MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum: Features and Layout

 MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum Motherboard Specifications
CPU Interface Socket 939 Athlon 64
Chipset nVidia nForce3 Ultra
Bus Speeds 200MHz to 300MHz (in 1MHz increments)
CPU Ratios 4x to 20x in 1x increments
PCI/AGP Speeds Auto, 66MHz to 100MHz (in 1MHz increments)
HyperTransport 1x-5x (200MHz to 1GHz)
Core Voltage CPU default to 1.85V in .05V increments
DRAM Voltage Auto, 2.55V to 2.85V in .05V increments
AGP Voltage Auto, 1.55V to 1.85V in.05V increments
Dynamic Overclocking 1%, 3%, 5%, 7%, 9%, 11%
Memory Slots Four 184-pin DDR DIMM Slots
Dual-Channel Unbuffered Memory to 4GB
Expansion Slots 1 AGP 8X Slot
5 PCI Slots
Onboard SATA/RAID 4 SATA 150 drives by nf3-250 Ultra
Can be combined in RAID 0, 1, 0+1, JBOD
Onboard IDE/RAID Two Standard VIA ATA133/100/66 (4 drives)
Can be combined with SATA drives for RAID 0, 1, 0+1, JBOD
Onboard USB 2.0/IEEE-1394 8 USB 2.0 ports supported by nF3-250
3 IEEE 1394A FireWire Ports
Onboard LAN Gigabit Ethernet by nForce3-250 Ultra
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC850
8-Channel with SPDIF
Tested BIOS 1.0B34

The MSI K8N Neo2 was the Reference Motherboard for the nVidia launch of the 939 chipset. We were very impressed with the performance of the Reference Board, and in fact, recommended the K8N Neo2 as the 939 motherboard of choice in our last High-End Buyers Guide. Several days ago, we finally received the K8N Neo2 retail board, so we were very anxious to verify what we had already found and perform additional testing on the K8N Neo2. We think that you will find the results in our comparative tests very interesting.

The K8N Neo2 combines all the features that you would expect on a top 939 motherboard, including the on-chip nVidia Gigabit LAN, nVidia on-chip Firewall, 4 SATA ports and 4 IDE ports that can be combined in nVRAID, 8 USB 2 ports, 8-channel audio, and 3 1394A firewire ports. MSI has implemented every nVidia nForce3-250 feature, so for more information on those features, you may want to review nForce3-250 - Part 1: Taking Athlon 64 to the Next Level and nForce3-250 - Part 2: Taking Athlon 64 to the Next Level.



While the layout of the K8N Neo2 is a bit unusual, it works very well in most case designs. The 4 DIMM slots are on the top edge of the board, leaving the space around the CPU and AGP slot much clearer. The IDE and floppy connectors are all well clear of the CPU and PCI slots, and the 20-pin ATX and 4-pin 12V power connectors are on board edges that won't have to cross the top of the CPU fan. All of the IEEE, USB, audio, and front panel jumpers are below the slots at the bottom of the board - so even they are clear of the PCI slot area.

The voltage and overclocking options on the K8N Neo2 are generally very good, but we quickly reached the 300 CPU frequency limit of the board. MSI really needs to provide a wider available range of frequency settings, since this is one board that can use the additional settings. While 2.85V is a decent range for memory voltage, we would also prefer to see a range to 3.0V or even higher for those push memory to the limits. Half-multipliers also allow finer tweaking and would be a welcome addition to a future K8N BIOS.

With a board that does so many things so well you always wish for a little bit more, but that does not take away from the excellent performance of the K8N Neo2.

Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939: Overclocking and Stress Testing MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum: Overclocking and Stress Testing
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  • harsaphes - Sunday, October 10, 2004 - link

    just set up my a8v board. no go on firewire, will not see ipod or external firewire drive. any idea?...bad board maybe? Reply
  • kd4yum - Thursday, August 05, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • Fender - Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - link

    The first words in this review confirm that you should never buy a VIA product before they revised it! (KT266 to 400 saga anyone?)
    Also, it's oddly that Hyperions used here are 8 months old...
    It could be interesting if you include, in your tests, any possible issue concerning OS installation or updating drivers (from the CD included in the box to the updated drivers from the manufacturer's site) because this is what happens to most buyers out there. Remember that you're testing a 64bit CPU with a 32bit OS, and drivers development will be a further support insurance.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    #79 - Page 13 is corrected. That error slipped past 3 proofreaders. Thank you for alerting us. Reply
  • Sidewinder0010 - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    the k8t neo2 overclocking page has a typo that was throwing me off
    "much lower than the 290 on the K8T Neo2"
    That should be changed to k8n neo2
    Reply
  • Compddd - Friday, July 30, 2004 - link

    Wesley, did Asus say when the A8V Rev 2.0 will be hitting Retail Stores like Fry's, Best Buy, etc? Reply
  • thebluesgnr - Friday, July 30, 2004 - link

    How does the lower bandwidth (4900Mb/s) affect real world performance?

    One more thing, perhaps the MSI K8T Neo2 Platinum references should be changed to MSI K8T Neo2-FIR? That's the name of this board on MSI's site, there's no mention of it being a Platinum board. And here's a link of all the boards in the Platinum series: http://www.msicomputer.com/pressrelease/platinum.a...

    Off-Topic: Wesley, will there be reviews on AnandTech of Socket A mobos based on the nForce2 Ultra 400Gb and VIA KT880 chipsets? They offer the exact same features of the mobos on this roundup, and with the new Semprons and the good XP-Mobiles I suspect a lot of your readers are still interested in this socket.
    Sorry for the off-topic.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, July 30, 2004 - link

    #75 - You are confusing boards as MSI had TWO boards in the roundup. We had no problems at all with the first or second K8N Neo2 (based on nForce3 Ultra) we tested, and that is the board that received the Gold Editors Choice. The MSI K8T Neo2, based on the VIA K8T800 PRO, was the problem board and we definitely did NOT give the K8T Neo2 an award.

    #74 - On page 5 we talk about the memory bandwidth differences in 1T and 2T command rates: "The best performance is at a Command Rate of 1T, and the Abit AV8 was completely stable at a 1T setting with 2 DIMMs. Standard memory bandwidth measured with SiSoft Sandra 2004 SP2 shows a 6000 MB/s bandwidth with 1T Command Rate compared to a 5000 MB/s bandwidth with a 2T setting." This is also mentioned on page 11: "While a full memory comparison of the nVidia and VIA chipsets is beyond the scope of this roundup, we did run several SiSoft Sandra 2004 SP2 runs of the memory test module. At default settings, and the aggressive 2-2-2-10 timings on the FX53, the nF3-250 Ultra showed memory bandwidth in the 6100 range for FPU and Float. The same test on the VIA K8T800 PRO boards showed memory bandwidth in the 6000 range. Performance of both chipsets at the 1T setting was very similar. 2T Command Rates, with everything else the same, generated bandwidths of 4900 to 5000Mb/second."

    Reply
  • Z80 - Friday, July 30, 2004 - link

    Considering your statement "Our concern is based on the fact that we went through 3 K8T Neo2 boards before we got one that really worked" I'm surprised that you went ahead and gave the MSI board your gold award. I see that MSI is being sued for intentionally using capacitors that were made with an improperly-formulated electrolyte solution. My personal experience with MSI quality assurance was never good at least back in the day it wan't but maybe they have changed like you say OCZ has? I'll stick with Asus and Abit, thank you. Reply
  • SignalPST - Friday, July 30, 2004 - link

    quote from the article:
    "We even found that all six of the tested motherboards performed at the fastest timings available and a 2T Command Rate with 4 DIMMs on board, so even that is a non-issue."

    Does that mean that if 4 sticks of ram are installed, there won't be a performance hit and it will work just as fast as 2 sticks installed?
    Reply

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