Socket 939 Motherboard Roundup: ABIT, MSI, Gigabyte

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MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum: The Board & Layout

When placed side by side with all of the other motherboards we're looking at in this article, the MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum looks somewhat alien. The K8N's layout is dramatically different than the other boards, with its DIMM slots and CPU socket rotated 90 degrees counter clockwise and the nForce3 chipset located about three-quarters of the way down the board behind the PCI slots.

The Board: MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum
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The K8N Neo2 Platinum is built upon a black PCB with color-coded slots, connectors, and headers.  The four DIMM slots are located parallel to the top edge of the board, with the CPU socket located just below them. Flanking the CPU socket on one side is a row of filtering capacitors; on the other side are the IDE and floppy connectors and the ATX power connector.  The 12V power connector, however, is located clear across the motherboard, just behind the connectors on the back panel.  If you direct your eyes further down the front edge of the board, two of the four onboard SATA connectors are visible, along with headers for additional USB and FireWire connectors and the case connector header.  We'd also like to commend MSI on color-coding and clearly labeling the case connectors, as this makes mounting the board in a case and connecting the switches and LEDs a breeze.  Just behind the five PCI slots, you'll find the VIA VT6306 IEEE 1394 (FireWire) controller and the orb-style active chipset cooler.

The I/O connectors on the back panel consist of two PS2 ports, a single serial port, a parallel port, a FireWire port, four USB ports, seven various audio inputs and outputs (including S/PDIF), and dual RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet connectors.  The K8N's 8-channel audio capabilities are powered by a Realtek ALC850 codec, and the Ethernet ports are powered by a Marvell 88E1111 PHY and a Realtek 8110S.

Like the Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939, the K8N Neo2 Platinum also has two of its four SATA connectors situated between the CPU socket and AGP slot.  Considering both the K8N and K8NSNXP-939 have these connectors placed in this location, it's probably a design decision gleaned from NVIDIA's nForce3 Ultra reference motherboard.  But it's definitely not an ideal spot, from an aesthetic standpoint.  Who wants SATA cables draped in between a hot CPU and video card?

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