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MSI K8N Neo3-F Motherboard Review

MSI K8N Neo3-F Motherboard Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: This motherboard supports all AMD Athlon64 and Sempron Socket 754 processors and up to 2GB of single-channel DDR memory.
 80% Rating:   
Filed under: Motherboards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: MSI Computer Jun 20 2005   C. Sun  
Home > Reviews > Motherboards > MSI Computer K8N Neo3-F

What's an AGR video slot?

Easily the biggest feature of the MSI K8N Neo3-F is its support for 8xAGP videocards. The AGR slot, as MSI likes to call it, runs through the PCI Express bus although MSI does not state exactly how quickly data travels (I'd guess it's PCI express x2 - but don't quote me on that).

In any case it should be faster than competing PCIe/AGPe boards where the ersatz AGP slot (often called AGPexpress) runs through the standard PCI bus.

Unfortunately though, the videocard you wish to use must be pre-approved by MSI otherwise it will not function in the motherboard. PCstats test Asus X800 XT PE videocard would not run with the K8N Neo3-F motherboard but a MSI GeForce 4 Ti4800 worked just fine. The list is rather large, but requiring a pre-approved videocard ultimately defeats the purpose of the AGR slot.

We emailed MSI about this compatibility issue but unfortunately did not get a response what with all the hubbub of Computex going on. When we find out more information, we will update this review accordingly.

The Parallel Port: Part of History

Since the early 1980's, the parallel port has been a mainstay of PC computing. Its primary function of connecting to printers, scanners and external backup devices has largely been usurped by the higher bandwidth USB port. The parallel port remains a standard feature of modern motherboards, despite Intel's ongoing attempts to eliminate it and other 'legacy' ports.

The parallel port was designed by IBM so PCs could connect to Centronics printers (the printer manufacturer back then). Others printer manufacturers quickly adopted this as the defacto standard for connecting printers to the PC.

The parallel port sends eight bits of data at a time and in parallel, allowing the parallel port to send up to 2MB of data per second. It's not commonly used anymore but it's handy when attaching legacy devices, the main reason why it's still found on the majority of motherboards.

Overclocking Fun and CPU Speeds

MSI motherboards have generally been good at overclocking and I was hoping the K8N Neo3-F would not disappoint. Before we started overclocking though, I first set the CPU multiplier to 6x and the memory to operate in 166 MHz mode. This way neither the processor nor memory would be the limiting factor in overclocking the motherboard.

The K8N Neo3-F easily reached 210MHz but anything much higher caused the motherboard to exhibit some weird problems. No matter what we did, the K8N Neo3-F would either lock up at POST or shut itself off completely, requiring me to cut the power to the motherboard and let the power supply run dry before restarting.

Playing with voltages did not allow the K8N Neo3-F to run any higher either. Perhaps the K8N Neo3-F will overclock better with future BIOS updates.

Just for the heck of it, I decided to try the Dynamic Overclocking functions; perhaps my overclocking skills are fading? ;-) I'm not sure what exactly MSI's dynamic overclocking feature does since even when set to its high setting (Commander 11%) the various benchmarks that we ran all scored about the same as stock. While running Commander mode though, we did notice it would sometimes lock up the system when under load.

I personally dislike dynamic overclocking features on motherboards, and tend not to recommend their use at all. Manual overclocking gives better control, and most often better results. If you're not sure how to overclock, please see these two PCSTATS guides on the topic (here and here ).

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Contents of Article: MSI Computer K8N Neo3-F
 Pg 1.  MSI K8N Neo3-F Motherboard Review
 Pg 2.  — What's an AGR video slot?
 Pg 3.  The MSI Neo3-F BIOS
 Pg 4.  Benchmarks: SYSmark2004
 Pg 5.  Benchmarks: Winstone 2004, Winbench 99
 Pg 6.  Benchmarks: SiSoft Sandra, Super Pi
 Pg 7.  Benchmarks: PCMark04, 3DMark2001
 Pg 8.  Benchmarks: 3DMark05, Comanche 4
 Pg 9.  Benchmarks: X2: The Threat, UT2003
 Pg 10.  Benchmarks: UT2004, Doom 3
 Pg 11.  Conclusion: A Good Upgrade Option

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