As one of the larger players in the motherboard market, MSI tries very hard to be first to market when a new chipset is launched. Being first is a matter of great pride and market share to MSI, so we were not really surprised when the MSI K8N Neo, based on the new nVidia nForce3-250Gb chipset, showed up for review. The downside of being first is that sometimes there are early issues with a chipset, but in this case, the nF3-250 is based on the already-established nForce3-150 chipset. While MSI never produced a board with the first generation nForce3-150 chipset, the 150 has been available for almost a year, and MSI has clearly done a lot of development work in anticipation of the release of the much updated nForce3-250.

The K8N Neo we received was the top-end Platinum series, a name MSI is now using for their top motherboards. As with past models, MSI will likely offer other members of the K8N Neo family with fewer features and a lower price. K8N Neo motherboards are based on the nForce3-250Gb, which includes on-chip Gigabit LAN. This chipset is not being used on all 250 boards, as some announced boards are based on the more basic nF3-250 chipset. As a top-of-the-line model, the K8N Neo Platinum is loaded with features, including on-chip Gigabit LAN, 8-channel (7.1 Audio), 8-Drive nVidia SATA/IDE RAID, MSI Core Cell for overclocking, and a dedicated Communications slot for WLAN/Bluetooth.

We do want to commend MSI on their diligence in addressing some suggestions that we made after our first look at the K8N Neo. Once we saw what this board could do with a working PCI lock and adjustable ratios, we suggested a wider FSB range and so, MSI had a new BIOS with FSB expanded from 250 to 300 in our hands in 2 days. The boards that you will see in the market will have this enhanced BIOS Version 1.13 or later. Now that we've benchmarked the K8N, we wish we had suggested a FSB range to 350 as the K8N Neo is a board capable of the kinds of incredible overclocks that can only be achieved with a working PCI/AGP lock and adjustable ratios.

With that tantalizing bit of information, let's take a closer look at the MSI K8N Neo Platinum.

Basic Features: MSI K8N Neo Platinum


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  • kmmatney - Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - link

    Ahhhhhh! A long spiel about how great the board is at overclocking....and then no overlocked benchmarks!! I want to see how much gain you get! How about a single game and encoding benchmark? Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Monday, April 26, 2004 - link

    I agree with #10, Wesley, you should include at least one synthetic with your overclocking tests because you have'nt done any good overclocking/high FSB tests on a64s as you havent had a mobo with good PCI/AGP lock or >250 FSB til now. It makes me wonder why because you are thorough with the p4/i875 and by your own admission the gigabyte and shuttle nF3-150 have PCI/AGP locks and ClockGen adjusts the FSB. The location of the a64 memory controller ondie means the memory sync/async tests results from intel systems cant be translated to the a64 ones. So, in my opinion, for conservative a64 overclockers, benchmark results at the same cpu speed but different FSB (clockspeed) sync or async and HT alteration would be of good use. I know you are just seeing the limits etc. but you must be running stability tests so it costs you nothing in time to throw in the sandra or Memtest86 bandwidths or even 3DMark2001/2003 results.

    And I agree there is merit in running cool and quiet with overclocked systems(if possible) as the windows software overclockers are still not perfect and only available on some brands.
  • Jeff7181 - Monday, April 26, 2004 - link


    It may not really fit in with a motherboard review, but seeing as how it seems overclocks on the nF3 150 and KT800 chipsets have been limited by the motherboard, it makes sense to test the overclocked performance to see if it's worth paying for a motherboard with lower performance at stock speeds that might provide a lot better performance once overclocked. For example, if the nF3 250 can only match KT800 performance after overclocking, it makes the choice much more clear.
  • cnq - Monday, April 26, 2004 - link


    Thanks for the quick response. Glad to hear you are considering mixing manual overclocking with cool'n'quiet in future tests.

    You mention that "I am not convinced that it matters to most overclockers". I think that's just because c'n'q' is fairly new. If you tell them that c'n'q is just the thing to help prolong the life of their overworked system, they'll start paying attention. Only those who run 100% cpu utilization 24/7/365 won't care.

    For the rest of us, mixing Cool'n'Quiet with overclocking makes perfect sense (throttle back the cpu when just web browsing; crank it up to overclocked when you need a burst of bower, which in my case is compiling. Note that I'm not counting MSI's CoreCell auto-overclocking because it's not powerful enough...)

    I'd also claim that Cool'n'Quiet is *doubly* useful in a heavily overclocked system. Such systems are often on the ragged edge of overheating, and thus could benefit more than anyone from throttling at times of light or moderate load.

    Naturally, when the load jumps back up, we'd want the fully overclocked manual settings to automatically kick back in. And that's the rub. Will that part work?

    Has anyone tried running Cool'n'Quiet on a manually overclocked A64? Does it (a) work perfectly, (b) crash, (c) not crash but "forgets" your overclock settings, (d) other? I'm guessing it will crash, esp. if manual overclock settings included changing the CPU voltage or raising the HTT while lowering the CPU multiplier. Hoping to hear I'm wrong (for at least one A64 board) before making purchase...
  • Schnieds - Monday, April 26, 2004 - link

    Do you have any idea when this motherboard will be available for purchase in retail outlets? From the review it sounds like this board is a release version and ready for retail, but no one seems to know when it will actually be available for purchase... Thanks for the great review. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, April 26, 2004 - link

    #7 - nForce3 chipsets automatically control Bank Interleave and Command Rate - there are no manual options. Some VIA chipsets do allow interleave and command rate settings. We always specify the setting we used in the review - if those settings are available. If they are not an available option we state NA for Not Available in our Memory Stress Testing tables. We also always enable interleave if it is an option.

    #8 - I added Cool'n'Quiet to the Feature list at your suggestion. Most overclockers turn off auto features for overclocking, because frankly I can always out-tweak Auto settings on OC. I will consider doing more with Cool'n'Quiet in overclocking, but I am not convinced it matters much to most overclockers.

    #9 - Corrected. Not to be defensive, but if you want to see how much AnandTech found with this board that other sites missed, read through K8N Neo reviews that others have posted.

    #10 - What would it take to make you happy on OC results in board reviews? I have explored 1:1 vs aynch in memory reviews. Performance results at a full-range of OC and timings are always a part of memory reviews. What would you like to see in motherboard reviews?
  • Jeff7181 - Monday, April 26, 2004 - link

    No overclocked comparisons? Awwww man... questions still unanswered... Reply
  • KillaKilla - Monday, April 26, 2004 - link

    How well did the Albatron GeForce FX5950U work with those ATI Catalyst 4.4 drivers?

    Not to be sarcastic, but simply alerting those who can correct this to the typo.
  • cnq - Monday, April 26, 2004 - link


    You mentioned that you disabled Cool'n'Quiet to prevent possible interference with overclocking.

    I wonder if it's even worse than "interference": is it even *possible* to run Cool'n'Quiet on a heavily overclocked system? (especially one with aggressive overclocking: significantly raised HTT with lowered CPU multiplier).

    This is one of those things that should be a FAQ, yet no one seems to have tried. Cool'n'Quiet is the perfect complement to an aggressively overclocked system: prolonging its lifespan by giving it a "breather" when just (e.g.) web browsing. But are Cool'n'Quiet and overclocking compatible?

    (Pls refer to my same question in your Aopen AK89 Max review for specific technical reasons why I think c'n'q and aggressive overclocking may not be compatible. I hope I'm wrong.)
  • Myrandex - Monday, April 26, 2004 - link

    My K8T Neo supports cool and quiet completely, and toms hardware confirms this too with an older A64 mobo roundup. Looks like a hell of a board, but I am wondering why so many reviews at Atech are run w/ Bank interleave set to disabled. I remember back in the K6/2 days, this was a major bios tweak for memory. Does it not matter, or negatively effect performance now?

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