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MSI 945P Neo Platinum (Intel 945P Express)
By Zachary Chan
Category : Mainboard
Published by Vijay Anand on Tuesday, 28th June, 2005
Rating : 4 out of 5 stars  

The Good

The 945P Neo Platinum was based on the Intel 945P Express chipset, which meant that you would get SATA II and PCI Express support out of the box. The board also supported the DDR2-667 standard and all current LGA775 processors up to the Pentium Processor Extreme Edition with a 1066MHz PSB. Additional features included VIA's VT6307 IEEE 1394a and VT6410 Ultra ATA RAID controllers. Why Ultra ATA and not SATA? The Intel 945P Express chipset only features a single IDE port and thus it makes more sense to have secondary channels available, especially for those who aren't ready to part with their older drives. However, if you were planning to have more than four SATA devices, well, tough luck. In such a case, you might want to view other Intel 945P motherboards or go for MSI's higher-class offerings.

Without a FireWire port at the rear panel, both ports are available as headers. Luckily, MSI provides a bracket enabling both.

Instead of an additional SATA controller like many boards, the 945P Neo Platinum feature an IDE RAID controller.

By now, we're all familiar with Azalia, Intel's HD Audio component built into their chipsets. While HD Audio itself is available in all new Intel based motherboards, it is the CODEC used by manufacturers that set them apart. The 945P Neo Platinum came with a Realtek ALC882 CODEC, which is Realtek's new premium component. The CODEC not only supports 8-channel audio but also capable of an additional independent stereo stream. We've seen the same CODEC in other boards before that bore Dolby Master Studio certification, but the 945P Neo Platinum seemed to carry a different variant that offered DTS Connect certification instead. From what we can gather, the CODEC's capabilities are the same, but Realtek offers different variants with different bundles. DTS Connect is Digital Theater Systems' latest initiative into the PC market against rival Dolby Laboratories. Essentially, the DTS Connect specification allows for encoding all audio into a 1.5Mbps DTS-compatible bit-stream that can be output to a single S/PDIF cable connection. It also provides Neo:PC, DTS' stereo up-mixing technology. For those who prefer DTS to Dolby, then this should be your choice.

4-pin 12V ATX no longer enough for home consumer boards. Here we see one of the first 8-pin boards to arrive.

Power requirements continue to escalate with every new generation of hardware. With motherboards, we've seen the introduction of ATX 2.0 specifications not too long ago that increased 20-pin ATX to 24-pins to support the 75W PCI Express x16 needs and required a secondary 4-pin 12V rail. Motherboards that supported multiple GPU configurations go further by placing a 4-pin Molex on the PCB to provide a direct feed. As if an indicator that we're going to need even more power in the near future, the 945P Neo Platinum came with an 8-pin 12V rail usually only seen on dual CPU server boards. Not to worry as this is compatible with the current 4-pin 12V power connector on power supplies, so you will not require a new power supply to specifically have an 8-pin 12V power connector that is catered towards future proofing. MSI also provided better voltage regulation to the CPU with a 5-phase VRM circuit on the board itself. These power features on the 945P Neo Platinum ensure future upgrades, but don't forget a good power supply unit is now all the more important to support the latest hardware.

The Bad

It needs pointing out that the board we received was still a preproduction sample with a PCB revision of 1.0. This particular board came with a number of design flaws, some of which would be fixed in the upcoming retail revision 1A. One of these issues was a settings incompatibility issue with the onboard VIA VT6410 RAID controller. While the function worked without problems, disabling this feature in the BIOS will result in a non-bootable motherboard. The retail BIOS is said to fix this little hardware bug.

MSI has done incredibly well with board designs in recent times, but we found that the 945P Neo Platinum was a little rough on the edges. Looking at the board, one would notice that there are quite a few extra-tall capacitors littered around. While they do not seem to initially cause any trouble, problems arise when you begin to setup the board. Firstly, we have two capacitors sitting right below the PCIe x16 slot, which hinders installation of dual slot graphic cards (like a GeForce 6800 Ultra and other high-end ATI cards). MSI has recognized this problem and has fixed this for the retail board that would hit streets, which is excellent news indeed. The second problem we faced with the capacitors was surprisingly during un-installation. The capacitors at the edge of the board were placed right beside the CPU socket mounting holes, which made removal of the CPU cooler quite a challenge. Users will have to be extra careful around the capacitors not to accidentally snap them off.

Two offending capacitors right next to the PCi Express x16 slot hinder large graphic card installation. There two capacitors will be replaced in board revision 1A so users need not worry.

Lack of additional fan headers at the front of the board means that if you have front panel fans, you might have to drag wires across the board or use up a 4-pin molex.

** Updated as of July 3rd, 2005 **

In our initial version of the review, we've commented that the Intel PC82573V PCI Express Gigabit LAN controller supported Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT). However, we've rectified this and removed all references to this technology as only the Intel PC82573E Gigabit controller supports AMT and not the Intel PC82573V Gigabit controller that's present on the MSI 945P Neo Platinum motherboard. We sincerely apologize for our error and regret any inconveniences caused as a result.

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