MSI P55M-GD45 Motherboard
Like all modern models from MSI, this motherboard decreases the number of active phases in the CPU voltage regulator, when it's working under partial load. This technology is called APS (Active Phase Switching). And even though engineers tried to reduce its manufacturing costs, they still found money for visualization of this process with onboard LEDs. They also found resources for a single power-on button on the board, but there are not reset, clear CMOS, LED display, switches, etc, typical of top models. Such controls are implemented on the software level - MSI Control Center. The new proprietary technology MSI OC Genie now allows for automatic overclocking with smart selection of parameters right in Windows. Besides, MSI Control Center is responsible for manual overclocking, memory timings, system information, and monitoring. What concerns new features of the utility, we can mention the option to save and load BIOS Setup profiles.
BIOS Setup offers a traditional modern set of options, including the feature to separately disable processor technologies and vast overclocking settings. Among many "unique features" (reduced to wide voltage adjustment ranges at small steps), we can mention the relatively new M-Flash technology, which allows to flash new BIOS versions from an image on a flash drive or to startup BIOS Setup from this image. We had to use M-Flash several times in an attempt to find a BIOS version that would support EIST in our Core i5 750. Unfortunately, we haven't found it. Let's hope this bug will be fixed in the next versions.
The bundle is expectedly poor: It includes only minimum of hardware additions (a couple of SATA cables with a power adapter for one hard drive and one IDE cable, IO shield), paper guides for the motherboard and proprietary technologies, as well as a DVD with drivers and proprietary utilities. In return, you get lots of software extensions: MSI Control Center, some strange utility to make backups (HDD Backup), and a bootable version of Winki. We haven't described Winki in detail yet. But if you have seen any modern motherboard (or read a review), you already have an idea of such solutions. It's a slim shell based on the lite Linux distribution, which provides the same features as Express Gate from ASUS or eJiffy from ECS: browse WWW pages, communicate with Skype, ICQ, etc, browse photos, play music. MSI also added OpenOffice.org to its mini-OS. So it's a little step to a sterling Linux on your hard drive or a LiveCD.
The board is based on the Intel P55 chipset and offers the following additional controllers:
- Integrated audio based on the 10-channel (7.1+2) Realtek ALC889 HDA codec (the top codec supporting full-quality HD DVD and Blu-ray audio output), 7.1-channel audio, front line inputs/outputs, on-board S/PDIF-Out connector.
- Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8111DL, PCIEx1) 10/100/1000 Mbps
- IDE/SATA-II controller based on the JMicron JMB363 chip (PCIEx1) supporting one IDE PATA channel for two devices, including CD/DVD drives, and two SATA300 ports (rear-panel eSATA).
- FireWire based on VIA VT6315N (PCI) supporting two ports (one of them rear-panel).
The integrated audio quality was tested with RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.0 and Terratec DMX 6fire sound card. The final grade was Very Good in both test modes: 16-bit/44kHz and 16-bit/48kHz.
|Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB
|Noise level, dB(A)
|Dynamic range, dB(A)
|THD + noise, dB(A)
|IMD + noise, %
|Channel crosstalk, dB
|IMD at 10 kHz, %
The digital S/PDIF-Out supports both popular sampling rates: 44.1kHz and 48kHz. This audio codec offers a high signal/noise ratio and sterling audio output from DVD Audio, HD DVD and Blu-ray via S/PDIF-Out. The latter is provided by HDCP support, which allows certified software players to output audio stream without quality losses. Unfortunately, existing options to output such audio via a graphics card with HDMI won't work in this case, because S/PDIF-In of these cards supports only the standard mode 16 bit, 48 kHz (the alternative option is graphics cards with their own audio codecs, like the latest solutions from AMD/ATI). And if you have a receiver that supports up to 24 bit, 192 kHz at its S/PDIF-In, you may do without graphics card's support. Drivers provide no additional multi-channel audio technologies (DTS/Dolby) for this motherboard.
JMicron JMB363 is a widespread solution, and we have learned at first hand that it has no problems with PATA support (as modern chipsets from Intel lack this feature). In this case we can only confirm that this IDE controller 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.
In our opinion, the motherboard under review offers decent functionality despite its compact size. There will certainly be users who will miss combined USB/eSATA ports or S/PDIF outputs, or three PCI slots. They will more likely find a motherboard of their dreams among full-size models. But on the whole, MSI P55M-GD45 has all the necessary features, even offering additional support for a number of older technologies. Owners of compact PC enclosures who don't intend overclocking, may consider this model as a good deal. If newer BIOS versions have the strange EIST bug fixed, of course.
The motherboard has been provided by the manufacturer.
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