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MSI MS6309
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Date: Dec 15, 2001
Section:Motherboards
Author: HH Editor
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MSI MS6309 - Page 1

Micro Star International's  MS-6309
VIA Apollo Pro133A - Coppermine Ready Socket 370 Infused

April 10, 2000 By Dave Altavilla

 

The past few months have been very interesting for the PC Motherboard market.  As we all know, Intel skipped a beat with respect to release of its own PC133 compatible chipset with the i820.  In the mean time, VIA has begun to show up in almost every Motherboard Manufacturer's offering, in many cases as a high end product solution.  The value space has always been a place where VIA plays well.  This time, they are filling the void at both ends of the spectrum with the Apollo Pro 133A..

MSI sent us their recently released VIA PC133 based motherboard, for evaluation.  The MS-6309 has all the features of a full form factor VIA Apollo Pro133A based board but instead supports Socket 370 CPUs of all varieties, including Intel's Coppermine P3.  Here is the run down.

 
MSI MS-6309 Specifications / Features
Apollo Pro133A Socket Rocket - with a couple of flaws

Click image for full view

 

  • CPU:
    Socket 370 for Intel(R) Celeron(TM) processor. Supports Pentium(R) III "Flip Chips. Supports 233/266/300/333/350/400/450/500/533/...667 MHz or faster processor.

  • Clock:
    66.6MHz and 133MHz clocks supported
     
  • Memory:
    Support for six memory banks using three 168-pin unbuffered DIMM. Supports a maximum memory size of 1/5GM (32M x 8). Supports ECC(1-bit Error Code Correct) function. Support 3.3v SDRAM DIMM.
     
  • Slots:
    1 AGP, 1 AMR, 5 PCI, Supports 3.3v/5.5v PCI bus Interface.
     
  • Audio:
    Chip Integrated Direct Sound AC97 Audio
     
  • Form Factor:
    ATX
     
  • Chipset:
    VIA(R) 694X chipset.  AGP 4X,  Advanced ECC Memory Controller, Support for PC100/133 SDRAM, VCM & ESDRAM technology
     
  • Additional Features:
    Microsoft(R) PC98/PC99 Compliant, D-LED TM (Diagnostic LEDs), TOP Tech. III(Thermal Overheat Protection Technology,. PC Alert TM III (System Hardware Monitor), TCAV (Build-in Trend Micro Anti-Virus Protection on BIOS),  LAN Wake Up Function, Modem (Internal/External) Ring Wake Up Function, STR (Suspend to RAM), Vi/o & Vcore Adjustable

The Downside:
We might as well get this out of the way early on.  As you can see, the picture above is a shot of the board installed in our test-bed with a Golden Orb Cooler, attached to the Coppermine 500E CPU, we used for testing.  There are two arrows in this shot that are pointing to two major design flaws with this board. 

First is the issue of being able to clear the CMOS in the event that you choose a setting that won't boot.  The arrow on the left points to the jumper that clears the CMOS and restores in to default settings.  MSI really missed the boat with respect to the mechanical layout of this board.  As you can see, the jumper is located way down next to a PCI slot that, when occupied, is totally obstructed making it impossible for you to change this jumper without having to pull the card in that slot and most likely the one next to it.  Couple this with the fact that the BIOS does not have the ability YET, to set the CPU to default by holding down the insert key while powering on.  Most boards these days have this option and it is a real benefit to avoid opening your case if you can't obtain a successful setting in the BIOS.  The jumper issue will be mostly rectified if MSI can release a BIOS update that gives you the ability to reset the CPU to default with a "hot key" at power up.  We have spoken with MSI Marketing about this and they have promised to give feedback to engineering on our suggestion.

The second arrow in this shot is the location of the three pin power connector for the CPU Fan. You can't see it in this shot because it is almost totally covered by the Golden Orb Heat sink.  We were able to get the connector seated with a little finesse.   However, there are many other places on this board that it could have been used for the connector site, which would have been much easier to work around.  In addition, there are only two of these power headers on this board.  One for the CPU fan and one for the chassis fan.

The Upside:
Now that we have covered these small inconveniences, lets cover the positive attributes of this board, as there are many.  For starters, our board came equipped with Direct Sound AC97 supported audio with the CODEC on board and a game port.  This is not the type of 3D Positional Audio that the true audiophiles or heavy gamers are going to want but it is more than adequate for most folks just looking for decent stereo output.

Also of note is this board's Diagnostic LED feature.  In the picture below, you can see that there is a bank of 4 Green LEDs.  You can interpret errors that may be occurring with the board depending on the state of these, either green or yellow in color.  Things like Memory, VGA BIOS and Processor Initialization are all monitored.

Click image for a closer look at the D-LED feature

In addition,  this board has an excellent array of BIOS set up options and CPU tweaks.  You want details?  Right this way....

 

 Installation, Setup and Overclocking

 
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MSI MS6309 - Page 2

Micro Star International's  MS6309
VIA Apollo Pro133A - Coppermine Ready Socket 370 Infused

April 10, 2000 By Dave Altavilla

 

Test System Specifications / Features
Standard issue performance rig

Full Tower ATX Case w/ 300W PS, Pentium III 500E overclocked to 600 and 750MHz. (supplied by Outside Loop Computers), MS-6309 Motherboard, 128MB of EMS PC133 SDRAM, WD Expert AC418000 7200 RPM ATA66 Hard Drive, Elsa Erazor X2 AGP , Kenwood 72X CDROM, Win 98SE, DirectX 7.0a

 

MS-6309 Installation / Setup
Tons O' Fun!
The MS-6309 setup quickly and easily in our test-bed system.  It was nice to just plunk the FCPGA down into the Socket without having to deal with Slotket.  It brought me back to the days of the original Pentium.  The board posted at 500MHz. and we quickly went into the BIOS for some tweaking.  It is not the standard Award BIOS that you may be use to seeing on BX based boards.  Instead, it is an AMI BIOS and it is every bit as good in our opinion.

CPU BIOS Setup
Click image

Much to my delight, the board comes with the ability to run the Front Side Bus speed all the way up to 200MHz.  The question is, will you be able to run a processor at this speed.  There is also a comprehensive health monitoring menu in the BIOS for temperature and voltage.  In addition, MSI gives you the ability to adjust CPU Core Voltage here.  One little note of concern was the fact the the VCore reading was consistently reporting different numbers than what we had set it to.  The system never had any issues related to this but it didn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Now, if you could find a CPU that would run on a 200MHz. Front Side Bus, the MS-6309 would take care that your SDRAM was running in check.  Since the VIA Apollo PRO133A has the ability to run the SDRAM clock asynchronously to the Front Side Bus, you can be assured stable operation at the standard 133MHz. spec.

There are a number of important features here including the ability to toggle AGP 4X on or off, IOQ Depth and the SDRAM Clock adjustment, which can be either PC100 or 133.  The RAM we used ran at PC133 or 133MHz with a CAS2 setting and stable.  These settings proved to be THE fastest configuration that we have seen to date with a VIA Apollo Pro133A board, when it comes to memory bandwidth.  Details on this to follow.

 

 

Overclocking With The MS-6309
Not too shabby but room for improvement

With all of the flexibility that the MS-6309's BIOS affords, we were anxious to see if we could get our P3-500E to new heights.  We were able to overclock the CPU to a max of 143MHz. FSB for a total of 715MHz.  This particular processor has been proven at 750MHz. (150X5) in a couple of other boards, so we were a little disappointed here.  When the FSB was set higher than 143, the system wouldn't post. This was the case no matter what voltage setting we used.  Again, with another BIOS release from MSI, this can be easily rectified as the settings are all there ready for use.

 
What really impressed about this board was its performance clock for clock versus other boards in this field.  Let's take a look!
 
  

Performance, Benchmarks and the Rating

 
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MSI MS6309 Page 3


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