MSI 845 Ultra
Board Revision: A1
BIOS Version: 3.2 (January 2002)
Just like Gigabyte, MSI offers the most features possible. Let's start with the 3 DIMM sockets and 5 PCI slots. In addition, there is an IDE RAID controller from Promise (PCD20265R), a PCI sound chip from C-Media and a USB 2.0 controller chip from NEC.
The placement of all flat cable connectors and the power connector is well thought out, as all cables can be gathered and tucked away to the upper regions of the computer case. Both connectors of the RAID controller are in the lower region and might interfere with long PCI cards. In order to avoid this, you can put the cables behind the motherboard.
Only a few manufacturers use fans for cooling their northbridge chips - MSI is one of them. This is quite useless - we didn't even need it when running a Pentium 4 system at 133 MHz instead of 100 MHz FSB (see Behind The Silicon Curtain: Exclusive Test Of The P4/2666 With 533 MHz Rambus ). Usually, these kinds of fans are low-quality products that are primarily meant to have the board look faster.
MSI uses a BIOS from American Megatrends (AMI). Although it allows you to boot from all possible ATA/ATAPI or SCSI devices as well as network adapters, you cannot boot from USB (that would be useful for USB CD or hard drives). Also, there is no way to assign interrupts manually.
The 845 Ultra is shipped with an excellent manual, a complete set of cables, a CD with drivers and utilities, a driver disk for the RAID controller and two USB adapter cables. The first is required for using the standard USB ports 3 and 4; the second one will give you four ports for the integrated USB 2.0 controller.