MSI or Micro Star International is among to the top five motherboard manufacturers in the world and it is also one of the largest manufacturers of nVidia graphics cards as well as a wide range of other computer components.
Being such a large company our expectations were high and the 865PE Neo2-FIS2R certainly didnâ€™t disappoint.
The by now familiar Intel 865PE chipset is the core of the 865PE Neo2-FIS2R as the name implies. Native S-ATA RAID is supported by the ICH5R chipset and a Promise controller adds another two S-ATA connectors which gives the board a total of four. If you intend to get four S-ATA drives and RAID them, be aware that as with all other boards on test you can only RAID two drives in any configuration, as data cannot be shared between the different controllers. The Promise controller also adds an IDE RAID to the board.
You do of course get Firewire and MSI supplies a bracket with three ports. Networking comes courtesy of an Intel CSA Gigabit controller, which is the preferred solution for the Intel chipsets.
Sound is provided by a 5.1-channel C-Media chipset with software Dolby Digital support and MSI also supplies a rear bracket with outputs for rear, centre and subwoofer as well as coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs. A novelty item is the fan on the chipset as it features three-colour LEDs that flash in various patterns.
MSI recently introduced its Corecell technology, which adds a wide range of overclocking features to its range of high-end motherboards as well as improved thermal management and power regulation. The 865PE Neo2-FIS2R also features what MSI refers to as PAT or Performnace Acceleration Technology, which improves the memory performance of the board. This is not unique to MSI, but it seems like MSI has managed to do this better than any of the other boards on test if you take a closer look at the Sisoft Sandra scores.
This board also features what MSI calls DOT, or Dynamic Overclocking Technology, which overclocks your CPU automatically if you are utilising 100 percent of its capacity. We disabled DOT when we benchmarked the board as it wouldnâ€™t be fair to leave this enabled.
On top of the brackets mentioned MSI also supplies one with two USB 2.0 ports as well as four diagnostic LEDs. You also get four S-ATA data and power cables in the box as well as a rounded IDE cable and a floppy cable.
A well written, technical manual is supplied, but no easy to use setup guide, as with most of the boards. This is a shame and we expected a bit better from MSI.
The software CD contains Photoshop Album SE, WinDVD 4, WinRip 2, VirtualDrive 7, RestoreIT 3 and Media Ring Dialer. A copy of PC-cillin 2002 is also supplied on the driver CD.
So far so good for MSI, but where the 865PE Neo2-FIS2R really shows what itâ€™s made of is in the benchmarks. It shared second place in Sysmark 2002, while it was also the second fastest in PC Mark 2002 as well as 3DMark 2001 SE. It even came out with some really impressive numbers in Sisoft Sandra.
Although the 865PE Neo2-FIS2R is a fairly expensive motherboard at just over Â£121 it is still well worth the money as it offers excellent performance and a wide range of useful features. We were impressed by the performance and it is a good choice for any high-end Pentium 4 PC and should definitely be on anyoneâ€™s list.
This is the board for performance junkies as MSI comes out near the top in all the benchmarks. It also comes with an excellent set of features and at a reasonable asking price. A well deserved winner of our Editors Choice.