iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






MSI 915G Combo-FR Mainboard
Based on Intel 915G

The main feature of this mainboard is the support for two memory types regular DDR and DDR2. As for the rest, it's a typical representative of a "moderately stuffed" modern mainboard supporting a large number of hard disks (the main advantage) and equipped with a Gigabit Ethernet adapter.

The PCB layout is standard – IDE RAID connectors are located in the back and the audio connectors are before the PCI slots, the IDE connector is behind the PCI-E x16 slot, and the density of memory slots will hamper free access to them. Access to the jumper may be hampered when the mainboard is in a case, its description is provided on the PCB. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates three 3300 uF capacitor, six 1800 uF capacitors, and several ones of a lesser capacity. The PCB also contains voltage regulators for the PCI-E x16 bus (2x1000 uF) and for memory (6x1000 uF). The mainboard lacks the FireWire controller, though the PCB layout provides seats for its chip and connectors.

A series of Microstar mainboards based on this (or at least on the similar) PCB design is very large. We have compiled all the models into one table for convenience, so that it's easier to see their differences:

IEEE-1394 (FireWire)
PCI Gigabit Ethernet
PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet
915G Combo (FR)

You can see that Neo2-FR and Neo2 Platinum do not differ at all. Indeed, we found no differences, at least in the functionality of the mainboards. One can assume that the differences are in another plane for example in their bundles...

Mainboard dimensions – 305x245 mm ("wide" ATX, nine-screw mount, all mainboard edges are firmly fixed). The Winbond W83627THF chip is used to monitor:

  • CPU voltage, +3.3, +5, +12 V and +5 V Standby
  • RPM of 3 fans
  • CPU temperature (by the embedded CPU sensor)
  • Board temperature (by the on-board sensor)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • CPU socket (Socket 775)
  • 1 x PCI-E x16 (with a latch)
  • 2 x PCI-E x1
  • 3 x PCI 32-bit / 33 MHz
  • Power supply: standard EPS12V (24-pin) and 4-pin connector for 12 V
  • 1 x FDD
  • 1 x IDE (Parallel ATA) – in the chipset
  • 2 x IDE (Parallel ATA) in the additional controller
  • 4 x SATA (Serial ATA) – all in the chipset
  • 2 x USB 2.0 (for additional brackets)
  • Connector for a case open sensor
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • D-Bracket connector
  • 1 x standard IrDA connector
  • Headers for a bracket with Audio-Outs and S/PDIF
  • 4 fan headers (3 of them with rpm control).

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)

  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • LPT, 1 COM, D-Sub (VGA)
  • 2 x USB and S/PDIF-OUT of the Coaxial type
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 3 x Audio (Center/Sub, Rear, Side)
  • 6 x Audio (Mic-In, Line-In, Front, Center/Sub, Rear, S/PDIF-OUT TosLink).

Package Contents

  • Standard design box
  • User's manual in English
  • Cables:
    • 2 x ATA66/100/133
    • 1 x FDD
    • 2 x Serial ATA
    • 1 x PCPlug-SATA power converter

  • Brackets:
    • D-Bracket
    • Rear panel bracket

  • Floppy with SATA RAID drivers
  • CD with software:
    • mainboard drivers
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader
    • AT&T VNC
    • E-Color 3Deep
    • DirectX 9.0b
    • PC-Cillin 2004
    • Xteq X-Setup
    • MSI CoreCenter
    • MSI DigiCell
    • MSI DMI Browser
    • MSI FuzzyLogic
    • MSI GoodMem
    • MSI InfoView
    • MSI i-Speeder
    • MSI LiveUpdate
    • MSI LockBox
    • MSI PCAlert
    • MSI PWKeeper
    • MSI SecureDoc
    • MSI SmartKey
    • MSI WMIinfo

So, it's a usual hardware bundle, rather small for these days at that. Concerning the software, the emphasis is laid to free utilities (e.g. Xteq X-Setup) in quantity from MSI. They could have included a newer DirectX version though, 9.0C was not released yesterday...

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on the HDA codec CMedia CMI9880L supporting 7.1 surround sound audio with front line-in/out and S/PDIF jacks
  • Network, based on the Realtek RTL8110S-32 chip (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • IDE (PATA) RAID based on the VIA VT6410 chip supporting RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD and two ATA133 connectors.

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.1 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

General results

FR passband ripple (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.19, -0.67
Noise level, dB (A):
Dynamic range, dB (A):
THD, %:
Intermodulation distortions, %:
Channel crosstalk, dB:

General performance: Good.

Proprietary technologies

  • MSI CoreCell (fine tuning system parameters and enhanced monitoring capabilities).


Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper
In BIOS v2.51 from AMI Memory timings + CAS Latency, RAS Precharge, RAS to CAS Delay, RAS Act. To Precharge Delay
Memory frequency selection + Auto, DDR2-400, DDR2-533, DDR333, DDR400
PCI/PCI-E x1 bus setup -  
PCI/PCI-E x1 frequency divider setup -  
PCI IRQ manual assignment +  
FSB frequency setup + 200-500 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier + x8-x28
CPU core voltage control + 1.3625-1.55 V at 0.0125 V steps
Memory voltage control + DDR2 - 1.8-2.4 V at 0.05 V steps;
DDR- 2.5-3.2 V at 0.05 V steps
Chipset voltage control + 1.5-1.7 V at 0.05 V steps
PCI-E bus voltage control -  

We used BIOS 1.3, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests.

Preliminary test results

  MSI 915G Combo-FR Intel D915GUX
Return to Castle Wolfenstein, 800x600x32 232 233
Adobe Photoshop 7.0, script execution 00:09:04 00:08:21
DivX 5.1 Pro encoding 00:07:25 00:07:21
7-zip archiving 00:07:53 00:07:38


Dmitry Majorov (destrax@ixbt.com)
October 19, 2004

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