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MSI 648 MAX-F Motherboard Review

MSI 648 MAX-F Motherboard Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: I was really excited about sitting down and testing this SiS 648 based motherboard. From what I've read the SiS 648 chipset is supposed to be a full-blown i850E/RDRAM killer.
 83% Rating:   
Filed under: Motherboards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: MSI Sep 03 2002   Colin Sun  
Home > Reviews > Motherboards > MSI 648 MAX-F

More Goodies on the Motherboard

To be honest we were a bit surprised that MSI doesn't have a version of the 648 MAX-F with onboard IDE RAID. Since most motherboards in the 648 MAX-F's class will have IDE RAID, it does put the board at a slight disadvantage in terms of the "full check list".

While we're not big fans of the onboard 5.1 audio, the AC'97 codec does perform alright when listening to MP3's or for office use. If you're a gamer, audiophile or use your system for watching DVD's you're probably better off getting a hardware based PCI soundcard that don't suck system resources.

While the system did run stable at stock speeds and when overclocked, the bright green Northbridge heatsink that passively cools the SiS648 chipset was pretty hot after an hour or so. In fact it was so hot that I couldn't keep my finger on it for more then a few seconds! It would be nice if MSI had put a better cooler on the northbridge rather then the small "BX" cooler. Still, at least they did the little things right like adding thermal paste between the heatsink and the SiS648 chipset.

The powersupply on the board features a couple of MOSFET's, but curiously only two of the four have a heatsink on them. I'd be interested to know if this is a manufacturing slip up, or just a sensible use of heatsinks where they are really only needed.

Other things of note...

The 648 MAX-F features just two fan headers for cooling support, and since there are six PCI's you are going to have to remove that video card if you plan on installing memory. The board will support bluetooth if you have the optional (as in extra $$) bluetooth kit MSI have begun selling recently. Bluetooth is a neat little wireless technology, but with data transfer rates capped around the 740kb/s range it is best suited for smaller amounts of data over a shorter range (10M).

Still, with the mass of Bluetooth enabled devices that are expected to hit the markets over the next year (printers, cellphones, PDA's, computer-to-computer connections, etc. it is a good feature to have. Within the realm of cellphones Bluetooth makes the most sense - replacing the often frustrating Irda with a wireless connection that is easier to set up and which can handle larger data transfers... because we all need more personalized ring tones!

The MSI 648 MAX-F uses a custom I/O plate which comes with the unit. If you have an old case that doesn't give you the option of adding different I/O plates you'll be out of luck.

Overclocking the bright red mainboard:

What review would be complete without a section on overclocking? The 648 MAX-F wasn't the most powerful overclocking motherboard out there, but still we were interested on how high we could go. Since I already knew the Pentium 4 1.6A processor could easily break 2.4 GHz, I first tried a 150 MHz FSB while keeping a 200 MHz memory frequency.

Unfortunately the board wouldn't even POST at that speed. I then lowered the FSB to 145 MHz but still no go.

After tinkering with the board I ended up reaching a maximum FSB of 143 MHz. Not the greatest overclock, but it seems that the test board sent my MSI might be a an early beta.

SiS 648 Northbridge and 963 Southbridge:

The architecture of the SiS648 northbridge is very similar to the SiS645 - the main difference here is the support for 8X AGP graphics cards and the PC3200 memory divider. The Northbridge connects to the Southbridge via a direct 16 bit bridge running at 533 MHz and offers a total bandwidth of 1 GB/s. On this board the SiS 648 chipset was of the "A2" stepping.

Unofficially the SiS648 also supports PC3200 (DDR400) memory operation and initially we did have problems getting the test Corsair XMS3200 CAS2 and TwinMOS PC3200 DDR to run properly. However a simple BIOS flash to the latest version solved that problem.

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Contents of Article: MSI 648 MAX-F
 Pg 1.  MSI 648 MAX-F Motherboard Review
 Pg 2.  — More Goodies on the Motherboard
 Pg 3.  The MSI 648 Max-F BIOS
 Pg 4.  Testing the MSI 648Max-F
 Pg 5.  Benchmarks: Winbench, Sandra 2002
 Pg 6.  Benchmarks: PCMark 2002, 3DMark 2001
 Pg 7.  Benchmarks: QIII Arena and Conclusions

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   11 / 22 / 2019 | 5:29AM
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