MSI P55 GD85 Review Page: 1

Introduction

Purchasing any new hardware is always a balancing act between obtaining something that does what you want, and something you can afford. Our purchases are either obligatory as part of an entire system, or an upgrade to an item we already own. Thankfully many of them come with instantaneous benefits in terms of faster processing, or increased frame-rates, or easier usage or faster loading. Whatever the benefit is we notice it straight away and spend ages boring our partners and amusing our friends showing off.

Motherboards, along with PSUs, are the red-headed step children of the hardware world. The difference between a good one and a bad one can make a massive change to the performance of your entire system, but sadly most people don't consider them to be an important upgrade.

When the P55 was introduced it was intended to be a more affordable way to get onto the latest hardware without the expensive X58 solution. Unfortunately the world is a business and so as more people naturally gravitated towards the affordable option, so manufacturers started to expand their ranges to more couture offerings and the value nature of the 1156 platform quickly was diluted.

MSI P55-GD85

Anyone who has purchased a pre-built PC in their lifetime will surely have owned a Micro-Star International motherboard at some point. Initially they were poor to average in quality and suffered from a few niggles. As the years passed MSI seemed to go very quiet, but when Intel released the LGA1366 they came back with a HUGE bang, providing large feature sets at good pricing and without the problems that beset the much earlier motherboards.

Today we look at the culmination of this highly respectable business strategy, the P55-GD85. On paper this provides all the high-end features anyone could ask for, and some unique to MSI, whilst still maintaining the more affordable premise of the 1156 platform.

Have they succeeded?

Technical Specifications

As always our first port of call is the MSI website to grab their specifications. As you can see it's a comprehensive list indeed.

CPUSupports Intel® i5 / i7 based processors in LGA1156 package.
Chipset Intel® P55 Chipset
- Supports QPI up to 6.4GT/s
- Hi-Speed USB (USB2.0) controller, 480Mb/sec.
- 6 SATAII ports with transfer rate up to 3Gb/s.
- PCI Master v2.3, I/O APIC.
- ACPI 2.0 compliant.
- Serial ATA RAID 0/1/5/10.
- Integrated AHCI controller.
Memory
• Supports four unbuffered DIMM of 1.5 Volt DDR3 1066/1333/1600*/1800*/2000*/2133* (OC) SDRAM, 16GB Max
- Supports 1Gb/ 2Gb/ 4Gb DRAM size
- Supports Dual channel mode
Slots• 2 PCI Express gen2 x16 slots
- If two graphics cards are installed at PCI_E1 & PCI_E2 slots, these two PCIE x16 lanes will auto arrange from x16/ x0 to x8/ x8 
- supports ATI® Crossfire™  & NVIDIA SLI
• 2 PCI Express gen2 x1 slots
• 2 PCI slots, support 3.3V/ 5V PCI bus Interface
On-Board IDE/SATA  One Ultra DMA 66/100/133 IDE controller integrated in JMicron® 363.
- Supports PIO, Bus Master operation modes.
- Can connect up to two Ultra ATA drives.

SATAII /SATAIII controller integrated in Intel P55/Marvell® SE9128 / JMicron 363 chipsets
- Up to 3Gb/s transfer speed.
- Supports six SATAII ports by P55
- Supports two SATAIII ports by Marvell SE9128, up to 6Gb/s, support SATA RAID 0/1.
- Supports one SATA port & one eSATA / USB combo port (back) by JMicron 363.
- Supports AHCI controller with AHCI / SATA RAID 0/1/5/10 by P55.
Audio• Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC889
- Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
- Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
LAN• Supports Dual LAN PCI-E Gb LAN controllers by Realtek 8111DL
IEEE1394 / FireWireVIA® VT6315N chipset
- Supports up to two 1394 ports. (Rear panel x1, pinheader x1)
- Transfer rate is up to 400Mbps.
Internal I/O Connectors- ATX 24-Pin power connector
- 8-pin ATX 12V power connector 
- CPU / System x 4 FAN connectors
- CD-in connector
- Front panel audio connector
- Front panel connector
- 1 x chassis intrusion connector
- 3 x USB 2.0 connectors
- 7 x Serial ATAII connectors
- 2 x Serial ATAIII connectors
- 1 x ATA133 connector
- 1 x IEEE1394 connector support additional 1 port
- 1 x Reset Button
- 1 x Power Button
- 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
- 1 x SPDIF-out connector
- 1 x TPM module connector
- 1 x OC Genie Button
- 2 x Direct OC Buttons
- 1 x set voltage check point
Back Panel I/O Ports- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard port
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse port
- 1 x Clear CMOS button
- 1 x Coaxial SPDIF-out
- 1 x Optical SPDIF-out
- 1 x IEEE1394 port
- 5 x USB 2.0 ports
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- 1 x eSATA / USB Combo port 
- 2 x RJ45 LAN Jacks
- 1 x 6 in 1 audio jack
BIOS• The mainboard BIOS provides "Plug & Play" BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
• The mainboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your mainboard specifications.
Dimension• 30.5cm(L) x 24.4cm(W) ATX Form Factor

 

Some of you who follow these specifications as closely as we do you'll notice that although they are generally what we'd expect there are some features unique to the MSI range.

We'll have a closer look at those on the following pages.



MSI P55 GD85 Review Page: 2

A Closer Look

The MSI P55-GD85 is very nicely laid out. On the left we have a large G with the MSI logo within. On the right hand side of the box is the de facto standard list of various third-party technologies and manufacturer highlights.

On the reverse we have the main elements of the OC Genie, which we'll look closer at later on, the many features that MSI have equipped the GD85 with, and a list of the technical specifications we saw on page one. Considering this is very much a medium priced motherboard the list of features MSI have crammed onto it is mightily impressive.

        

On the side we have a huge GD85 logo, leaving us in no doubt as to exactly which model this is and from whom. Once we open the lid we can see a fulsome inclusion of cables and bridges. Slightly giving away the places that savings have been made is the plain cardboard nature of the shelf on which they are kept.

Of course if there is a place we don't mind seeing the odd cut it's on the packaging, as long as the product is better because of it.

        

MSI have included everything you could desire, from left to right we have a 2 port USB extension, IDE cables, 4 SATA II Cables, a Molex to SATA, the SLI and Crossfire bridges, front panel adaptors, thermal extensions and the IO Shield. Definitely not left wanting for anything and the only slightly curious thing is that on a motherboard with such a pronounced blue theme, as you'll see soon, the cables are red.

On the right is the documentation for the many features. Not often documentation is worthy of mention unless it's amazingly sparse or excellent. MSI have definitely given us the latter with the manuals covering everything you could desire in clear text and accompanied by clear diagrams or photographs.

        

One of the handiest changes to modern motherboards is the inclusion of a block into which the various front panel connectors can be plugged before finally being placed on the motherboard. Anyone who's fixed their motherboard into their case and then attempted the phenomenally fiddly task of putting the LEDs and switches in will appreciate this.

The black lengths of cable on the right are extensions for the voltage measuring points. As to why we need extensions we'll discuss on the next page.

MSI have made sure that even once you've taken the GD85 out the static packaging you're reminded of the many MSI special features, especially the OC Genie. Personally I get a little tired of the "congratulations on purchasing... " thing. Stop trying to tell me what a great choice I've made AFTER I've brought something. Don't get me wrong though. It's not solely an MSI problem.

    

There are many features to cover on this fully-featured P55-GD85, so onwards.



MSI P55 GD85 Review Page: 3

MSI P55-GD85 Up Close

Anyone who has experience of the MSI boards of old will be as happy as we were to see such a wonderful layout with subdued colours and a clean theme throughout the board. For a board with as many features as this it is also not cluttered at all and only two things are of concern, which we'll discuss soon.

The reverse of the board looks pretty much like every other board in the world, so let's look closely at various parts of the GD85.

        

The CPU socket is nicely uncluttered. Even the largest coolers will fit and only those who use extreme alternative cooling will find a problem. Unlike many P55 motherboards the CPU socket is finished in a nice gun-metal look which compliments the rest of the board nicely. Of course it will be hidden once you install the cooler but it is the little touches that let you know care has been taken over the design.

The DIMM slots are also finished in the same colour scheme we find throughout the board, with the two black slots being the primary ones. Below the RAM slots is the 24 Pin ATX which is just about in the right place for either a top or bottom mounted PSU.

        

The DrMOS technology is one of MSIs leading propriety techs. The actual technology itself is based upon an unwillingness to compromise on an important part of your energy and overclocking needs, but it does mean that in terms of the bling factor, the GD-85 scores very highly indeed.

As you can see from the photos, the heatpipe, which is advertised as 60% thicker than conventional heatpipes, certainly is beastly.MSI state it's the thickest heatpipe used on a mainboard, and whilst we've not tested them all, it is definitely in the top 1%.

Underneath those two big DrMOS heatsinks is the 8-phase DrMOS MOSFET technology that MSI extol as being 4x faster than traditional MOSFETs, giving 96% efficiency and only 4w of power loss. Impressive specifications indeed. It's yet another of those things I was mentioning in the introduction. It might not be the kind of improvement you can talk about down the pub, but the improvement in your overall experience will be noticeable.

        

Connectivity on the MSI GD85 is handled through the standard headers we're all used to. From left to right across the bottom we have Audio, CD, SP, Firewire, and three USB headers. It's nice to see that even though this is in the middle pricing bracket MSI have given us three internal USB headers.

On the bottom right of the GD85, where normally you'd expect to see the front-panel connectors, we see the true trump card of the MSI P55-GD85, the OC Genie and Direct OC controls. The OC Genie is an auto-overclocking button that we'll look closer at on the next page but the simplicity is, you press the button and the motherboard auto-overclocks, you don't and it doesn't.

The Easy Button Direct OC controls are fabulous. From left to right we have on/off, reset, and then two buttons that adjust the BCLK in real time, in steps that you can control in the BIOS. Whilst these wont be of much interest to the casual/beginning overclockers, for those of us seeking the maximum performance it could be a boon. Once you're actually in your OS it's easier to get a higher overclock than one that has to go through POST.

    

MSI have provided us with a total of 9 SATA ports. Six standard SATA II ports, the white ones are the new SATA 6Gbps ports, and the blue one you can see just behind the IDE interface is a combination SATA and eSATA port. If you've got a thing for storage, this has definitely got you covered. It's a surprise to see an IDE port still finding its way on the modern boards. But at least we've finally got rid of the floppy interface, so we can't expect miracles overnight.

You can also see the very nice chipset cooler MSI have put on the GD85. It perfectly matches the DrMOS heatsinks and adds to the very classy, cohesive, nature of the board.  

        

Two of the controller chips on the board are the Fintek F71889F sensor chip, and the almost ubiquitous JMicron JMB363 controller chip.

        

Remember before how I was saying about the voltage probe extension cables? This is why you need them. About the only poor piece of design on the MSI P55-GD85 is that the V_Check points are mounted directly below the ATX 24-pin power connector. As the ATX 24 pin is by far the thickest, least flexible cable in use it's disheartening to see it so near something that requires delicacy and precision. At least MSI have given us the extension cables as a work around, but obviously it would have been preferable to not place the monitoring points here in the first place.

Finally we have the various ports and connections that we're all used to seeing. From left to right we have the mouse and keyboard PS/2 ports, CMOS Clear, S/PDIF coaxial and optical, Firewire and two USB, USB and a USB/eSATA combo port, LAN and 2 USB ports, LAN and two USB 3.0 ports, and the audio connectors. SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 on a motherboard at this price-point is fantastic to see, and full kudos to MSI for making it possible.

    

Time to have a look at the BIOS.



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BIOS

Of the two BIOS' available MSI have chosen to use the AMI BIOS for the GD85. To save you looking through hundreds of photos of uninteresting elements, we'll stick to showing you the important stuff, and most of it is kept within the Cell Menu.

When viewing the Cell Menu at defaults you can see the main adjustments we can make are to the multiplier (especially as we're using an i7 870 in testing), and the all-important BCLK. OC Stepping is for the buttons we saw on the previous page and you can set the starting BCLK, the amount of increase each press will give, and how long the motherboard will "settle" into the speed before allowing another press. 

        

The CPU Specification menu gives us all the information we could require about our processor and its supported technologies. Although it's the kind of information most of us know off by heart, this is primarily designed as a motherboard for those people who are dipping their toes into the shark-infested world of overclocking, and for them it's a boon.

        

Viewing the CPU Feature menu we have those little tweaks that can really make a difference to the stability of your overclock, and many elements such as CIE and Turbo are once that most overclockers will disable as a matter of course.

Unlike many motherboards around this price-point it's good to see MSI include VDroop technology as part of the DrMOS package to ensure that under high loadings the power delivery remains constant. Also great to note here is how clear and descriptive the Help is on the right hand side of the BIOS screen. So often we see help sections that merely say "Disable or Enable" and that's it, that it is nice to see something actually useful. 

Unfortunately the voltages are adjusted in steps, rather than keying in a figure directly, but MSI do inform you of the default voltage so you shouldn't be left wondering exactly what the default PLL is.

        

Memory dividers are slightly sparser than we like to see. Although the GD85 supports all the things you'd expect such as XMP profiles, manual timing settings etc, when seeking a maximum overclock the more memory dividers the better. Again it's important to remember the target audience and as this isn't a board designed purely for maximum overclocking but rather easy and safe overclocking for the user who is new to it, this isn't such a downside as it might otherwise be.

    

Finally some shots of the power regulation part and general sensors available.

        

 

  

Software

Normally a driver disk is something we all just leave in the packet. After all Windows, especially 7, comes with such a comprehensive driver finding and installation ability that it is rare we want to use the supplied drivers that might be out of date, and the usual set of provided utilities are poor.

However MSI have given us a great little tool with their "Winki". No sniggering at the back. Placing the DVD in the drive and rebooting to CD/DVD provides a Instant-On Linux that comes with everything you need to perform general internet tasks and even comes complete with Open Office, the excellent freeware Office package.

Choosing to boot from CD provided a usable system in about the same time as our Windows 7 booted from SSD, and so if it was something you wished to use regularly and therefore installed to the drive rather than ran from CD, it most definitely would come close to its Instant-On moniker.

Using it is simplicity itself with a GUI that is familiar to anyone who's ever worked with icons. The only slight downside we found is that it didn't support our monitors native resolution and so there is a little moire-ing in the following photographs. This wasn't visible when in use and so is very much a non-issue. We just didn't want you thinking it looked like this "in real life".

On the left are the IM/VOIP programs, Skype and Pidgin. Skype is exactly the same as the Windows based version. Pidgin will probably be new to many of you and is an all-in-one IM solution allowing you to access all your IM accounts from a single program. A godsend for those with an ICQ number as well as a MSN/AIM username.

On the right is the word processing part of the Open Office package.

        

Although the control panel is tiny, it covers everything you could need to adjust on such a streamlined package. Network setup is exceptionally simple with an auto-detect for hard-wired ADSL connections and a User/Pass interface for those who require it.

Finally we have the installation element should you wish to make a more permanent install that doesn't require having the MSI driver disk to hand.

    

Time to see what we're using today, and how the MSI P55-GD85 overclocks.



MSI P55 GD85 Review Page: 5

Test Setup and Overclocking

Test Setup

Here at OC3D we like to use a standard test setup wherever possible so that our results are comparable across reviews.

CPU : Intel i7 870 @ 2.93GHz
GPU : ASUS GTX275
RAM : G.Skill Trident 2000MHz CL9 4GB
PSU : Cougar 1000CM
HDD : Samsung Spinpoint 1TB
Motherboard : MSI P55-GD85
OS : Windows 7 64
Cooling : Thermalright MUX-120 with Arctic Cooling MX-3

Overclocking

The main feature of the MSI P55-GD85 is the super-fast, one touch overclocking of the OC Genie. Anyone who has followed OC3D for a while knows how we feel about manufacturer based overclocking. Usually they provide far too many volts, and a very cautious overclock, to advertise their stability.

MSIs solution is bordering on genius. Press the OC Genie button. Turn the PC on. Wait a second. Overclocked. And not any old overclock either, no Sir. As you can see we have gone from the 2.93GHz that our i7 870 defaults to, up to a whopping 3.978GHz. A 1GHz overclock, perfectly stable, and with only a minimal increase to the voltages. From a single button press.

Outstanding doesn't begin to cover it. It is far and away the best automatic overclocking solution we've ever seen. Even better is the fact that the settings in the BIOS are retained, as you can see from the BIOS shot on the right. With MSI marketing this as an entry-level overclocking board the ability for those of you new to the world of free performance can happily see the various settings that have been changed to obtain this stable performance increase.

It's akin to having an expert overclocker alongside you. Brilliant.

  

Sadly, not all is well in the world of overclocking the MSI GD85. Turning off the OC Genie and going back to the good old manual overclocking saw barely any improvement at all. We managed to crack the 4GHz barrier, which is absolutely nothing to be sniffed at. However we know this chip will happily achieve 4.4GHz, and so whilst the automatic overclocking is spectacular, the manual overclocking isn't, and this isn't helped by a BIOS that isn't the clearest we've ever seen.

However, again the price-point and target market have to be taken into consideration. A stable 4GHz overclock whether achieved manually or automatically is very good indeed. It's just less than we've seen on other, far pricier, motherboards.

Benchmark time.



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Synthetic Benchmarks

Today we're running our standard set of tests, and we're going to be utilising the MSI P55-GD85 at stock settings, and also at 4GHz. We're keeping the memory speed the same with both overclocked and stock to ensure the results are not skewed by the extra RAM speed. Naturally we could go the whole hog and overclock everything, but the more performance you eek out of every department the less comparable the results are. It's more important to show the benefit you can achieve merely by hitting the OC Genie button, than by spending days running Linpack and tweaking.

Lavalys Everest Ultimate

Everest Ultimate Edition is something we always enjoy using here in the OC3D bunker as it provides voluminous information about every last aspect of your computer, whilst also being able to give speedy benchmark results that are valid between reviews regardless of the hardware on test.

Firstly the CPU tests. These show a great improvement across the board, as one would expect from an extra GHz of processing power. Worth noting is that at stock settings the GD85 easily matches the results we obtained from the vastly more expensive ASUS Maximus III Extreme, and it's only in the overclocked state that the Maximus pulls ahead. Considering the enormous price difference between the two this is an excellent showing from MSI.

 

The memory tests proved quite surprising as even though the memory was run at the same speed at both stock and overclocked settings, the extra oomph the overclock provides gives huge gains in memory performance.

 

SiSoft Sandra

SiSoft Sandra is an alternative to Everest that provides a similar level of information, but a different benchmark theory. This is wonderful for our needs as it gives us lots of different angles to double check our performance results.

The memory bandwidth test shows a nice linear increase in both Floating Point and Integer calculations, with both providing a 0.7 GB/s increase.

 

The Dhrystone and Whetstone tests definitely show that even at stock the MSI is no slouch, but the extra horsepower obtained from just pushing a button reaps enormous rewards.

Let's see if these translate to more real world tests.



MSI P55 GD85 Review Page: 7

Synthetic Benchmarks cont

Super Pi

The ever popular Super Pi is almost wholly useless as a gauge for system performance, but because it's such a tiny download and so easy to run, it is one of those results that we all know our score for. It also eats clock-speed for breakfast and so is one of the better tests for raw power.

At stock the MSI GD85 is around the middle of the pack, and the overclock to 4GHz doesn't quite enable the 1M test to get under the magical 10 second barrier. Very close though and a good effort.

 

WinRAR

WinRAR  comes complete with an in-built benchmark that tests how fast your computer can deal with archives. Again we see that the stock performance is good, and there is a nice increase to be had from the overclocking. Although it's fairly obvious to say that a faster processor gives better performance, you have to remember this overclock isn't the result of a weeks testing, merely pressing a button and getting on with our day.

 

Pov-RAY

The Persistence Of Vision RAYtracer is a freeware open-source raytracing package that uses scripts and language to generate the images. With the release of the 3.7 beta it can take advantage of as many cores and threads as you have available and provides a great real-world test with its in-built benchmark.

Just before we move to the graph we thought you might like to see the output from our rendering tests. Unlike many of our others these (Pov-RAY and CineBench) might not be programs you've tried yourself. Anyone who has had a passing attempt at raytracing will appreciate the complexity of the benchmark image and therefore the impressive nature of the results.

Again the MSI GD85 provides no handicap to performance and even with our i7-870 at stock we passed 500 pixels per second per thread. Great performance indeed.

 

CineBench has long been part of the OC3D test setup and if we had a pound for everytime we'd seen the render of the motorbike we'd all be living in the Bahamas. A new year, a new OC3D, a new Logo, time for a new CineBench. This one is based upon the vastly optimised Cinema 4D R11 rendering path and so the results are no longer comparable with previous tests.

Similarly to the Pov-RAY test above we thought you'd enjoy seeing the result of the test, and also because we haven't seen it a thousand times it's still fresh to us too.

  

There are two benchmarks within the CineBench package. The first is an OpenGL test that renders two scenes, makes sure that the differences between the two are small enough that we can consider the test an accurate one, and then animates "live" a car chase. The quality and speed of this test have to be seen to be believed and as you can see from the results below the performance boost from the OC Genie gives us a nearly 10 FPS increase.

The second benchmark is strictly a CPU based one that renders the image shown above. At stock the MSI is impressive, in overclocked state we see a good performance increase. Naturally as this is a new benchmark to us we haven't the wealth of data to get a feel for how good the GD85 performs, but when watching the render occur live, it definitely didn't hang about.

PC Mark Vantage

PC Mark Vantage, from Futuremark, comes with a selection of applications and utilities and performs a variety of tasks that the average user will do on a daily basis. Image adjustment, web browsing and the like. It definitely responds nicely to our overclock and is 71 points shy of breaking the 10000 point barrier.

A 2200 point increase is not shabby at all. This MSI is seriously impressing us.

So we know how it performs on your desktop. How does it perform in your games?



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3D & Gaming Benchmarks

3D Mark Vantage

Once again we see the flaws of 3D Mark come to the fore. A great increase in CPU performance results in almost no gain at all in the Performance benchmark. Considering the P-Score test is run at 1280x1024 you'd think the extra CPU horsepower would shine here, but for whatever reason it doesn't. We'll be glad to see Futuremark release 3D Mark Vantage 2 and hopefully return to the scaling results we saw from 06.

Dirt2

Codemasters latest foray into the world of off-road racing, Dirt 2, is a great game with fantastic graphics and a very robust online component alongside a sturdy single-player game. Setting the in-game options as high as they would go, adding 4xAA and then testing using Fraps around the Battersea Bridge course we achieved the following results.

These are slightly anomalous because although there is only a 4FPS difference between stock and overclocked, the overclocked testing felt much smoother. Once again demonstrating why we test so comprehensively and don't rely on "feelings" for frame rates.

Modern Warfare 2

Modern Warfare 2 is the slightly disappointing sequel to the behemoth that was Modern Warfare. Nonetheless it's graphically impressive and tests all the elements we require, and so is a nice benchmarking game.

At first we thought these results were wrong, but no matter how often we ran them they were right. Strange.

Crysis Warhead

Hopefully with footage appearing of the new Crytek engine we can soon retire Warhead off to pasture where it belongs. Until such time though there is nothing quite like it for pushing a system.

Again we see some curious results with only a 3FPS gain between the stock and overclocked settings. Not bad, but not quite what we were hoping.

Time to wrap this up.



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Conclusion

Blimey there is a lot to cover. MSI certainly haven't been stingy with the feature-set.

Starting with the packaging we can see that although it's not as plush as some hardware we've reviewed, it absolutely gets the job done. As I said back on page 2, we don't mind a little saving on the packaging if the product itself benefits from that cost cutting. It certainly isn't in the included cables as the GD85 comes with every cable you could wish for

Documentation is a thorny point with me. It's always frustrating when a company goes to enormous efforts to provide a swathe of features, and then does a very poor job in explaining them if they explain them at all. MSI should be applauded for not only providing excellent documentation, but providing it for every element of the package. Clear, well written and lots of pictures it is a model for what manuals should be.

The actual motherboard itself also has many things to recommend it. Long gone are the days in which a motherboard appeared to be an explosion at the Crayola factory and the GD85 is abundant proof of this. Gorgeous to look at with a cohesive palette used throughout the board and MSI have even used the blue that nicely matches the default blue you see in case-mod lighting.

All the heatsinks are nicely finished and also match each other well with the font and colouring of the MOSFET DrMOS heatsink matching the chipset heatsink. It's those small factors that can make a big difference.

The inclusion of the "Winky" Instant-On Linux on the driver CD is a boon and something we definitely liked both in its idea and the execution. It's simplicity itself.

Before we get on to the true superstar of todays review, we have to look at the negatives.

The BIOS does everything you could ask a BIOS to do and the explanations are very good. However it's not at all the easiest BIOS to navigate with a few important overclocking features being buried here and there.

The Easy Touch BCLK buttons, whilst being configurable, are sadly limited by their placement should you wish to use them once the GD85 is installed in a chassis, and the fact that the motherboard isn't hugely responsive to manual overclocking attempts.

The placement of the two SATA 6Gbps ports isn't brilliant if you plan on using either Crossfire or SLI with a lengthy card. This also affects the OC Genie button. The larger gap between the two main PCI Express sockets is beneficial to the cooling capabilities of your graphics cards, but at the expense of the bottom right of the motherboard. Perhaps a small relocation is needed, or you have to get it set up on a single card and then add the additional one once you're running as you desire.

Finally the placement of the voltage monitoring pins isn't perfect especially if your ATX 24-pin cable isn't very flexible as most aren't.

However, insane overclocking and multiple cards isn't really what the GD85 is about. It's an entry-level enthusiast motherboard designed to give even the neophyte a taste of the power available. The OC Genie does this in spades.

We've tested many supposed automatic overclock devices here at OC3D, from hardware ones to software ones. None of them come close to the brilliance of the MSI system. It doesn't plug the CPU into the mains to attain stability. It doesn't give a 5 point BCLK increase as a pretence of overclocking. It took our i7-870 to a perfectly stable 4GHz and even all of our experience in overclocking barely achieved more. It's unbelievable fast and easy. Press a button, and that's it. It doesn't need multiple reboots to achieve stability. It isn't wobblier than a drunk tightrope walker. It left us breathless.

Perhaps best of all, the settings it applies are stored in the BIOS enabling you to quickly see the changes that it has made and use them as the jumping off point for your own foray into the world of overclocking.

Back in the introduction we wondered whether MSI had managed to combine a comprehensive feature set into an affordable package, and I can answer yes. Without a shadow of a doubt, yes.

It certainly isn't the weapon of choice for the grizzled overclocking veteran who seeks absolute power regardless of the cost, because it just doesn't have that extreme performance capability. It also comes with enough high-end features it isn't strictly speaking a budget option.

However, if your requirement is either something that will enable you to get the most out of your setup without spending days attempting to achieve stability, or if like most of us you require absolute value-for-money, then there are few higher recommendations than the MSI P55-GD85.

Looks great. Goes great. Bombproof. That's plenty of reason for us to award the MSI P55-GD85 our OC3D Value award, for providing enormous value for money and once again making the LGA1156 a seriously viable alternative to the collosus that is LGA1366.

The OC Genie itself is so brilliant that we have to give it the rarely awarded OC3D Innovation stamp. It's the new benchmark for automatic overclocking.

Pros
- OC Genie is truly amazing.
- Looks.
- Comprehensive accessories.
- Brilliant documentation.
- High standard of hardware for a very good price.

Mediocre
- The BIOS isn't the most user-friendly.
- Vertical SATA 6Gbps ports.
- Voltage probe placement.
- Packaging is a little ho hum.

Cons
- Nothing.

 

OC Genie also receives our Innovation award :

Innovation Award

 

 

 

 

 

Many thanks to MSI for allowing us to review the GD85. Discuss in our forums.