Since our initial look at CrossFire back in September, we've had our fair share of problems with getting CrossFire motherboards to function well enough to complete a review. This is the third board we've had in our labs, and we think its safe to say that this is third time lucky. Since September, ATI has launched Radeon X1800XT and the CrossFire Edition card too. We should have a CrossFire system review later this month, so we'll talk more about how CrossFire X1800 performs when that day comes.
Not only that, but its possible to use two Radeon X1600 or Radeon X1300-series cards together in CrossFire without the need for any of the Master/Slave malarky. This is the way that CrossFire has to go if its to be as well-received as SLI.
Today, we are looking at MSI's RD480 Neo2. It's a mid-range ATI CrossFire motherboard that uses the RD480 North Bridge / ULi M1573 South Bridge combination. That combination has proven quite popular with a lot of motherboard partners due to the poor-performing SB450 South Bridge. The board comes with MSI's CoreCell technology and their orange 'communications' PCI slot with improved signal quality. It's not an all bells all whistles Platinum or Diamond Edition motherboard, but it does come with an attractive price. Read on to find out whether this board is worth a place on your short list - we've got all the answers here.
Supports all AMD Athlon 64 socket 939 CPUs including FX and X2 and Cool ’n’ Quiet technology;
ATI RD480 northbridge supporting 2000MT/s HyperTransport and ATI Crossfire technology;
MSI CoreCell technology;
Four 2.5V DDR slots supporting up to 4Gig of PC3200 unbuffered DIMMs.;
ULI 1573 southbridge;
Two PCIe x16 slots (available modes of operation: x16 & x1 or x8 & x8);
Two PCIe x1 slots;
Two legacy PCI slots (one of which is MSI’s orange Communications PCI slot);
Two IDE ATA133 channels;
Four SATA ports supporting RAID 0, 1 or 0+1 mode;
Eight USB 2.0 ports: 4 on rear I/O, 4 through motherboard pins;
Realtek Gigabit LAN;
Three IEEE 1394a Firewire ports: one on rear I/O, two through motherboard pins;
Realtek ALC880 High Definition audio supporting 7.1 channel sound up to 24bit/96KHz. Includes Dolby Digital, Optical and RCA S/PDIF out.
MSI RD480 Neo 2 motherboard;
Single molex to two SATA harddisk power cable;
Single, black floppy disk cable;
Single, black IDE cable;
USB 2.0 rear PCI bracket with D-LED;
Single, orange SATA cable;
Metal rear I/O shield;
MSI user manuals, driver CD and SATA floppy driver disk.
To say the least, the bundle is thin on the ground but this is where MSI saves money for the consumer. The bundle is a long way away from providing everything required to use all ports on the motherboard, but MSI include just enough to get the end user going, while saving money by not providing an excess of equipment. If MSI release a Platinum or Diamond edition CrossFire board, it will come with everything you’ll need in the box if previous flagship MSI motherboards are anything to go by.
We understand that SATA cables can be bought everywhere, but finding a place where you can buy PCI brackets with IEEE 1394a Firewire ports on them is next to impossible. If you're looking for Firewire connectivity and choose this motherboard, you'll end up scouting ebay or forums for someone with a spare expansion bracket.