MSI 845 Ultra-AR - Page 4

..:: Layout: Northbridge Area ::..

The i845 Northbridge is placed directly below the socket slightly offset to the right. MSI has chosen to include a fairly nice Aluminum HSF combo for the Northbridge. The cooler mounts onto the board via two mounting hooks which do a rather nice job of holding it in place. When we removed the heatsink, we came across the i845 Northbridge. The i845 Northbridge itself much resembles older Socket370 Pentium III processors as you can see from the pictures above. Now that we have the chipset cooler un-mounted, letís take a look at it.

We can see from the picture above that MSI has chosen to use a thermal interface material pad for thermal conduction between the chipset core and heatsink. The base of the heatsink is very smooth and should allow for optimal cooling even though the Northbridge is not known to get very hot under normal circumstances. You may also notice the thin foam square that is placed on the bottom of the heatsink. This is here to help hold the cooler in place once it is mounted, and to allow for proper mounting height so the chipset core comes in contact with the heatsink base.

To the immediate left of the AGP slot, we come across the Winbond W83627HF chip which is responsible for monitoring all of the systems temperatures, voltages, etc. We also come across the first two of three onboard analog audio connectors. The black port is the CD-in connector, while the yellow port is the Aux line-in connector. These two sound ports are nicely placed away from any major system components. If needed, the user would easily be able to plug in and pull out the audio connectors with ease.

..:: Layout: Expansion Slots ::..

The expansion slot selection is the same as we saw with Soltekís SL-75DRV4. There is one AGP slot w/retention system, 5 PCI slots, and one CNR slot. Iíd like to see the CNR replaced with a sixth PCI slot. Communication Networking Risers are almost 100% useless to the common user, but MSI throws one on for the system integrators and OEMs. The area around the expansion slots is very clean and free of any obstructing objects such as tall capacitors. Users should have no problems utilizing even the largest of video cards with this motherboard.

The C-Media CMI8738-LX audio chip is placed to the immediate left of PCI Slot#3. This chip supports up to 6 channels of audio output, 24-bit SPDIF IN/OUT, Modem, and of course the Analog sound connectors. As we can see, MSI has opted to not include any SPDIF connectors on the 845-Ultra-AR. Since the chip supports it, Iíd prefer to see a set of SPDIF connections onboard as they offer better sound quality over the typical analog connectors that are used on the 845 Ultra-AR. Located below the C-Media chip are the green Modem sound port, and the pins for the D-Bracket LEDís.

Below the CNR slot is the first and only real ďsetĒ of jumpers. These jumpers are here to control whether or not you wish to use an optional front panel audio connector. If you do indeed plan on using front panel audio, then you simply have to remove these two jumpers and make the necessary connection/s. If you do not plan on using a front panel audio connector, all you have to do is leave these where they are. Simple enough? I sure think so. Farther to the right are the solder points for USB 3 & 4, along with the NEC USB 2.0 chip which is not featured on our 845 Ultra-AR.