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Date: Jul 23, 2003
Author: HH Editor
The K7N2 DELTAILSR from MSI - Page 1


The MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR
A New nForce2 with Something Extra

By: Jeff Bouton
July 23rd, 2003

t's funny how things can turn around in the computer industry. Take nVidia's original nForce chipset for example.  While the graphics division was riding high with the latest GeForce product line, the overall response to the fledgling chipset was lukewarm at best.  Adoption by manufacturers was sparse, many of which were understandably cautious of the newcomer.  Today, things have come full circle.  The introduction of the nForce2 chipset launched nVidia to the top of the AMD chipset heap, unseating VIA from the throne.  nVidia has been able to achieve dominance in a new market within one revision of a new product.  When you look at it from that angle, it truly is a remarkable feat.  Unfortunately, the nForce2's rise to the top is overshadowed by recent hard times in the graphics division.  However, this is a cycle that we've seen before in this volatile and extremely competitive atmosphere and we all know that things can change in a second.

Today, we are going to take a look at the latest revision of the nForce2, the nForce2 Ultra 400.  While the first iteration of the nForce2 sported DualDDR400 memory capabilities, it officially supported a maximum 333MHz system bus.  As we've established time and again, the best performance is realized by running the memory and system bus at the same speeds, or synchronously.   The upgraded nForce2 Ultra 400 is essentially the same old nForce2, but it has been updated to support the higher 200MHz FSB.  This allows the memory bus and system bus to run synchronously at the full 200MHz (400MHzDDR) clock speeds.

Our first opportunity to review the nForce2 Ultra 400 comes from MSI Computer, in the form of the K7N2 Delta-ILSR.  In typical MSI fashion, this board comes with all the trimmings to make it stand out among its peers.  But looks are only part of the equation.  Let's take a quick look at the systems specifications.  Then we'll take a closer look at the K7N7 Delta-ILSR to see how performance stacks up to the competition.

Features of the MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR Motherboard
Raising The Bar


Supports Socket A for AMD® Athlon?/Athlon? XP/Duron? processors @FSB 200/266/333/400
Supports  up to Athlon? XP 3000+ processor or higher


nVIDIA® nForce2 Ultra 400 Chipset
Supports DDR200/266/333/400
Supports external AGP 4X/8X

nVIDIA® nForce2 MCP-T Chipset
AC97 Interface supporting up to two concurrent codecs
Ultra ATA133 for the fastest hard disk throughput
USB 2.0 EHCI/1.1 OHCI controller
FireWire® and USB 2.0 for the fastest digital connectivity
Audio Processing Unit(APU) encodes audio in Dolby® Digital 5.1
format for full surround sound effects


FSB 200/266/333/400 MHz clocks are supported

Main Memory

Supports six memory banks using three 184-pin DDR DIMMs
Supports up to 3GB PC3200/2700/2100/1600 DDR SDRAMs
Supports both 64-bit and 128-bit DDR SDRAM


One AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) 1.5V 4x/8x slot
Five 32-bit PCI bus slots (support 3.3v/5v PCI bus interface)
One ACR (Advanced Communication Riser) slot


The mainboard BIOS provides "Plug & Play" BIOS which detects the
peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
The mainboard provides a Desktop Management Interface (DMI) function
which records your mainboard specifications.
On-Board IDE
An IDE controller on the MCP-T chipset provides IDE HDD/CDROM with PIO, Bus Master and Ultra DMA133/100/66 operation modes
Can connect up to four IDE devices

Serial ATA Interface

Support 2 serial ATA plus 1 ATA133
RAID O or 1 is supported
RAID function works w/ATA133+SATA H/D or 2 SATA H/D

In-Chip IEEE1394

nVIDIA MCP-T IEEE1394 controller
Support up to two ports via external bracket


Chipset integrated 10/100 Base-T Ethernet/Fast Ethernet


Realtek ALC650 6-channel audio
Dolby Digital 5.1 format

On-Board Peripherals

1 floppy port that supports two FDD with 360KB, 720KB,1.44MB and 2.88MB
1 serial port
1 parallel port supports SPP/EPP/ECP mode
3 audio ports in vertical
2 IEEE1394 connectors
6 USB ports (Rear * 4/ Front * 2)
1 RJ-45 jack


D Bracket 2
S Bracket
IEEE 1394
Round Cable


MSI has gone out of its way to pack this motherboard with a myriad of amenities, but they didn't stop there.  The package comes with quite a few conveniences of its own to help you take full advantage of all of the K7N2's features.  Along with thorough K7N2 Delta Series and Serial ATA RAID Quick User's Guides, MSI also provides a comprehensive drivers CD as well as RAID drivers on Floppy disk.  To help get the user up and running quickly, MSI included 2 SATA cables, one red rounded IDE and a standard Floppy ribbon cable.  Separate power adapters are provided for 2 SATA drives.  To take full advantage of the motherboard's on-board capabilities, MSI provides the required brackets to access to each function.  A D-Bracket 2 offers access to one USB connection and provides four diagnostic LEDs in case the system begin to misbehave.  A second IEEE1394 bracket provides access to two FireWire ports, while the S-Brackets offer access to all of the on-board audio functions, such as SPDIF ports for both coaxial and optical as well as analog Line-Out jacks.  MSI also threw in a K7 case badge and a copy of WinDVD on CD-ROM.

While all of these components can be handy, it would be nice to see MSI consolidate some of these connectors into the back plate.  If you were to use all of the motherboards onboard features, you end up using 4 PCI openings in the case.  Throw in a video card and you have room for one more PCI component.  By integrating some of these connectors into the I/O connector array, the user would not be hampered by the space taken by these brackets and MSI would only need to provide a custom I/O shield.   


The Bundle Continued and The Board


The K7N2 DELTAILSR from MSI - Page 2


The MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR
A New nForce2 with Something Extra

By: Jeff Bouton
July 23rd, 2002

The installation CD was driven by MSI's clean menu system, giving easy access to all of the CD's software.  The main menu offers links to the system chipset drivers and RAID drivers while the utility section offers links to free VNC (Virtual Network Connection) software for remotely controlling the computer.  The website section offers information on various websites linking to driver updates and shareware software libraries.  We were a little surprised to find that the User's Guide outlined details on PCAlert4 and Cooler XP, yet no direct links were provided in any of the available menus.  We did confirm that the programs were included on the CD, but you'll need to browse the disk to find them.  In fact, we highly recommend that you do peruse the CD, there is a lot of other software to be found that is not mentioned anywhere else.

Now that we've covered some of the extras that come with the K7N2 Delta-ILSR, let's move on to the board itself.


Quality and Setup of the MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR
Packed with Modern Conveniences

The Board

There really is no mistaking an MSI board when you see one.  The PCB is of the red flavor, as with any other MSI product, and each set of connections is colored uniquely to aid in easy identification of the board's components.  The board is clean and well thought out, although there are some issues to touch on.  The board sports a total of 1 Red AGP, 5 White PCI and 1 Blue Advanced Communication Riser (ACR) slot.  Even with a total of 7 slots on the board, MSI's engineers were able to leave close to an inch of space between the AGP slot and memory sockets to address the common problem of the video card getting in the way of the DIMM retention clips.  The Northbridge of the nForce2 sports a silver heat sink and fan assembly to help keep any excess heat at bay, a nice touch that should aid in the stability of the board.  One thing you may notice, however, is how close the HSF of the Northbridge comes to the Socket A.  In fact, the position of the CPU socket seems completely offset, causing not only the HSF of the Northbridge to crowd its space, but two capacitors appear uncomfortably close as well.  When we see how much space is available between the socket and the DIMMs, we are curious why the socket couldn't be moved slightly to give a little more breathing room for these components.  Clearly this can be an issue with an oversized heat sink and if you are one of those using a cooler such as an Alpha PAL series, you get burned twice not only by the lack room, but also due to the omission of mounting holes needed to secure it in place.

The IDE connectors are aligned perpendicular to the bottom edge of the board.  Just above the IDE connectors is the Promise PDC 20376 SATA 150 RAID controller which drives two SATA ports located at opposite sides of the chip, as well as one of the three IDE connectors.  When it comes to the power connectors, we found the placement less than ideal, allowing the power supply cabling to possibly drape over the top of the CPU cooler.  Conversely, we found the placement of the IEEE1394 headers to be excellent, just above the AGP slot, although we were momentarily fooled.  At first we couldn't understand why they would place the header at that location, forcing the wiring to be run over the video card to the next available slot, since typically the AGP slot occupies the first PCI space.  In this case however, MSI shifted all of the slots over so the AGP slot is actually second in line, leaving the first opening available for the IEEE1394 Bracket.

The K7N2 Delta-ILSR is not a completely jumperless motherboard, which is typically a downside, but in the case of the K7N2, we'll make an exception.  Between the audio outputs and the Northbridge were two green jumpers, one of which was for setting the CPU FSB too either 100MHz (open) or 133/166MHz (closed).  The other was a FSB Mode Jumper which comes in very handy during overclocking.  We've all done it, pushing the bus speed so high that the system no longer posted, forcing us to clear the BIOS and start over.  With the FSB Mode Jumper, all we had to do was set it to 100MHz (Safe-Mode), boot the system, enter the BIOS and lower the Bus speed.  We could then set the jumper back to User-Mode and boot the system normally.  This is a welcome setting that makes overclocking a little easier and less time consuming because you need no reset all of the other BIOS settings.

Aside from the placement of the Socket A, this is a well thought out motherboard that is clean, well organized and loaded with features.  Now we'll take a quick look at the BIOS and see how MSI ties it all together.


The BIOS and Synthetic Benchmarks

The K7N2 DELTAILSR from MSI - Page 3


The MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR
A New nForce2 with Something Extra

By: Jeff Bouton
July 23rd, 2003


Before we get started with application benchmarking of the MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR, we thought we'd take care of some overclocking first.  Even though our Barton 2500+ came unlocked from the factory, the board did not recognize the chip as unlocked.  We've seen this type of behavior with various CPUs and motherboards, with only a few boards recognizing the processor as unlocked.  Typically we've been able to get around this by following any of the traditional unlocking methods, like jumping the 5th trace on the L3 bridge, but we are not sure why this works since technically the trace should be jumped to begin with.  In this case we used something I've been developing that gets the job done a little easier than traditional methods.  Once installed, the board let us change the multiplier, we were able to adjust our multiplier and set the memory and bus to run synchronously at 200MHz.  We then began raising the multiplier and bus until we found the sweet spot for this particular setup.

CPU @ 2.21GHz.
Multimedia @ 2.21MHz.
Memory @ 422MHz.

In the end, we found the most stable setting to be a multiplier of 10.5 with the bus set at 210MHz.  This resulted in the processor running over 20% faster than the default at 2.21GHz, equating the power to that of an Athon XP 3200+.  That's a nice increase when you factor in the going price for a 3200+ is in excess of $400.  With the memory performance, the gains were even more impressive, jumping almost 27%, from 333MHz to 422MHz.  Clearly the MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR was built with overclocking in mind and overclock it did, like a champ.  In the next few pages we are going to put the stability of the overclock to the test, running each of our benchmarks at both default and overclocked scores.  Will this motherboard be able to take the heat?


FutureMark's PCMark 2002
FutureMark's Finest

Another good all-in-one benchmark for assessing a motherboard's performance is FutureMark's PCMark2002 Professional.  We like to focus on the benchmark's ability to thoroughly test a motherboard's CPU and Memory performance.  From here on in, we've compared the performance to a DFI LAN Party KT400A and one of the most popular nForce2 motherboards available, the ASUS A7N8X Deluxe.  We also included some overclocked scores as well.

It seems that while the DFI LAN Party is a great KT400A based motherboard, it doesn't compare performance wise to the ASUS and MSI nForce2 boards.  Both nForce2 products easily outperformed VIAs KT400, but the ASUS board remained on top of both products with each test, although the K7N2 Delta-ILSR was right on its heels.  Once we overclocked the MSI board, we saw the scores of both the CPU and Memory tests jump quite nicely, with both virtually equating the percentage jump in MHz.  The CPU score climbed over 1200 PCMarks equaling a 20.5% gain while the memory test increased just under 1000 PCMarks, also a 20.5% gain.  Now that's what I call running synchronously.


Quake 3 and Comanche 4
Gaming Tests

Another way we like to assess a system's performance is by using several popular gaming benchmarks.  Today we opted to use both id Software's Quake 3 and Nova Logic's Comanche 4.  With each test we ran the benchmark at low resolutions to reduce the effects of the video card on the scores.  This in turn gives a good gauge of the system's raw output, focusing on the CPU and Memory subsystem's potential.  First we'll start off with the Quake 3 Timedemo DEMO FOUR with the resolution set to 640x480x16 and all visual options set to their minimums. 

Unlike previous tests, we see the MSI board churn out the best score, just topping the ASUS A7N8X Deluxe by a fraction.  Once we increased the clock speed of the board, we saw an impressive gain of 66FPS, equaling roughly 19%.  For our next test we used Comanche 4 which is extremely CPU dependant.

Here we saw the MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR take a firm lead over the comparison motherboards by roughly 3FPS.  When we increased the bus to 210MHz, the score jumped over 20%, tacking on an additional 10FPS, a substantial gain for this CPU intensive benchmark.  Next we'll give the system its most intensive workout with eTesting Labs Winstone testing suite.

The Winstones and Final Words


The K7N2 DELTAILSR from MSI - Page 4


The MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR
A New nForce2 with Something Extra

By: Jeff Bouton
July 23rd, 2003

Business Winstone 2002 and Content Creation 2002
Real World Application Testing

When it comes to overall system "desktop" performance, we find that eTesting Labs Business and Content Creation 2002 products fit our needs nicely.  Business Winstone 2002 focuses on general workstation performance while Content Creation Winstone 2002 stresses a system's performance with multimedia intensive applications.  Below is a list of applications the two benchmarks use to come up with their rating.

Business Winstone 2002

  • Lotus Notes® R5

  • Microsoft® FrontPage® 2002 SP-1

  • Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2002 SP-1

  • Microsoft® Excel 2002 SP-1

  • Microsoft® Access 2002 SP-1

  • Microsoft® Word 2002 SP-1

  • Microsoft® Project 2000

  • WinZip® 8.0

  • Norton AntiVirusTM from Symantec

  • Netscape® 6.2.1

Content Creation 2002

  • Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1

  • Adobe Premiere 6.0

  • Macromedia Director 8.5

  • Macromedia Dreamweaver UltraDev 4

  • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder

  • Netscape Navigator 6/6.01

  • Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 5.0c (build 184)


Once again we see the trend continue with the nForce2 boards running the show.  The DFI LAN Party put up capable results, but the ASUS A7N8X deluxe was the leader of the scoreboard.  Either way you slice it though, it is highly unlikely you would "feel" the difference in everyday usage between the three motherboards, however.

When it comes to MSI's latest nForce2 incarnation, the K7N2 Delta-ILSR delivers where it counts.  The motherboard is a gem to look at and the feature set is impressive.  The board boasts support for FireWire, USB 2.0, on-board audio, SATA RAID, etc.  The only thing we would have liked to see was support for IDE RAID too, but there are adapters available to make this happen with the current hardware.  When we look at overclocking potential, the K7N2 Delta-ILSR was a natural which was partly because MSI included a feature laden BIOS with a wide array of settings.   We think the only people that will be unhappy will be those with oversized heat sinks.  The room around the Socket A was a little cramped on one side and there were no mounting holes for coolers that need to be screwed to the board.  Aside from possibly alienating that very select crowd, we feel the board is a top-notch product. 

When we compared performance to some of its peers, the K7N2 Delta-ILSR rides high on the list, posting excellent scores in each test.  With the added support for 400MHz FSBs, the true potential of the nForce2 chipset is released, allowing for all system buses to run synchronously at higher speeds.  If you've been waiting to upgrade to an nForce2 motherboard, your wait is over. 

We give the MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR a Hot Hardware Heat Meter rating of a 9.



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