Now that we have seen Intel P45 representatives from two major vendors in the form of the ASUS P5Q3 Deluxe and Gigabyte's GA-EP45T-EXTREME, it's about time we turn to the other member of the 'Big 3' - MSI. What are the new features that the manufacturer have up its sleeves to counter its fierce rivals?
Well, some of you may remember that we did a preview of the "Eaglelake" motherboards from MSI. While we did not go in-depth, you may have a faint idea that DrMOS is a big part of all this. And you would be totally correct. But before you say "Doctor MOS", you should know that it actually means Driver-MOSFETs and it refers to an integrated Driver-MOSFET package that combines three chips together: a driver IC, a high MOSFET and a low MOSFET. These are the chief components used to regulate and provide power to the processor (as well as a few other critical components) but they are usually found separately on the motherboard. According to MSI, putting all of them together will lead to greater power efficiency while providing better performance. In short, MSI claims it's the proverbial magic bullet.
Obviously MSI has a lot more to elaborate on this DrMOS feature, which is linked to other marketing terms, XpressCool, GreenPower and RapidBoost. We'll be looking at these features more closely on the next page.
Since our preview had covered some of the board layout and features, we won't be repeating the gallery of images, just some of the more important ones below. Suffice to say, this is not MSI's flagship P45 board but as the DDR3 version of the Platinum edition, it's close to being the top dog, with the MSI P45 Diamond arguably having the edge.
Feature-wise, it is thankfully not as over-the-top as the Gigabyte EXTREME that we saw recently, with a more mainstream configuration of supporting up to 4 DIMMs and 8GB of DDR3 memory (O/C to 1600MHz possible). CPU support is however restricted to those of 65nm and newer, meaning you'll need at least a Conroe derivative. MSI's rather famous Circu-Pipe cooler makes its return, though the new version now comes with five heatpipes, a trapezoid base and lots of fine copper fins to maximize its heat dissipation surface area. As a P45 board, it naturally supports CrossFireX, with the native PCIe 2.0 x 16 lanes splitting automatically to a set of x8 lanes when two compatible ATI cards are installed.
Other features you may want to note include the usual presence of a Realtek ALC888 HD Audio CODEC, a FireWire controller supporting up to two IEEE1394 ports (1 rear and 1 header) and there's even a eSATA port at the rear. Surprisingly, MSI has kept to a modest configuration of just a single Gigabit Ethernet port, which we think is sensible for more the general enthusiast despite another vendor's hype over dual Gigabit teaming and backup, which are perhaps preferable only to the really top-level power users.
Some perks that we have been spoilt with and found here on this MSI board are the onboard Power and Reset buttons and a Clear CMOS button at the rear I/O panel; these are features which are much desired by enthusiasts when troubleshooting or overclocking. There are also LEDs that act as visual indicators for the boot up sequence. Overall, the board layout and design is user friendly and we had no troubles installing our hardware onto it.