MSI 865PE Neo2-FIS2R - Page 5

..:: Layout: Southbridge & Memory Areas ::..

The bottom right hand corner of the MSI 865PE Neo2-FIS2R is home to the bulk of the core components of the motherboard, yet it is remarkably well organized. The first items of note are located along the bottom edge of the PCB. Here, we come across a single yellow header, along with the solder points for another. This yellow header allows for additional USB 2.0 support that is provided via the expansion bracket that is included in the package. To the right of the USB 2.0 header, we next come across three green headers, all of which are responsible for providing the motherboard’s IEEE1394 support. Each of the various connections provided on the IEEE1394 expansion bracket requires a connection to the motherboard, much why we need three headers. Lastly, we come across the front panel header. This is where you’ll need to plug in your power and reset buttons, along with any system LED’s you plan on utilizing with the system. Much like we saw Gigabyte do not too long ago, MSI has begun color coding their front panel headers in order to make it easier to identify the separate connections.

The next items in this portion of the board are the secondary Serial ATA connections, along with the Promise SATA / IDE RAID chip that powers them. This Promise chip is located above the front panel header, sporting a single, orange Serial ATA connector on each side. To the right of the Serial ATA components, we see a three-pin power connection for use with a front case fan or perhaps with a third-party thermal device that a user may be utilizing on their graphics adapter. Right above the three-pin power connector, we come across another 25.0MHz clock crystal for the Promise Serial ATA / IDE RAID controller, along with a single, bright yellow IDE connector. This connector is also controlled by the Promise chip, and supports the typical RAID modes in a single IDE connection environment. Lastly, if we take a look to the left of the Promise chip, we’ll find the VIA VT6306 IEEE1394 controller chip and the necessary 24.5MHz clock crystal.

As we move further up the 865PE Neo2-FIS2R’s PCB, we will next come across the Intel ICH5-R Southbridge, along with the two, bright orange Serial ATA connectors that are supported by it. To the right of these Serial ATA connectors, we find the system BIOS, along with the clear CMOS jumper. The last main item of importance in this area is the black header that is placed along the right edge of the PCB. This header provides support for the MSI D-Bracket LED’s that you can use to monitor the system as it boots, and if there are any problems, can check the error code as designated by the LED’s. I would much have preferred to see this header located closer to the USB 2.0 header, as these two devices are incorporated into one expansion bracket. This is easily forgiven as the real estate in that portion of the 865PE Neo2-FIS2R’s PCB is almost completely filled as it stands.

The last area of the PCB that we’ll be covering today is the area around the DIMM’s. To the right of the DIMM’s we find the main 12V ATX power connection, along with the primary and secondary IDE connectors. This location of the main ATX power connection is pleasant as it will not impede the flow of air over the processor. We have begun to see several motherboards that place the main power connection here, especially as chip speeds ramp up and heat becomes an even more important issues.

One aspect that is brand new to MSI’s line of motherboards can be found just below the IDE connectors. This is the new “CoreCell” chip. This chip controls four separate “technologies” if you will, of the motherboard. The first of which is BuzzFree. BuzzFree monitors the current system utilization and temperatures in order to properly control the speed of both the CPU and Northbridge fans. This will help to cut down on excessive noise when the system is not partaking in any processing intensive tasks. Next, we have LifePro. This technology is claimed to extend the life of the motherboard, processor, and system fans by monitoring and managing motherboard utilization. PowerPro is responsible for moderating the power consumption of the system. When needed, the amount of power provided to the board will be increased or decreased, depending on what the system is doing. This is meant to increase overclocking capabilities, and system stability. Lastly, we have the Speedster technology. This should be self explanatory by the name, but it is responsible for extending both the performance and overclocking capabilities of the motherboard.

Overall, the layout of the MSI 865PE Neo2-FIS2R is very nice indeed. We have seen several great designs come from the MSI factories, and the 865PE Neo2-FIS2R only helps to hammer home this fact. There are only two issues that I can find with the design of the 865PE Neo2-FIS2R, the first of which deals with the D-Bracket LED header. I would’ve preferred to see this header located along the bottom edge of the PCB, or more towards the rear of the PCB. Although this location will not cause any problems, it would’ve been nice to see it located elsewhere for cable cleanliness. The second issue lies in the fact that the 865PE Neo2-FIS2R only provides for one three-pin fan power connection. I would’ve liked to see another power connector for a rear system fan. Otherwise, the 865PE Neo2-FIS2R sports a beautiful layout.