MSI 945G Neo-F review
There’s no difference between the 945P and the 945G apart from the integrated graphics, so performance is still good and you don’t need to pay extra for a graphics card. That said, the MSI includes a PCI Express 16x slot, so you can always upgrade later.
‘Neo’ is MSI-speak for lower end, and as such there are bare patches on the PCB. The FireWire controller is absent, as is a two-channel IDE controller. This still leaves the board with an IDE channel for two optical drives and four Serial ATA ports from the Intel ICH7 south bridge. With no ‘R’ suffix, there’s no support for RAID, so speedy striping or cautious mirroring is off the cards. As with the AOpen, only one Serial ATA data cable is included.
However, these aren’t big losses for most people, and they’re the only cost-cutting in evidence. There’s still Gigabit Ethernet, both optical and digital S/PDIF and a useful dual-USB backplate with boot reporting via LEDs. Three PCI and two PCI Express 1x slots provide enough expansion for the future. The 945G Neo-F also goes one better than most boards by using Realtek’s ALC882 codec. This gives you 7.1 High Definition Audio, plus a separate pair of audio channels. You can have your surround-sound audio and high-quality VoIP calls running simultaneously.
Layout is just what we expect from MSI: neat, well ordered and conducive to a tidy, efficient system. If you don’t want integrated graphics, the 945P version is £4 cheaper, which still makes the ECS PF5 Extreme a better buy. However, if you want a basic board with integrated graphics, the 945G Neo-F is the one to choose.