by October 1, 2005 0 comments

MSI P4N Diamond

Overall 
Ranking
100
77 88
Feature Performance
Price: Rs
16500

Without doubt, this is our best performing Intel based board in this review and thus with an overall score of 100, is the winner in the Intel category. It is a solid performer by a mile and scored a superb 88, about 10 points clear of the second best performer. The board is really nicely designed. Our only gripe is with a power connector that has been provided next to an SLI slot. While installing, the wire for this comes over the CPU fan which could potentially lead to problems later as your fan will stop if the wire comes in between and that will most certainly fry your CPU.

Other than that, this is a great board with all the essential features and more like Firewire and coaxial S/PDIF. It has a single
PCI-E x1 slot which becomes redundant the minute you put in a graphics card in the first SLI slot. If you put it in the other SLI slot, then you lose out on a PCI slot.

Having said all of the above, you should also note that the board does not come with any fancy add-ons like Bluetooth or WI-Fi or even a TV tuner which marginally expensive boards like ASUS P5WD2 Premium are bundling in. However, these boards are much lower on performance than the Diamond and you should only skip this board if you want more features with average performance.

RQS# E26 or SMS 131026 to 9811800601

ASUS P5ND2-SLIz

Overall 
Ranking
97
79 78
Feature Performance
Price: Rs
16900

This board ran neck and neck with our winner in terms of features and price. In fact it beat the P4N Diamond in bundled features. However, the board was around 13% slower than our winner which ensured that the Diamond won overall. It has some really interesting features like an external SATA connector! which when connected to an external SATA box or a port multiplier enables hot pluggable SATA
functionality. It has the usual S/PDIF coax and optical, dual gigabit, firewire and 8 channel audio. The PCI-E x1 slots are placed between the 2 SLI slots meaning that if you use SLI, then these ports will be wasted as they get covered by the cards. The board costs 400 rupees more than the Diamond and packs in a few more features but is slightly lower on performance. If you need dual Gigabit and the external SATA port more than the performance then you should consider it. RQS# E27 or SMS 131027 to 9811800601

MSI 915PL Neo-V

Overall 
Ranking
98
57 76
Feature Performance
Price: Rs
4200

The MSI 915PL Neo-V came with a slot which MSI call the Accelerated Graphics Riser and it enables you to put a graphics card on this PCI Express board. The caveat is that not all graphics cards are compatible with this technology. MSI has a list of compatible cards so make sure you have one before you buy this. The obvious advantage of this technology is that if you do end up having a compatible card, you need not shell out extra for a PCI-E graphics card.

Apart from this feature, this board was a very decent performer and we would seriously recommend it for the value buyers. If you want to move upto PCI Express but don’t want to shell out more for the graphics card and have an AGR compatible card (e.g. 5950, 5700 etc) then you should look at this board.

Having said that, this board is sorely lacking on features but has the bare essentials like Ethernet, USB and SATA ports.

A severe disadvantage that this board has is that it has only 2 RAM slots compared to a minimum of 4 found everywhere else.

This will limit you in terms of the number of upgrades you can do so for example if you presently have 2 x256 MB RAM and you to upgrade to 1GB, you’ll have to buy 2 new 512 MB chips which will increase the upgrading cost by a fair margin but that of course will depend on your bargaining skills! RQS# E28 or SMS 131028 to 9811800601

Foxconn 915 PL7AE-8S

Overall 
Ranking
99
58 78
Feature Performance
Price: Rs
4195

This is a low cost reasonable performance board which beat even the MSI 915PL in performance. The board had a similar AGR slot as mentioned above but what it also had was an S/PDIF out, PCI-E x1 slot, and an extremely neat and well laid out design. However, it suffered from the same problem as the MSI board which is the lack of RAM slots (it has all of 2) but then you really shouldn’t expect the world for 4k.

In terms of performance, it easily beat the MSI 915PL indicating a slightly better chipset implementation. Also, the board is slightly bigger than the MSI board and is a good buy if you are a value conscious customer who doesn’t much care for features but are looking for a good performing cheap motherboard. 

A word of caution: this board has a below par graphics card slot lock so be careful about properly tightening your cards screws when you put it in the slot. RQS# E29 or SMS 131029 to 9811800601

Foxconn 915GV7MH-S

Overall 
Ranking
96
56 74
Feature Performance
Price: Rs
4295

This was the final economically priced board that we tested and this board again had a useful feature that it supported both DDR and DDRII specifications of RAM. Now you should know that due to the inherent limitations of the technology, DDR II is as of today, slower than the DDR specification but in the near future (probably six months) once its speed goes beyond the threshold of 600 MHz, it is touted to be faster than DDR and it is for that reason that you should buy a board which has support for it.

This board allows the best of both worlds. It lets you use DDR now and later if you so choose, you can upgrade to DDR II to ensure that your performance requirements are met. This obviously limits the slots to only two for each RAM as you cannot include DDR and DDR II BOTH at the same time.

The board features 3 PCI slots, the usual 4 USB and Ethernet and 6 channel audio. 

A drawback in the layout was that the graphics and PCI slots were extremely tightly packed and could lead to some heating issues if you add too many components. But over all, a great board at a great price. RQS# E30 or SMS 131030 to 9811800601

MSI 925 XE Neo

Overall 
Ranking
93
72 76
Feature Performance
Price: Rs
13500

This board is a healthy mix of performance and features but considering the price, it’s quite a good buy for the fact that it is based on the 925 chipset.

It has all the features we have seen so far such as onboard firewire, SATA, S/PDIF and dual Gigabit Ethernet. 

The board lost out a bit on the performance side due to its lack of SLI support which has become so fundamental for performance in these graphics heavy times.

This board was one of the absolute best we saw in all the boards and MSI has cleverly put the PCI-E x1 slots next to the graphics slot so even you put a graphics card (and you wil have to since 925 like Nforce 4
doesn’t support onboard video) it will only occupy one PCI-E x1 slot and you will have all 3 PCI slots to your self!.

Unlike the Gigabyte Royal, where we had capacitors stuck between the RAM slots, here the RAM slots get their own space that makes the layout a lot neater.

The downside is that the board has only 4 SATA ports (unlike others with 6 and 8) also, it doesn’t have any of the features such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or stable power supply devices like the DPOS in Gigabyte.

All in all, if you want a great performing board based on the 925 chipset, and don’t care about features such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, you can take a look at this board. RQS# E31 or SMS 131031 to 9811800601


MSI 915G Neo2

Overall 
Ranking
88
63 70
Feature Performance
Price: Rs
8500

Based on the 915G chipset from Intel, this board is an interesting mix of both old and new. A fairly conventional board with features like S/PDIF, SATA but interestingly, it supports the DDR2 standard of RAM and has Gigabit Ethernet and sports 2 PCI-E x1 slots with 3 PCI slots. 

The board has very standard, average features like 4 SATA ports, Ethernet,S/PDIF etc. and comes with the bare minimum of cables (only as many as the above mentioned value boards that are half it’s price) which is extremely surprising considering MSI is charging a cool 8k for it! It gave us the lowest scores in almost every performance benchmark we ran on it, from Doom 3 to Video encoding, a really poor performer.

There really is no difference between the features of the MSI 915G Neo2 vis-à-vis the MSI 915G Neo3, except the performance where the Neo 3 reigns supreme by a long way so if you have about 8000 rupees to spend on a board, we recommend you add 500 to your budget and buy the Neo3 for its better performance and similar features. RQS# E32 or SMS 131032 to 9811800601

MSI 915G Neo 3

Overall 
Ranking
91
61 79
Feature Performance
Price: Rs
8000

This motherboard scored a total of 91 in our tests and lost out primarily on the features and price factors. The board really doesn’t have any additional features except for the optical and coaxial S/PDIF and even this feature was found on most boards. The manufacturers have only included 1 Ethernet port on board and provided support for another one by a cable, similar treatment has been meted out to Firewire but there they have been thoughtful enough to provide both a and b specification ports.

In terms of the layout, this is one of the cleanest boards we received. Even the RAM channels were spaced out and nowhere did they cut corners on space. The only problem here was that the power input slot was placed just behind the sound connectors which means that your power cable will be moving around a fan running at speeds ranging from 3-10,000 RPM depending on the fan you are using. At these speeds, you can easily get your power cables damaged which can lead to short circuits on the board.

In terms of performance, this board scored a cool 79making it the second best performer here but it is rather low on cool features so if you are a little tight on budget but are looking for some
serious performance, your search ends here. RQS# E33 or SMS 131033 to 9811800601


Gigabyte GA-8I955X Royal

Overall 
Ranking
89
77 61
Feature Performance
Price: Rs
16950

If you want to be spoiled with expansive packing and a feeling of, well…royalty, look no further than this board. This is our third most feature rich board which had pretty much everything but a T.V (some boards came with even THAT!). It had Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, S/PDIF, a DPOS card which we also saw in the K8NXP-SLI. 

Surprisingly, for all the fanfare, this board is not SLI capable which was a major reason for its lack of scores. Now you may say that the comparison is unfair but very similarly priced boards are giving you all these features and are SLI capable as well (in fact our winner is cheaper!) so why shouldn’t Gigabyte?

The board lay out was just about ok. We had a small issue with the same space between the two memory channel slots being filled with capacitors! This was the only board to feature this kind of a layout and it is not recommended for the simple reason that it obstructs the airflow to the RAM and can cause the overall ambient system temperature to go up.

Despite this board NOT being an SLI, the PCI slots were quite closely packed to with the graphics slot and there not being any on-board video, you will be forced to use a graphics card and lose out on a PCI slot. 

Another issue here was that it had 4 SATA connectors packed quite close to each other but the others were almost at the other end of the adjacent edge! This will lead to a lot of cables running around over the board which will again obstruct the air flow.

So, if you want the features, but don’t much care for SLI or extreme performance, go for this board otherwise stick with our winners as they cost the same or lesser. RQS# E34 or SMS 131034 to 9811800601

ASUS P5AD2-E Premium

Overall 
Ranking
96
78 77
Feature Performance
Price: Rs
17300

This is our second most feaure rich board in this category and scored a total of 96 points. It had all the glitzy features like Firewire, optical S/PDIF, Wi-Fi and ASUS even bundled in an additional card which lets you connect 2 external SATA drive bays to enable SATA hot plug and play. The board is quite well laid out except that the graphics slot is again very close to the PCI slots which ensures that one of them is left unusable when you put in a card and since its based on the 925 XE chipset and doesn’t come with on-board video, you will need to add a graphics card to it.

ASUS also bundled in some connectors for Firewire(b spec) and another LAN port to give you better connectivity. These will need to be connected to the appropriate slots in the socket and you will then have to screw the port into the back panel.
There are 8 SATA ports in the board and they are split along different edges of the board. So if you use the external SATA connector port, then you will really appreciate their thoughtfulness as you have 4 ports near the back end of the cabinet to ensure easy cabling.

Keep in mind that coupled with the Firewire/Ethernet and the External SATA ports, your precious backpanel real estate is already getting crowded and soon you might not find enough space to put all your peripherals so you should keep the various upgrade options in mind before buying your cabinet itself.

We were quite surprised and in fact a bit disappointed by this boards performance which was lower than even the Foxconn 915PL! This board retails for over 17k and for this price you can get our winner board the MSI P4N Diamond or if you care more for the features, then you can go in for the ASUS ALife P5WD2 Premium series. RQS# E35 or SMS 131035 to 9811800601

ASUS ALife P5WD2 Premium

Overall 
Ranking
95
79 74
Feature Performance
Price: Rs    

When ASUS puts the tag of Premium next to a board, it really does mean ‘Premium’, so much so that we had a difficult time figuring out if there was actually a feature this board didn’t have! Well, we eventually got picky and found that it did not support Bluetooth but if you can live with that (probably by buying a Bluetooth adapter) then this board will give you everything else. Wi-fi, TV, FM (with remotes for both), Firewire, SATA, S/PDIF/ even the External SATA connector was on board!

The board had no shortage of features but the place where it lost out the most was performance. For some reason, despite being SLI and everything, this board did not perform the level seen by boards such as the P4N Diamond. The board lost out most heavily in DOOM 3 and 3DMark 2005 or Multimedia Content Creation, implying that this is not a board meant for people looking for extreme gaming machines but if you were to play games on it, it will play them at a great frame rate.

The board had a very peculiar design in terms of the placement of the various PCI slots. This was the only board with two PCI slots placed between the SLI slots! So if you were to use this board in SLI mode, these slots would be completely unusable. The graphics cards will over run the 2 PCI and 1 PCI-E x1 slot so all you are left with is just 1 PCI slot! Very strange indeed because if you wanted to put in an internal modem and a sound card it would be impossible if you are using SLI 

These few problems brought the score down further and gave it an overall lower score but if you are looking for sheer features, don’t overlook this board before making your final decision. RQS# E36 or SMS 131036 to 9811800601

Elitegroup PF21 Extreme

Overall 
Ranking
81
67 80
Feature Performance
Price: Rs 8750

The ECS PF21 Extreme is done up in typical ECS colors of purple PCB peppered with multicolored slots. The board is a great mix of features and performance and does a brilliant balancing job. It has all the myriad features seen on other boards like two Ethernet ports (10/100 and Gigabit), optical S/PDIF and Firewire along with 6 SATA ports, 3 PCI and 2 PCIe x1 slots. 

The board has a fan just behind the Ethernet ports which sucks the air displaced by the CPU fan making cooling efficient and ensuring that your processor keeps it’s cool even when it is at its busiest!

The board scored fairly high on features but doesn’t come with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and stuff. It is a very solid performer scoring a respectable 72, only marginally lower than the more expensive MSI 925XE. The PF21 Extreme is about 2500 rupees cheaper and gives you more features so if you are tight on budget and don’t mind a slightly lower performing board, this one will fit the bill perfectly as it has been very cleverly positioned between the entry level high end boards which start somewhere around 8000 and the mother of all boards like the ASUS A8N- SLI which will set you back by a cool 17k. RQS# E37 or SMS 131037 to 9811800601

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