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MSI P965 Neo-F Core 2 Duo mobo

Budget board

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Review Following on from the abundance of features served up by the Asus P5B Deluxe we reviewed t'other week, I've an inkling that MSI's P965 Neo is going to look a little primitive in comparison. It should be remembered, however, that the Neo is MSI's less glamorous offering, with the P965 Platinum edition catering to those with richer tastes...

MSI_P965_Neo-f

Launched at Computex back in June this year, MSI clearly decided to keep its P965 offerings lean, with just a pair of environmentally friendly RoHS-compliant boards on its books: the Neo, aimed at the cost-conscious buyer and the Platinum positioned a little higher. The latter adds support for MSI's new Dual CoreCell technology and also sports dual PCI Express slots, a x16 and a x4, and a couple of extra SATA connectors.

The feeling of economy you get with the Neo starts as soon as you pick up the box, which feels uncommonly shallow in comparison to the accessory-stuffed Pandora's Boxes that have made it onto the test bench recently. No, the meager size isn't down to clever packing, it's due to minimal contents. All you'll find in the box - aside from the motherboard, of course - is an I/O plate, a single SATA data cable, a four-pin Molex-SATA power adaptor cable and a regular IDE ribbon cable. There's mention of a second SATA cable on the MSI website but either the contents have been amended or I was unlucky enough to get the one box without it. Did I mention you get a driver CD? Well, you do.

The board itself is built on MSI's almost corporate Ferrari-red PCB. As motherboards go the plastic work is pretty bland with a dull green and orange scheme used to pick out the memory slots, purple and deep blue for the SATA connectors, yellow for the solitary IDE connector, black for the awkwardly positioned floppy connector, and everything else in good old fashioned off-white. In a very strange move MSI has decided to use one colour of plastic for DIMMs one and two and another colour for DIMMs three and four. The usual scheme is to use one colour for DIMM one and three, which are on one memory channel, and another for DIMM two and four, which are on the other. Standard chipset support covers up to 8GB of memory running DDR 2 533MHz or 667MHz speeds, or up to 4GB of memory when run at DDR 800, all in the aforementioned dual-channel configuration.

The reason for four purple and one blue SATA connectors are that four of them are driven directly by the Intel ICH8 South Bridge chip, while the blue connector, which MSI has promoted to primary, is run by the integrated JMicron JMB361 host controller. The JMB361 also provides the sole dual-channel ATA133/100/66 IDE connector in the absence of chipset support.

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