MSI KT3 Ultra2-BR - Page 2

..:: Package ::..

The package is one area where MSI can truly distinguish themselves from the rest of the crowd. With the flashy red and silver reflective boxes, theyíll surely catch your eye as well they should. They arenít just flashy on the outside; itís whatís on the inside that could really get you chomping at the bit. The MSI KT3 Ultra2 Series of motherboards has the capability of coming along with several added extras and goodies in the package. Our test package came equipped with several items, those including two ATA-66/100/133 ribbon cables, one floppy ribbon cable, one D-Bracket 2 expansion bracket with two USB ports, one Bluetooth connecting cable for the PC2PC kit, one ATA/133 RAID manual, one floppy driver diskette for the ATA/133 RAID controller, and of course, the motherboard user manual and driver disc. Optional items that you may pick up are the USB 2.0 bracket, the S-Bracket which is outfitted with both an optical and RCA digital audio connector along with two mini-plugs for the rear audio channel and the subwoofer/LFE channel, the PC2PC Bluetooth Kit and Transceiving Key, and the Northbridge fan. With the features included on the board, I really have no qualms at all against the package as it includes everything youíll need for your version.

MSIís inclusion of a Bluetooth option is a very unique one in the fact that as of current times they are the only mainboard manufacturer to do this. There are others that are beginning to pick up on idea however. Unfortunately, we do not have any Bluetooth ready products here in the testing labs, and they are currently hard to come by, but it is nice to see that MSI has taken the step forward to support such new technologies. The main use for the PC2PC Bluetooth is exactly its name. It is meant to be used as a wireless network with other computers in the area. The only downside to the Bluetooth technology is that the data transmit rate is a maximum of 1Mbps, far slower than your typical wired networking solutions. The maximum rated throughput for our MSI PC2PC is about 723Kbps for the data channels. Bluetooth devices can also only communicate with other Bluetooth enabled devices within a small range. The MSI specs claim that in an open area it is limited to 200 meters, however youíll want to be as near to the other computer system or device as possible. You wonít want to transmit large files over this type of network, as although it is rated at a maximum speed of 1Mbps, it will rarely get that high, if even close.

The user manual is very well laid out. The majority of the manual is very detailed; however as usual with mainboard manuals, when it comes to the included software the manual covers a whole lot of nothing. Granted, there are instructions for two of the programs on the CD; however itíd be nice for MSI to include a little more information on them within the manual. Iíd like to see a little more information being placed in the manual on the included software programs for users who do not feel comfortable enough to figure it out on their own. The manualís text is large and easily readable, along high quality images to back the textual references. Two areas that the KT3 Ultra2ís manual covers very well deals with the D-Bracket 2 and onboard sound. There are several pages dedicated to showing the user the several ways available to set up the audio with or without the optional S-Bracket. The area with the D-Bracket 2 information goes step by step through each code and tells you exactly what the computer is doing during that time. I for one can say that MSIís D-Bracket 2 has helped me out many times before and it is a welcome feature, especially for troubleshooting.

Last up we have the driver / software CD. This CD houses the drivers and software for all of the latest MSI mainboards, so if youíre looking to find a driver, this would be the place to do it. Simply exploring this CD yields a lot of goodies and software programs to toy with. When you first insert the disc into your CD-ROM, the main window will pop up right to the driver install window. Here, you simply click which drivers to install and youíre good to go. The next window thatíll be important is the Utility window. Here youíll be able to install all of the third party software, and MSIís own software onto your system. To install MSIís software, such as Live Update 2 or Fuzzy Logic 4, youíll just have to click the ďMSI UtilityĒ option and it will bring up a new window with all of the software listed. If the program youíre looking for doesnít show, just browse the CD and youíll find it.

MSIís Live Update 2 software is a welcome inclusion in their software package. Live Update 2 allows you to update your BIOS, Drivers, VGA BIOS, VGA Drivers, and Utilities through an internet-based environment. When you open the program, it will open your web browser to a window as seen above, and lets you select which application you wish to run. In the image, I clicked on ďLive BIOSĒ to show you the screen that one would see if they were to do so. With this, it will download and install the latest BIOS for you motherboard through Windows. Iím not much of a fan of updating the BIOS through Windows; however Iím becoming a little fonder of the idea with experiance. The Live Update 2 software also comes along with a program that runs in the taskbar entitled ďLive Monitor.Ē You can set this program to randomly check for new Drivers, BIOSí, etc. at a given amount of time. This way you donít have to check for new files yourself, you just wait for the Live Monitor to inform you that there are new drivers, and proceed to launch Live Update 2 and install the new set. Itís as easy as that.

The last two programs that will garner the most use out of the enthusiast crowd would be PC Alert III, and Fuzzy Logic 4. PC Alert III is MSIís system monitoring software. Here you can safely monitor your system temperatures, voltages, and fan RPMís to see if there are any problems. The software also allows for you to set a given high temperature for example where the system will automatically shut itself down to prevent the processor from being destroyed. If you plan on overclocking the KT3 Ultra2, then youíll want to take a good look at the Fuzzy Logic 4 software. This software allows you to overclock your PC through a Windows-based environment. You can change the system multiplier, FSB speed, and the system voltages with this software. It also monitors the CPU Fan RPMís, along with the CPU temperature. If you arenít comfortable with overclocking the PC yourself you could always click on the button labeled ďAutoĒ and the program will slowly overclock the system and check for stability. This way youíll get the maximum overclock possible with 100% system stability.

..:: Feature Set ::..

The MSI KT3 Ultra2-BR brings with it a fairly nice feature set. Exactly what does the board offer? Well, the KT3 Ultra2-BR offers onboard 6-Channel Audio, USB 2.0, support for the new T-Bred AthlonXP processors, ATA/133 RAID, PC2PC Bluetooth, and of course support for DDR333 RAM. Iíd like to see MSI add a few more features onto the board to add to the overall attractiveness. The board packs a powerful software package, but I feel MSI could add an option for a Smart Card Reader, or something of that nature. The blazing red PCBís used by MSI are surely a selling point for the modding crowd out there, and if youíre lucky enough to have a graphics card with a red PCB, the system will look incredible. Before we take a look at the board design, letís take a better look at the PC2PC Bluetooth, Realtek ALC650 Audio Codec, and the Promise ATA/133 RAID Controller.