Yesterday, we saw another interesting innovation from Tier 1 motherboard manufacturer MSI. It was interesting in many respects, as there's a few things that are very different from current motherboards.
Firstly, the board is a Socket 939 motherboard based on the BTX form factor. Until now, no one has come up with a motherboard design for an AMD processor that is relatively close to the BTX form factor laid out by Intel late last year.
The board is based on the Micro-BTX form factor and features NVIDIA's upcoming C51 chipset, which we reported
a few weeks ago. The chipset features integrated graphics and is based on the NForce 4 MCP.
Typically, NVIDIA's Athlon 64-based chipsets have been a single chip solution, but interestingly this is a two-chip solution. It's hard to say that they are a north and south bridge, because they're very close together and on a BTX-based board. Maybe we could call them east and west bridges?
NVIDIA have implemented GeForce 6200 graphics in to the west bridge, while the east bridge is the same chip as the southbridge included on the NForce 4 SLI Intel Edition platform. There is support for up to 4GB of DDR memory, in single channel only for now; the Realtek AC'97 audio codec; two SATA II ports and four SATA ports.
Finally, there is only one Ethernet connection, which is only a 10/100 port, and support for only six USB 2.0 ports. We find this interesting, because natively NVIDIA's NForce 4 MCP has had support for Gigabit Ethernet and ten USB 2.0 ports from top to bottom - we could see the C51G chipset being a slightly cut down version of the NForce 4 MCP, in order to allow for the additional space required on the die for the onboard GeForce 6200 graphics chip.
C51-based boards should start shipping towards the end of Q3 - we suspect this will happen some time in late September.