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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

One thing about nVIDIA that I really like is how the company is not afraid to try new things. Dual-channel DDR, SLI... the list goes on. It would be fair to say that much of the AMD Athlon64's success in the post-PCI Express world is due to nVIDIA and its awesome nForce4 chipsets. Fast, price competitive and stable, the nForce4 chipset boasts the kind of maturity that usually only Intel offers. That's good news for AMD since its other chipset vendors have had a difficult time making waves.

Originally AMD and its partners were vague about the upgradability of Socket 754 processor, since the platform was to be replaced quickly with Socket 939 and plans for PCI Express support were sketchy. I'm happy to see that nVIDIA has not forgotten about early adopters and its nForce4-4X chipset is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Aside from Serial ATA II support (which really is not important yet), the nForce4-4X has everything an upgrader would want. The PCI Express architecture has been pegged to have a lifespan of around ten years, so with a nForce4-4X motherboard, Socket 754 Athlon64 users can breath new life into their systems.

Today, PCSTATS will be looking at MSI's nForce4-4X entry, the K8N Neo3-F. This motherboard supports all AMD Athlon64 and Sempron Socket 754 processors and up to 2GB of single-channel DDR memory. As with other nForce 4 chipsets, PCI-Express is integrated and the K8N Neo3-F sports a full PCIe x16 slot for video cards as well as a single x1 slot for peripherals. A standard compliment of four SATA 150 ports and two IDE controllers are present, as well as four built in USB 2.0 ports and two more on the included PCI bracket.

MSI K8N Neo3-F Motherboard


Motherboard Manual, Driver CD, Folded Ultra/133 IDE Cable, Folded Floppy Cable, Serial ATA Cable, Molex Y Serial ATA Power Cable, USB/DLED Bracket, I/O Shield

The MSI K8N Neo3-F motherboard looks like an ideal board for upgraders since it also features a physical 8x AGP slot using what MSI term the "AGR" (Advanced Graphics Riser) technology; more on this later. Other features of the motherboard include a Gigabit NIC and a 5.1 channel audio codec, but perhaps the best 'feature' is its price, just $98CDN ($78US).

As you can see, the MSI K8N Neo3-F uses a smaller 7.5" by 11.5" six mounting-hole ATX-sized PCB and will fit just fine in pretty much any case. The board is small, but MSI still does a decent job with motherboard layout.

One thing I really liked was how MSI colour coordinates and labels the positive power pins on its USB headers! Anyone who has installed front panel USB headers knows how much of a pain it is to always have to refer to the manual. I know I've done it about four times in the last two weeks...

The K8N Neo3-F natively support ATX 2.0 standard power supplies but don't worry, the board is also compatible with older versions. If you're already an Athlon64 user looking to upgrade, the power supply you're currently using should be fine.

MOSFETs generate a lot of heat, and to help keep the ones on the K8N Neo3-F cool, MSI placed aluminum heatsinks on them. During testing they worked quite well, getting warm to the touch.

The nForce4-4X chip is placed in an easy-to-access spot on the K8N Neo3-F board, so if you wish you could easily replace the stock cooler with whatever you like. The default HSF is quiet and does the job nicely, so I can't see many users swapping it out for something better.

The only thing about the motherboard I disliked was the little PCI Express videocard locking mechanism. It has to be the hardest thing in the world to access and really does require a tool to remove the videocard properly. I found it easier to take the videocard out of its slot from the front first. The K8N Neo3-F is an entry-level motherboard but I would have liked to see MSI include a few more cables. Including one Serial ATA cable seems a bit cheap on MSI's part. We did appreciate the inclusion of an extra USB 2.0 bracket though.

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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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