To view the actual factory lines the group had to don plastic overalls and shoe covers â€“ not really a great look. The equipment produces a large amount of heat and noise and wearing plastic over ones clothes make you feel pretty hot, pretty quickly. At the start of the production line are large machines that spit out the basic motherboard PCBs. What surprised me was how much manual labour was involved with a row of women sitting in a line covered in the requisite protective clothing and strapped to the benches to earth themselves so as not to damage the components. An LED board indicated the days target and how many have been reached at that stage.
After the bare PCBâ€™s emerge from the machines, the various sockets and brackets are all inserted manually. At one point I watched a women whose job it was to put the stickers on the side of the PCI slots, one by one. Itâ€™s undeniably mind numbing work but I guess on the grand scheme of world employment itâ€™s a good job â€“ clean conditions, safe and presumably relatively well paid.
Towards the end of the line the motherboards are fully boxed up, so they go from literally hot of the press to the final boxed product in only a few minutes. Next to this is the quality control area where random boxes are opened up and examined to ensure that quality is kept up.
The next area we were shown was the notebook line. We saw the LG Philips screens being unpacked and placed inside the bezels. Towards the end of the line, each port of the notebook is tested to ensure that it works, before each is soak tested for over six hours running intensive applications such as 3DMark 03.
The next day I learned the reason for the name of the tour. The Dual Decade idea was twined with the Dual CoreCell, a new technology that MSI is pushing. The Dual CoreCell is an ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) that has been designed to improve the performance of MSIâ€™s motherboards and VGA components in four key areas, Performance, Image, Sound and Silence.
MSI claims that the Dual CoreCell optimises the internal circuitry by reducing signal noise dramatically and delivering improved data transmission. A claimed benefit of this is that it facilitates higher and more stable overclocking, improves image quality on graphics cards, and provides cleaner and superior signals on the integrated sound components on motherboards.
Another benefit is the ability to monitor fan speeds and adjust them according to system load. Using the supplied MSI software you can choose a preset and have the system fans behave accordingly â€“ for a media centre system the fans would be reduced to lower the noise or you can have it full on for overclocking scenarios.
MSI said that the Dual in the name comes from the fact that the software enables you to control both motherboard and graphics card from one location, assuming that both are MSI products sporting the Dual CoreCell chip. It does sound a little overly dramatic though, as one would expect to be able to do something like that. The design of the software is also classic Taiwanese GUI nightmare, with ridiculous 3D layout and virtual buttons though MSI insists that itâ€™s "Easy-to-use and stylish". Why they canâ€™t use a simple Windows style dialogue thatâ€™s easy on the eyes is a mystery. If you want to get technical though, you can, as it gives very fine control over the voltages and clock speeds.
For those that donâ€™t want to specify exact parameters, if you donâ€™t have the time, patience or technical knowledge, the Dual Core Cell will control the Dynamic Overclocking Technology (D.O.T.) to provide an safe and automatic overclock of 5-10 per cent.
Currently, the Dual CoreCell is available on its NX7600T series graphics cards. This seems odd to me as I would have thought that it would want to put its flagship technology on its high-end products rather than the mid-range.
On the motherboard front itâ€™s available on the AMD K9 series and for Intel on its 975X/965 Series. MSI also had a demo ATI X1950 CrossFire platform running using the Dual Core Cell to offer high performance but without too much noise â€“ though there was naturally a serious amount of heat being pumped out of the back of this set-up. Unfortunately, I wasnâ€™t allowed to take pictures.
Having taken the factory tour and listened to the presentation I was soon on my way home. What I took from the tour was how MSI is a company that has a strong passion for its technology and I look forward to seeing its latest kit soon in the labs. Its certainly made me view motherboards in a new light.