ATi has released a handful of processor chipsets over
the last couple of years, but motherboard manufacturers have been slow to adopt
them. Is there something that the public doesn't know? The few ATi-based motherboards
that have passed through the PCStats test labs have been decent overall. Sure,
none were high performance motherboards, but ATi's core logic targets the entry level market
and not necessarily the enthusiasts'.
I think it's safe to say that ATi actually has a leg up
on the competition when it comes to graphics integration. Intel and VIA have
been producing decent performing budget chipsets but the two company's
integrated graphics options are still lousy on the 3D front. ATi traditionally
has excellent 2D/3D image quality and as we've seen so far, it's integrated Radeon IGP is
a solid performer good enough for the casual gamer.
With all that said, the MSI
is our latest victim, er 'test motherboard' and perhaps it's a sign of things to
come from ATI. This motherboard supports any Socket 939 AMD Athlon64/FX processor
on the market and can be stuffed with up to 4GB of unbuffered
non-ECC PC3200 DDR RAM. Onboard goodies include the aforementioned integrated videocard, 10/100 LAN, 5.1 channel audio
and IEEE 1394.
If you are not a fan of integrated video, the
MSI RS480M2-IL also features a full PCI Express x16 slot as well
as three PCI slots for expansion. No smaller PCI Express expansion slots are
included, which is rather disappointing. Four SATA 150 ports and a pair of standard IDE controllers
support storage needs.
Users Manual, Driver CD, Floppy
Cable, Ultra/133 IDE Cable, Analog Audio Cable, Serial
ATA/Serial ATA Power Cable, Serial ATA Driver Disk, I/O
Shield, Serial Port Bracket
RS480M2-IL is based on the MicroATX form factor, which means the motherboard can fit
in pretty much any case. The physical layout of the motherboard is very
good and most users shouldn't have any problems installing it. Novice users should be warned that the RS480M2-IL is not as well labelled as we'd expect
from MSI so the manual will be necessary.
RS480M2-IL might just be an ideal motherboard for those of you who want to build yourself a
HTPC. The integrated videocard supports TV/S-Video output by default!
standard 32 bit PCI slots give the RS480M2-IL a lot of flexibility for MicroATX board. It
would have been nice if MSI had equipped the motherboard with one
or two PCI Express slots too.
The included Serial ATA/Serial ATA Power cable is pretty
neat extra we haven't seen elsewhere.
The cable integrates the Serial ATA data cable with a
molex to Serial ATA power
cable. This allows the user to keep things nice and tidy. If only MSI could have
included more than one... There are four SATA ports on the motherboard, and
one cable doesn't really cut it.
You'd better have decent case airflow if you plan on using the RS480M2-IL
since the RS480 Northbridge gets quite hot during operation. In fact the
little black heatsink was too hot to touch for more than a few seconds. This
is surprising since ATI's Intel-based counterpart, the RS400, runs quite cool.