Motherboard - Layout and Features
MSI's P35 Platinum motherboard is quite attractive for the case mod fans - it would look extremely attractive in a case with a window.
Layout wise, MSI did not think things through very well. The only real good part is the 24-pin power connector located behind the DIMM sockets. The 8-pin power connector is located in a bed position between two of the heat pipe rails. This makes it hard to install and remove as well as causing air flow problems by cables running around the CPU and heat sinks.
The IDE connector is on the right hand side of the board on a 90 degree angle, which is a great move. This keeps the IDE cable mostly out of the way of long graphics cards such as the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX and Ultra. The FDD port is in the most inconvenient place if you are still running a FDD on your system - it is located at the bottom of the board, below the PCI ports in the middle, a very problematic place.
Voltage is supplied to the motherboard though a 4 phase voltage system. For Core 2 series CPU's Intel recommends a 4-phase as minimum, so MSI has adhered to the minimum standards here but we would like to see 5 or 6 phases on boards these days, if you are an extreme user. Cooling for the boards onboard components is done though a complex heatpipe design that looks like a funky roller coaster ride called Circu-pipe. The Northbridge, Southbridge, CPU voltage regs and memory voltage regulators are all cool by the heatsink cooling assembly and it uses the CPU fan as its air flow supply. It a very interesting and stylish cooling solution and MSI claim it reduces temperatures by 19 degrees Celsius compared to regular cooling while still keeping room for the largest CPU coolers.
Being based on the new P35 chipset, you also get future upgradability. The new chipset supports upcoming Intel Wolfdale (dual-core) and Yorkfield (quad-core) 45nm processors. You will also have official support for upcoming 1333 FSB processors from Intel such as Core 2 Quad QX6850 and so on using 333MHz FSB - no worrying about if a new BIOS will come out for your older motherboard.
P35 supports DDR-2 and DDR-3 memory but the MSI P35 Platinum just supports DDR-2 memory. MSI and the other usual suspects also have DDR-2 / DDR-3 combo boards as well as DDR-2 and DDR-3 only. We will be looking at some of these shortly, stay tuned.
With the new P35 chipset, MSI has started to use a new rear I/O expansion port layout. The new I/O layout has no Serial or Parallel ports, 6 rear accessible USB 2.0 ports, Firewire port and Toslink SPDIF port. MSI has also included two eSATA ports on the back, however one of the biggest gripes we have with the board is that two of the ICH9R Southbridge SATA ports are routed to the eSATA ports. We would have preferred to see the Jmicron SATA ports routed to the eSATA ports, as the chip is already used for the IDE port.
Take a close look at the rear I/O panel. MSI has changed the layout of four of the six USB 2.0 ports so that you can use more than one USB pen drive on top of each other and next to each other - good thinking!
MSI's expansion layout is very neat and well set out. Two PCI Express x16 slots are included on the board. The white slot runs at full speed x16 speed but the yellow slot runs at x4 speeds, similar to the P965 chipset - the upcoming DDR-3 only high-end Intel X38 chipsets will support two full-speed PCI Express x16 slots but these boards won't be selling for at least another month or two. Crossfire is supported on the P35 chipset series however drivers aren't available yet but they will be soon. Two PCI Express x1 slots are included for regular PCI-E slots and two PCI slots for legacy connectors.
MSI provides you with three extra onboard controllers. A Marvell PCI Express x1 Gigabit LAN controller provides the single RJ45 LAN connector, a JMicron PCI Express x1 SATA/PATA controller gives the extra single blue SATA port and IDE port. Lastly a two port VIA Firewire controller chip provides the two Firewire 400 ports.
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