MSI P7NGM-Digital (NVIDIA GeForce 9300 mGPU)

The MSI P7NGM-Digital

The MSI P7NGM-Digital

First, we're not going to talk about NVIDIA's chipset in this article because we have already covered it here. For those who are unfamiliar, all you need to know is that the MSI P7NGM-Digital uses the same GeForce 9300 mGPU chipset with the exact same specifications, so you'll get the integrated GPU running at the same 450MHz for its 16 stream processors and with PureVideo HD support capable of hardware acceleration for HD content.

The MSI P7NGM-Digital comes in a standard micro-ATX form factor, which means sacrificing some expansion slots.

This mATX board supports all Core 2 processors up to the 45nm variety and 1333MHz front side bus (FSB). The memory support is up to 8GB of DDR2-800 with four DIMM slots and storage options include six SATA 3.0Gbps ports natively along with two IDE devices thanks to a JMicron JMB368 controller. RAID options are present too with NVIDIA's MediaShield technology. MSI has also roped in Realtek for the HD audio and Gigabit LAN found onboard.

There are many ports that are useful for those looking for a media center board, including HDMI, DVI and the standard VGA. However, the mATX form factor means there are some notable omissions like S/PDIF and eSATA. The four USB 2.0 ports are also relatively few.

MSI has surprisingly kept some legacy technologies alive, including COM and Parallel port headers. There's also FireWire, though it's not available on the base variant of this board; so do check the motherboard specs carefully at purchase if this is important to you. We also found an S/PDIF header onboard, but there is neither a coaxial or optical S/PDIF output on the rear I/O. You can have up to ten USB 2.0 ports, but MSI only provides four at the rear I/O.

There are six SATA 3.0Gbps ports as determined by the chipset. The layout is not ideal, with the ports aligned such that the SATA cables may be blocked by longer expansion cards.

The heatsink felt only slightly warm to the touch during our testing. It was not too large either and didn't interfere with the CPU socket, which was nicely free of obstructions.

It may be an mATX board but that doesn't mean you can't get the full complement of four DIMM (DDR2) slots, IDE and floppy connectors.

Besides the single PCIe 2.0 x16 graphics slot, there's also two PCI and one PCIe x1 slot. Not many, but typical for a mATX board.

Overall, the layout of the board was pretty standard. There was adequate space around the CPU socket for third-party coolers of your choice and most of the onboard headers were relegated to the edge of the board. The DIMM slots could have been positioned more towards the right edge of the board unlike its present placement. The SATA ports could have also been better placed while we liked having the floppy, power and floppy connectors all in close proximity. We only saw one system fan pin header besides the CPU fan so that could be increased by at least another pair. However, given its mATX dimensions, we won't quibble too much.

Finally, MSI went for the now-typical solid capacitors and shielded chokes to improve reliability and power efficiency but there was none of the MSI proprietary technologies like Core Cell and GreenPower. In short, it's a solidly mainstream product.

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