iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






MSI 845PE Max2-FIR i845PE Based Mainboard

The top model in the line of one of the leaders in this sector is well equipped and rich in functions; in short, this is one of the best solutions on this chipset. 


  • Package of the standard design; 
  • Documentation: user manual, installation manual for IDE RAID, manual how to assemble a computer - all in English; 
  • Cables: FDD, 2 ATA66/100/133; 
  • S-Bracket (Rear, Center/Sub and S/PDIF-Out connectors of Coaxial and TosLink types); 
  • D-Bracket (2 USB connectors + 4 LEDs monitoring POST procedure); 
  • Bracket with 3 FireWire ports; 
  • Bracket for the rear computer panel; 
  • Diskette with drivers for IDE RAID; 
  • 2 CDs containing:
    • drivers; 
    • DirectX 8.1; 
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader; 
    • VNC; 
    • 3Deep; 
    • PC-cillin 2000; 
    • X-Setup; 
    • MSI DVD; 
    • MSI Fuzzy Logic (auto CPU overclocking); 
    • MSI GoodMem (memory optimization); 
    • MSI InfoView (information on system devices); 
    • MSI i-Speeder (optimization of the Internet access and monitoring of network connections); 
    • MSI Live Update 2 (auto update of drivers and BIOS); 
    • MSI LockBox (to protect computer access); 
    • MSI Password Keeper (to store passwords); 
    • MSI PCAlert IV (system monitoring); 
    • MSI SecureDoc (file encryption); 
    • MSI SmartKey (for operation with SmartKey). 

The board is filled up with various controllers and connectors, that is why some inconvenience in the layout is inevitable: IDE RAID prevent insertion of long PCI cards in the respective slots, cables from audio connectors and some other connectors placed along the left edge can tangle, and a video card inserted into the AGP slot locks the memory modules. It's not difficult to reach the only jumper when the board is already installed. Its functions are not shown on the textolite. 

The 2-channel switching voltage regulator incorporates 4 capacitors of 3300 uF and 6 of 2200 uF. 

The following controllers are integrated: 

  • audio controller based on the C-Media CMI8738/PCI-6ch-MX chip supporting 5.1 audio systems and having connectors for front audio outputs and for SPDIF; 
  • network controller based on the Intel RC82540EM chip supporting 10BaseT/100BaseTX/1000BaseT (Gigabit Ethernet); 
  • IDE RAID controller based on the Promise PDC20276 chip supporting RAID 0 and 1 on the ATA133 protocol; 
  • FireWire bus controller based on the VIA VT6306 chip. 

Non-unsoldered connectors: none.

The system monitoring is supported by the Winbond W83627HF-AW chip. What is controlled: 

  • processor voltage, +3.3, +-5 and +-12 V, VBAT and +5 V Standby
  • speed of 3 fans; 
  • temperatures of the processor (a built-in sensor) and the board (a built-in sensor). 

There are 2 connectors for adjustable and 1 for unadjustable connection of fans (it's connected to a fan on the MCH's heatsink). 

Brief characteristics of the board: memory slots - 3 DDR SDRAM; expansion slots - AGP/ 6 PCI/ CNR; I/O ports - 1 COM/ LPT/ 2 PS/2/ 6 USB 2.0 / 3 FireWire; dimensions - 305x245 mm. 

Adjustment can be carried out with:

jumpers and switches Jumper to clear up the CMOS  
BIOS based on AMI 3.31a Setup of memory timings + CAS Latency, Precharge Delay, RAS to CAS Delay, RAS Precharge
Setup of memory frequency + Auto, DDR266, DDR333
Setup of AGP bus -  
Setup of PCI bus -  
Changeable scaler of AGP and PCI buses + AGP(PCIx2) = 50, 66-89 MHz in 1MHz steps
Manual assignment of interrupts +  
Changeable FSB frequency + 100-233 MHz in 1 and 2 MHz
Changeable CPU multiplier + x8-x32
Changeable core voltage + 1.5-1.85 V in 0.025 V steps
Changeable memory voltage + Auto, 2.6, 2.7, 2.8 V
Changeable chipset voltage -  
Changeable AGP bus voltage + Auto, 2.6, 2.7, 2.8 V

We used the BIOS of 1.2 as the latest available version. 

The only complaint is a relatively low speed, but this gap in the line of the boards on this chipset is trifling; as far as functions, accessories and tweaking/overclocking settings are concerned, this is one of the brightest solutions. 

Test results: 


Dmitry Mayorov (destrax@ixbt.com

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