MSI 648 MAX-F
2002: Year of the Pentium 4?
The Pentium 4 processor has gained a considerable amount of ground among hardware enthusiasts this year. While Intel's aggressive price cuts have definitely had a positive impact on Pentium 4 sales, two other factors have played a significant role in the Pentium 4's newfound acceptance. The first (but not necessarily foremost) would be the architectural changes Intel has implemented in the Pentium 4 this year. Intel kicked the year off with its "Northwood" Pentium 4 core. By doubling the size of the L2 cache to 512K, we witnessed a 9% performance improvement at 2.0GHz. To increase system performance even further, Intel bumped the clock frequency of the Pentium 4's system bus to 533MHz.
As a result of both of these changes, and Intel's unrelenting stream of processor releases this year, Intel has arguably regained the performance crown from AMD.
Of course, having a high performance part means nothing if the platform it's built around isn't affordable. With the Athlon XP historically bringing very competitive performance at a lower cost than the Pentium 4, lowering platform costs has been an important point for Intel. In order to accomplish this last point, Intel has introduced the 845 platform for the Pentium 4 processor with multiple variants offering support for SDRAM, DDR SDRAM and integrated graphics. This has significantly improved the situation for the Pentium 4 but these Intel chipsets don't offer support for the latest memory technologies or AGP 8X.
This is where SiS steps in. SiS's chipset platforms support the latest technologies and sell for a lower price than 845 in many cases. As a result, SiS's market share has increased significantly over the past year. The SiS 648 chipset that MSI's 648 MAX series is built around supports Intel's new 533MHz system bus, AGP 8X, and DDR333 memory. From a features perspective, the 845 chipset doesn't even come close. And as you'll soon see in our performance benchmarks, this gives the 648 MAX a significant performance advantage over motherboards built on Intel's DDR266 chipset. Besides offering an incredible price/performance ratio, MSI has added a few goodies of its own to the 648 Max.
Lets take a closer look at what MSI brings to the table with this motherboard.