With Computex finally over, we now have a lot of new technology to play with, including the official launch of the Intel 4 series chipsets. We have already got the X48 chipset on the market, which is the high end 4 series chip, but now we have been given the announcement of the P45 chipset with the G45, G43 and the P43 also on its way. We have already put some early P45 chipsets through a few hoops and found that it managed to impress compared to the P35 chipsets. Its retained ability to run DDR2 and DDR3 also makes it a very impressive and flexible chipset.Today we have an early market sample of MSI's P45 Platinum which is their top of the range board, this designed to compete with both ASUS' and GIGABYTE's ultra high-end P45 offerings. While it doesn't have the full retail packaging included, we've confirmed with MSI that it's the final revision board in our labs.
SpecificationsSpecifications of the P45 PlatinumCPU
Supports Intel Core 2 Series (Extreme/Quad/Duo)Supports Intel Pentium Dual Core SeriesSupports Intel Pentium D SeriesSupports Intel Pentium 4 5xx/6xx SeriesSupports Intel Celeron D 3xx/4xx SeriesSupports Intel 45nm Series CPUChipset
Intel P45 Express ChipsetIntel P45 NorthbridgeIntel ICH10R SouthbridgeDMI Interconnect @ 2GB/sSystem Memory
4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM SocketsSupports DDR2-533/667/800/1066MHz64/128Bit Dual ChannelSupports up to 8GB Total Memory (4x 2GB)Bus Frequency
100/133/200/266/333/400MHz Internal400/533/800/1066/1333/1600MHz ExternalP4 Bus ArchitectureExpansion Slots
2 PCI Express x162 PCI Express x12 PCIConnectivity
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives8 Serial ATA ports1 Gigabit Ethernet Port1 e.SATA PortExpansion Ports
1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port12 USB 2.0 Ports (6 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)6 Stereo Audio Ports1 RCA Toslinl Port2 Firewire ports (1 rear accessible, 1 via expansion bracket)1 e.SATA Port
The MotherboardThe Board
Being an early sample, we didn't get the full retail packaging this time around, just the board for testing. While early, it's the retail board that will be available on the shelves. So we start off today just on the board itself. MSI goes for a full ATX layout as you would expect, and with a black/brown coloured base. For its layout, MSI has followed the market trend; the 24-pin power connector along with the FDD connector are snugly placed away, behind the DDR2 memory slots on the right hand side of the board. The 4/8 pin power connector gets placed behind the PS/2 ports on the upper left side of the board. The IDE connector and the SATA ports are located along the right hand edge of the board, just below the memory slots. The six SATA ports controlled by the ICH10R are stacked 2x2 and are rotated 90 degrees to the board, this allowing you to get the use of all the SATA ports. The other two are setup as normal.
Moving to the CPU, MSI has a slightly cramped setup around this area. While it's not impossible to get larger heatsinks on the board, the heatpipes don't really help much in this regard. MSI's Circu-pipe II is a linked cooling system that cools the Southbridge, Northbridge and the two Mosfets banks. To feed the CPU its power, a 5 phase voltage regulation system featuring MSI's new power saving technology called "DrMOS" is used. This we will be testing in a later article, but it's nice to know the technology is there to be used.
MSI's rear I/O ports are setup identically to the most recent Platinum boards, so if you are upgrading from a MSI Platinum board, you won't need to change the I/O shield. The most notable features on the back include a CMOS reset button, this allowing you to reset the CMOS in the event of a bad overclock without opening the case. eSATA is also included on the back and is routed off the JMicron SATA controller that gives the PATA port to the board.
Now we come down to the last features of the board, its expansion slots and the additional accessories packed on. MSI packs the board with a good assortment of expansion slots. First off, for graphics cards you get two PCI Express x16 slots supporting PCI-E 2.0 specifications; one is coloured dark blue and a second coloured light blue. If you're not going to be running a dual graphics card setup, you need to place the graphics card into the dark blue slot which gives it the full 16 lanes. If you plan on a dual GPU setup, the second slot gets a card, but when a card is installed into it, eight lanes from the dark blue slot are routed to the light blue slot to give a dual x8 setup on the board.Next to round up the PCI Express expansion, there are two PCI Express x1 slots routed from the ICH10R Southbridge along with two PCI legacy slots also coming off the ICH10R.In the accessories department, a JMicron PATA/SATA controller chip gives the board its IDE port along with two light blue SATA ports and the eSATA port. Since the JMB363 chipset only supports two SATA ports, if you plan to use the eSATA port you're going to have to give up one of the light blue SATA ports. For the Gigabit Ethernet, Realtek's 8118C PCI Express LAN controller is included. Lastly, for the FireWire support a Texas Instruments PCI based Firewire chip also makes its presence.
BIOS and OverclockingBIOS
MSI has used AMI BIOS for the past three years, and this has not changed with the P45 Platinum motherboard. AMI BIOS has come a long way since its beginning when it was a real chore to deal with; now it's extremely simple, and in fact can sometimes be mistaken for the cleanliness and ease of use that is the Award BIOS.MSI puts its overclocking features under the Cell Menu. Until MSI changes its overclocking system from Core Cell, you will find all overclocking options under this menu.Buses
Adjust CPU FSB Frequency: 200 - 800 in 1MHz IncrementsPCI-E Frequency: Locked to 100MHzPCI Frequency: 37.7, 42MHzVoltages
CPU Voltage: 1.125v to 1.45v on 0.025v IncrementsCPU GLT REF0: 0.7614v to 0.7906v in Various IncrementsCPU GLT REG1: 0.7614v to 0.7906v in Various IncrementsDRAM Voltage: 1.5v to 3.07v in 0.002v IncrementsNB Voltage: 0.80v to 2.37v in 0.01v IncrementsVTT FSB Voltage: 0.90v to 1.3v in 0.02v IncrementsSB Voltage: 0.56v to 1.52v in Various IncrementsOverclocking
In our first overclocking experience with the P45 chipset, we managed to pass just over 500MHz FSB with a total of 504MHz. This was done with only moderate voltage adjustments. We could have gone further, however, we didn't have a lot of time to do voltage tweaks before our deadline was reached. We will be re-visiting this board later on with a P45 overclocking and power saving article comprising this board and two others.Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. 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. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Memory PerformanceTest System Processor
: Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16GHz (9.5x333MHz)Memory
: 2x 1GB DDR2-1186 Geil (Supplied by Geil
: 500GB Western Digital SE16 (Supplied by Western Digital
: MSI GeForce 8800GTS 640MB (Supplied by MSI
: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy II (Supplied by GIGABYTE
: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate SP1Drivers
: Intel INF 126.96.36.1991, Forceware 173.14.05For our comparison today, we are pitting the MSI P45 Platinum against our oldest but most impressive P35 board we have, GIGABYTE's P35 DQ6. Both are based on DDR2 memory which make these systems equally matched apart from the change in chipset. For the stock settings, we ran with the CPU at its stock FSB and CPU ratio along with a memory setup of DDR2-800 which is the highest official DDR2 speed supported by the P45 and P35 chipsets.Overclocking was done with the CPU ratio set back to 6x and the highest FSB obtained with a memory ratio of 1:1 to prevent both the CPU and memory being the bottleneck. Our MSI board managed to hit 504MHz whilst the P35 runs at 511MHz.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.
Pressing into the memory bandwidth, the MSI P45 Platinum's new chipset manages to just outperform the P35 at stock speeds. Despite a slightly slower FSB, the P45's memory optimizations manage to keep it in front; a very impressive result here.
Benchmarks - PCMark VantagePCMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used:
unpatchedDeveloper Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage//Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
Moving into our first synthetic PC test with PCMark Vantage, we see that the MSI board once again manages to gain the lead at both stock and overclocked specs; albeit not by a huge margin.
Benchmarks - SYSmark 2007 PreviewSYSmark 2007Version and / or Patch Used:
1.04Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/products/sysmark2007preview/>
SYSmark 2007 Preview is the latest version of the premier performance metric that measures and compares PC performance based on real world applications.SYSmark 2007 Preview extends the SYSmark family, which has been widely accepted by IT Managers, PC OEMs, press and analysts worldwide to support Windows Vista. SYSmark 2007 Preview allows users to directly compare platforms based on Windows Vista to those based on Windows XP Professional and Home.The new release also incorporates numerous new features and enhancements such as an improved GUI allowing streamlined start-up and run along with a heads-up-display (HUD) and automated error reporting.SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications.
SYSmark 2007 is a real world script based benchmark to test the entire systems full range of office applications as well as media encoding systems. MSI's P45 Platinum just gets in front here at both OC and stock specs.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0Version and / or Patch Used:
3.0Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 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.
Here MSI manages to reduce the encode time by over a full minute when overclocked (despite GIGABYTE's P35 being clocked slightly higher), though at stock speeds there isn't anywhere near as large a gap between them.
Benchmarks - HDD PerformanceHD TachVersion and / or Patch Used:
188.8.131.52Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.comProduct Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTachThere are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.