MSI’s P7NGM-Digital Motherboard
Nvidia is actually launching two motherboard-based GPUs: the GeForce 9300 and GeForce 9400. Both chipsets are the same, except the 9400 sports a 580 MHz core and 1,400 MHz shaders to the 9300’s 450 MHz core and 1,200 MHz shaders. The test mule we received was MSI’s P7NGM-Digital, based on the slower GeForce 9300.
The MSI board is likely a good representation of what you’ll be able to get for roughly $100 when GeForce 9300 platforms start shipping. It fits in a micro-ATX form factor and delivers moderate connectivity. Naturally, there’s only one chipset component, which MSI covers with a passive aluminum heatsink. Small, quiet, and well-equipped—the P7NGM-Digital has the makings of a respectable platform.
An LGA775 socket interface accommodates everything from lowly Celerons to Core 2 Extremes (at FSBs as high as 1,333 MHz and despite the four-phase power circuitry). Four DDR2 DIMM slots take a maximum of 8GB running at 800 MHz.
Available I/O includes a Realtek 8111C Gigabit Ethernet controller, a JMicron FireWire 400 chip, a JMicron parallel ATA controller, one PCI Express x16 slot, one PCIe x1 slot (both v. 2.0), and two standard PCI slots. The 9300 chipset drives six SATA 3 Gb/s ports and Nvidia’s RAID software gives you access to RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5, and JBOD modes.
Though overall a well-rounded configuration, our biggest problem with the P7NGM-Digital is its back-panel I/O. MSI enables PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, HDMI output, a VGA connector, four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 400 connector, Gigabit Ethernet, and six 1/8” audio mini-jacks. There’s also a DVI output, but it’s of the single-link variety, so when we connected our 30” Dell display, it wouldn’t do anything larger than 1280x800. The panel is missing optical audio output, too. Fortunately, the chipset supports 7.1 LPCM audio over HDMI.
Our recommendation: find a board with dual-link DVI, at least. Although Dell’s 3008WFP includes its own chipset that doesn’t require dual-link, the 3007 is a far better value right now, and it does require dual-link connectivity.