The MSI K7D Master Dual Socket A Motherboard
Athlon Power X 2!

By Marco Chiappetta
May 21, 2002

THE BIOS:

The MSI K7D Master is equipped with an Award BIOS, similar to the vast majority of boards that have passed through the H.H. labs.  There are a wide array of options available for tweaking memory and AGP performance, as well as settings for enabling or disabling the on-board accessories.  We were also pleased to see options available to shut the system down if the CPU hits a certain temperature. 

The "Frequency / Voltage Control" section of the BIOS, where all of the overclocking tools are found, is a little light.  Users have the ability to alter multipliers between 5 and 12.5, and can change the CPU's core voltage from 1.1v to 1.85v in .25v increments.  There are no settings for AGP or memory voltage adjustments though.  The selection of Front Side Bus frequencies is also thin.  Users can select from only five options, 133, 138, 140, 144 or 150MHz.
 
Setup and Installation
Pretty Smooth

Installing and setting up the MSI K7D Master was quick and painless.  With the exception of installing the second CPU and making sure you've got a power supply capable of supporting the hardware, it's really no different than setting up any other system.  We should also mention the box recommends using only registered DIMMs, but the manual stated standard unbuffered DIMMS would work in the first two memory slots.  We tested the board with three different brands of memory, Corsair, Crucial and Mushkin, and found them all to work properly.  If you stick with quality memory, we don't think you'll have a problem.  Another interesting point is that this board worked properly for us with two Athlon XP CPUs installed.  Technically, the Athlon XP and MP are the same CPU, so for the most part, Athlon XPs will work in a Dual-CPU configuration.  The only difference between an Athlon XP and an Athlon MP is that the MPs go through a strict testing regimen to insure their compatibility and stability when used in a multi-processor setup.  This extra testing results in a higher price, but at least you'll know they work!  The K7D Master will also work with Durons and "Thunderbird" Athlons, but only with a single CPU.

   

The MSI K7D Master is equipped with an AGP Pro slot, two 64-bit / 66MHz PCI slots and three 32-bit / 33MHz PCI slots.  Many PCI 2.1 cards will work in the 64-Bit slots, but you lose one PCI slot to the included USB 2.0 card though and, unfortunately, it will NOT fit in one of the 64-Bit slots.  There are four DIMM slots capable of a maximum of 4GB of memory when using registered DIMMs.  There is ample room around the sockets for most aftermarket coolers, but don't expect to fit anything too large, like an Alpha 8045 on this board.  We used a pair of Vantec CCK-6035Ds.
 

   

Mounted to the Northbridge is a very nice heatsink and fan combo, which luckily had a smooth layer of thermal paste applied before installation.  Something we found more interesting were the relatively large heatsinks mounted to the M.O.S.F.E.T.s that comprise the CPU power circuitry.  On virtually every new motherboard, these M.O.S.F.E.T.s used in the power circuitry generally get very hot.  Adding heatsinks to keep them cool is an excellent step towards insuring a long lifetime, while increasing overall stability.  Kudos to MSI for taking this extra step.

   

The rest of the MSI K7D Master's physical aspects are similar to most other boards currently available.  The Floppy and IDE connectors are mounted at the corner of the board, perpendicular the edge.  The internal connectors for the case header are also at the edge of the board, and are clearly labeled, making installation that much easier.  Looking at the external connectors, you'll see the plug for the on-board Intel (yes Intel...hehe) 10/100 Ethernet controller as well as the standard PS2, Serial. Parallel and audio connectors.

Overclocking & Preliminary Tests