MSI GNB Max Motherboard

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The MSI GNB Max-FISR Motherboard
Intel's Granite Bay With Dual Channel DDR and AGP8X

By, Dave Altavilla
December 8, 2002

It seems as though the entire PC world has been waiting for a Dual Channel DDR chipset to come to the Pentium 4.  Although RAMBUS and RDRAM technology certainly had its merits, as the highest available bandwidth memory architecture for Intel's flagship processor, the technology has been riddle with controversy over RAMBUS' monopolistic tactics.  In addition, with its higher price point of entry, the end user community has been very slow to adopt it.  On the other hand, even the low latency single channel i845PE DDR chipset from Intel, didn't quite have the horsepower to outpace Dual Channel RDRAM, in memory bandwidth intensive applications and benchmarks.  It would take nothing less than a dual channel DDR solution to rival PC1066 RDRAM's 4.2GB/sec of bandwidth feeding the Pentium 4.

MSI's new GNB Max-FISR is the first Intel E7205 (Granite Bay) based motherboard to hit the HotHardware Labs and it brings with it 4.3GB/sec of Dual Channel DDR at 266MHz.  Now, drop down AGP8X support and Intel's new ICH4 with USB 2.0 as well as a host of features like integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet, courtesy of Intel's 82540 MAC/Phy chip and you get the idea on what this board is all about; as in WWF style "no holds barred" with all the tricks.  First let's run down the feature set and design of this new board from MSI.  Then we'll get down to what you come here for, a comprehensive performance analysis versus other top solutions in the field.

Specifications / Features of the MSI GNB MAX-FISR
Dual Channel DDR For The P4

   
CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN FULL VIEW
 

CPU
- Supports Socket 478 for Intel® Pentium 4 (Northwood only) processor
- Supports up 3.06G/533MHz and higher speed


Chipset
Intel® E7205 Chipset
- Supports single processor up to 533MHz
- Supports 144bit wide DDR 2100 memory interface, with the
  memory bandwidth of 4.3GB/s or 3.2 GB/s
- Supports AGP 8x or 4x at 0.8V (AGP 3.0) or 4x at 1.5V
 

Intel® ICH4 Chipset
- AC'97 Controller Integrated
- 2 full IDE channels, up to ATA100
- Low pin count interface for SIO
- Integrated USB 2.0 controller


Bus Frequency
- Supports 100/133MHz FSB
- Supports 400/533MHz Intel NetBurst micro-architecture bus

Memory
- Supports Dual channel (144-bit wide) DDR 266 memory
  interface. Each channel supports 2 DIMM Sockets
- Supports four 184-pin DDR DIMM sockets up to 4GB.
- Supports non-ECC(x64) or ECC(x72) DIMMs DDR PC2001
  DIMM using 128Mb, 256Mb, 512Mb and 1GB SDRAM.


IDE
- An IDE controller on the ICH4 chipset provides IDE HDD/ CD-ROM with PIO,
  Bus Master and Ultra DMA66/100 operation modes.
- Can connect up to four IDE devices.
- Promise 20376 controllers 2 Serial ATA ports in 150 MB/s
  operation mode and 1 Ultra DMA port. (optional)


Audio

- C-Media 8738MX supports 2/4/6 channel speaker + SPDIF out

System BIOS
- 2Mb Award BIOS w/ PnP, ACPI, SMBIOS 2.3, Green and Boot Block
- Provides DMI2.0, WfM2.0, WOL, WOR, chassis intrusion, and SMBus for system management

Expansion Slots
- One 8X/4X AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) universal slot
- Five PCI v2.2 32-bit master PCI bus slots

LAN
Intel® 82540EM
- Integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet MAC and PHY in one chip
- Supports 10Mb/s and 100Mb/s auto-negotiation operation
- Compliance with PCI v2.2, mini PCI 1.0 and LAN on Motherboard (LOM) standard.

- 1 PC2PC Bluetooth connector for WLAN connection (optional)

Internal I/O Connectors
On-Board Peripherals include:
- 1 floppy port supports 2 FDDs with 360K, 720K, 1.2M, 1.44M
  and 2.88Mbytes
- 2 serial ports (COM A + COM B)
- 1 parallel port supports SPP/EPP/ECP mode
- 6 USB 2.0 ports (Rear x 4 / Front x 2)
- 1 Line-In/Line-Out/Mic-In port
- 2 PS/2 connectors
- 1 LAN RJ45 connector
(Optional)
- 1394 port controlled by VT6306, with up to 400Mbps transfer
   rate.
(Optional)

Back Panel I/O
2 PS/2 connectors (keyboard and mouse)
2 9-pin Serial port
1 25-pin SPP/ECP/EPP Parallel port
4 USB 2.0 ports
3 Audio connectors (Line-out, Line-in, Mic-in)
1 Gigabit LAN port

Miscellaneous

ATX form factor
30.5 cm(L) x 24.7 cm(W) ATX Form Factor
Nine mounting holes


Package Contents
MSI GNB Max-FISR Motherboard
Drivers and Utilities CD
Installation Manual
ATA 133 IDE Cable
Floppy Cable
D-Bracket?2 (Optional)
S-Bracket? (Optional)

I/O shield
MSI Case Badge

Special Features
Fuzzy Logic 4?
Live BIOS? / Live Driver?
Live Monitor?


This board has it all.  What other features could you possibly want in a new P4 board?  The MSI GNB MAX-FISR has 6 ports of USB 2.0, integrated Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire and sound.  The sound chip is a C-Media 87398MX which provides excellent 6 channel surround sound capabilities.  Finally, the icing on the cake, is the board's on board Promise 20376 SATA RAID Controller.  Now we just need one of these foolish drive OEMs to release some SATA Hard Drives and we'll be styling.

 

        
CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW

Intel's E7205 chipset, as you can see, provides 4.3GB/sec of memory bandwidth to the Pentium 4's 533MHz system bus.  The chipset supports up to 4GB of RAM, so server implementations can easily be supported with the cost effectiveness that DDR DRAM offers.  In addition, AGP8X support is provided and we are happy to report that our Radeon 9700 Pro, that we used for testing, worked flawlessly throughout our benchmark runs.  Finally, above you'll see that MSI puts a nice touch on the motherboard, with an active heat sink and fan combination cooling the Granite Bay chip itself.

Layout, Quality and BIOS Setup 

 
Tags:  MSI, Motherboard, MS, board, AR

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