iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






MSI 915P Neo2 Platinum Mainboard
Based on Intel 915P

It's a mainboard, which we cannot help calling a product for those who stick to moderateness in innovations: progressive new chipset (and obligatory PCI-E x16 slot instead of AGP) is combined with three regular 32-bit PCI slots (there are only two PCI-E x1 slots), "fashionable" DDR2 is compensated by three Parallel ATA connectors. In short, it's for those who "have something to lose", unlike the proletariat: you'll find slots for old PCI-cards and connectors for old-fashioned hard disks. All the more you will hardly want to move your old network card to the new system: on-board Gigabit Ethernet, after all :). However, a good external audio card will hardly be replaced for the up-to-date HD Audio by all users in our case see the results of testing the integrated audio below.

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 mainboard is in a case, its description is provided on the PCB. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates two 3300 uF capacitors, seven 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 PCB layout provides a seat for a network controller chip, which is left empty.

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
915P Neo2 Platinum

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)
  • 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (differ by color, grouped in pairs)
  • 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)
  • 3 x FireWire (for the additional bracket)
  • Connector for a case open sensor
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • D-Bracket 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 x COM-port
  • 2 x USB and S/PDIF-OUT of the Coaxial type
  • 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

  • Standard design box
  • User's manual in English
  • Cables:
    • 1 x ATA66/100/133 (in red cambric, with company logo)
    • 1 x FDD (in red cambric, with company logo)
    • 2 x Serial ATA
    • 1 x PCPlug-SATA power converter

  • Brackets:
    • D-Bracket
    • Rear panel bracket
    • Rear panel bracket with 2 x FireWire

  • 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

It's a standard hardware set, one can even say minimalistic. Concerning the software, the emphasis is laid to free utilities (e.g. Xteq X-Setup) in quantity from MSI.

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)
  • FireWire based on the VIA VT6306 chip supporting three ports
  • 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:
+0.20, -0.64
Noise level, dB (A):
Very good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
THD, %:
Intermodulation distortions, %:
Channel crosstalk, dB:

General performance: Good (details).

Note that it's already the second mainboard from MSI we reviewed, which uses this CMedia codec and which received the "Good" mark for the audio quality instead of usual "Very good" and "Excellent". It's in spite of the support for the newest standard of the on-board audio...

Proprietary technologies

  • CoreCell (fine tuning system parameters and enhanced monitoring capabilities)
  • D.O.T. (dynamic overclocking)
  • LiveUpdate 3 (this mainboard 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)


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, DDR2-600, DDR2-667, DDR2-700, DDR2-710
PCI/PCI-E x1 bus setup -  
PCI/PCI-E x1 frequency divider setup + PCI-E=100-133 MHz at 1 MHz steps, PCI=33.3, 36.3, 40 MHz
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 + 1.8-2.4 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 915P Neo2 Platinum MSI 915G Combo-FR
Return to Castle Wolfenstein, 800x600x32 232 232
Adobe Photoshop 7.0, script execution 00:08:14 00:09:04
DivX 5.1 Pro encoding 00:07:15 00:07:25
7-zip archiving 00:07:31 00:07:53


Dmitry Majorov (destrax@ixbt.com)
August 26, 2004

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