DWPG.Com - Review, MSI NEO-LSR 875P Canterwood Motherboard
By: Sverre Sjøthun

Introduction

We’ve had the MSI NEO-LSR motherboard in our labs since April, before the official launch, but because of a number of setbacks (not directly related to the motherboard) we haven’t been able to publish our review before now.

On the positive side; we have really had a chance to test this board over a long period of time. I think we can safely say that we know this board very well, what it has to offer as well as it's limitations.

As you will soon discover, we have not focused heavily on overclocking performance simply because there are too many factors involved -- RAM, processor cooling and the processor itself among many other things -- so we cannot judge a board based on that. Rest assured, though, we were not disappointed in that departement.

But without further ado, let’s take a look at the motherboards features and board layout.


Basic features and layout

Motherboard Basic Features

Motherboard specifications:
CPU InterfaceSocket -478
ChipsetIntel 82875P MCH (North Bridge)Intel 82801ER ICH5R (South Bridge)
Bus SpeedsUp to 500MHz (in 1MHz increments)
Core Voltages SupportedUp to 1.95V (in 0.05V increments after 1.60V, in 0.0125V increments before 1.60V)
I/O Voltages SupportedN/A
DRAM Voltages SupportedSupported up to 3.30V (in 0.05V increments excluding 3.00V-3.10V)
Memory Slots4 184-pin DDR DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots1 AGP 8X Slot5 PCI Slots
Onboard USBEight USB 2.0 ports supported through South BridgeVT6306 IEEE-1394 FireWire Controller (up to 3 ports total)
Onboard LANIntel PRO/100 VE
Onboard AudioAnalog Devices AD1985 Controller
Onboards Serial ATATwo SATA connectors via Promise PDC20378 Controller Two SATA connectors via ICH5R
BIOS Revision1.0

The MSI NEO-LSR Canterwood motherboard

The MSI NEO-LSR Canterwood motherboard



Motherboard Layout
When looking at the motherboard, it strikes us how nice and tidy everything is. There is plenty space around the processor socket, the ATX powerconnector is placed almost on top to the right on the motherboard so that it doesn’t block airflow or clutter up your cabling like we saw on the Abit KG7 series where they had placed it right next to the processor socket.

Another detail is the space between the DIMM slots and the AGP slot – plenty of room, making installation as easy as it can get. On other motherboards we have encountered, like the Asus A7V333, the real-estate is so cramped you actually have to remove the AGP card before adding or removing RAM modules.

Just above and to the left of the Northbridge is the ATX12V connector. This location allows for shorter power trace routes on the motherboard for cleaner power, which is obviously desirable to obtain a stable system, but it can be problematic with regard to airflow to the heatsink for your processor. In addition, it doesn’t really “fit in” visually, as you probably have to route the cabling right across your motherboard above the AGP card. In an ideal world this connector would be placed on the top-right edge of the motherboard, but still near enough to the processor socket to allow shortest possible power trace route. Unfortunately this connector has to be near other components as well and we are left many motherboards placing this connector in an unfortunate position.

One thing that caught our eyes right away was the heatsinks on the power MOSFETs, which tends to get pretty hot, especially when overclocking. Not only do they look nice but also I think they will further increase overall system stability. For those of you that read our Prometeia review, you’ll remember that we ran into some serious problems with the Asus P4G8X when overclocking that were related to the power circuitry.

The DIMM slots are arranged in two sets of two slots each, with each set belonging to separate memory channel. These slots are color coded, but are somewhat confusing, as we at first honestly believed that populating a single color slot group would enable dual channel mode. One quick look in the manual stated otherwise, so keep that in mind should you decide to buy one of these boards.

Furthermore, the Northbridge chipset has an actively cooled heatsink with a stylish lasercut fanguard on it -- plenty of cooling-power and the heatsink stayed nice and cool during all our testing. Interestingly enough MSI decided to add red, green and blue flashing LEDs to the heatsink. For those of you that like a little bling-bling in your case, or are really into disco, this is a nice feature. Personally, I'm glad my LianLi case isn't window-modded, as I have found no way to turn them off.

The ICH5R Southbridge chipset is located below PCI slots 1 and 2 with the ICH5R controlled SATA ports right below. The NEO-LSR has 5 PCI and 1 AGP slot, and between PCI slot 5 and the edge of the board, you’ll find the D-Bracket 2 header, RCA and S/PDIF bracket connector as well as audio panel header.

On the back of the motherboard, you’ll find the usual set of ports including PS/2 keyboard and mouse, one parallel port, two serial ports, the Ethernet port, 6 USB 2.0 ports as well as 3 audio ports.

To sum it up, the design and layout of this board leaves very little room for improvement and our only real complaint is the location of the ATX 12V connector. Also the color coding of the DIMM slots may cause some confusion.


BIOS and overclocking

MSI has utilized the AMI BIOS setup for the MSI NEO-LSR, just like on most of their other motherboards. The AMI BIOS is very straightforward and self-explanatory, however if you whish to dig deeper into the plethora of BIOS options this board offers then Adrian Rojak Pot’s “Definitive BIOS optimization guide” is a good place to start. It is by far the most comprehensive BIOS guide available anywhere on the net.

The MSI NEO-LSR offers a nice set of overclocking options and monitoring features. In the PC Health section you will find information about various system parameters including CPU temperature, system temperature, CPU and Northbridge fan speed, Vcore, PSU readings on all rails as well as battery status. We do however miss fan-speed controls as many other manufacturers have been implementing this for some time now.

During our Prometeia review we soon found that the CPU temperature in BIOS version 1.0 did not read correctly, and as we stated in the review, at sub zero temperatures, it was simply left out blank. Hopefully MSI will take care of this problem in their next BIOS revision.

The blanked out processor temperature

The blanked out processor temperature


In the Frequency/Voltage section you’ll find a number of options for tweaking and overclocking, such as CPU multiplier option, should you be “lucky” enough to have an Engineering Sample. ES processors let you alter multiplier to a degree, but are usually not very spectacular overclockers due to early batches. You'll also find DRAM Frequency, FSB Frequency, AGP/PCI Frequency, Vcore, VDIMM and VAGP. The two latter obviously let you manipulate the DIMM and AGP voltage respectively.

If you are using a 533FSB processor your available DIMM options are Dual DDR 266 and DDR333. However, using a 800MHz processor adds the DDR400 option and this gives overclocking enthusiasts the flexibility they need without being limited by high memory and high FSB-speeds. In short, you’ve got 1:1, 3:2 and 5:4 memory dividers to find the sweet spot for your setup.

With regard to the overclocking and tweaking options we can truly say that this board has all the features you need, and then some. Feature-wise, it is by far the most overclocking-friendly Pentium 4 motherboard we have had in our labs to date and it even gave us a couple of hundred MHz extra over the Asus P4G8X Deluxe in our Prometeia review published in May. For those of you that want the numbers, we reached 3.2GHz with the P4 2.4GHz without any problems at all.


Testbench and benchmarks

The Testbench
- Intel Pentium 4 2.4C Processor
- MSI NEO LSR (Canterwood Chipset) Motherboard
- Corsair TWINX4000 RAM, 1024 MB DualChannel setup
- Maxtor D740X Harddrive
- Creative 440MX Videocard
- TSP 550W powersupply
- On-board LAN and Soundcard
- Prometeia phase change cooler

The Benchmarks
We have done things a little differently this time. The current trend dictates that the difference in performance between different boards based on the same chipset is small and thus stability becomes one of the most important aspects when deciding exactly what motherboard to choose. That is why you will not find one single performance-graph here today. In the table below, you'll see how our extensive stability test was performed.

Test descriptionTest Result
3DMark2001SE: Loop, 24 hoursPass
Prime95: Loop, 24 hoursPass
3DMark2000SE+ Prime95: Loop, 12-hoursPass
DVD rip, WinAmp MP3, 3DMark2001SE: SimultaineousPass
Windows Media CD Playback, SiSoft Sandra BurnIn: SimultaineousPass


The MSI NEO-LSR passed every single one of our stability tests without a hitch. These tests are more demanding then they may appear -- any instabilities or driver conflicts will show and cause the system pausing or hang.


Conclusion

The MSI NEO-LSR is the embodiment of MSI's skilled engineering team who have managed to design a really great motherboard. It has a lot of features, a really great layout, great looks, is resonably priced and is very stable. During our 2 month testing period we have yet to see this board hang or crash for any reason, save our own overzealous attempts at overclocking.

I can only come up with two things we didn't really like with the motherboard, both somewhat related to overclocking. When supercooling the processor to below zero, like we did, the temperature reading simply goes blank. Even though we had plenty cooling it still would have been nice to see what temperatures we were running at.

The second complaint is that when you overclock just that bit too much and the system won't start, you'll have to remove the powercord and reset the BIOS to make it boot properly again. We'd love to see a feature along the lines of the ASUS propritary C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall) as it would really increase the value of this board dramatically.

But what it all boils down to is that MSI has a true winner on their hands and we have no problems giving this board the DWPG.Com Editors Choice Award.



Finally, we would like to thank Komplett for supplying us with this board, Mamoz for supplying us with the processor and Corsair for their XMS4000 RAM.

Sverre Sjøthun

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