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Big Business: 18 P4 boards In Price / Performance Face-Off

MSI 845PE Max

Board Revision: 2.0

BIOS Version: 3.7 (May 21, 2003)

MSI also puts its faith in Intel's 845PE. After all, if it works well today, it should still work well tomorrow. This principle is commonly applied to Intel chipsets, whose overall reliability has proved to be more impressive than that of competitive products.

The board is limited to basic features such as a sound system and network port (Intel 82562ET), together with a total of four USB 2.0 ports. The features are put to good use. For example, there is an adapter module for the sound system providing digital outputs and jack sockets for surround sound. The 845PE Max is fitted with six PCI slots in total, a CNR slot, AGP 8X, and two DIMM slots. Fortunately, MSI has color-coded these slots.

MSI's PC2PC feature is interesting. It consists of a Bluetooth controller fitted directly to the motherboard and is designed to simplify the exchange of data between two PCs using Bluetooth. Communication with a cellular phone or a PDA is also possible.

The fact that the MSI did not produce class leading benchmark figures is not surprising, as this would be asking too much of the 845 chipset. It is just a pity that MSI has set the board to run at 537.6 MHz rather than the more usual 533 MHz. This boosted the speed of our test processor from 3066 to 3091 MHz. However, it is not a particularly effective tweak, as all manufacturers are certainly capable of doing the same.

The CD supplied contains Adobe's Acrobat Reader, PC-cillin antivirus and some utilities of varying value. Overclockers can tweak to their heart's content with this board, as MSI has included all the necessary options in the BIOS.

MSI's 845P is in the higher price bracket, but is still priced well below the boards with the 865 chipset. It is the only board to offer a Bluetooth controller, and this is the reason for the price difference.

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