We have to admit that MSI has been churning out cookie-cutter motherboards with stagnated designs and components for a while now. The P35 Platinum seems to be a revival of some creativity and innovation in MSI's motherboard department and we like what we see thus far. When you're looking at a motherboard, it is really the small things that count the most, since everyone just has some variation or another of the same chipset.
The P35 Platinum has a very unique and powerful cooling system going for it in the Circu-Pipe design. Outlandish looks aside, the P35 chipset on the board was practically cool to the touch at all times, during benchmarking loops and even when overclocking with increased voltage pumped into the Northbridge. Intel may have finally solved the scalding chipset problem with the P35's new low power designs, but we're utterly impressed at how cool MSI managed to keep the chipset. It is nothing short of amazing compared with the older P965 or the NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI furnaces.
Most of the components you find on the P35 Platinum isn't all to different from any other high-end P965 board you can get today, as the P35 chipset doesn't really add any new component count to its repertoire, but MSI did make use of the eSATA port multiplier for the board, and while it does reduce the internal SATA capabilities, the board will provide an extensive range of plug-and-play external high-speed connections. The improved audio chipset used in the retail motherboard also opens up possibilities of additional functionality of the board when the SkyTel add-on card comes out. We also like how MSI provides six USB 2.0 ports by default, but the chunky rear panel is really quite hideous (but then again, that's basically our only rant with the board).
Performance-wise, the P35 Platinum's results from our benchmarking run turned out pretty well. While we weren't expecting any phenomenal scores from the new P35 chipset, it did surprise us quite a bit with a very strong SYSmark 2004 performance. Overall, the P35 Platinum proved to be quite consistently better than a reference P965 and able to keep up with the NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI. With lower chipset TDPs, we had expected better overclocking potential from the P35 Platinum, but 470MHz isn't exactly shabby, considering that 1333MHz (333MHz) FSB is being hyped as the next big thing. You can go way beyond that point with simple air cooling.
Although this is the first Intel P35 motherboard we've reviewed, the MSI P35 Platinum proves to be a very well built and well rounded motherboard. MSI plays to the strengths of the chipset and delivers a solid entry into the market. If you aren't planning of a total overhaul of your PC, DDR2 is still here to stay for a while yet. With dropping prices, setting up a 4GB or higher capacity rig isn't so hard anymore and boards like the P35 Platinum will probably let you extend the life of your memory for another year or so. Of course, if you really must have only the latest and greatest, the one factor that remains to be seen is how the DDR3 variant (MSI P35 Platinum D3) would fare in comparison, but that is another board for another day.