nVidia's MCP73 chipset has been a long time coming. We first heard about this single-chip piece of core logic in February and now, finally, we've got an MSI P6NGM-FD that uses the new silicon in our hands.
There are four variants of MCP73 that combine a GeForce Northbridge and nForce Southbridge in a single chip. All four models have the key feature of the chipset, which is a GeForce 7000 series graphics core but the other features vary from model to model. In the case of the MSI it's an MCP73PV chipset, which is ranked in second place in the MCP73 league table.
The graphic core runs at 600MHz and supports dual monitors and in the case of the MSI you get DVI and VGA outputs stacked one above the other. The DVI port supports HDCP so you can use the P6NGM-FD to watch High Def movies however MSI hasn't gone the whole hog by including an HDMI connector even though the chipset does support this feature.
We successfully ran a CRT monitor and TFT display on the two monitor outputs and nVidia's drivers had no problems running a dual screen desktop.
This variant of the MCP73PV delivers the sort of features that you would expect to see including support for a 1,333MHz FSB, a PCIe x16 graphics slot, four SATA2 connectors with RAID and a Parallel ATA connector, which will support two ATA133 devices. The Ethernet connection is Realtek Gigabit and the Realtek audio has six mini jacks to deliver surround sound.
There are a couple of surprises in store and both relate to memory. The first is system memory support, which is capped at DDR2-800 which doesn't sound too terrible. However, this is single channel memory in two modules rather than dual channel as you might expect. The second point is that the video memory is shared system memory, which is standard practice, but the amount is fixed at 64MB. This may well be a sensible move on the parts of nVidia and MSI because the GeForce 7100 isn't intended to be a gaming hotshot. But honestly, when did you last see a graphics card that only has 64MB of relatively slow memory. You have been warned!