It's that time again, a new processor has been released, and with it, a new wave of motherboards will follow.   Intel's highly criticized move back to a socketed design with the Socket-370 seems to have been widely accepted by motherboard manufacturers, as all of the big names in the industry have already adopted the Socket-370 platform in many of their newer designs.

Unlike most implementations of the AMD supported Super7 motherboard standard, Socket-370 is being approached with a more high-end approach, most motherboards featuring the same basic configuration as their more expensive slot-1 counterparts, with a few more features to keep up to date with the times. 

Case in point would be Microstar International's first attempt at a Socket-370 creation, the MS-6153.  How successful was AnandTech with the pre-release MS-6153 AnandTech managed to take a look at?   Let's find out...

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Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Socket-370
Chipset Intel 440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 68 / 75
100 / 103 / 112 / 117 / 124 / 129 / 133
138 / 143 / 148 / 153
Clock Multipliers 3.0x - 6.0x (Auto Detect)
Voltages Supported 2.0v / 2.05v / 2.1v / 2.2v
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots (5 Full Length)
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)

The Good

Imagine an ATX Pentium II BX motherboard, outfitted with 5 PCI slots, 2 ISA, and that single AGP slot we've grown so accustomed to seeing on motherboards.  Now remove the Pentium II's slot-1 CPU interface, and replace it with Intel's latest step in the opposite direction, a Socket-370 interface, and you have the MSI 6153.  The Socket-370 board makes use of the same Intel 440BX chipset found in slot-1 motherboards, meaning that the features the market is used to have been ported over with a few new surprises. The 6153's Excellent Layout

The board starts off with an extremely well laid out design, the ATX power supply connector is placed at the very edge of the motherboard, away from any major components like the CPU socket and allows for the ATX specification to be properly adhered to.  The 3 DIMM slots on the board support up to 768MB of DRAM, however at the time of testing the motherboard, registered 256MB DIMMs were not available in the lab and therefore the highest attainable memory configuration was 384MB.  As mentioned before, the chipset used on the board is the Intel 440BX (coupled with the updated PIIX4E Bus Master Controller) which does allow for a maximum DRAM size of 1GB.  In the case of the Celeron processor, all 768MB of RAM you could possibly install in the 6153 is completely cacheable meaning you aren't penalized (performance-wise) for adding in more RAM as was the case during the days of the Intel 430 TX chipset with Socket-7 motherboards. 

Surrounding the Socket-370 are 6 large and 4 mid-sized electrolytic capacitors, allowing for a cleaner signal to be present between the installed CPU, the chipset, and the memory banks among the components on rest of the motherboard.  Just south of the 3 DIMM slots are the HDD/FDD ports, the secondary IDE port is signified by an off-white connector bracket around it to help separate itself from the primary port.  The board itself features a total of two on-board 3-pin fan connectors, which should be more enough for a single fan Socket-370 Celeron processor.

Like many high-end Tyan and Supermicro motherboards, the MSI 6153 features an on-board PC speaker that can be disabled via a jumper, however for those users that want a little more than the annoying beeps out of your PC speaker, the on-board Creative Labs ES1373 PCI sound processor will fill in the void.  The sound quality isn't the greatest, however it gets the job done, and is more than enough for a user that isn't such a serious gamer that he/she requires a 3D audio card.  Luckily, if you happen to be that hard-core gamer type, MSI offers the on-board sound as an option, and you can knock a few bucks off the final cost by opting to stick with the plain board and no on-board sound. 

Somewhat hinting at the trend motherboard manufacturers will follow in 1999, MSI equipped the 6153 with Wake up Lan, Modem, and Keyboard support, in addition to the increasingly popular Power-On Keyboard feature which was originally introduced by Epox with their motherboards.  Also borrowing from previously innovated technology, the 6153 features a very familiar jumperless CPU setup utility called CPU Plug & Play II.  The utility allows you to select the Front Side Bus frequency of your system, as well as tweak the core voltage from 2.0v to 2.2v.  Although MSI claims that their 6153 has a total of 15 selectable FSB settings, including an interesting 117MHz setting for those users that can't make it up to 124MHz as well as an insane 150MHz FSB setting, the pre-release board AnandTech received only had support for the 66, 68, 75, 83, 100, 103, and 112MHz FSB settings.  The final retail version of the board may change that, however we'll have to wait to find out. 

Due to the fact that the Socket-370 Celerons are clock-locked, MSI auto-detects the clock-multiplier of the installed CPU and doesn't even bother with allowing you the option of configuring the inconfigurable setting, makes sense.  At bootup, the Award BIOS, by default, outputs the current values of the power supply voltages, chassis fan revolution speed, CPU/motherboard voltages, system temperature, CPU temperature and more.  This feature is extremely useful in diagnosing any power related problems, as the outputted values are the actual values not what they should be, the table also provides the user with a recommended range that the detected item should fall within (i.e. 1.95 - 2.19v for the core voltage on a Celeron). 

The software bundled with the 6153 consists of MSI's SoftCooler, a Software CPU Cooling Device that allows the processor to essentially "rest" while it is waiting for user input to begin processing another item, and depending on your CPU usage patterns, this software may significantly reduce the heat production and power consumption of your CPU.  For most gamers, and high-end users that are always doing something with their PC, don't expect SoftCooler to do all that much for you, although it is nice to know that it is included.  The bundled CD-ROM includes all the basic driver files, in addition to the SoftCooler utility mentioned above, and Microstar's inhouse developed System Monitor software that basically outputs the same information values (voltages, etc...) under Windows 9x for careful monitoring of your system.

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