MSI 915P Neo2 Platinum review

Price when reviewed

We like the look of MSI’s motherboard, with its black PCB showing off colourful connectors to an attractive degree. It’s not all decorative either. The two banks of green and orange DIMM sockets help in determining where to place the memory modules in order to make use of dual-channel bandwidth. Plus, the green and yellow USB 2 and FireWire headers make it much simpler to identify them. Another colourful oddity, which stands out from its neighbouring slots, is the orange PCI slot. This is for specialist communication cards, such as wireless LAN.

MSI 915P Neo2 Platinum review

Other slots include two standard PCI slots, two one-lane PCI Express slots and a 16-lane PCI Express slot. Of notable difference to the Gigabyte board is the addition of two extra Ultra ATA connectors. Thus, you’re not restricted by only being able to use Serial ATA hard disks. MSI makes no compromise on Serial ATA despite this – there are four Serial ATA connectors. Plus, thanks to the ICH6R south bridge, you can run RAID0 and RAID1 arrays. While we frown at the minimal speed difference offered by a striped setup, there can be great value in the security offered by the latter.

Four USB 2 ports complement the parallel, serial, keyboard and mouse connectors on the I/O backplane. Audio buffs will warm to having both coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs, though we were disappointed to see the latter replace one of the mini-jack audio connectors. This means there are five rather than six, but with the Smart Jack compatibility, connecting a set of 7.1 speakers won’t be a problem. Only people who want to use both the line-in and microphone ports at the same time will be frustrated. Two more USB 2 ports can be attached via a bundled backplate, and FireWire and mini-FireWire connectivity is also added in this way.

There’s no significant difference between the 915 and 925 chipsets in terms of speed, but if you do want to tweak things, MSI’s dynamic BIOS overclocking is a bonus. There are several aggressive frequency settings in the BIOS. There’s also dynamic overclocking, which, as with Gigabyte, sees extra frequency and voltage pumped into the processor when higher loads are detected. The lack of dividers for PCI cards and memory could prove limiting though – your components will need to be able to take the extra strain.

Ultimately, while the Neo2 Platinum is noticeably more expensive than the Gigabyte, it still looks cheap compared to other 915 and 925 rivals. If you’re going to use the extra features such as RAID and the Ultra ATA connectors, it makes a fine choice indeed.

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