Good and Bad
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The K7Pro uses the AMD 750 chipset, and MSI chose to use both AMD based north and south bridge. The AMD 751 North Bridge is what controls the AGP and memory buses on the motherboard, among other things. The AGP is a 2X max port, and the RAM supports PC100. The 756 South Bridge give the board the standard ATA/66 IDE port and the PCI/ISA slots. As many of you already knew, this is point where the AMD 750 chipset falls behind. The newer VIA KX133 chipset offers the users PC133 memory and the ability to use the AGP in 4X mode.
MSI decided that to entice more consumers towards their board, they would go the extra mile when it comes to the on-board audio that many motherboard manufacturers are including. MSI, working with Creative, has included the ESS chipsets 1373 and 1375 instead of the standard, generic AC’97 codecs. The quality of this sound chip is enough for the average gamer and only those who need to have the highest in audio quality should look for another sound card: the Sound Blaster Live! comes to mind here.
MSI has targeted their K7Pro towards the overclocker/gamer. Besides the sound improvement, there are also the increased options in the BIOS to aid in pushing your Athlon processor to the limit. The AMI Bios allows for FSB options from 100-125 mHz, in 1 mHz increments. It also carries the options for 133, 140 and 150 mHz, which we were never able to reach, of course. However, we were able to reach the 110 mHz range stably using some Mushkin PC133 RAM on the board, which is 2 mHz than any previous AMD 750 motherboard. Voltage adjusting is also a BIOS option, from 1.40v to 1.75v in 0.5v increments. This board, in combination with any of the gold-finger devices makes an excellent machine for overclocking.
Another good feature implemented into the MSI K7Pro is the addition of an additional PCI slot. Unlike most of the other AMD 750 and some of the KX133 boards, MSI has a 6/1/1/0 slot configuration (PCI, ISA, AGP, AMR). Some may think that the lack of an AMR slot as a drawback, but I do not believe that many Athlon users are taking advantage of the port anyway. And if there was a choice between the AMR and the extra PCI, I’ll the take the PCI any day.
SuperBypass is another one of the features that was added to the AMD 750 chipset late in the game, but it is included in the MSI K7Pro, if you get the appropriate revision. SuperBypass is used to decrease the response time needed for the CPU, RAM, and AGP port to communicate, thereby increasing system performance, especially for games. Something not seen on any other Athlon board is the inclusion of a diagnostic LED system. 4 LED lights, seated behind the parallel port, facing in towards the CPU, are used to communicate POST and general booting problems during troubleshooting. These came in handy during our overclocking testing, as the machine froze during POST. I referenced the manual and saw the LED configuration meant it locked during the floppy drive testing. Replacing the floppy cable fixed this, and the testing continued.
There are only a couple faults in the motherboard that I could find, besides the obvious AGP 2X and PC100 memory. There was the placement of the ATX power connector, which we have seen plague many of the Athlon motherboards. There is only about 2.25” between the connector and the CPU slot-A, so any large heatsink/fan combinations will have to be modified accordingly. Also, the SuperBypass option was a really pain in the neck to enable. I actually called MSI tech support before I got it working correctly, by disabling the automatic SPD settings for the RAM in the BIOS. Minor, but annoying.