Avant-Garde: Four boards for AMD's Athlon 64 FX

MSI K8T Master

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Board Revision: 1.1

BIOS Version: 1.1B6 (September 25, 2003)

MSI takes a completely different approach from Asus or Gigabyte. Instead of developing an nForce3 board, they rely on the design of the Opteron board, K8T Master 2 - which was developed for two CPUs. In any case, the decision in favor of the VIA chipset was obviously dead-on, because this runs the Hypertransport channel to the Northbridge with full bandwidth and at full speed (16 bits uplink and downlink, 800 rather than only 600 MHz).

For several months, MSI has been blocking its own development, the CoreCell chip, which basically functions as a hardware diagnostic tool. In connection with the appropriate Windows software by the name of Core Center, the rpm of the CPU and Northbridge coolers can be adapted (BuzzFree) and automatically overclock the system somewhat at a high capacity. They obviously took to heart some of the criticism from earlier tests, because back then, factory-provided overclocking was tacitly introduced.

The cooling units on the voltage converters make us think the dual-phase voltage converters are less efficient. However, according to information from MSI, it actually has to do high-quality four-phase converters. In consideration of the original specification of this board (Dual Opteron), this sounds plausible, because they should be cooled when system usage is high.

MSI scores points on cost because of the absence of several components, because thanks to the current VIA Southbridge, VT8237, no additional Serial ATA controller needs to be integrated onto the board. Fans of FireWire ports will come away empty-handed, which in many cases will not be a matter of life and death.

The mania for savings went too far with the sound system, because this is completely absent. On the other hand, you can see that as a feature, because sophisticated users do not use the integrated codec-based sound solutions anyway.

In the benchmarks, the K8T Master wins with one hand tied behind its back, so to speak, because the nForce3 chipset right now is inferior. Although the equipment of the board is basically lean, it could meet the needs of many high-end users.

The "Chip Kill" label makes you wonder.