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MSI K8T Neo2-FIR – Motherboard on VIA K8T800 Pro Chipset

December 6, 2004



It's a top model in the series for expensive AMD processors with a dual-channel memory controller. Its functionality is not impressive, but it features all necessary modern interfaces. Add high performance and overclocking capacities together with a good set of proprietary utilities, and you will get a great contender for a purchase.




We have almost no complaints about the "classic" PCB layout: only the inconvenient placement of the row of connectors along the left edge of the board (it's difficult to plug the cables) and the audio-in (in front of the PCI slots, the cable will have to run across the entire PC case). Access to the only jumper is not hampered even when the motherboard is in a case. There is a brief description of jumper functions on the PCB. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates four 2200 uF capacitors, and nine 1500 uF capacitors. Field effect transistors in this circuit are covered with heatsinks (brand feature of MSI motherboards). The motherboard also contains voltage regulators for AGP (one 1000 uF capacitor) and memory (six 1000 uF capacitors).

At present MSI offers two models for Socket 939 based on VIA K8T800 Pro. This is the top model, it lacks empty seats for PCB elements. The junior model is K8T Neo2-F: it lacks the FireWire controller and the additional ATA133/SATA RAID controller. Motherboard dimensions – 305x245 mm (full-sized ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed). The Winbond W83627THF chip is used to monitor:

  • CPU voltage, +3,3, +5 and +12 V
  • RPM of 2 fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • CPU socket (Socket 939 supporting all modern processors)
  • 4 x DDR SDRAM DIMM (up to 4 GB DDR200/266/333/400 supporting dual channel mode)
  • 1 x AGP 8x (with a latch)
  • 5 x PCI (the orange slot is for proprietary expansion cards, but it can be used as a regular slot as well)
  • Power connectors: Standard 20-pin connector and a 4-pin connector for 12 V
  • 1 x FDD
  • 3 x IDE (Parallel ATA) – two of them are in the chipset (for 4 ATA133 devices), one more operates due to an additional controller, connected disks (2 x ATA133) can form RAID 0, 1 or 0+1 with two SATA disks (connected to the same controller)
  • 4 x SATA (Serial ATA) – 2 of them are in the chipset, connected disks can form RAID 0 or 1; the other two operate due to an additional controller and support RAID 0, 1 or 0+1 with two ATA133 disks (connected to the same controller)
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB (2.0) ports
  • Connector for the bracket with an additional FireWire port
  • D-Bracket 2 connector
  • 1 x standard IrDA connector
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • 1 x audio port
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • 4 x fan headers (all with RPM control)

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)




  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x LPT, 1 x COM, 1 x FireWire, 1 x mini-FireWire (4-pin, no power)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF-Out
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 3 x Audio (Main/Line-In, Front, Mic-In)
  • 3 x Audio (Rear, Center/Sub, Toslink S/PDIF-Out)

Package Contents




  • Bright design box with a handle
  • Documentation: User's Manual in 4 languages, RAID setup guide in English
  • Cables: 1 x ATA66/100/133 and 1 x FDD cable – both are in red cambric, 1 x Serial ATA (with a SATA power converter for two devices)
  • D-Bracket 2 (2 x USB + 4 LEDs indicating system startup errors)
  • Rear I/O shield
  • Floppy with drivers for the integrated RAID controller
  • CD with software:
    • Motherboard drivers
    • DirectX 9.0b
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader
    • Trend Micro PC-cillin 2004 (Internet Security 11.0, firewall and antivirus)
    • Xteq Systems X-Setup 6.0 (Windows tweaker)
    • E-Color 3Deep (configuring monitor output)
    • RealVNC Remote Control Utility (remote access and computer control)
    • Set of proprietary MSI utilities.

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on AC'97 Realtek (Avance Logic) ALC850 codec supporting 7.1 surround audio with front line-in/out and S/PDIF-Out (Coaxial and Toslink) jacks
  • LAN, based on the Realtek RTL8110S-32 chip supporting 10/100/1000 Mbit/sec Base-T (PCI Gigabit Ethernet)
  • ATA133/SATA RAID based on the Promise PDC20579 chip supporting RAID 0, 1 and 0+1, 2 with SATA connectors and one ATA133 connector
  • FireWire based on the VIA VT6306 chip supporting 3 ports

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.4 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.09, -0.89
Good
Noise level, dB (A):
-83.5
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
82.9
Good
THD, %:
0.036
Good
Intermodulation distortion, %:
0.108
Average
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-80.6
Very good

General performance: Good (details). Fairly good results in combination with 7.1 channel audio support will not spoil the general impression of this model, at minimum. However, you should take into account that it's AC'97 audio, not High Definition Audio (24-bit output is not supported, etc), so you will not be able to listen to DVD-Audio without downsampling.

Proprietary technologies

  • MSI DigiCell (Windows utility to fine-tune and overclock the system as well as to use specific features of the processor)
  • MSI D.O.T. (dynamic overclocking of the system depending on the CPU load)
  • MSI Live Update 3 (update drivers and BIOS automatically via Internet)

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
In BIOS based on v3.31a from AMI Memory timings + CAS Latency, Active to CMD, Active to Precharge, Precharge to Active, Burst Length, Bank Interleaving, DRAM 1T Timing
Memory frequency selection + DDR200, DDR266, DDR333, DDR400
HT bus setup + Frequency (200, 400, 600, 800, 1000 MHz)
AGP bus setup +  
PCI bus setup +  
AGP and PCI frequency divider setup + AGP(PCIx2) = Sync, 66, 75.4 MHz
PCI IRQ manual assignment +  
FSB frequency setup + 200–280 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier + x5–x25
CPU core voltage control + Auto, +3.3%, +5%, +6.6%, +8%, +10%, +11%, +15%
Memory voltage control + Auto, 2.55–2.85 V at 0.05 V steps
Chipset voltage control -  
HT bus voltage control + Auto, 1.26, 1.32, 1.38 V
AGP voltage control + Auto, 1.55–1.85 V at 0.05 V steps

We used BIOS 3.0, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests. (Some bugs have been fixed in the recently released v3.2 – USB device support under DOS, CPU temperature monitoring in BIOS, updated list of CPU models.) The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested. There is a boot menu function, which allows to select a device to boot from without modifying BIOS settings.

Performance

This is the first motherboard that we tested with AMD Athlon 64 3500+. So, formally speaking, we cannot draw any conclusions about its performance so far. Nevertheless, our large experience in testing Athlon 64/FX models gives us the right to announce that its performance will perfectly match that of all the other motherboards for the corresponding socket, because this motherboard managed to startup with minimum timings. Our future roundup will give you an opportunity to see it with your own eyes.

This model on the official site of the manufacturer




Sergei Pikalov (peek@ixbt.com)
November 31, 2004



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