Now we close in on the motherboard itself. MSI has gone for its traditional black/dark brown PCB in a full 30x24cm 6-layer design. MSI has done a reasonably good job on the placement of connectors with only one major drama. The 24-pin power connector gets placed behind the four DDR3 memory slots. The 4/8 pin combo power port gets placed behind the PS/2 ports at the top left of the board just above the Circu-Pipe cooler.
The major drama we had with this board is the placement of the FDD cable at the bottom middle of the board right below the expansion slots, which makes it a pain in the butt if you plan to have a FDD in your system.
The four Serial ATA ports that are controlled by the ICH9R are located on the bottom right hand edge of the board. The yellow IDE port also sits on the edge of the board just above the four ICH9R SATA ports along with a red and black SATA port which are run off the Marvell 88SE6111 SATA/PATA controller chip.
Pressing on, we move our way down to the CPU socket area. MSI has gone all solid capacitors and iron ferrite chokes which reduced the size of the overall components as well as the amount of real estate needed on the PCB. The CPU is powered by a Dual Channel PWM which is made up of 2x4 phases of voltage regulation working together to deliver eight phases in total. The Circu-Pipe cools the Southbridge, IDT PCI Express root port, Northbridge and the Mosfets for the voltage regulators.
The rear I/O ports of the MSI X48 Platinum have changed since their last Platinum series so a new I/O shield is provided. MSI puts eight of its 12 USB ports on the back along with a Clear CMOS toggle button which allows you to clear the CMOS if you screw up an overclocking attempt. MSI has also given us two e.SATA ports which are routed off the last two SATA ports on the ICH9R. To be honest we are not a great fan of this, we would prefer to see the Marvell SATA chipset's SATA ports be routed to the e.SATA ports and keep the ICH9R six SATA ports all together to allow for a six drive RAID array.
Moving to the end of our board analysis we look at the expansion slots that the board is equipped with along with the additional chipsets used on the board. In total the MSI X48 Platinum has six PCI Express x16 slots, two of which are coloured blue and two coloured yellow. The two blue slots run off the X48 Northbridge and are they're both PCI Express 2.0 compliant. Each of the two blue slots get a full 16 lanes to each other allowing for full speed Crossfire and even support for the next generation of high bandwidth graphics cards to be installed and utilised.
The two yellow slots are electrically at x4. While you may wonder why it gets two extra slots at x4 speeds where even the ASUS Maximus Extreme and the X38A Foxconn board only have one extra PCI Express x16 slot, it's thanks to an extra chip MSI has thrown onto the board. ASUS first used this chip on the Blitz series of boards to split the PCI Express x16 lane from the P35 Northbridge down to two PCI Express x8 lanes to support standard Crossfire mode. This chip is used again but is a root port that uses the extra four lanes from the Southbridge and allows them to be used concurrently with the two extra slots. It just uses routing to send data to and from each slot in turn, and while it may be slower than a single x4 slot, it does allow for extra graphics power on this board, maybe Quad Crossfire?
To finish off there are two PCI Express x1 lanes that can be used so long as the PCI Express x4 slots are not in use; if they are, the bandwidth is routed to these slots. A single PCI legacy slot is also included. Additionally there is an Intel PCI Express based LAN controller chip and a Realtek PCI-E based LAN controller chip. The IDE and two extra SATA ports coloured red and black are handled by a Marvell PCIE controller chip where Firewire is handled by a two port VIA PCI based 1394a controller. The IDT PCI Express root port is also used to run the two yellow PCI Express x16 slots.