The MSI P965 Platinum board is based around a full 30x24cm ATX layout. Smaller ATX cases may be a little cramped but if they are designed to take the full ATX standard, it will fit in. PCB is a typical MSI black pearl in colour which makes it look very attractive.
MSI has always had a problem when it comes to smart placement of the connectors. The 24-pin power and FDD port are located behind the DIMM sockets where they should be for optimal air flow design, however the 4/8 pin power connector is located between the I/O ports and the Northbridge heatsink. This means that if you have short power cables you have to route the extra power lead over the CPU heatsink which hinders airflow around that critical area of the system.
Speaking of the heatsinks, there are no fans required on this motherboard as Intel's latest chips don't get all that hot. This will aid in reduced noise from your system and it's good to see most companies going this route these days.
MSI has a fantastically clean layout around the CPU socket, there are no large tower components sticking up, so large heatsink installations will not be a problem. The CPU gets its juice from a 4 phase digital voltage system which is quite adequate for Core 2 systems; however, older and more power hungry Netburst based processors will find it a bit restrictive when it comes to overclocking.
MSI's rear I/O setup is extremely clean and well designed. In fact it hasn't changed from the last platinum series of boards we tested. Compared to the uber expensive motherboards we've been reviewing recently, the rear I/O on this motherboard is not terribly exciting but it does manage to include a mini 1394 port along with most stuff you will need. The inclusion of one or two e.SATA ports would have been a nice addition, though.
Now it's to the expansion possibilities of the board. Being an Intel P965 based motherboard it has the ability to support AMD's ATI Crossfire dual graphics. Unlike quite a lot of the P965 boards out there, this board does actually support this function - only MSI, ASUS and Gigabyte so far have boards (that we have tested) which use the second PCI Express x16 connector.
The board has a single white PCI Express x16 slot that operates at full PCI Express x16 lanes electronically no matter what. The yellow port below it operates at x4 lane speed electronically when no other PCI Express cards are placed in the other PCI Express slots. If any of these slots are used, the yellow slot in question begins to throttle back due to lack of PCI Express lanes provided by the P965 chipset.
In order to get an IDE port onto the ICH8 based system, a JMicron PCI Express SATA/PATA chip is used and that in turn provides an extra SATA port at the bottom of the board and the yellow IDE channel for DVD burners or what not.
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