Features and Layout
This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.Because the only layouts we have seen on the dual-Athlon markets thus far have been from the Tyan Tiger and Thunder boards, the look of a new layout from MSI was a shock. 🙂 The very first thing I noticed when picking up the board was the stiffness of the PCB. This led me to find the fact that it was indeed a 6-layer PCB board.
The layout itself is decent, but nothing spectacular. The ATX power connector is in the upper left portion of the motherboard allowing it to be easily reached by the ATX power cord in cases that may be full sized (tall). While the MSI board does have an additional 4-pin 12V ATX power connector to deliver the extra power the dual-Athlons require, unlike the Tyan board, there is not the convenience of a standard 4-pin drive power connector that allows users with older power supplies to use the newer dual-Athlon motherboards.
The DIMM slots on the motherboard support standard PC2100 and PC1600 memory in the first and second slots. Any confusion on whether or not this is true can be laid to rest by the fact that MSI actually silk-screened this fact on the board, next to the memory slots. To use more than two, though, you will need to use registered memory, and most probably ECC.
A large heatsink and an active cooling fan cover the AMD-760 MPX north bridge. The cooling solution MSI chose is only slightly better than what Tyan has traditionally gone with. This may be because MSI is giving the user some options in the bios, which I will discuss later.
The processor sockets for the Athlon MP CPUs are decently laid out and offer good space for installation of the heatsinks. However, just as with the Tyan motherboard, mounting some of the larger heatsinks such as the Alphas may be a bit more work than they are worth.
The expansion layout is similar to that of the Tyan Tiger MPX board but varies in a couple of places. First, the MSI K7D Master offers the user an AGP Pro slot instead of just a standard AGP slot. There may be some of you that are workstation dwellers and need the AGP Pro support, so you will find this board the most attractive. However, there is one fewer PCI slot. The Tiger had 4 32-bit PCI slots and the MSI has only 3 32-bit slots. The same amount of 64-bit PCI slots can be found, coming in at 2.
The storage support on the MSI board, just as with the Tyan Tiger board, is about as plain as you can get. You will find a floppy channel and two IDE-ATA/100 channels for your devices. The layout of the K7D Master does not lend itself towards the idea of an IDE RAID option, so don’t expect one any time soon. I think that the first manufacturer to release a dually board with IDE RAID and some other good features like that will have a hit on their hands.