Intel Springdale Showdown

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Intel Springdale Showdown - Page 5

The Springdale Showdown
Which board should you "spring" for?

Brought to you by Robert Maloney
July 10, 2003

The MSI 865PE Neo2-FIS2R Motherboard:


When we opened the box and saw the bright red 865PE Neo2 motherboard, we knew we were looking at an MSI built motherboard.  Unlike the other products in this round-up, the MSI board does not have any conflict with the AGP card and DIMM slots.  There was an ample amount of room to install AGP cards and memory DIMMs without any hassles.   Congratulations, MSI, you've listened to the enthusiasts and laid your board out accordingly.   Overall, we had almost no gripes with the layout of the board.  The main IDE and floppy drive connectors were stacked together near the edge of the board, right where most drives would be placed.  Down towards the other corner were four SATA connections flanking a third IDE port, set perpendicular to the edge. 


On some of their more recent motherboards, MSI has been mounting heatsinks to the MOSFETs in the VRM.  The MOSFETs in the power circuitry generate a significant amount of heat, so keeping them cool is definitely a good idea.  Something case modders will appreciate is the illuminated, active North Bridge cooler.  The LEDs blink is a repeating pattern that will surely draw some attention.  We also liked seeing the color coded headers located at the lower edge of the board.  They make installing the 865P Neo2 into a case very easy, even without opening the manual.  Right above the headers, the 4 available SATA connectors are visible.  Two of the SATA channels are controlled by the ICH5R.  The other two are powered by a Promise 20378 controller, that also provides a third IDE channel.  If you take a look at the external I/O connectors, you'll see a total of 6 available USB connectors scattered amongst the legacy ports and Gigabit Ethernet.



MSI's bundle is where it's at, with everything you could ask for in the box.  There were two manuals, one for the board and one for RAID configurations.  Both sets of Pre-OS drivers are available on floppy disk, which makes installation just that much easier.  A drivers & utilities CD provides the necessary hardware drivers and a few handy applications, such as MSI's Fuzzy Logic, a software overclocking solution.  Drives are connected using red rounded IDE cables or bright orange SATA cables, with SATA power cables included as well.  Although 6 USB ports already come on the board, an extra bracket provided another 2 USB ports.  Another bracket has two FireWire and one mini-FireWire port and the third add-on can be installed for full 6-channel audio support.  Our only wish would have been for two round IDE cables rather than the single cable in the package, as it would be highly unlikely to only have one IDE device in a modern system.

Specifications & Features of The MSI 865PE Neo2-FIS2R
MSI's Flagship P4 Board



  • Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor with Hyper-Threading Technology

  • Intel® P4 Northwood and Prescott processors (478-pin)

  • Supports 800MHz, 533MHz or 400MHz FSB


  • Intel® 82865PE Memory Controller Hub (MCH)

  • Intel® 82801ER I/O Controller Hub (ICH5R)


  • Supports 4 x 184-pin DDR SDRAM

  • DDR200/266/333/400 support (Dual Channel)

  • 4GB maximum system RAM (unbuffered)

  • DDR400 support only when using 800MHz FSB CPUs



  • Supports PnP, ACPI, DMI

  • 4Mb Flash ROM


  • Monitors CPU/MB/PSU temperatures

  • Monitors CPU/3.3V/5V/±12V voltages

  • Read back capability that displays temperature, voltage and fan speed


  • C-Media CMI9739A audio CODEC

  • 6 channel audio support

  • Meets PC2001 audio performance requirements

  • Supports S/PDIF out via S-Bracket only


  • Intel 82562EZ (CSA Interface)

  • Supports 10/100/1000 Mbps data transfer rates

  • Integrated Fast Ethernet MAC and PHY on 1 chip


  • VIA VT6306 1394a FireWire controller

  • Supports IEEE 1394a at 400/200/100 Mbs data transfer rate


  • Supports 1.5V AGP 8x and AGP 4x for 3D graphics applications

  • (AGP 2x and 3.3V AGP cards are not supported)

  • Supports AGP 3.0 and AGP 2.0 spec.


  • ICH5R Supports two SATA (Serial ATA) interfaces which are compliant with SATA 1.0 specification (1.5Gbps interface)

  • ICH5R Supports RAID 0

  • Promise PDC20378 supports 2 SATA ports and 1 Ultra DMA port

  • Promise chip supports Ultra ATA, Serial ATA, RAID 0,1, Serial ATA RAID 0,1, Ultra/Serial ATA RAID 0+1


  • Supports ATA/33, ATA/66 and ATA/100 hard drives

  • PIO Mode 4 Enhanced IDE (data transfer rate up to 14MB/sec.)

  • Bus mastering reduces CPU utilization during disk transfer

  • Supports ATAPI CD-ROM, LS-120 and ZIP


  • 6 USB 2.0/1.1 ports

  • 1 RJ-45 LAN port

  • 1 DB-9 serial port

  • 1 DB-25 parallel port

  • 1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 mouse port

  • 1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 keyboard port

  • 3 audio jacks: line-out, line-in and Mic-in


  • 1 connectors for 2 additional external USB 2.0/1.1 ports

  • 1 connector for an additional FireWire port

  • 1 front audio connector for external line-out and Mic-in jacks

  • 3 internal audio connectors (CD-in, AUX-in, Modem)

  • 1 S/PDIF out connector

  • 1 connector for IrDA interface

  • 1 Game/MIDI port connector

  • 2 Serial ATA connectors

  • 4 IDE connectors

  • 1 floppy connector

  • 2 ATX power supply connectors

  • 1 Serial Port 2 connector

  • 3 fan connectors for CPU fan, chassis fan and power fan


  • 1 AGP slot, 8X AGP compliant

  • 5 PCI 2.2 32-bit Master PCI Bus slots


  • Standby Power LED - lights when system is on or in stand-by mode


  • 4 layers, ATX form factor

  • 30.5cm (12.05") x 24.5cm (9.6")



The BIOS we used for testing the 865PE Neo2-FIS2R was version 1.2, already the third of four releases for this board.  We briefly attempted to use the recently released version 1.3 BIOS, but could not get the system to run properly, regardless of the settings we chose.  With v1.2, we were originally able to get the system running using the "Turbo" setting for performance mode with manual RAM settings of 2-5-2-2.  Using "Turbo" or "Ultra-Turbo" enables what MSI calls MAT, or its Memory Acceleration Technology.  Benchmarks, however, were putting up scores that were much lower than expected.  It was then that we noticed that the DDR clock in the BIOS was only showing the speed of the RAM as 266MHz.  Regardless of the DRAM frequency we selected, the speed remained at 266MHz.  After some searching on the web, we found other users reporting the same issue.  An apparent fix was to set the memory timings 'By SPD' and then set the performance mode to "Ultra-Turbo".  Only then were we able to test with the DDR clocked at 400MHz.  MSI is aware of this issue and has been working on fixing this, but the v1.3 BIOS seemed to be a step backward instead, since we couldn't get any manual timings / performance settings to take.

Overclocking: MSI 865PE Neo2-FIS2R
A Ton of Options

2.40GHz P4

Unfortunately, the same DRAM issues that created problems at stock speeds made overclocking a near impossibility, and we could not get any meaningful results.  Any setting over 210MHz for the FSB would result in the system refusing to boot, and after a few failed attempts the BIOS would return with all CPU and memory timings reset to their defaults.  Even using the tamest settings for the memory (BY SPD, Slow Performance, etc.) we could not get higher than 210MHz.  Hopefully, MSI will iron out all of these issues in a later BIOS revision.

MSI does provide an option in the BIOS for what they call "Dynamic Overclocking".  Originally unlisted, it now shows up in later versions of the BIOS, found in the Frequency/Voltage control section.  The options available are "disabled", "private", "sergeant", "captain" (default setting), "colonel", and "general".  These settings are not fully explained anywhere, so it's hard to say what is actually being done to the system.  What this setting does is dynamically overclock the system when an application utilizes 100% of the host CPU's resources.  MSI claims that this is a safer technique than manual overclocking, and would be similar to Asus' AI overclocking found on the P4P800 Deluxe.  Personally, we would rather be at the controls ourselves when overclocking a system, but with all of the problems we were having, we tried the "sergeant" and "captain" settings.  Gains were nominal at best, and the Comanche 4 Demo would not even complete using the "sergeant" level of overclocking.

OK, who's ready for some tests?

Tags:  Intel, WD, DOW, Show, SHO, spring

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