The Economical Way to a Pentium 4 System: Five Motherboards with the SiS648 Chipset

MSI 648 Max (MS-6585)

Board Revision: 1.2 (November 3, 2002)

BIOS Version: 1.0

While AOpen relies on Audio and FireWire to tempt buyers and Gigabyte brandishes its red pencil, MSI goes to extremes. It is the only board among the test candidates to offer not only the usual gimmicks (AC97 sound, 6x USB 2.0, 6x PCI) but also a Bluetooth interface and a Gigabit ethernet controller from Broadcom. Even the sound system was supplemented with several interfaces. So the adapter module has digital outputs (coaxial and optical) and outputs for the rear speakers, center speaker and a subwoofer - if six-channel sound is ever used.

The layout shows the same weaknesses as most of its rivals: the IDE ports are right in front of the PCI slots and should be positioned higher up.

The 648 Max scores respectably in matters of overclocking: it is the only one beside AOpen that offers many possible FSB clock speeds (precisely to the MHz), as well as an increase in the processor voltage. The gates will be wide open for the power-hungry user to exploit the available hardware.

We liked the package, which stands out with numerous adapters (see the photos) and a useful software list.

The IDE ports would be better placed somewhere else. Here, long PCI plug-in cards are in the way - fortunately not in front of all the slots.

This adapter has a double function. For one, it plays host to two additional USB 2.0 ports. Moreover, the Bluetooth module is in this box.

The audio adapter is also included. It offers optical and coaxial digital outputs and ports for center/ subwoofer and rear speakers.

Included are both an IDE and a floppy cable. Also pictured: the ATX panel made necessary by the repositioning of the ports.

While others suppress it, MSI includes the game port. However, joysticks with USB are the best choice today.

Good work: a comprehensive manual and a quick start guide in 12 languages.

A ghastly green: MSI's packaging - impossible to overlook.
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