MSI 645E Max2-LRU SiS 645DX Motherboard Review
By Vince Freeman :
May 13, 2002
MSI 645E Max2-LRU Features
The MSI 645E Max2-LRU supports all Socket 478 Pentium 4 processors using either the 400 or 533 MHz front-side bus, right up to the recently-released Pentium 4-2.53 GHz. The 645E Max2-LRU features 3 DIMM sockets (maximum 3 GB - 3 x 1-GB DIMMs) with 200, 266 and 333 MHz DDR speeds available. Either single or double-sided DDR memory can be used, but only to a maximum of 6 banks. This is an important consideration when upgrading, as the 645E Max2 lets you fill up all three DIMM sockets with standard dual-sided/dual-banked DDR memory.
The MSI 645E Max2-LRU features a 1 AGP/5 PCI/1 CNR slot design, with the universal AGP slot supporting both 2X and 4X video cards. The presence of a CNR slot will likely elicit groans from the hardcore buyer, but this is likely in a nod towards the OEM or corporate market. With 5 PCI slots, the expansion levels are not affected and most will probably disregard the CNR slot entirely.
There is also 6-channel audio incorporated onto the 645E Max2-LRU, in the form of integrated SiS961B AC'97 support and a 6-channel ALC 650 codec. This provides basic 6-channel audio and MSI has also included an S-Bracket unit that features dual-analogue audio out, along with optical and coaxial SPDIF jacks.
LAN support is provided through a Realtek 8101L chip and the ATX back panel includes a RJ-45 connector. The quad-USB 1.1 ports are standard, and USB 2.0 functionality is supported by the NEC D720100. MSI has gone with the relatively-unknown ACARD Achip ATP865 for the on-board ATA-133 IDE RAID hardware, but the chip performed well in our testing. Our review board also included the optional D-Bracket USB bracket, which features four LEDs for system diagnosis. This is similar to the old MSI D-LED hardware, except having it visible from the back of the case certainly helps trouble-shoot problems a lot easier.
The beauty of the IDE features of the 645E Max2-LRU is that both the SiS 961B Southbridge and ACARD RAID chip support ATA-133. This allows a greater freedom in positioning ATA-133 hard drives, as well as allowing up to 8 IDE devices. We tested the ACARD RAID functionality and it worked perfectly in RAID (IBM ATA-100) or single-drive setups using IBM ATA-100, Western Digital ATA100, and Maxtor ATA-133 drives. This particular chip shouldn't give you any trouble with newer drives, but just to make sure, there is a list of certified IDE devices in the MSI user manual.