MSI 915P Neo2 Platinum Series Motherboard
Once we opened the package and took the 915P Neo2 out of its static free bag, we could see why it's named "Platinum". Clearly, the team at MSI was firing on all cylinders when designing this motherboard. The layout of the board was clean and well planned and the color scheme contrasted nicely against the black PCB. As the name implies, the 915P Neo2 Platinum comes with the Intel 915P chipset at its core, backed by the ICH6R Southbridge. This combination brings all the best features the chipset has to offer, plus MSI adds a few more refinements along the way.
The 915P Neo2 Platinum series supports 4GB of DDR2 memory. Additionally, the board has the ability to set the memory up to 667MHz in the BIOS if the modules are capable. The Neo2 also comes with a single PCI-E 16X slot as well as two PCI-E 1X and three standard PCI slots. You might have noticed, the last PCI slot is colored orange to set it apart. This slot is optimized as a comminications slot to enhance network performance with MSI's Dual-Net WLAN/Bluetooth card (sold separately). The board also comes with the standard compliment of USB 2.0 ports, eight in total, as well as one IEEE1394 port. Additionally the 915P Neo2 Platinum comes with four SATA ports capable of Matrix RAID via the ICH6R Southbridge, while two IDE ports support RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 powered by a VIA 6410 IDE RAID Controller.
MSI also adds a few special features to the 915P Neo2 to help give it an edge in a very competitive market. If you look between the CPU socket and rear connections, you'll notice heatsinks mounted on the MOSFETs, as well as the Northbridge and Southbridge. This added feature aims to keep temperatures in check under all conditions, for improved system stability and longevity. If all goes as planned, we expect to see some good results in the overclocking segment with such precautions taken to keep heat under control. We also like MSI's color scheme approach to component identification. Each item is uniquely colored and clearly labeled, making it very easy to identify the on-board headers and other components. You'll also find the plug colors on the D-Brackets match the socket color of their respective headers, further reducing any guess work. And let us not forget to mention the 8-channel audio powered by Realtek's ALC861 CODEC.
MSI really payed attention to detail when constructing the 915P Neo2 Platinum, and that attention to detail spilled over to the BIOS configuration as well. The screens are clearly accessible and concise, with MSI keeping their advanced overclocking features under the Cell_Menu screen.
In the Advanced Chipset Feature section, we found the memory configuration options. The DDR2 memory could be set to run by SPD or manual, offering the standard array of CAS-related settings. In this case, the CAS latency could be set for either 3, 4, or 5, much higher than we're used to seeing with DDR memory. The RAS-to-CAS and Precharge options were more typical, ranging from 2 to 5 clocks in increments of 1.
From the Advanced Chipset Feature screen, we moved to the Cell Menu, where the remainder of the power user options were located. Here, we had the option to set the DDR2 memory to run at 400, 533 or Auto. The system also offered preconfigured overclocking profiles ranging from Private, Sergeant, Captain, Colonel, General and Commander, with the first running the system at 1% overclock and the final stage peaking at a hefty 15% increase.
For fine tuning overclocking stability, there were a fair collection of voltage settings among other options. The CPU voltage was adjustable from 1.3875v to a maximum 1.550v. The DDR voltage ranged from 1.8 to 2.4v in increments of .1v where as the NB voltage ranged from 1.5 to 1.7v. Overall, these options give the overclocker a fair amount of leverage, most important with aggressive overclocking settings.
Next, we'll fire up the HH test bed and see just how high we can get this motherboard before entering the benchmarking arena.