We have already reviewed an MSI motherboard based on Intel P43/P45 chipsets. It was MSI P43 Neo-F, belonging to Low- and Mid-End products. Besides, we have examined another motherboard with unique positioning -- MSI P45-8D 'Memory Lover'. Now it's turn to take a look at a top motherboard from the Platinum series. This product line from MSI is notable for relatively moderate prices. Besides, functionality of these products is vast rather than unique -- that is it's a usual top series (similar to Deluxe series from ASUS).
The motherboard supports CrossFireX, one PCI slot will certainly remain free even if you install two graphics cards with bulky cooling systems. There are no other layout peculiarities that could affect functionality -- only the power and reset buttons on the PCB haven't become usual things yet (even though they are mandatory on top models). We can also mention a couple of jumpers (not even buttons!) for "preliminary" overclocking -- they set the base FSB frequency to 200/266/333/400 MHz. And then you can raise that frequency in BIOS Setup (but you cannot lower it!) It's seems strange to use such a crude tool for overclocking. MSI assures that it's done by popular demand of novice overclockers, who don't want to mess with complex settings. At least the motherboard detected our test processors correctly, so we had no problems with not using these jumpers (unlike MSI P45-8D).
The power circuit of the board is expectedly on a high level. The 5-phase voltage regulator of the processor incorporates Renesas R2J20602 chips to use DrMOS technology (merging MOSFETs and their drivers in a single chip). The chipset and memory modules are powered by their own dual-channel circuits (based on the classic technology with MOSFETs). Moreover, when the system is working at full steam, all these regulators can reduce the number of active channels to lower power consumption (and consequently temperature) in idle mode. The board uses only polymeric capacitors made in Japan and screened chokes.
The cooling system is a real eye stopper. MSI may even break the record in heat pipe density: two pipes connect heatsinks on the South and North bridges. Another two pipes go from one of the heatsinks on the VRM. And finally, the fifth pipe goes from the second (farther) heatsink on DrMOS chips. Joined with the plate on the Northbridge (fortunately, it's soldering), all the pipes bend upwards to form a "fountain" with extra finning. It looks imposing, it does not take up much room, it does not interfere with most CPU coolers, and most importantly, it's not very expensive: all the heatsinks and heat pipes are made of aluminum (at least they are not made of copper).
The NB heatsink is mounted with normal metal screws instead of plastic latches (on the back side of the PCB).
When we examined heatsinks on DrMOS chips, we were shocked by a thick layer of thermal interface under them. In this case we even had to put a thick piece of padding under the heatsink to avoid its skewing. Note plastic coating on the bottom of the heatsinks, where they don't touch hot components. It may be just an electric insulator, but it may also serve as heat insulation (to prevent the hot heatsinks from channeling the heat to the PCB and on-board components under them).
So the thick layer of grease under the heatsinks on DrMOS chips may serve as a thermal insulator rather than thermal interface. You must admit that the staff on [really hot] chipset components looks different, and its layer is really thin. We don't understand why insulate these cool DrMOS chips (MSI shows advantages of their thermal conditions in this strange video clip) from the chipset heat. Anyway, all heatsinks remain warm, far from the critical temperatures.
Note the on-board indicators. Instead of a diagnostic display to show POST codes, this motherboard uses four couples of LEDs (red/green), which is sure smaller, but less illustrative. Besides, when a motherboard is switched on, these LEDs indicate operability of each expansion card installed as well as a number of active channels in all three voltage regulators. Plus indicating power on and voltage at the motherboard.
We have nothing to say about the bundle of this motherboard, just your average bundle (you can have a look at all components in the photo gallery). You can read about MSI utilities in our full reviews of motherboards from this company. MSI P45 Platinum may come with a very interesting device (GreenPower Genie) to measure power consumption of the board. Unfortunately, our bundle lacked this gadget, so its description will be published later.
This motherboard is based on the Intel P45 chipset (P45 Northbridge and ICH10R Southbridge). You can read about its features in the corresponding review. Besides, the motherboard offers the following extra functions:
- Integrated audio, based on the 10-channel (7.1+2) HDA codec Realtek ALC888 (modern Mid-End codec), 7.1-ch audio, front line-ins/outs and optical S/PDIF-Out jacks.
- Gigabit Ethernet, based on Realtek RTL8111C (PCIEx1), supporting 10/100/1000 Mbps.
- IDE/SATA-II RAID controller, based on JMicron JMB363 (PCIEx1) supporting two ATA133 devices, including sterling support for CD/DVD drives, and two SATA300 devices, which can form RAID 0 and 1.
- SATA-II controller, based on JMicron JMB362 (PCIEx1), supporting two SATA300 devices (there is only one port -- eSATA on the rear panel)
- FireWire, based on JMicron JMB381 (PCIEx1) supporting two ports (one of them is installed on the rear panel).
Note the rich set of elements on the rear panel: even though there is much empty room (for the heatsink from the on-board cooling system), the board offers six USB ports (four of them are very convenient to use), two PS/2 ports, FireWire, eSATA, optical S/PDIF-Out (Toslink), and a Clear CMOS button. You may learn more details about motherboard specs and read the list of processors and memory modules tested for compatibility on the official product page (links at the end of the article).
The integrated audio quality was tested in 16 bit 44 kHz mode using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.0 and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card. The total score is Excellent. The digital output S/PDIF on this board supports both popular sampling rates: 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz. Note that the IDE controller installed on this motherboard (modern chipsets from Intel lack the integrated solution in their Southbridge) puts up praiseworthy performance. It had absolutely no problems detecting an optical drive at startup and in Windows, allowing to boot from a CD, etc.
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8200 (2.66 GHz, 1333MHz FSB)
- Memory: 2 x 1 GB Corsair CM2X1024-9136C5D (tested in DDR2-800 mode)
- Graphics card: PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 3870, 512 MB
- HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
- PSU: HiPro W460GC31
- OS: Windows XP SP2
We'll compare MSI P45 Platinum with several motherboards with the same chipset and several competing ones. By the way, this motherboard turned out quite temperamental about memory: it was unstable or even refused to work with various memory modules operating at timings that have been tested many times already. As a result, we had to work out minimal settings with which this system agreed to startup. As we increased timings to 5-5-5 in DDR2-800 mode, we expected no performance records from this motherboard. However, modern computers with Socket 775 have such a large throughput margin, than small timing changes usually produce a weak effect on results.
||MSI P45 Platinum (P45)
||MSI P45-8D (P45)
||MSI X48C Platinum (X48)
|Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
|MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec
|FarCry (Low@640x480), fps
|FarCry (Highest@1600x1200), fps
|Doom 3 (Low@640x480), fps
|Doom 3 (Highest@1600x1200), fps
As you can see, performance lags of the MSI P45 Platinum in any test do not exceed 3%. But we have no doubts that the motherboard would perform on a par with its competitors in identical modes.
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