At the New Year we were all delighted to see the performance that came from the latest LGA1155 socket. Intel definitely had refined the LGA1156 into a fine art throughout its short life and those improvements were carried over into the P67 chipset. So impressive was it we couldn't wait for the second wave of motherboards to arrive which would have all the major features we love to see.
Then just as we were girding out loins for the influx it all stopped.
It was discovered that the P67 Chipset had a problem with it's 5 and 6 SATA ports that would cause data loss, and so everything was halted whilst Intel beavered away to fix the problem. After our months hiatus the B3 revision boards are upon us with that problem fixed and a few nips and tucks here and there, so it's time for us to get back in front of the bench rig and see what the long-awaited second wave brings us.
Today it's courtesy of MSI with their P67 Rev B3 Big Bang Marshal motherboard. Big in more than name only, it's got enough slots for QUAD SLI, comes equipped with Lucid Hydra and all the usual MSI accessories. How does it perform?
Generally the Marshal is exactly what you'd expect a modern MSI motherboard to be. It's got the classic blue and gun-metal heatsinks, OC Genie, and everything is well designed and in the right place. It sounds simple, but it's often over-looked.
The major feature it has over its contemporaries are more PCIe slots than you can shake a stick at.
|FSB / Hyper Transport Bus||100MHz|
|Chipset||Intel® P67 (B3)|
|DDR3 Memory||DDR3 1066/1333/1600*/1866*/2133*(OC)|
|Max Memory (GB)||32|
|PCI-E Gen||Gen2 (2x16, 2x8, 4x1)|
|USB 3.0 ports (Rear)||8|
|USB 2.0 ports (Rear)||2|
|Audio ports (Rear)||6+Coaxial/Optical SPDIF|
|Serial ports (Rear)||N/A|
|1394 ports (Rear)||1|
Let's grab a look then.
The box is certainly eye-catching. It's quite a departure from the normal MSI design with a chromatic covering on a very dark box, highlighted by the central graphic and Marshal ID.
The reverse shows the MSI standards of DrMOS power circuitry, OC Genie and the 'Superpipe' heatpipe cooling.
Accessories are definitely more than the standard "couple of SATA cables and an IO Shield". A particular high point are the two USB3.0 brackets. There are many different solutions to USB3.0 extendability and this is the nicest one yet.
On the left is the OC Dashboard which, as you'd expect, allows you to monitor and control voltages and the like from outside of the BIOS. As well as that we have a very high quality shield, some probes and various headers to make cable attachment much easier than fumbling around with the board installed.
And here she is in all her glory. The picture, if anything, doesn't highlight how massive this is. It's one big old board thanks to those 8 PCIe slots.
The Creative X-fi included is of the soft variety rather than a dedicated chip. A quick peel of that label reveals a much more standard ALC892 Realtek chip.
Demonstrating how feature-laden the Marshal is are the plethora of in and outputs on the backplate. No gaps here.
The Marshal is equipped with four SATA3 ports and four SATA II ports. Plenty of storage options covered.
We also have the very handy on-board power and reset switches along with the BIOS select and OC Genie options.
It's slightly curious to see the USB3 headers all the way over here when the supplied brackets are for PCI mounting rather than drive-bay. A cable fanatics nightmare.
Along with the alternate BIOS MSI have equipped the Marshal with extra PCI-Express options courtesy of some dip switches tucked away in the corner, very handy for fault finding a faulty GPU in a watercooled system.
The CPU socket is very nice to look at with everything neatly tucked away giving the CPU area an amphitheatre effect that is pleasing to the eye.
MSI P67 Big Bang Marshal
Intel Core i5-2500K
Muskin Joule 1200w
4GB Kingston Genesis 2133MHz
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
As you can see it's our normal P67 test setup with the particularly brilliant i5-2500K our weapon of choice rather than the top end i7-2600K.
Overclocking on the P67 is simplicity itself compared to the X58 overclocking methodology. As to which you prefer, well it depends on where you stand. To a lot of us who've been through the days of endless tweaking things it feels akin to being replaced by a robot, but thankfully you can't deny the results.
Speaking of results, let's just bask in the glow of this screenshot shall we.
Impressive enough? The MSI Big Bang Marshal certainly overclocks like an absolute lunatic pushing our 2500K to a whopping 5GHz on air, and at only 1.46v on the vCore. This matches the best clock we have ever got on this chip but with MUCH lower volts than the 1.6v chip killing levels the stock Intel board required. I have a feeling you may now be starting to understand what a quality board can deliver.
Incredible. So stable is it that we shall we using this as our overclock bench speed, so expect the MSI to top the charts in all of the overclock comparisons.
One of the things we were most impressed about with the latest BIOS update was how well the Marshal takes advantage of the overclock. We've seen a few bits of hardware recently that couldn't make the most of the overclocks they were capable of delivering, but the MSI Big Bang Marshal isn't one of them.
Starting off with the excellent AIDA64 at stock we find the MSI Marshal really can push the 2500K along nicely. It beats out our reference P67 board and gets damn close to the 2600K. With the 5GHz overclock it's a stormer, demolishing the reference system and keeping right on a par with the Maximus IV B3 we recently covered.
With the many improvements the new LGA1155 has over its predecessor the LGA1156 the memory results are fantastic regardless of whether you're running the CPU at the stock speeds or overclocked. With the 5GHz overclock we're testing with today the Big Bang Marshal is once again neck and neck with the Maximus, producing some mind-blowing speeds.
Sandra is very good at separating the processor away from the rest of the system and focussing in on how good the synergy between the processor and the motherboard are. In the case of the MSI Marshal it's clearly well refined with great performance at stock and trading punches with the Maximus IV when it's pushed to 5 GHz.
Once again the results at stock are very impressive and with the easy overclock it is like a freight train. Relentless number crunching abilities.
PC Mark Vantage
Futuremark's excellent PC Mark benchmarking suite, here in 64-bit guise, tests every aspect of your system to ensure that all of your daily tasks can be performed as efficiently as possible. For the purposes of brevity although we run every test we don't graph them all. The Big Bang Marshal definitely wont be found wanting no matter what you decide to throw at it, with great scores in both stock and overclocked tests.
Lastly before we move to the 3D Mark testing, Maxon's CineBench R11.5. Rendering always pushes a processor to its limit and it's ably testing by one of the industry standards. At stock it's pretty middling to be honest, not quite as good here as our reference board. Once overclocked though we get the highest CPU score we've seen with our Core i5-2500K.
3D Mark Vantage
Both versions of 3D Mark are highly reliant upon the quality of the GPU rather than the motherboard, so we run the testing just to make certain that everything is as it should be and there aren't any unexpected glitches. With the excellent quality of the MSI manufacturing process it's no surprise at all that the scores are exactly where we'd hope they'd be.
3D Mark 11
Naturally despite the testing methodology of 3D Mark 11 being very different from Vantage, the results are the same for our purposes. Namely the MSI Big Bang Marshal is right where we'd expect with no nasty surprises awaiting you.
No matter how neutral we try and remain when reviewing a new piece of hardware we are only human and enthusiasts just like you. So when we first opened the box to the MSI and saw it's "Nimitz Carrier" size we couldn't help but be excited, especially given the excellent performance of recent MSI motherboards.
There is no doubt that this is a big board. All XL-ATX boards are big but if you've gone a while without testing one it's easy to forget quite how much extra room there is with that extra slot. Being so big allows enormous freedom in placement of your PCIe devices and the cooling thereof, assuming that you aren't trying to squeeze it in a HTPC or similar.
It's not just the size that grabs you though. MSI really have nailed the looks with their blue and gun-metal grey boards of late. Most high-end motherboards are either red or blue, and the main rival for the blue P67 Big Bang Marshal at the moment just happens to be in the red corner in the shape of the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme.
It's very apt that we have models in the red corner and the blue corner because they are both heavyweights trading blows. If we're allowed to run with the boxing metaphor for a little longer these two would end up with a points draw after 15 rounds.
There is very little not to like about the Marshal. Although we didn't test it this go around to maintain the fidelity of our benchmarks and comparisons, it is equipped with the awesome Lucid Hydra system that allows you to mix and match cards from both nVidia and ATI. This is something that we've tested before and it works amazingly well with complete transparency of operation and no performance drawbacks.
Overclocking is a joy. We had couple of issues with the version of BIOS that the Marshal was shipped with, which is often an issue when dealing with 'fresh off the press' hardware but true to the excellent customer service MSI quickly let us have a copy of the retail BIOS and it's stunning. 5GHz out of our Core i5-2500K was a breeze to obtain and the results backed up the fantastic clock-speed. Who would have thought when the Core i7s were released that we'd soon be able to have 5GHz processors without breaking either a sweat or the bank.
Naturally all this comes at a bit of a premium. It's not readily available at the moment but the MSRP is expected to be around the £320 mark. We'd be lying if we said this was cheap, but alternatively it's only a bit more than the Maximus but with an extra PCIe slot and the brilliant Lucid capabilities it's actually better value. Yes that seems quixotic, but so much more kit for only a little extra money is what value is all about.
Struggling to choose between the GTX590 and the HD6990? Have both with the MSI Big Bang Marshal. And then let us bench it.
In short, if you want the flexibility that an XL-ATX motherboard provides for Quad-GPU shenanigans then the Marshal really is a bulletproof choice. It's fast, looks gorgeous, comes equipped with everything you could wish for and a boat-load of accessories. We're happy to award it our OC3D Gold Award for the ludicrous overclocking capabilities matched with rock-solid components.
Thanks to MSI for providing the P67 Big Bang Marshal for review. Discuss in our forums.