The MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR
A New nForce2 with Something Extra

By: Jeff Bouton
July 23rd, 2002


The installation CD was driven by MSI's clean menu system, giving easy access to all of the CD's software.  The main menu offers links to the system chipset drivers and RAID drivers while the utility section offers links to free VNC (Virtual Network Connection) software for remotely controlling the computer.  The website section offers information on various websites linking to driver updates and shareware software libraries.  We were a little surprised to find that the User's Guide outlined details on PCAlert4 and Cooler XP, yet no direct links were provided in any of the available menus.  We did confirm that the programs were included on the CD, but you'll need to browse the disk to find them.  In fact, we highly recommend that you do peruse the CD, there is a lot of other software to be found that is not mentioned anywhere else.

Now that we've covered some of the extras that come with the K7N2 Delta-ILSR, let's move on to the board itself.

 

Quality and Setup of the MSI K7N2 Delta-ILSR
Packed with Modern Conveniences

The Board


There really is no mistaking an MSI board when you see one.  The PCB is of the red flavor, as with any other MSI product, and each set of connections is colored uniquely to aid in easy identification of the board's components.  The board is clean and well thought out, although there are some issues to touch on.  The board sports a total of 1 Red AGP, 5 White PCI and 1 Blue Advanced Communication Riser (ACR) slot.  Even with a total of 7 slots on the board, MSI's engineers were able to leave close to an inch of space between the AGP slot and memory sockets to address the common problem of the video card getting in the way of the DIMM retention clips.  The Northbridge of the nForce2 sports a silver heat sink and fan assembly to help keep any excess heat at bay, a nice touch that should aid in the stability of the board.  One thing you may notice, however, is how close the HSF of the Northbridge comes to the Socket A.  In fact, the position of the CPU socket seems completely offset, causing not only the HSF of the Northbridge to crowd its space, but two capacitors appear uncomfortably close as well.  When we see how much space is available between the socket and the DIMMs, we are curious why the socket couldn't be moved slightly to give a little more breathing room for these components.  Clearly this can be an issue with an oversized heat sink and if you are one of those using a cooler such as an Alpha PAL series, you get burned twice not only by the lack room, but also due to the omission of mounting holes needed to secure it in place.

The IDE connectors are aligned perpendicular to the bottom edge of the board.  Just above the IDE connectors is the Promise PDC 20376 SATA 150 RAID controller which drives two SATA ports located at opposite sides of the chip, as well as one of the three IDE connectors.  When it comes to the power connectors, we found the placement less than ideal, allowing the power supply cabling to possibly drape over the top of the CPU cooler.  Conversely, we found the placement of the IEEE1394 headers to be excellent, just above the AGP slot, although we were momentarily fooled.  At first we couldn't understand why they would place the header at that location, forcing the wiring to be run over the video card to the next available slot, since typically the AGP slot occupies the first PCI space.  In this case however, MSI shifted all of the slots over so the AGP slot is actually second in line, leaving the first opening available for the IEEE1394 Bracket.

The K7N2 Delta-ILSR is not a completely jumperless motherboard, which is typically a downside, but in the case of the K7N2, we'll make an exception.  Between the audio outputs and the Northbridge were two green jumpers, one of which was for setting the CPU FSB too either 100MHz (open) or 133/166MHz (closed).  The other was a FSB Mode Jumper which comes in very handy during overclocking.  We've all done it, pushing the bus speed so high that the system no longer posted, forcing us to clear the BIOS and start over.  With the FSB Mode Jumper, all we had to do was set it to 100MHz (Safe-Mode), boot the system, enter the BIOS and lower the Bus speed.  We could then set the jumper back to User-Mode and boot the system normally.  This is a welcome setting that makes overclocking a little easier and less time consuming because you need no reset all of the other BIOS settings.

Aside from the placement of the Socket A, this is a well thought out motherboard that is clean, well organized and loaded with features.  Now we'll take a quick look at the BIOS and see how MSI ties it all together.

 

The BIOS and Synthetic Benchmarks