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MSI P6N SLI Platinum Motherboard - Nvidia nForce 650i SLI returns

With our second 650i SLI board we ask, whose is better, ECS or MSI? And do you need to spend extra for the 680i chipset?
@TweakTown
Published Sat, May 5 2007 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Rating: 80%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction

IntroductionWhile the Nvidia 680i SLI is the enthusiast level chipset from Nvidia, it is certainly not within everybody's price range. 680i LT has brought the price down quite a bit, but there is still a price premium for this high-end chipset, this is why you need to have a mid-range portfolio.Nvidia has listened, traditionally there are only one or two chipsets for each platform from Nvidia, but currently the company has four for the Core 2 platform, five if you want to count the old 590 Intel Edition. Within the 600-series there are now a total of four options; 680i SLI for the enthusiast, 680i LT for the high-end, 650i SLI for the mid-range and the 650i ultra for the vale end of the market.We have tested a motherboard from ECS, our first 650i SLI chipset, which we found to be a very good contender. Its performance was on the money, in fact it was not that far behind the 680i-series, only the SLI implementation and a few additional features are where the chipset really differs. 650i falls back on the old twin PCI Express x8 slots for its SLI setup. If you want to use SLI, your graphics cards only run at x8 speeds, this eliminates the ability to run quad-SLI.Today we have MSI's incarnation of the 650i SLI chipset, the P6N SLI Platinum.

Specifications

Specifications of the MSI P6N SLI PlatinumCPUSupports Intel Core 2 Duo/Extreme/Quad SeriesSupports Intel Pentium D 800 - 900 SeriesSupports Intel Pentium 4 500 - 600 Series Supports Intel Celeron D 300 - 400 SeriesDoes not support Pentium Extreme 800 - 900 SeriesChipsetNvidia nForce 650i SLINvidia 650i SLI SPP northbridgeNvidia 650i SLI MCP southbridgeHyper Transport @ 2GHzSystem Memory4 DDR2 SDRAM 240-pin DIMM SocketsSupports DDR2-533/667/800MHz64/128-bit dual-channelSupports up to 8GB total memory (4x 2GB)Bus Frequency100/133/200/266MHz Internal400/533/800/1066MHz ExternalExpansion Slots2 PCI Express x161 PCI Express x13 PCIConnectivity2 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives4 Serial ATA ports1 eSATA port1 Gigabit Ethernet portExpansion Ports1 PS2 keyboard port1 PS2 mouse port8 USB 2.0 ports (4 rear accessible, 4 via expansion bracket)1 Parallel port5 Stereo audio ports2 Firewire ports (1 rear accessible, 1 via expansion bracket)1 S/PDIF RCA port

In The Box

Package and Contents
First we get into the packaging. MSI has gone with a new box for its P6N series. Quite a few colours go into the box. At the front there is only the model number and some basic info on what the board features such as chipset model as well as the CPU support
The back of the box is a different story. A detailed list of the boards features and specs are included as well as a full colour photo of the board. The colour photo is really a must these days, as the consumer really wants to know what they are getting before they buy; do you buy a toaster or car without at least having a look or a picture of what you are getting? No, and PC components should be the same.
MSI has a good software bundle and documentation set with the P6N board. There are two manuals and a single CD. The larger of the two documents is a foldout quick install pamphlet. The manual itself is very well laid out with quite a bit of information and setup procedures to follow. The CD comes with all the windows XP, XP64 and Vista drivers you are going to need. MSI has begun including Vista drivers to its CD, which is a necessity since Vista has been out several months now.
Down to the cables and add-ons, MSI has a reasonable set here. Four SATA data cables, one IDE, and one FDD cable are included along with an eSATA-SATA cable and two power converters.
Last on the list of extras there is a USB/D-LED and single Firewire PCI cover bracket, an SLI bridge, northbridge cooling fan, and I/O shield.

Motherboard

Motherboard
Now we get to the goodies, the board in all its glory. MSI has gone with a dark brown/black PCB in full 30x24cm ATX 6-layer style to keep things interesting. Layout is good with only a couple of exceptions. The 24-pin power connector along with the two IDE ports are located behind the memory slots where they should be. However, the FDD and 8-pin power connector are located on the other side of the board which is going to make a mess of cabling; we would like to see this improved over time, but for now we will not go too hard on MSI.
While Nvidia does not specify heatpipe cooling for the 650i SLI chipset, MSI has taken the initiative and gone for a full MCP to SPP to MOSFET cooling design. The power system for the CPU is a four phase system which is more than enough to power the Core 2 series of CPU, however Pentium 4 Prescott and Ceder Mill cores will find it restrictive when overclocking.
The rear ports on the MSI board are quite good. There are not any serial ports, however a parallel port is still present. MSI has also included an eSATA port which you have to sacrifice one of the SATA ports on the motherboard to use, but it is still nice to have. Gigabit Ethernet is run from the MCP and has all of the Nvidia networking features attached giving you greater control than previous Gigabit LAN controllers.
Lastly we get down to the expansion layout as well as the extra chips that have been thrown on for those little add-ons that the chipset does not come with. As you can see there are two PCI Express x16 slots for SLI. Like the older nForce 4 SLI chipset you need to use an SLI switch paddle in order to select SLI or non-SLI mode. In SLI mode the two PCI Express slots run at x8 speeds, while when in non-SLI mode, the top slot runs at x16 speed and the other one runs at x1 mode. There is a single PCI Express x1 slot and three PCI slots.The extra chips, or chip rather, that MSI includes is a VIA VT6307S Firewire chip that supports two Firewire ports, one of them is on the rear I/O section and the other is a header on the board.

BIOS and Overclocking

BIOS
MSI's P6N SLI Platinum uses the AMI Megatrends base for its BIOS setup. MSI has a history of using the AMI BIOS for its boards which have really grown up in terms of maturity, AMI in the past has been the BIOS to avoid, but over the last two years it has improved quite a bit. MSI puts all of its clocking options under the Cell Menu, which is where it normally resides on the company's Core Cell boards.
FrequenciesFSB Clock: 400MHz to 2500MHz in 1MHz incrementsMemory Clock: 400MHz to 1400MHz in 1MHz incrementsPCIe: 100MHz to 131MHz in 1MHz incrementsVoltagesCPU Voltage: +0.0125v to +0.2875v in 0.0125v incrementsMemory Voltage: 1.8v to 2.8v in 0.05v incrementsNB Core: 1.25v to 1.5v in 0.025v incrementsSB Core: 1.54v to 1.58v in 0.03v incrementsSB Dual: 1.5v to 1.7v in 0.05v incrementsCPU VTT Ref Voltage: 2% to 20% in various incrementsOverclockingWhile we only managed 466MHz FSB on our ECS board, we went slightly higher on our MSI board.Using BIOS revision 1.1 we managed to hit 472MHz FSB with memory at 2.4v, CPU at +0.1000V, NB and SB voltages at max and CPU VTT Reg at 20%. It is clear the 650i chipset is not intended to clock to the max.Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we don't have enough time to tweak the motherboard to the maximum and find the highest possible FSB as this could take days to properly find. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking or as new BIOS updates are released or "burn in" time might come into play if you believe in that.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and Memory Performance

Test System SetupProcessor: Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 (Supplied by Intel)Memory: 2x 1GB DDR2-1066 Corsair at 1:1(Supplied by Corsair)Hard Disk: 500GB Seagate 7200.9 SATA (Supplied by Seagate Australia)Graphics Card: MSI Radeon X1950 Pro (Supplied by MSI) Cooling: Gigabyte Neon775 (Supplied by Gigabyte)Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2Drivers: Nvidia nForce Platform Driver 9.53, ATI Catalyst 7.1 and DX9cBattling it out today we have the MSI 650i against our ECS 650i test system, as well as the eVGA 680i SLI motherboard.We used the same suite of tests in order to determine if there is any improvement in each board at stock as well as overclocked speeds.Our ECS board when overclocked was running 6x 466MHz, our MSI board overclocked was running 6x 472MHz, and our eVGA was running overclocked at 6x 503MHz. Memory settings at all times were kept at SPD with ratio at 1:1.Let us get on with the show.Everest Ultimate EditionVersion and / or Patch Used: 2006Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.comBuy It Here
Everest Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning Everest Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
At stock the MSI board out performs our ECS board, just, quite possibly due to a bit more tweaking of the BIOS. This continues to overclocked where it manages to extend its lead a fraction over the ECS 650i.

Benchmarks - PCMark

PCMark05Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmark04/Buy It Here
PCMark05 is a multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark05 consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark05 also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
PCMark05 shows that the memory and overall performance of the MSI at stock and overclocked are both in front of the ECS board.

Benchmarks - WorldBench

WorldBenchVersion and / or Patch Used: 5.0Developer Homepage: http://www.pcworld.com Product Homepage: http://www.pcworld.comBuy It Here
WorldBench 5.0 is the fifth generation of PC World's industry-standard benchmarking application. Designed to measure the performance of today's wide range of personal computers, WorldBench has been in continuous use at PC World for nine years.WorldBench 5.0 uses the following applications to gauge system performance: ACD Systems ACDSee PowerPack 5.0, Adobe Photoshop 7.0.1, Adobe Premiere 6.5, Ahead Software Nero Express 6.0.0.3, Discreet 3ds max 5.1 (DirectX), Discreet 3ds max 5.1 (OpenGL), Microsoft Office XP with SP-2, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9.0, Mozilla 1.4, Musicmatch Jukebox 7.10, Roxio VideoWave Movie Creator 1.5 and WinZip Computing WinZip 8.1.
Worldbench does not show the performance gains at stock that the MSI board had in Everest.

Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements

Adobe Premiere ElementsVersion and / or Patch Used: 2.0Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
Adobe Premiere Elements does not show any difference at stock.

Benchmarks - HDD Performance

HD TachVersion and / or Patch Used: 3.0.1.0Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.comProduct Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTach

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