Pros: Low cost and plenty of integrated features
Cons: limited memory speed
I recently bought a couple of used computers for both of my sons to replace the ancient Pentium 133 computers that they were using. I found that even with Pentium II 400 MHz processors they weren't fast enough to keep up with the software that they wanted to run. So I found myself looking for a solution that wouldn't break our bank. I was talking to my boss and he recommended that I out a motherboard and processor that he recently purchased for himself. He is a die hard Intel user and I knew that he was going to recommend an Intel brand process and I was right. The reason I was skeptical of his choice was that I have using mainly AMD brand processors in our computers when I buy new hardware.
It turned out that he recommended a combination of Intel Celeron and MSI for the processor and motherboard. I am very familiar with MSI brand motherboards since that is what have in my two other computers at home. Since the goal was to keep the cost way down I did go with the Intel Celeron D 315 processor and MSI P4MAM-V motherboard. This review is going to cover only the motherboard and I might write a future review on the processor.
The MSI P4MAM-V Motherboard uses a Via P4M266A 8325 chipset along with a FSB 533 architecture to control the flow of all the information to and from the processor. How this chipset compares with other chipset from Nvidia and Intel I can't begin to talk about, but as of right now I haven't encountered any incompatability issue or lockup problems.
My biggest concern about the fit was that it fit inside my existing case since it was a mini tower and I really didn't want to have to go out and buy brand new cases to do these upgrades. I knew by the size of the box that they were going to be a perfect fit and I was correct. The actual size of the board is 243 mm x 214 mm and I had plenty of room to fit it. Fortunately the case has a removable shield for the I/O connectors and I was able to install the one that came with this motherboard.
As I stated earlier I was going to be using Intel Celeron D 315 processors for these two computers and they were compatible with this MSI board. I was a bit hesitant to go with the Celeron processors in my home machines because I have had so much success with the AMD brand processors but I couldn't pass up the deal I got on the motherboards and processors. The Intel Celeron D processors are a lower end processor that Intel makes for PC makers that want to hold down the price of computers but still offer a decent amount of power. The P4MAM-V is compatible with both Intel P4 and Celeron (Northwood) and the Prescott 533 Socket 478 processors that are designed to run on motherboards with up 533 MB FSB (Front Side Bus).
MSI designed a bit of a limitation into this board by only having two DIMM slots for memory. This puts the maximum amount of memory at 2GB. I doubt I would even get close to that, but there are some power users out there that may find the 2GB limit too low. These two slots support DDR266 memory sticks. I installed one Kingston 512 MB DDR memory stick and it has provided plenty of memory for my kid's usage. You want to make sure that when you purchase the memory that you will be putting on this board that you select the right speed of memory; PC1600 and PC2100 are the only two speeds of memory that this board will handle.
The MSI P4MAM-V motherboard has an integrated video processor to handle the video and it provides decent graphics, but I was looking for a little bit more so my sons could play games. I was glad that MSI included an AGP slot that handles up 4x cards so I could install the new ATI Radeon 9250 graphic adapter.
I am really glad that MSI included onboard audio so I didn't have to spend money on a soundcard. The built in sound supports 3D 5.1 channel speaker systems. Using the three audio jacks in certain combinations will allow you to plug in the 5.1 speaker systems. The sound is provided by the AC97 link controller integrated inside the VT8235 Chipset and uses the VIA VT1616 6-channel software audio codec. I have found that sound quality is definitely acceptable for our uses and I didn't have to buy a sound card. However, if you prefer to purchase a soundcard you can use one of the three PCI slots that open.
MSI included the usual three drive controllers onboard (Primary IDE, Secondary IDE and Floppy) to give you plenty support for ATA hard drives, Optical drives and a floppy drive. This was perfect for my use since I was just hooking up one ATA hard drive, a 52X CD-ROM drive and a floppy drive. The placement of the connectors on the motherboard are easy to access when installing the cables and they are well marked on the motherboard. This board is not designed for those that might be interested in running SATA or RAID drive configurations, if you are so inclined I would recommend that you look for another MSI board. The IDE controllers will support up two IDE drives on each that way you can install two Optical drives and two hard drives without any problems.
4 USB 2.0
3 audio jacks (line in, line out and Mic in)
PC Alert(tm) 4: This is a software program that is on the CD that comes with this motherboard. After you load the software and set it up it will monitor CPU and system temperature, fan speed and systems voltages and displays them on a popup screen. Once activated this popup screen will popup and indicate a problem. With this software option loaded it will place a icon in your system tray and it will display the CPU temperature. It also includes a special feature called CPU Thermal Protection and it uses a special sensor that monitors the operating temperature of your CPU and if it detects a high temperature it will shutdown the system and allow the processor to cool down.
Live Monitor(tm): The Live Monitor is a tool that allows your motherboard to do scheduled checks with MSI website to determine if any new Bios or driver versions have been released by MSI. The activate this tool you must load the MSI Live Update 3 application which is located on the software CD. After this application is loaded you double click the icon and it will step you through the setup procedure.
What comes in the box
IDE and Floppy drive ribbon cables
CD Drivers and Utilities
Installation of this motherboard was a snap as soon as I removed the old motherboard. Fortunately the motherboard I was replacing was the exact same size and the mounting screw holes were set up the same way. Once I had the new motherboard in place and screwed down it was time to install the components and hook up all of the wires. I am glad that MSI included the CPU cooling fan mount so I didn't have to worry about it was going to attach to the board. I installed the CPU in the Socket 478 ZIF socket and put the cooling fan on top and secured into the mount and plugged in the cooling fan power cable into the connector.
Then it was time to connect all of the cables and wires into their proper locations. Each of the connectors are very clearly marked on the motherboard to make it easy to do it correctly. If you find yourself having a little trouble the user guide that is included shows where all the connectors are located by using diagrams of the motherboard. I did run into one little problem when it came time to attach the power supply cables to the motherboard; the ATX power supply that was installed in this older case didn't have 4pin 12V power cable needed for the P4/Celeron Processors. Fortunately my local computer store had plenty of these jumper cables that attach to one power plugs from the power supply and plugs into the 4pin 12v connector on the motherboard.
The memory slots were easy to find and marked DIMM 1 and DIMM 2 and are easy to get at to install the single memory stick that I selected. Next I found the AGP slot and plugged in the video card without any trouble and because it has its own separate slot it doesn't block any of the three PCI expansion slots.
The final thing I had to do was connect the wires that control the power button, hard drive activity and power LED on the front of the case. These are all marked clearly but in tiny writing that made it a bit tough for me to read it without a magnifying glass. There is also a connector for those cases that have front panel USB ports.
Once I had all of the connectors and components installed it was time to power the computer up and load the drivers for all of the integrated features (sound, USB, Video and LAN). With all of that done it was time to try everything out.
I was a bit worried about installing Intel Celeron D processors in my latest upgrade project at home; I had to upgrade both of my sons computers so they could play some of their newer games and educational software. Because I had been buying AMD processors for my home computers, but when my boss recommended the Intel Celeron processor and P4 motherboard combination I decided to give them a shot. Fortunately the motherboard brand was one that I am very familiar with and I knew that I could trust it. The MSI P4MAM-V motherboard was the model that was recommended to go along with the Intel Celeron D 315 processor.
After running these computers for a while we haven't had any issues at all and I hope this continues to be the case. I was glad that this mother board included sound and LAN onboard so I didn't have to buy separate components. The sound system onboard is actually much more than we needed and probably will never hook up a 5.1 Speaker system to these computers, but I am glad if I wanted to they would work.
I am not sure exactly how well the onboard video processor works since I added an ATI Radeon 9250 graphics cards to each computer. I did this because I was concerned about the possibly limited capability of using the onboard video.
I would definitely recommend this motherboard to those who are looking for an low cost motherboard to setup a Pentium 4 or Celeron based computer.