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| 845G Max-L Layout |
| Spacious like a King sized bed! |
At 8.5?x12,? the 845G Max-L isn?t a huge board. That hasn?t stopped MSI from doing a great job laying the board out, though. Both the ATX and 12V Auxiliary power connectors are located at the top of the board, so as to not interfere with air circulation around the processor. Several 2200 micro-farad electrolytic capacitors are packed close to the heat sink retention mechanism, but we had no problem installing our reference cooling solution. While many manufacturers favor a three-phase power regulation circuit, MSI has opted for a less-expensive dual-phase solution. The MOSFET transistors are consequently covered with heat sinks to dissipate the extra heat.
Officially, the i845G chipset supports PC1600 and PC2100 DDR memory. The board has three, 184-pin DIMM slots for a maximum capacity of 2GB. VIA?s P4X333 and SiS? 645DX chipsets are already compliant with the PC2700 standard, so the i845G is at a slight disadvantage in terms of memory bandwidth. Of course, Intel is fully expected to bolster the memory bus frequency in subsequent chipsets. MSI has added an interim setting that enables PC2700 memory speeds on the 845G Max-L; another example of MSI?s innovation at work.
Unlike many of MSI?s high-end motherboards, the 845G doesn?t include an external ATA-133 RAID controller. USB 2.0 functionality comes courtesy of Intel?s new I/O Controller Hub (ICH4) and the included two-port bracket brings the count up to four USB 2.0 connectors. Disk transfers are unfortunately still limited to ATA-100 with the ICH4. Six PCI slots are provided, as is a single AGP and CNR slot. One of the PCI slots is occupied by the Bluetooth header should you decide to take advantage of the 845G?s Bluetooth capability ? a fair trade in my book.
The back panel houses standard keyboard and mouse connections as well as a single LPT and COM port. A 15-pin VGA output completely replaces the second COM port. Intel?s 82562ET controller adds 10/100Mbps Ethernet capabilities, though Wake on LAN is not offered. MSI lists three fan headers in the motherboard documentation but the board I tested only came equipped with two. The lack of a second COM port, a third fan header, three-phase power regulation and six-channel audio indicate an eagerness to save money. More than likely, these extras won?t be missed, but we fell manufacturers should not be skimping on features that are now considered standard.
The BIOS of the 845G Max-L Motherboard:
As one of the largest motherboard manufacturers in the world, MSI has to concern themselves not only with hardware enthusiasts but also average consumers looking to upgrade an old PC. While companies like ABIT and Soyo include highly configurable BIOS settings, MSI tends to lean towards conservatism.
The AMI BIOS offers very standard features with the addition of configurable DRAM timing settings. Voltages, fan speeds and temperatures are all displayed in the PC Health property page using the Winbond 83627 chip integrated onto the motherboard. Additionally, MSI has enabled front side bus frequencies between 100 and 200MHz (remember, quad-pumped) and voltage manipulation over the processor (1.5-1.8V), AGP (1.5-1.8V) and DDR (2.5-2.8V) busses. Since the board also includes integrated video, there are several options for setting the primary adapter (Integrated, AGP and PCI).
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| Overclocking the 845G Max-L Motherboard |
| Mainstream Performance on Steroids |
When the Pentium 4 first launched, I was able to take the i850 chipset to 133MHz without any stability issues. Now that the chipset runs at 133MHz straight from Intel, I've seen it hit as high as 160MHz. Considering that the i845 family is based on similar logic, I would expect similar results. Of course the i845G also contains integrated graphics, which could affect the overclockability of the chipset.
Using MSI's Fuzzy Logic 4 overclocking software, the 845G Max had no problem reaching a 158MHz front side bus. Unfortunately, every successive attempt at setting the front side bus using Fuzzy Logic crashed the system. No sweat - I am more inclined to trust BIOS settings anyway. Increasing the front side bus in 1MHz increments, I was able to hit 155MHz without any stability issues in Windows. As a result, memory bandwidth rose from 1.94GB per second to 2.18GB per second. Quake III scores increased from 211.3 to 234.4 frames per second.
Though it may not directly relate to overclocking, it should be noted that we were unable to test MSI's 333MHz memory setting. Our 512MB Corsair XMS2700 module didn't want to cooperate, no matter how conservative we set the memory settings. This could indicate an incompatibility with the board or the memory, but either way it should be kept in mind that MSI's PC2700 is unofficial ,so don't expect it to work with every brand of PC2700 module.
Sandra 2002, SysMark 2002 and Comanche 4