Summary

Our Score

7/10

Review Price free/subscription

The MSI G41M looks very similar to the {http:www.trustedreviews.com/motherboards/review/2008/10/23/MSI-G31-M3-F/p1 MSI G31M3-F} that we reviewed just a few months ago. Both motherboards are Micro-ATX designs that support Intel Core 2 CPUs and use an Intel chipset and Intel graphics but there is a fundamental difference in the graphics department.

The G31M-F uses the G31 chipset, which has GMA 3100 graphics that support Shader Model 2 with Vertex Shader 2.0a and Pixel Shader 2.0. This means that you can forget about running Windows Vista with its 3D Aero interface. Support for digital displays is also fairly rotten and the net result is that G31 isn't fit for much more than running the desktop in Windows XP or Windows Vista Basic.

In contrast, G41, which lies at the heart of the MSI G41M, is a very graphically capable chipset. Its GMA X4500 graphics support Shader Model 4 and DirectX 10 and has ten unified shaders. This is fairly pathetic compared to the integrated graphics that are available from Nvidia and ATi but it at least gives Intel a whole new list of features to work with.

The important change is the emphasis on digital connections and, correspondingly, the MSI G41M has a DVI-D output, which is perfect for a digital TFT, as well as a VGA port for an analogue TFT or old CRT monitor. The third connection is Display Port which is a bit of a white elephant at present as it's still not widely used. We feel it would make more sense for MSI to include HDMI, which is much more popular.

The list of accessories in the MSI package boils down to a power adapter for a SATA and that's it. So, with regards the photos you see on these pages, what you see really is what you get.

Back to the board itself, there are two DDR2 memory slots that are limited to 4GB of DDR2-800MHz RAM, four SATA connectors, and a PCI Express slot that will not accommodate a double slot graphics card as the BIOS battery in positioned in such a way that it obstructs the graphics card. We successfully used a Radeon HD 4870 X2 on the test bench but it was leant over at an angle in the PCI Express slot and would not have fitted inside a PC case. Whichever you try and spin it, this is a fundamental flaw.

You only get four USB ports on the I/O panel which is marginal however there are headers for four more ports if you should happen to have some mounted on your case.

The integrated audio doesn't have a digital connection and, as mentioned, there is no HDMI output so the MSI isn't an obvious candidate for a Media Centre. This is a shame as the passively cooled chipset makes this a silent motherboard that would otherwise be ideal for the job. At least the Gigabit LAN and single Firewire port make sure this board has all the other basics covered.

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