In the past, Microstar has had a fairly successful line of motherboards that have unfortunately been limited in their exposure in comparison to products from ABIT, AOpen, ASUS, and other such companies.   The reason for this isn't because Microstar's motherboards are lower in quality than the competition, in fact they have quite high quality and stability track records.  

The problem seems to be that Microstar (MSI) hasn't been given their 15 minutes of fame like the other companies have.   ABIT, with their jumperless CPU setup, AOpen with their incredible history of stability, and ASUS with their overclocking-friendly motherboards have all been given their 15 minutes of fame, mainly because they offered something unique that the rest of the market failed to deliver.  Unfortunately the same can't be said about MSI, which means that their products will ultimately gain less attention than those by ABIT, AOpen or ASUS. 

One of MSI's most solid products, their single processor BX motherboard, the flagship MS-6163 brings all of the features those three specific motherboard manufacturers have brought their customers, in one package.  Is the 6163 deserving of the same 15 minutes of fame granted to motherboard manufacturers in the past?  Based on the available features, not really, however that doesn't mean that the board isn't worthy of your attention.  Let's find out how well this BX board stacks up to the competition...

AnandTech Report Card Rating

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset Intel 440BX
On-Board Video N/A
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 75 / 83
100 / 103 / 112 / 117 / 124
129 / 133 / 138 / 143 / 148 / 153
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 8.0x
Voltages Supported 2.0v - 2.2v / 2.8v - 3.1v
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
0 AMR Slot
5 PCI Slots (4 Full Length)
2 ISA Slots (1 Full Length)

The Good

The 6163 should be very reminiscent of the ABIT BH6 in terms of its layout.  The actual footprint of the motherboard is the same as the ASUS P2B and the ABIT BH6, and does provide for the now commonplace 5/2/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) expansion slot configuration.  The three DIMM slots that populate the board are missing a fourth cousin as to keep the costs of the 6163 manageable in order to meet the target market for a board of this class.  The SC242 interface (Slot-1) is bordered by a relatively cheap built-in Pentium II retention bracket, however it will accept a SECC2 (P3) or SEPP (Celeron) CPU with a bit of force.

A unique and at the same time helpful feature of the 6163 is the coloration of the secondary IDE channel which sets it apart from the primary channel.  Although it's not a ground breaking feature, it is helpful in telling the two apart especially if you're working on your system while the motherboard is installed in a crowded case.  The board also features an on-board PC speaker which, if you plan on using it, allows you to remove your case's PC speaker and potentially replace it with a cooling fan.  If you are like most users and hate the PC speaker, removing a single jumper cap will leave the on-board speaker disabled.

Following the rare yet finally present trend of competing with ABIT's BH6/BX6R2 on all platforms, the 6163 features both a jumperless CPU setup controlled from within the Award BIOS as well as the ability to adjust the core voltage of your installed CPU.  The clock generator on the 6163 supports the 66/75/83/100/103/112/124/129/133/138/143/148/153MHz FSB settings as well as the 1/4 PCI clock divider for use when taking advantage of some of the higher FSB frequencies. 

The 6163 comes outfitted with an on-board Creative Labs ES1373 audio controller which is the OEM equivalent of the SoundBlaster PCI 64, a fairly high end audio controller chip.  The board features the standard MIDI/Game output, 1 line out, 1 line in, and a mic input jack.   The board AnandTech tested did feature SPDIF output controller however it did not feature any SPDIF output ports.

More Good
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