MSI is one of the giants within the PC hardware industry. They have been around for as long as I can remember. Motherboards is one of the ground stones in their business but the company have diversified into many different areas the last couple of years and as you may know, MSI is now one of the top suppliers of laptops.
Today I am going to review a very interesting motherboard from MSI, the NF750-G55. Here are the specifications:
Processor Support AMD® Phenom(TM) II/Athlon(TM)II/Phenom(TM) with AM3 package.
Chipset NVIDIA® nForce 750a SLI single chipset
Hyper Transport Bus HyperTransport 3,0 supporting speed up to 5200MT/s
Memory o Dual Supports DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600 (OC)
– 4 DDR3 DIMMs (240pin/1.5V)
– Supports up to 16GB.
Slots o 2 PCI Express x16 slots with x16 operation (PCI Express Bus SPEC V2.0 compliant)
o When 2 PCI Express x16 slots plows all installed, 16 the PCIE x lanes will car arrange form x16/x0 to x8/x8.
o 2 PCI Express x1 slots
o 1 PCI slots, support 3.3V/5V PCI bus interface.
On-Board IDE o One IDE port by NVIDIA® nForce 750a SLI
– 66/100/133 Extreme Supports DMA mode
– Supports PIO, Bus Masters operation mode
– Can connect up to two IDE devices
On-Board SATA o 5 SATA II ports by NVIDIA® nForce 750a SLI
o 1 eSATA II port by NVIDIA® nForce 750a SLI
– Supports storage and data transfers at up to 3Gb/s
Function RAID 1-5 SATA II support RAID 0 1 0+1 /5 or JBOD mode by NVIDIA® nForce 750a SLI
Audio o Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC889
– Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
– Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
LAN Supports 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Realtek 45CL
Internal I/O Connectors – ATX 24-pin to power connector
– ATX 4-pin 12V CPU to power connector
– CPU x 1/System x 3 FAN connectors
– CD-in connector
– Clear CMOS to jumper
– Power button
– Chassis intrusion switch connector
– Front audio panel connector
– Front panel connector
– Serial port connector
– 3 x USB 2.0 additional connector support 6 ports
– 1 x Floppy disk disk drive connector
– 5 x Serial ATA II connectors
– 1 x ATA133 IDE connectors
– 1 x SPDIF-out to header
– 1 x TPM modulates to header
– 1 x OC Switch
Back Panel I/O Ports – 1 x PS/2 keyboard
– 1 x PS/2 mouse
– 1 x 6 in 1 audio jack
– 6 x USB 2.0 ports
– 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
– 1 x eSATA port
– 1 x DVI-D port
– 1 x Graphic Card port
– 1 x HDMI port
Other Characteristics MSI Active Phase Switching
MSI Easy OC Switch
MSI Live Update online
MSI Live Update 4
True Audio Blu-ray
By the specifications of the NF750-G55 it's easy to conclude that MSI has worked hard to produce something a little extra with this board. The board offers support for SLI, Hybrid SLI and has some interesting proprietary technologies of MSI, like the “Easy OC Switch”. In this review I will not test the SLI functionality since it's been done before, instead I will focus on the integrated GeForce 8200 chip and see what it can produce in terms of performance.
The NF750-G55 comes in a rather sober looking cardboard box of standard size. On it, MSI emphasizes the support of the latest AMD processors, the support for SLI and Hybrid SLI and some of the extra features like the True Blu-ray Audio, APS and Easy OC Switch.
The included accessories are: a manual; a quick start installation guide; a drivers and utilities CD; the I/O back panel plate; SATA and IDE cables and a SATA power converter cable.
MSI NF750-G55 IN DETAIL
Although the MSI NF750-G55 is of the ATX standard, it's a little narrower than most other ATX boards.
There are 4 memory slots which supports up to 16GB of DDR3 (up to 1600MHz). To clarify a little here, the chipset officially only supports up to 1333MHz, but it's possible to run the memories at 1600MHz by doing a small change to the multiplier in the BIOS.
The only heatsink on the motherboard is the heatsink located on the nForce 750a SLI circuit.
The CPU cooler is fastened with screws which I think is great since it allows you to really get a grip of how tight the cooler is fastened, much better than with plastic anchorage systems. The 4 pin connector for the CPU is located in the middle of the board.
The MSI Active Phase Switching (APS) is located to the right of the 12V ATX connector. This system is in charge of real time automatic regulation of the power feeded to the CPU. The power level is actually illustrated by 4 LEDs which is a nice extra feature.
The board has two PCI-E x16 ports and 1 PCI port. As you can see; the PCI-E ports are separated by quite a big distance. If you use a double slot card in the second PCI-E port you will not be able to use the PCI port at all. It would have been better to place the PCI port before the first PCI-E x16 port.
The internal connectivity also incorporates 5 SATA 2 ports with RAID functionality, 3 USB 2.0 ports, a COM port connector, connectors for external audio; digital S/PDIF and a CD contact.
The integrated chips for the sound and the Ethernet connectivity are the Realtek ALC889 and RTL45CL. Both chips are of high quality and supported with excellent drivers. The Fintek chip located next to the battery is in charge of the general I/O functions of the motherboard and also makes it possible to control fans with the popular SpeedFan program.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of this motherboard is the “Easy OC Switch”. It consists of a pink switch as you can see from the image below. This switch allows us to increase the FSB of up to 35% without having to do any other changes. In principle this addition is excellent, but it will only work well if the processor you are using supports overclocking without needing an increase of the voltage.
The back panel connectivity is excellent; check the specifications above for a complete list.
INSTALLING THE TEST EQUIPMENT
For the tests of the MSI NF750-G55 I used the following hardware and software:
Processor AMD Phenom II x2 550 SEES
Fan Zalman CNPS9900A LED
Motherboard MSI NF750-G55
Graphics card GeForce 8200 (integrated)
Memory Kingston HyperX DDR3 1333Mhz 2×2GB (7-7-7-18)
Hard disk Seagate ST3320620AS (SATA 2, 16MB, 7200rpm)
Power supply Zalman ZM660-XT
Case Cooler Master 690 cm PURE
Operating system and software
Operating system Windows XP SP3
System drivers V1.0 BIOS
Benchmarks 3D Mark 06
PC Mark 05
SiSoftware Sandra Lite XII
SuperPI 1,5 XS MOD
HD Tune 2.55
Crystal DiskMark 2.2
Lightsmark 2008 (1280×1024)
FurMark 1,4 (1280×1024, NoMSAA)
Real tests WinRAR 3.80
X264HD Benchmark 2.0
X3: Demo meeting
X3: Terran Conflict Rolling Demo
Officers' Club of Revolutionary Armed Forces Cry 2
DH Photoshop Benchmark
Other software CPU-Z 1.51
Here are a couple of screenshots of the hardware I used:
In the graphics test I used a resolution of 1024×800 with the highest graphics settings.
The BIOS on this board comes from AMI (American Megatrends Inc) and is very intuitive and easy to handle when overclocking.
The menu that interested me the most was of course the Cell Menu where all the real important settings are, at least of you want to overclock your system. Even though the NF750-G55 can be considered a medium range motherboard it offers many possibilities for overclocking both the CPU and the memory modules.
The M-Flash program which is incorporated in this BIOS is actually unique to MSI motherboards. It's a smart little program which lets us update the BIOS and even to backup and recover old BIOS versions.
There is also a menu called “User Settings”. It makes it possible to setup different “profiles” of the BIOS setting. This can come in handy if you want to quickly load a preset of overclocking settings for a gaming session or similar.
BENCHMARKING TESTING PART 1
The CPU performance of the nForce 750a chip is within the margins that I had hoped for. However the memory testing came out a little short which surprised me as this is normally a strong area with the NVIDIA chips.
BENCHMARKING TESTING PART 2
The read and write speeds of the HD were very good which means that NVIDIA have solved the driver issues which have caused the hard disk to work slower than it should on older chipsets.
REAL WORLD TESTING
What draw my attention of the above results were the poor results from the WinRAR test. My conclusion is that it must be due to the memory problem noted above.
In the test of the IGP GeForce 8200 chip I didn't receive any remarkable results in the 3D testing so it's easy to conclude that you shouldn't use it for gaming. It did work just fine for playback of HD videos though.
The power usage of this system is really low, especially when it's operating in idle mode which makes it a good choice if you are building a 24/7 system.
NVIDIA has made classic AMD overclocking chipsets in the past including the now almost mythical nForce 2 and nForce 4 platforms. So what about the nForce 750a SLI overclocking capabilities? The following screenshots says it all:
I was able to overclock the FSB to 264MHz (!) which was actually a bit surprising to me, I hadn't expected it to be so “overclock friendly” being a medium range card.
I also tried to overclock the integrated graphics card (GeForce 8200). I managed to get it to run stable at 601/1442MHz for the core and shaders respectively.
My first experience with the NF750 chipset has been a pleasure. The MSI NF750-G55 is a very diverse motherboard. It can be used in a hardcore SLI high end system or it can be used as a base plate for a HTPC project thanks to the integrated VGA with HDMI output.
Generally, MSI has managed to build a great motherboard around the nForce 750a SLI chipset. Its performance and overclocking abilities are excellent as the same goes for its connectivity. The integrated graphics solution is good but not as powerful as some of the integrated chips that AMD/ATI offers.