel 945P chipset (i945P northbridge and ICH7 southbridge)

MSI 945P Neo Platinum is the fourth motherboard on Intel 945P chipset, which we have reviewed. Our first motherboards came from Gigabyte (Gigabyte 8I945P-G) and Foxconn (Foxconn 945P7AA-8KS2/945G7MA-8KS2). They were practically no different in their functionality and performance characteristics. The motherboard we review today is not an exception, so there is no point in listing its features. We shall dwell upon only those moments that are peculiar to this very model.

The motherboard under review belongs to middle end products and offers the usual functionality. But we should do justice to the MSI 945P Neo, it has everything most users need: an additional IDE controller, Intel PC82573V network controller (PCIE Gigabit Ethernet), WiFi controller based on a VIA chip, and a very good audio controller based on HDA codec Realtek (Avance Logic) ALC882. So, there is nothing new here, but everything necessary is available.




We have no serious gripes with the PCB layout, but still there are some unpleasant issues: connectors for additional USB and FireWire port are located at the bottom edge (it's hard to access these ports when a motherboard is installed into a chassis); you will have to manage memory modules through a jungle of cables; cables to the additional power connectors hang over a CPU cooler. The previous motherboard from MSI (P4N Diamond) we reviewed had problems due to horrible integration of the heatsinks on northbridge and southbridge with chipsets (as a result, their temperature left much to be desired), this drawback is repaired here. Access to the only jumper is somewhat hampered when a motherboard is installed into a chassis, there is no description of its functions on the PCB. The 5-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates six 1800 uF capacitors and seven 560 uF capacitors. The board also contains a memory voltage regulator (two 1800 uF capacitors, five 1000 uF capacitors, and several ones of a lesser capacitance, reinforced with L elements).

The board has an empty seat for the second COM port. Motherboard dimensions 305x245 mm ("wide" ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed).

System monitoring (Winbond W83627THG):

  • CPU, chipset, and battery voltage, +3.3 V, +5 V, and +12 V
  • RPM of 3 fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket 775, it's claimed compatible with all existing top processors from Intel at the time of the announcement: Celeron D (345), Pentium 4 (570 and 670), Pentium D (840), Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (3.73 GHz))
  • 4 x DDR 2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 4 GB DDR2-400/533/667; Supports dual channel mode, the total memory capacity in both channels must be the same — for example, 256/256 or 256+256/512)
  • PCIE x16 (with a latch)
  • 2 x PCIE x1
  • 2 x PCI (the orange slot is recommended for the bundled Dual Net Card — its wiring is obviously optimized to reduce electromagnetic interference; besides, it supports 2 Bus Master signals, required by the mentioned card)
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins, you can connect a regular 20-pin connector, but in this case it's not recommended to use powerful up-to-date componentry like top PCIE video cards) and 8-pin ATX12V for a processor (you can connect a regular 4-pin one)
  • 1 x FDD
  • 3 x IDE (Parallel ATA, 2x133/100/66 and 1x100/66). One of them is in the chipset (ICH7 southbridge, supports up to two IDE devices) and the other two are based on the additional VIA VT6410 controller
  • 4 x SATA (Serial ATA) — all of them are chipset-based (the controller is integrated into the ICH7 southbridge, it supports RAID 0 and RAID 1)
  • Two connectors for brackets with additional USB ports
  • Two connectors for brackets with 2 additional FireWire ports
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • D-Bracket 2 connector
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • 4 fan headers (three of them allow rpm control, they are used for the coolers on the CPU and the north bridge; the header for the CPU cooler supports automatic rpm control depending on CPU temperature — Smart Fan).

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)





Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x LPT and 1 x COM
  • 2 x USB and 1 x S/PDIF-Out (Coaxial)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 5 x Analog Audio (Mic-In, Line-In, Front, Center/Sub, Rear) and S/PDIF-OUT TosLink

Package Contents




  • Package: a nicely decorated box of the standard dimensions
  • Documentation: user's manual in English
  • Cables: 1 x SATA (with a power converter for 2 devices), 1 x "round" ATA66 and 1 x "round" FDD cable
  • D-Bracket 2 for a rear panel with two USB ports and a set of LED indicators that inform a user on startup problems
  • Rear panel bracket with 1 x FireWire and 1 x mini-FireWire (4-pin, without power)
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with drivers and utilities
  • Demo DVD that illustrates DTS Digital Surround features.

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on HDA codec Realtek (Avance Logic) ALC882, supporting 7.1 surround sound audio with front line-in/out, S/PDIF-In/Out jacks, and DTS Digital Surround support
  • IDE controller, based on VIA VT6410 chipset (133/100/66), supports 2 x IDE ports with RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1, JBOD
  • Fire Wire, based on the VIA VT6307 chip, supports 2 x Fire Wire (FireWire-400, IEEE 1394a)
  • Network, based on the Intel PC82573V chip (10/100/1000 Mbit/s, PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet, PCI 2.2 compatible).

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.5 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.14, -0.17
Very good
Noise level, dB (A):
-81.9
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
81.5
Good
THD, %:
0.0042
Very good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
0.019
Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-82.4
Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.020
Good

General performance: Very good (details).

Proprietary technologies

  • CoreCell 2 (fine-tune system parameters, slow down fans automatically, extended monitoring features)
  • DOT Express (dynamically overclock CPU and video accelerator)
  • Live Update 3 (update drivers and BIOS automatically via Internet)
  • D-Bracket 2 (a set of LEDs on a bracket that informs a user on startup problems).

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
In Award BIOS v6.00PG Memory timings
+
CAS Latency Time, DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay, DRAM RAS# Precharge, Precharge Delay (tRAS)
Memory frequency selection
+
Auto, 533/667 MHz
PCIE bus frequency control
+
100 — 120 MHz at 1 MHz steps
PCI IRQ manual assignment
-
 
PCI bus frequency control
-
 
FSB frequency setup
+
266 — 350 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier
+
x12, x13
CPU voltage control
+
By CPU Default, 1.21 — 1.28 V, 1.30 — 1.33 V, 1.35 — 1.38 V, 1.40 — 1.43 V, 1.45 — 1.48 V, 1.50 — 1.53 V, 1.55 — 1.58 V at 0.01 V steps, 1.60 — 1.85 at 0.05 V steps
Memory voltage control
+
1.8 — 2.4 V at 0.05 V steps
Chipset voltage control
+
 
FSB voltage control
-
 
PCIE bus voltage control
+
1.55 V, 1.5 V, 1.6 V, 1.65 V, 1.7 V, 1.75 V, 1.8 V, 1.9 V, 2.0 V, 2.1 V, 2.2 V

We used BIOS v1.0B18, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested.

Performance

Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 3.46 (Extreme Edition) (Socket LGA775)
  • Memory: Corsair CM2X512A-4300C3PRO x2 (DDR2 533, 3-3-3-8)
  • HDD: Samsung SP1213C (SATA, 7200 rpm, 8 MB Cache)
  • Video card: ATI Radeon X800 XT, 256 MB DDR
  • Power supply unit: FSP AX500-A
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

We have compared the MSI 945P Neo Platinum results with those demonstrated by the fastest motherboard on Intel 945P. From the table below you can clearly see that the 945P Neo is a tad faster than the Gigabyte 8I945P-G practically in all the tests. But the difference is hardly essential, it will hardly play a pivotal role in selecting between these motherboards.

Test
MSI 945P Neo Platinum (DDR2 533)
Gigabyte 8I945P-G (DDR2 533)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
7:11
7:14
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec
5:12
5:17
MPEG4 (DivX) encoding, min:sec
3:47
3:52
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec
32:57
33:14
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480x32), fps
70.6
71.9
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Medium@800x600x32), fps
66.3
67.2

We shall soon publish a large roundup of motherboards on i945P/G/i955X chipsets and determine what model is the fastest. And most importantly, we shall compare their performance characteristics with the motherboards on the main (for this moment) competitor to these chipsets - NVIDIA nForce4 SLI (Intel Edition).

This model on the manufacturer's web site

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer





Vladimir Senchihin (sench@ixbt.com)
August 17, 2005.


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