MSI P55-GD80 Motherboard Page: 1
Introduction
 
MicroStar International or MSI as they are better known are on of the leading manufacturers of PC components, particularly mainboards so it should come as no surprise that they are also one of the first companies to unleash there P55 range of motherboards.
 
Established in 1986, MSI are proud of their award winning heritage and exemplary customer service. They are dedicated to developing cutting-edge products and technology and hold stead-fast to there philosophy of 'Quality Products - Customer satisfaction'. This history has seen MSI catapult into the top three manufacturers of motherboards along with being the no1 worldwide company of choice for graphics cards so one might say they know a thing or two about meeting the customers needs, especially when it concerns PC hardware.
Today we get to put the flagship MSI P55-GD80 through its paces. This motherboard is the first retail board based on Intels P55 chipset we have gotten our hands on so I'm sure you are as intrigued to see how it performs as we are. The feature set of the P55-GD80 is as mouthwatering as the mainboard itself:
 
  • OC Genie
    An on board processor allows the end user to automatically overclock the CPU at the push of a button. Normally overclocking takes a lot of time and experimentation but the OC Genie automatically overclocks the CPU for you.
  • DrMOS
    An acronym for Driver MOSFET. DrMOS is different however from your standard MOSFET in that the design incorporates three features in one, the Top and bottom MOSFETs and a driver IC. This has allowed MSI to configure a 1000MHz switching frequency, 400% faster than standard MOSFETs making it one the most efficient designs on the market today.
  • Superpipe Technology
    The link between the mainboard heatsinks is perhaps as important as the heatsink itself when dissipating heat from the mainboard components. MSI's interpretation of this is 8mm thick, making the Superpipe 60% thicker on average than a traditional heatpipe and the thickest of all on any motherboard today.
  • Active Phase Switching
    This technology is MSI's slant on power saving. Sure, there are few overclockers who care about such things but when you consider that the cost of electricity can dramatically be cut by utilising this feature, even when overclocking, then the prospect of this technology becomes much more attractive.
These are just a few of the features of the mainboard and I could rabble on for a good few pages regarding all of the included attractions of the P55-GD80 but I'm sure you are itching to look at the mainboard itself and its performance so I'll finish of the introduction with a brief look at the advertised specification...
 
 
Specification
 
The following specification is subject to change as the board we have at present is an engineering sample and not the full retail product:
 
  MSI P55-GD80
CPU
LGA1156 Socket for Intel Lynnfield Processors
Supports Intel Turbo Boost Technology
Chipset Intel P55 Express Chipset
Memory
4xDIMM, max. 16GB, DDR3 2133(OC), 2000(OC), 133/1066MHz DRAM, non-ECC,unbuffered memory
Dual Channel memory architecture 
Expansion Slots
3 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots
2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 (2.5GT/s)
2 x PCI
Storage
Intel P55 Express Chipset
- 6 x SATA  ports (Intel P55)
- 2 x SATA ports (JMicron JMB322)
- 1 x eSATA port (JMicron JMB363)
- Intel Matrix Storage technology supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10
- 1x IDE (JMicron JMB363)
LAN
Dual LAN (10/100/1000) controllers
Realtek 8111L
Audio
8 Channel Audio
Realtek ALC889 (True blue-ray audio)
IEEE 1394
Via 6315N controller
USB 13 x USB 2.0 ports (2x3 ports on board, 7 ports on the back panel)
Form Factor
ATX (30.5cm x 24.4cm)
 
Rather than opting for just two PCIe slots on the P55-GD80, MSI have incorporated three slots which are CrossfireX and SLI capable but when used in multi GPU format the speeds drop from the PCIe 2.0 16x standard to 8x,8x and 4x. Also worthy of note is that MSI have not opted to go with the infamous Marvel controller supporting 6G, instead, MSI have incorporated the tried and tested stack of Intel and JMicron controllers for the 9 available SATA ports.
 
Enough of the small talk though, let's get down and dirty with the motherboards packaging and appearance...


MSI P55-GD80 Motherboard Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
From the outset it appears MSI are taking a completely different approach to packaging their new range of motherboards. Gone are the cartoon elves and armour clad warriors replaced instead with a fresh, professional looking appearance. The reflective orange and white glossy exterior is accompanied by numerous emblems, perhaps most significantly, the NVidia SLI and Crossfire emblems signifying that that board, along with the P55 chipset does indeed support both multi GPU formats.
 
Flipping the box over we find the MSI have displayed the main features of the motherboard such as OC Genie, SuperPipe and DrMOS technologies, all of which are exclusive to MSI. Active phase switching is also unique to MSI motherboards which allows the motherboard to control power on demand. Along with V-Kit and Winki 2.0, which I will cover later in the review, the mainboard specifications and an I/O overview round off the rear of the package.
 
 outer box box rear
 
Upon opening the box, I was greeted with a library of manuals, leaflets and user guides, the likes of which appeared to be very well presented and not the usual budget paper garbage we are accustomed to. Each manual is very well laid out, even the main motherboard manual which makes a change with each component, setup guide and BIOS explanations presented in an easy to follow format. All of the manuals can be held within a plastic wallet for easy storage which is a great little inclusion for those who have a tendency to lose manuals.
 
open box manuals
 
The overclocking guide is particularly well presented in a full colour, glossy manual with full size pictures. The manual, I'm happy to report, also appears to be written by someone who actually knows what they are talking about! The manual goes into more depth than the motherboard manual and concentrates, as you would expect, on the overclocking features of the P55-GD80. BIOS explanations and simple overclocking tips are the order of the day and while a manual such as this is hardly the definitive guide to overclocking, it will be a very welcome addition to those new to the art.
 
overclocking manual accessories
 
The included accessories at first glance are nothing out of the ordinary with the driver disks, SATA cables, I/O shield, SATA power cables, USB bracket, E-SATA bracket and an IDE cable. Looking closer though we also find that MSI have included some 'V-Check' cables for use with a multimeter and perhaps most significantly 4 flexible Multi GPU bridges - 2 SLI and 2 Crossfire bridges of different sizes.
 
SLI multimeter
 
Remember the days of brown PCB's with pink and green slots? That used to be MSI's 'signature' calling card which, I'm sure they will agree was a fashion disaster to put it politely. Times have changed however and now MSI have a set of brand new clothes which might I add look very dashing. The Black PCB is complimented with blue and gun metal grey heatsinks along with black and blue plastic slots. The main components of the mainboard are all ideal placed around the leading edges which leads to a very well laid out motherboard. The rear of the motherboard is simple enough by the design with only a CPU socket backplate to be found. One area which I had a few concerns about was a tiny little chip directly in line with where a CPU heatsink backplate may be fitted which could cause problems but we'll come to that in the test setup section of the review.
 
mainboard board rear
 
The CPU socket area of Intels new 1156 standard is much smaller than previous incarnations but because of the DrMOS power regulators, chokes and solid capacitors, the area appears to be slightly cluttered which may be an issue come insulation time for the extreme coolers. The socket retention mechanism has been refreshed with the whole metal frame now lifting away with the metal pressure clasp. This new design is much more user friendly than previous versions but care should still be taken as I would imaging it would be very easy to scratch the main board with the clasp, thereby possibly cutting some traces. This new socket will however, need a new CPU cooler as the spacing is slightly larger than skt775 but smaller than skt1366. Hopefully there will soon be plenty of brackets available that will allow enthusiasts to continue to use their current heatsinks but in our case we had to buy a new CPU cooler as neither skt775 or 1366 coolers would fit.
 
One of the major difference between P55 and X58 is the drop down from triple channel DDR3 support to dual channel. The memory controller is still onboard the CPU but this drop in potential bandwidth is likely to affect performance even with the point to point interface of Core i5/i7. That said, the P55-GD80 will still support upto 16GB of DDR3 running at a massive 2133MHz (OC) which I'm sure will keep most enthusiasts happy.
 
CPU socket memory slots
 
The PCI area of the motherboard, again colour co-ordinated, is very well laid out with 2xPCIe x1, 3x PCIe 2.0 x16 along with two 32bit PCI slots. NVidia SLI is supported in both 2 and 3 way configurations as is CrossfireX however due to the limitation of the P55 Chipset, only 16 PCIe lanes are available which will cripple some cards when used in TRI configurations but unless you intend on using top end, dual GPU coolers such as the GTX295, and x8 + x8 setup will show no significant drop in performance.
 
PCIe SB
 
The bottom right of the motherboard hosts a 6+2 SATA configuration. The 6 black right angled ports are controlled by the Intel P55 chipset, while the two blue ports, an eSATA and IDE port are controlled by the JMicron JMB322 controller. It's clear a lot of thought has gone into this area with all of the ports positioned such that even with a multi GPU setup installed, the ports are still easily accessible.
 
The I/O area of the mainboard is crammed full of 7x USB 2.0 ports, 1x firewire, 2x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x eSATA, PS2 keyboard and mouse ports coaxial and TOSLINK connectors as well as 6x 3.5mm analogue audio jacks. The audio is controlled by Realteks ALC889 chipset which affords 8-Channel HD-audio.
 
PATA
 
When I first looked at the on board switches of the mainboard I was gutted to see that MSI had included space for power and rest buttons but sadly not included them. After numerous times jumping the headers to get the board to power up I caught the power 'button' by accident, and hey presto it worked! Little did I know at the time that MSI had incorporated, power, reset and Green Power 'easy touch' buttons - very clever! I would still prefer physical buttons but I was too happy at this point to really care.
 
Above these are one of the major features of the motherboard - the OC Genie button and the +/- buttons. These allow instantaneous overclocking of the motherboard thanks to the on board OC Genie processor. This chip automatically adjust frequency, latencies and voltages to give an optimum overclock of you CPU. Once into your favourite operating system, the +/- button can also be used to fine tune the base clock or push the overclock even further. If that wasn't enough there are also on-board over voltage switches that increase the possible voltage adjustment values in the BIOS to extreme levels. With this in mind, at these extreme voltages it is very important that those voltages are monitored correctly and as such MSI have also included a neat little reading point which used in conjunction with a multimeter should give very accurate voltage monitoring - simply exquisite!
 
OC Genie multimeter point
 
Slotting itself between the OC Genie and Base clock =buttons is a diagnostic LED which also doubles as a CPU temperature readout. The motherboard manual provides a comprehensive list of possible codes which should assist you when setting the mainboard up should you have any difficulties. There is also a further LED readout which displays the current phase control of the mainboard.
 
Breaking from the traditional 'Circu-pipe' technology, MSI have trimmed away the excess and produced a much more refined heatsink assembly. While the sinks are no longer copper, they are much more attractive and coupled with MSI's SuperPipe technology, temperatures are upto 50c cooler than traditional cooling methods! Being 8mm in diameter, MSI claim this is the thickest heatpipe used on current motherboards which is some 60% thicker than the most common used formats.
 
Interestingly, MSI placed a heatsink on an area that does not require any for there is no such thing as a QPI on the P55 chipset however, thanks to the wicking nature of the SuperPipe, this heatsink will further add to the heatsink assemblies heat dissipation.
 
DR MOS false sink
 
Removing the heatsink was a doddle thanks to the spring loaded screws on the back of the motherboard. The whole heatsink is one part and as such each component will assist the other in dissipating heat rather than having individual heatsinks. The P55 chip we see below is not protected by an IHS so extreme care should be taken should you wish to replace the stock heatsink. While the heatsink made good contact with the chip, I was a little perturbed to find that no paste was used to aid contact. Instead MSI opted to use thermal pads throughout on both the P55 chipset and MOSFETs.
 
NB mosfet
 
DrMOS (Driver MOSFET) is an integration of top and bottom mosfets along with the driver integrated chip all into one. This results in power savings and more importantly to overclockers, power switching frequency of 1000KHz which is 4 times faster than a traditional MOSFET switching of 250KHz. This aids power delivery voltages by being both stable and efficient even under heavy load conditions. Thanks to the 3-1 design, the the transmission distance between components is much shorter which means less noise as opposed to competitors to MSI who use more power switches which can lead to huge spikes in noise, in turn rocking the overclocking boat called stability.
 
The P55 heatsink also covers a Fintek F71889F Super IO controller chip however, no contact is made with this chip despite the heatsink covering this area. Watercooling the MSI P55-GD80 should be pretty straightforward as the main P55 chip has standard spacing that most universal chipset coolers should fit such as the MCW30 from swiftech.
 
fintek heatsink
 
WOW. If this is a sign to come for the P55 chipset then I can only say our birthdays have all come at once. From the packaging to the mainboard itself, this is one product that is sure to ruffle the feathers of MSI's major competitors as they have upped the game by a fair few notches presenting a board that not only looks the business but is as feature packed as any board on the market at the moment. Not only that but it is clear MSI are not content to follow the pack, plagiarising ideas but they are attempting to innovate and expand upon what they know enthusiasts want. 
 
So far in this review they have definitely succeeded.
 
Let's take a look at the BIOS...


MSI P55-GD80 Motherboard Page: 3
BIOS Options
 
The BIOS layout of the P55-GD80 is pretty similar to other motherboards and is easily navigated via the use of arrow and enter keyboard inputs. The one area which we will be concentrating on today though is the Cell Menu. This is the section where all of the overclocking settings are to be found.
 
The main page is separated into three areas, CPU, Memory and Voltage settings and is navigated by the usual scroll method. CPU Features is the first setting we arrive at which is handy as this is perhaps the first area any overclocker should visit to turn off the power saving features of a CPU that can hinder a stable overclock.
 
cpu feature
 
The memory area is very thorough giving both the SPD settings, current settings and available timings and sub timings to tweak at your leisure. As with most high end motherboards on sale today, the MSI P55-GD80 has a plethora of options available to ensure you get the absolute maximum from your memory kit.
 
spd info dram
 
There are four memory dividers, each setting the frequency depending on your base clock setting. While the divider menu itself does not display this frequency, the adjusted DRAM frequency display (greyed out) does show the resulting frequency so it is possible to see the results of your tweaking immediately, ideal if like me, your maths is not your strong point.
 
dram 2 mem ratio
 
The ClockGen tuner contains settings for configuring the driving clocks of both the CPU and PCIe. There are two amplitude control settings ranging from 700-1000mV. These settings control the clock driving control voltage but interestingly there are no clock skew settings available to delay the driving clock values.
 
In the main voltage section you can see that the MSI has afforded the end user the tools by which to fry there shiny new hardware thanks to a massive voltage range allowed on each component. A massive 2.1v can be pumped through the CPU which should be enough for even the most ardent of overclockers who like to dabble in extreme cooling. Among the other crazy voltages is an allowable 2.4v for the DRAM Voltage.
 
cpu amplitude voltages
 
If you wish, you can save power by altering the phase control settings on the CPU, VTT, PCH and DDR in the Green Power section of the BIOS. Also, if bling is not your thing you can also adjust the motherboard LED settings as well as the motherboards on board touchpad (power & reset) buttons. Last of all we come to the fan control area where all of the on-board headers can be adjusted via percentages which is ideal for those looking to have a quiet system.
 
cpu phase hw monitor
 
Apart from the usual CPU and system temperatures, you can also view the DrMOS temperatures. I don't quite know why you would really want to do this other than to check that everything is running normally but it is a nice feature nonetheless and something few other manufacturers include on their mainboards. Once you have everything setup just how you like it, you can save everything to one of 6 profiles. This time saving feature is becoming more and more common these days but it is invaluable as a time saving feature and one which I hope is here to stay.
 
Should you overclock fail to boot then you can set the amount of 'retries' in the BIOS. In testing we did not have an overclock which could not recover and I didn't have to use the CMOS clear option once as the MSI recovered from a bad overclock very well.
 
temp oc profile
 
So then, a very good looking motherboard with a matching, easy to navigate, simple to use BIOS yet complex enough for those looking to get the absolute maximum from their system. Thus far it seems that MSI can do no wrong and I must say I am inclined to agree, However, many motherboards I have tested in the past have been good talkers but when it comes down to providing the goods, all too many times I have seen those boards clam up, talking the talk but failing to walk the walk.
 
Let's see if this is the case with the P55-GD80...


MSI P55-GD80 Motherboard Page: 4
Test Setup
 
To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configuration used in this review can be seen below: 
 
Test Setup
 
Processor: Intel Core i7 870 (2.93Ghz)
Motherboard: MSI P55-GD80
Memory: 4GB GSkill Trident DDR3 F3-16000CL9D
Graphics Card: Asus NVidia GTX275
Power Supply: Gigabyte Odin 1200W
CPU Cooling: Coolermaster Hyper TX3
Hard Disk: Hitachi Deskstar 7K160 7200rpm 160GB
Graphics Drivers: Geforce 190.62
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1
 
During the testing of the setup above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used before the benchmarking began, with a full defrag of the hard drive once all the drivers and software were installed, preventing any possible performance issues due to leftover drivers from the previous motherboard installations. For the 3DMark and gaming tests a single card configuration was used.
 
setup 1 Setup 2
 
ram spacing GSkill
 
As you can see, there is plenty of clearance for the memory modules, even high heatsink ones such as the Gskill Trident used in our test setup. There was also a 3cm gap between the memory slot clips and the GPU which should provide plenty of room to swap out those modules without having to remove the GPU.
 
LED phase control  
 
The MSI becomes a light show at night with the OC Genie button illuminating blue when pressed. The on-board diagnostic LED also doubles as a CPU temperature gauge when the POST has completed. Yet another diagnostic LED is found near the CPU socket which displays the number of Phase controls in use. There are also separate LEDs (blue) which also report the phase signal status.
 
To guarantee a broad range of results to best evaluate the motherboards performance, the following benchmark utilities were used:
 
Synthetic CPU Test
• Sisoft Sandra Pro 2009 SP3c
• PassMark CPU test
• SuperPI 1m, 8m, 32m

Memory Test
• Sisoft Sandra Pro 2009 SP3c
• Everest Ultimate Edition Version 5.00.1650

File Compression & Encoding
• Sisoft Sandra Pro 2009 SP3c
• 7-Zip File Compression ver 4.65

Disk I/O Performance
• HDTach 3.0.4.0
• Sisoft Sandra Pro 2009 SP3c

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10 (64-bit)
• POV-Ray 3.7
• 3DMark 06
• 3DMark Vantage

3D Games

• Crysis
• Far Cry 2
• Call of Duty 4

Overall System Performance
• PCMark Vantage
 
 
Power Consumption

Power consumption is an aspect often forgotten when it comes to enthusiast motherboards but in today's climate, with rising utility bills special consideration needs to be taken when choosing you components as over a period of time, one components can prove to be much more expensive than another over its lifetime. Power consumption was measured at the socket using a plug-in mains power and energy monitor. Idle readings were taken after 5 minutes in Windows. Load readings were taken during a run of 3DMark Vantage.
 
 
With the defaults set in the BIOS, the P55-GD80 uses 146W when idle which is bad news for electricty suppliers but good news for consumers. Even when the system was placed under load the power consumption only increased by 90w to 232w. Thanks to the fantastic power efficiency of the DrMOS features, the MSI P55-GD80 is certainly worthy of consideration should you wish to cut those power bills.
 
 
Overclocking
 
Here's what we get with the CPU booted at stock with all powersaving and overclocking options disabled:
 
 stock cache
 
memory mobo
 
From the CPU-Z shot above you can see that the stock speed of the Core i7-870 is 2.93GHz when the bus speed is running at 133Mhz. As with most motherboards though, there are slight variations on this and the MSI board we are using for testing placed the bus speed slightly above spec at 133.7MHz resulting in a clockspeed of 2.94GHz but for intents and purposes this should be 2.93GHz. As with the Core i7-920, the i7-870 has the Intel Turbo feature allowing an instant overclock by increasing the multiplier by two on the primary core and 1x on the remaining three so the cores are clocked to 24, 23, 23, 23 when you need the extra power most giving an overclock of 3.6GHz. This is in stark contrast to the stock clockspeed of the i7-920 being 2.66GHz with a Turbo boost of 3.2GHz - nice!
 
MSI have also made it easy to overclock by the use of a single button, the OC Genie. Hitting this button and thereby illuminating it blue activates an onboard processor that sets an overclock depending on the hardware used saving both time and effort. Here's what the OC Genie made of our i7-870:
 
OC Genie
 
Sadly, the memory cannot be overclocked while the Genie is in operation nor can the XMP profile be utilised which is very disappointing. That said, an instant 1GHz overclock on the CPU (which was also solid as a rock in Prime95) is certainly nothing to be scoffed at. Hopefully the memory issues while using the Genie will be resolved in future BIOS revisions.
 
Anyone who is familiar with overclocking the older Skt1366 i7 will feel pretty much at home with the new revision i7 in that the base clock is still there acting for all intents and purposes just like the FSB of old.
 
Turbo
 
I initially tried overclocking the Core i7-870 with the Turbo technology enabled which resulted in a maximum clock of 4429MHz. However, I was not satisfied that 185 on the base clock was the maximum available on this motherboard and so did a little manual tweaking and managed to hit 205.5 Bclk resulting in a whopping 4521MHz! This was far from stable though but I do feel were I to be a little braver with the voltages then this could indeed be stabilised. 1.4v was the maximum Vcore I used on the chip, as with the older Core i7-920 but the newer i7 surpassed the older chip by a fair margin.
 
SuperPI
 
Lowering the overclock I attempted to gain some stability with a few runs of 3D06 and SuperPI 1M. While SuperPI is by no means the definitive test of stability, it does give an indication of what the CPU is capable of, much more so than a CPU-Z suicide screenshot. 4.45GHz was the maximum I could achieve with this setup on air cooling with a Vcore limitation of 1.4v. Which was stable enough for everyday use. An amazing result, especially when you consider that the temperatures were also lower than that of the Core-i7 920 being around 35c idle and 68c load compare to 47c idle and over 85c for the 920. Obviously a pinch of salt has to be added to these temps as totally different setups were used but I would be happy to stake my reputation on the fact that the Core i7 8xx series run cooler than the 9xxx series counterparts.
 
For this review I decided to run the system at stock speed and the system overclocked to see how it compared. When overclocked I ran the system at the same settings the OC genie used (4GHz CPU) BUT also ran the memory at its rated 2000MHz. The Stock system was run at 2.93GHz on the CPU and the maximum allowed 1600MHz on the memory.
 
Let's see how they got on...


MSI P55-GD80 Motherboard Page: 5
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 


SuperPI is the benchmark of choice for many overclockers. It's lightweight to download and can give a quick indication on how good a system is at number crunching. Once again, testing was performed a total of 5 times, with an average being calculated from the middle three results.
 
 
 
 
 


PassMark is a popular benchmarking suite which test all aspect of PC hardware.The CPU test examines Mathematical operations, compression, encryption, SSE, 3DNow! instructions and more. Each CPU test was performed a total of 5 times, with an average being calculated from the middle three results.
 

 
Results Analysis
 
Predictably, the overclocked CPU beat the stock by a fair margin. The 1GHz overclock the OC Genie allows certainly shows the improvements that are to be had, sometimes upto 35%.
 
Let's move on...


MSI P55-GD80 Motherboard Page: 6


SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.

 
 

 
 


Everest is in many ways similar to Sisoft Sandra. Focusing mainly on software and hardware information reporting, Everest also comes with a benchmark utility suitable for testing the read, write and latency performance of the memory subsystem. Each of these benchmarks were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
Because of the limitation of using the OC Genie mentioned previously, the memory bandwidth was limited to 1260MHz until MSI sort this issue out (which they have promised to do immediately so hopefully it will be resolved by the time you read this). So to save MSI's blushes I set the GSkill memory of our test bench to it's rated 2000MHz due to overclocking the base clock as opposed to the maximum 1600MHz allowed from the stock memory dividers. This is the same on most P55 boards so it is something worthy of consideration should you wish to purchase high frequency memory modules. The good news is that the 2000MHz setting worked without a hitch.
 
Let's see how the boards perform in our Hard Drive benchmarks... 


MSI P55-GD80 Motherboard Page: 7
 
HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. This benchmark is not only capable of producing results on hard disk access times but also CPU usage required during disk access. The "Long bench" was run a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
 No surprises here then given that overclocking a CPU will hardly effect the SATA controller.Looking at the results above, it is clear that the P55-GD80 is easily on a par with the higher spec X58 chipset.

Let's see how the motherboard performs with our multimedia benchmark suite...


MSI P55-GD80 Motherboard Page: 8


SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
 
 
 
7-Zip is an open source Winzip-style file compression utility that has the ability to compress and decompress many file formats including its own .7z compression scheme. 7-Zip also comes complete with its own benchmarking utility for gauging the compression and decompression speed of the system that it is installed on.
  
 
 
Results Observations
 
Being heavily CPU dependant, the multimedia and encoding results showed that when the CPU is overclocked, significant gains are to be had. Given that the MSI P55-GD80 can give you instant 1GHz overclock (CPU dependant) this sort of performance increase is definitely worthwhile and should keep those new to overclocking very happy indeed.
 
Let's move on to our synthetic 3D Benchmarks...


MSI P55-GD80 Motherboard Page: 9
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to gauge the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
POV-Ray is a Persistence of Vision Raytracing tool for producing high-quality computer graphics. The freely available software suite is bundled with a benchmarking scene that uses many of POV-Ray's internal features to heavily test the abilities of the CPU in both single and multi-core modes.
 
 
 
 
 
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis

 Again, because the benchmarks run here are bias toward CPU speed, the increases the overclocked system has over the stock are quite incredible. The only benchmarks that did not show any significant increase was Futuremarks Vantage with the overclocked system scoring very little in comparison over the stock setup. Synthetic benchmarks are all good and well but how do the two systems compare when used in real world gaming scenarios?
 
Let's find out...


MSI P55-GD80 Motherboard Page: 10
 
Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 

 
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast game play. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long game play demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 


Ubisoft has developed a new engine specifically for Far Cry 2, called Dunia, meaning "world", "earth" or "living" in Parsi. The engine takes advantage of multi-core processors as well as multiple processors and supports DirectX 9 as well as DirectX 10. Running the Far Cry 2 benchmark tool the test was run 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being omitted and the average calculated from the remaining 3.
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
While not groundbreaking, the CPU clockspeed evidently has some effect on the frames per second in every game I tested today. Most notably was Far Cry 2 which showed a good performance increase over the stock setup.
 
Let's take a look at it's overall performance with a run of PCMark Vantage 64bit... 


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PCMark Vantage is the latest benchmarking suite from Futuremark. Differing significantly from their 3DMark suites, PCMark performs a series of benchmarks designed to recreate and benchmark scenarios of a PC being used for everyday tasks. Vantage has a Vista only requirement as it actually relies on several different components from the OS in order to run correctly.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
Again we see that the overall performance gains an overclocked setup can achieve when compared to a stock clocked system. The MSI P55-GD80 is certainly a high performing motherboard with some great results. While it remains to be seen how good the motherboard is when compared to other motherboards based on the same chipset I would wage that the P55-GD80 will be up there with the best of them.
 
Let's head over to the conclusion where I attempt to put today's testing into perspective...


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Conclusion
 
When I first cast eyes on the MSI P55-GD80 I was astounded by the very attractive design. So much so I found it hard to believe it had arrived from the MSI stable. The design bods have worked wonders with the aesthetics of the board which is easily one of the best looking pieces of hardware on the market today. The matching blue heatsinks and peripheral slots are very fetching and with no odd purple or yellow (or indeed pink and green!) slots anywhere on the mainboard, I congratulate MSI on a job well done.
 
The packaging too, while not on a par with the best out there is certainly very good. I would like to have seen black/blue cabling included instead of the bog standard MSI red but I guess they have surplus stock to shift from the parts bin. What I was impressed with was the amount of included accessories.
 
The motherboard layout is nigh on perfect with no issues encountered at anytime during the setup. The amount of ports and connectivity is such that even if you do not wish to use this motherboard as the basis for an overclocking monster, you will be happy with the amount of expandability it offers.
 
The good news does not stop there though. The board has some very good overclocking ability. Achieving 4.5Ghz is no mean feat and while I will confess, this is the only board I have tried this CPU with, the overclocking seemed to be very predictable. The board gives you those little hints when it is starting to run out of steam and this makes overclocking so much more fun and much less frustrating. The recovery from overclocking was such that it only added to the pleasure of using such a well refined motherboard. Even if you are not well versed in the dark art of overclocking, MSI have made the process so much easier thanks to the OC Genie and Base clock +/- buttons on board.
 
My only criticism of the motherboard is the OC Genie. While it is fantastic in automatically overclocking the components, it prevents some of the more detailed options of the BIOS being available, mainly the memory divider which caused issues as it would not allow our test kit to be run at it's stock 2000MHz rather relying on the SPD settings of the memory kit. However, a quick email to MSI support confirmed that they are already aware of the issue and that the technical boffins are busy working on a new BIOS release to rectify the problem, such is the excellent motherboard support from MSI.
 
The board has started to appear around the £180 mark which may appear a little excessive but when you consider mid range X58 motherboards are above this price point, £178.24 (available from Novatech) is not such a bad price at all for a flagship product. I would have liked it to be a touch closer to £150 which is much more reasonable but as with most PC components, prices just seem to creep up and up and MSI cannot be held solely responsible for that.
 
MSI have long been known for making good motherboards but have rarely made that extra step by making an amazing motherboard. This time I think I am justified into saying that they have taken that extra step and done just that. What MSI have produced is a motherboard capable of exceeding any preconceptions and indeed exceeding anyones expectations. I certainly didn't expect to see such a well rounded product as with most products, it takes a while for the chipset to mature before we start to see some of the best motherboards on the market. However, I feel MSI have shot straight out of the blocks and are racing toward the finish line before other manufacturers have even tied their laces.
 
Excellent work MSI!
 
The Good
- Baseclock buttons
- OC Genie (Auto overclock)
- DrMOS
- Aesthetics
- Accessories
- Overclocking potential
- On board temp and phase readouts
 
The Mediocre
- OC Genie restrictions (memory multi)
- No colour coded accessories
- Packaging is better but dated compared to other high end products
 
The Bad
- Nothing
 
 
Thanks to MSI for providing the MSI P55-GD80 for todays review. Discuss in our forums