It wasn’t long ago that we took our first look at the AOpen i915GMm-HFS which was the first Pentium M board based on the new 915GM chipset to arrive at TrustedReviews. The attraction of running a Pentium M in a desktop PC is that it offers much of the performance you need for everyday applications with the potential for a virtually noise free system. The downside is that only a limited number of chips are available and they tend to be on the expensive side.
Now MSI is following suit with the 915GM Speedster-FA4, a much simpler board but also a lot more affordable. Unlike the AOpen board, which was designed with multimedia in mind, the 915GM Speedster was designed by MSI’s server group, which explains some of the differences between the two boards.
Let’s start with the similarities. The Speedster has two DDR and two DDR2 memory slots and also has a single x16 PCI Express slot alongside one x1 PCI Express slot and two PCI slots. Of course both boards share the same chipset – the Intel 915GM – which is home to the integrated graphics. However, this is where things start to differ, as the Speedster has only got a D-Sub connector with no support for DVI or any kind of TV output. You could get an Advanced Digital Display 2 (ADD2) adapter card that would add these features; this is a riser card that goes into the x16 PCI Express slot to give you additional display options. MSI has yet to announce the availability of such a product in Europe though.
As this board has both server and workstation heritage it has dual Gigabit PCI Express Ethernet controllers. This might seem like overkill, but Gigabit switches are now available at reasonable prices. The Speedster shares its audio controller with the i915GMm-HFS, a Realtek ALC880 Intel High Definition codec with support for 7.1-channel sound. An optical S/PDIF is also part of the package, but there’s no coaxial output. Nor is there a digital input.
The remaining ports around the back consists of two PS/2 ports, a serial port, a parallel port, the D-Sub connector and four USB 2.0 ports; a slightly more traditional setup than that of the i915GMm-HFS. A further four USB 2.0 ports can be attached via two headers on the bottom of the board, alongside two FireWire 400 ports, again via two headers.