Six Dual Xeon Motherboards on the Cheap

MSI Master2-FL (MS-9141), Continued

There's no such thing as good and cheap: the AD1885 sound chip is only capable of producing two channels. It also sports no I/O onboard connectors. There is, however, a slot shield for USB 2.0 and sound. The cables from the shield are a little short, which prevent a connection via the AGP slot. If the user wants sound or a USB port, another PCI slot must be sacrificed. This means that many PCI slots are unusable in practice.

Passively cooled voltage regulator

On the MSI Master2-FL, power is supplied by two-phase regulators, each requiring an oversized heat sink.

With thermal power of up to 185 watts, both CPUs give off a lot of heat. We therefore judge the two fan connections to be a little lacking. MSI made unnecessary savings in this department.

Color-coded: DDR memory slots on the MSI board

The MSI Master2-FL gets by on regular unbuffered memory, which has a positive effect on the overall price of a Xeon system with the E7505 chipset.

Unusual in the workstation segment: MSI lets you choose your memory timings freely

MSI offers its users the option of setting memory timings in the BIOS themselves, and thus stepping up performance. Since the Xeon processors operate RAM at a max 133 MHz (DDR266), a timing of CL 2.0-2-2-5 is almost always possible. In our case, we were only able to persuade the board to operate stably with the timings CL 2.0-3-2-6.

Cleanly lined up: the 1-Gbit LAN chip on the left and its 100-Mbit counterpart on the right

Both LAN jacks on the I/O shield

With its 100-Mbit LAN 82551 and 1 GB LAN 82540 Intel chips, the Master2-FL is ideally suited for use as a router or a server. As the board does not feature a P64H2 Southbridge, both these LAN controllers are connected via the PCI interface. Data is exchanged between the ICH4 and the E7505 Northbridge at a maximum of 266 MB/sec. Together, both LAN chips eat up bandwidth of approx. 138 MB/sec, leaving little room for maneuver with the remaining available 128 MB/sec - consider the hard-drive controller for one. Using a dual-LAN design on an E7505 mobo without a P64H2 bridge makes little sense.

EPS12V jacks on the ATX board

MSI's board supports solely the EPS12V standard, making it impossible to use an ATX power supply.

The MSI tool allows for a great many settings

The barest minimum of features does not just justify a high price. MSI appears to have grasped this and is offers the Master2-FL for approximately $240.

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