MSI P7N SLI Platinum 750i based motherboard Page: 1
Introduction
 
Look around the stores for motherboards and one of those that will be filling up that list in all categories is MSI. One of the worlds biggest motherboard manufacturers, Micro Star International has been around for a while and established itself as a company who cater for the enthusiast.
 
Some info from MSI's website:
 
Established in August 1986, MSI has always upheld the business philosophy "Award-winning product quality and outstanding customer service." MSI is a specialist in the design and manufacture of motherboards, add-on cards, servers/workstations, barebones, communication devices and CE Products and Notebooks. Surmounting a challenging industry, we've raced to the head of the pack and are now ranked within the world's top 3 motherboard manufacturers and one of the top 5 server manufacturers. What's more, MSI graphics card has the most amazing sales performance over the past years, making it to the no. 1 position in the world for four consecutive years. Did you know that one MSI graphics card is sold every 2.8 seconds? So far, there are more than 60 million users worldwide enjoying MSI graphics cards.
 
MSI logo
 
Overclock3D is always striving to bring our readers the latest and greatest technology products so naturally, MSI was on our list of "things to do". We've been sent MSI's P7N SLI Platinum to torture on the benching table, so let's get in to the board and see what we can see.
 
Specification
 
CPU

• Supports Socket 775 for Intel® Core 2 Extreme, Core 2 Quad, Core 2 Duo, P4, P4EE, Pentium D, Pentium XE processors.
• Supports FSB 1333/1066/800/533MHz.
• Supports EIST technology.
• Supports Intel® Hyper-Threading technology.
Please refer to CPU Support for compatible CPU; the above description is for reference only.

MSI Reminds you...
1. NVIDIA nForce Series boards DO NOT support Windows® 98/ME
2. SLI Technology only supports 32-bit and 64-bit Windows XP
3. For the best performance and commitment of convenience, please use memories listed in MSI approved memory module vendor list (Please check memory test report), which provides the easiest, up-to-date memory configurations.

Chipset

• NVIDIA® nForce 750i SLI (C72P) Chipset

• NVIDIA® nForce 430i (MCP51) Chipset

Main Memory

• Supports dual channel DDR2 533/667/800, using four 240-pin/1.8V DDR2 DIMMs.
• Supports a maximum memory size up to 8GB

Slots

• Three PCI Express x16 slots
- the mazarine slot PCI Express x 16 slot (PCI_E1) supports PCIE 2.0 x 16 mode.
- the two light-blue PCI Express x 16 slots (PCI_E2 & PCI_E3) support PCI Express x 8 mode only.
- supports SLI technology.
• Two 32-bit v2.3 Master PCI bus slots (support 3.3v/5v PCI bus interface)

On-Board IDE

• An IDE controller on the NVIDIA® nForce430i chipset provides IDE
HDD/CD-ROM with PIO, Bus Master and Ultra DMA133/100/66 operation modes.
- Can connect up to 4 IDE devices.

On-Board SATA

• nForce 430i supports 4 SATA II ports (SATA 1 to 4).
- Transfer rate is up to 300 MB/s.
- 2 eSATA port by JMicron JMB363 (back panel, optional)

NV RAID
- 4 SATA ports support RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 or JBOD is supported
- 2 eSATA ports (back panel) support RAID 0/1 mode
MSI Reminds You...
• The RAID setup floppy disk is optional depending on the districts. You can download the files from the website to make the setup disk.

Audio

• Chip integrated by Realtek® ALC888
- Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
- Compliant with Azalia 1.0 spec.

LAN

- Supports 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Realtek® RTL8211BL

IEEE1394

• VIA® VT 6308P chipset
- Transfer rate is up to 400Mbps

Internal I/O Connectors

- ATX 24-Pin power connector
- 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
- CPU / Systemx3 FAN connectors
- CD-in connector
- Front panel audio connector
- Front panel connector
- 1 x IEEE1394 connector (optional)
- 2 x USB 2.0 connector support additional 4 ports
- 1 x Floppy disk drive connector
- 4 x serial ATA connectors
- 1 x serial port connector (optional)
- SPDIF-out connector
- 1 x TPM module connector (optional)
- 2 x ATA133 connectors
- Chassis intrusion switch connector
- Clear CMOS button
MSI Reminds You...
• The floppy disk cable will be optional.

Back Panel I/O Ports

- 1 x Clear CMOS button
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse
- 2 x eSATA ports
- 1 x Optical SPDIF out
- 1 x 6 in 1 Audio jack
- 1 x IEEE1394 port (optional)
- 4 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x RJ45 LAN 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

• 30.4cm(L) x 24.5cm(W) ATX Form Factor

Mounting

• 9 mounting holes.
 
This Platinum model 750i based board has a nice mid-range set of features and includes SLI technology from Nvidia. Let's take a look at the packaging and package...


MSI P7N SLI Platinum 750i based motherboard Page: 2
Packaging
 
MSI have decided to go with a space scene for their P7N Platinum motherboard. The rear has a holograph on it and it certainly would give a good impression on the shelf, if a little geeky.
 
box  box rear
 
The inside of the box is pretty well packed, although it shows that this isn't MSI's highest end board. You certainly should not have a problem with courier damage.
 
packaging
 
Now onto the package.
 
Package
 
The package with the P7N SLI Platinum is loaded up with the following:
 
* 4 x SATA cables
* 1 x IDE HDD cable
* 1 x IDE FDD cable
* 1 x Rear IO plate
* 1 x SLI bridge
* 2 x SATA to Molex power adaptor
* PCI bracket - dual USB 2.0 and single Firewire port
* Set of MSI easy connectors
* Driver CD
* Utilities CD
* Quick install guide
* Full manual
 
package
 
The package is complete without being overwhelming or over the top. Of course, as this is a mid-range board this is what you would expect, although MSI have done a good job with the bundle in my opinion.


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Board layout and features
 
MSI have done a decent job with the design of the P7N. The board's PCB is an enthusiast's favourite: black. There seems to be more of an abundance of colours than you would normally like to see on a board which gives it somewhat of a "Fisher Price" look, but at least it means that everything makes sense as far as matching board to components.
 
Everything is lined up at the edge of the board and there's nothing in the way of components that gets you annoyed. Notice also that there's a sensible amount of space between CPU and memory modules.
 
board 1  board layout 2
 
The cooler is a rather spangly affair on the board with several loops of heatpipes on the board and a chunk of copper-looking aluminium covering the PCI-e 2.0 chip that is installed on the board.  At first I thought this array of heatpipes was a little OTT, but after some use I can say that it does the job pretty well.
 
cpu area  cooler
  
As you can see, the CPU area does have a few caps around it, but these are low profile so most cooling solutions will be good to go around the socket. Certainly our test-bed Noctua NH-U12P was fine.
 
PCI area
 
The PCI area is generally well laid out, although the PCI-e 2.0 chip that MSI have used seems to use up a space that could have been used for a PCI or PCI-e x1 slot.
 
general io area 1  general io area 2
 
Here we see that MSI have thoughtfully provided 2 x fullsize IDE slots and an FDD IDE slot. Not a bad decision and one that will be welcomed by those wanting to use a couple of older drives, along with some IDE opticals.
 
RAM area  cpas and sata 90°
 
The RAM area is fairly far from the PCU as I stated earlier and the SATA ports are twisted 90°, something we are seeing more and more and certainly a welcome addition.
 
Another thing you may have noticed about this board is that every single capacitor is a high-quality Japanese solid state capacitor - this is a total plus for stability and longevity, props to MSI.


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Input/Ouput Panel
 
IO on the P7N SLI Platinum is a very well specced and nicely balanced affair. We have:
 
* 1 x PS/2 Keyboard port
* 1 x PS/2 Mouse port
* 1 x Firewire port
* 1 x Optical digital in
* 2 x e-SATA ports
* CMOS reset button
* 4 x USB 2.0 ports
* Gigabit LAN port
* Analogue 7.1 Sound ports
 
io panel
 
This is a decent selection of oputputs for this level of board and you should be fine connecting most of the things you need to.
 
BIOS
 
MSI have gone with an American Megatrends Incorporated BIOS for the P7N SLI Platinum. This has a slightly different feel than the Phoenix Award BIOS we most commonly see on boards but it's not necessarily a bad thing.
 
main menu
 
All of the overclocking features are in the "Cell" Menu. Here we can see the following adjustments:
 
OptionAvailable Range
CPU Multiplier
x6 - x50
FSB Frequency
400-2500 (keyable 1mhz steps, quad pumped)
PCI-E Frequency
100-150mhz (1mhz steps)
RAM Frequency400-1400mhz (Keyable - 1mhz steps)
 
cell menu  cell menu
 
cell menu
 
cell menu
 
Aside from the top end of the RAM frequency being slightly low for an enthusiasts board, the adjustments are all of the one's you'll normally see here. The RAM timings are pretty solid allowing (in my opinion) just the right amount of options and not getting too detailed.
 
The BIOS isn't as extensive as the one you'll see on, say a DFI Lanparty LT X38 T2R but it does it's job as you will see later on in the review.
 
 
OptionAvailable Range
CPU Voltage
STOCK 1.3v-1.6875v (0.0500v steps)
CPU FSB VTT
1.2v-1.7v (0.1v steps)
Memory Voltage1.8v-3.1v (0.25v steps)
NorthBridge Voltage1.3v-1.75v
SouthBridge Core Voltage
1.5v-1.95v 
 
bios voltages  bios shots
 
BIOS shots  BIOS shots voltage
 
BIOS shots voltage
 
The range of voltage adjustments is again smaller than on other boards, but the amount you can adjust the voltages is more than adequate.
 
Overall, the BIOS on the MSI P7N SLI Platinum is excellent and does what you need for overclocking, just don't expect pages upon pages of options.


MSI P7N SLI Platinum 750i based motherboard Page: 5
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:
 
Motherboard(s)
DFI LANPARTY UT X38-T2R (X38)
XFX nForce 780i SLI (780i)
Asus Maximus Formula (X38)
MSI P7N SLI Platinum
Asus Striker II Formula (780i)
 
 
Processor
• Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 "G0" 2.4GHz 2x4MB
 
Memory Modules
• Cellshock PC2-6400 DDR2-800 (4-4-4-12)
 
Graphics Card
• Sapphire Ultimate X1950 Pro 256mb PCI-E
 
Hard Disk
• Hitachi Deskstar 80GB 7K80 SATA2 7200RPM 8mb
 
Operating System
• Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate (Latest Updates)
 
During the testing of the boards above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used between switching boards, preventing any possible performance issues due to left-over drivers from the previous motherboard install.

To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:

Synthetic CPU & Memory Subsystem
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c
• Lavalys Everest 4.0

File Compression & Encoding
• 7-Zip File Compression
• River Past ViMark

Disk I/O Performance
• HDTach 3.0.4.0
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark05
• 3DMark06

3D Games
• Quake 4
• Bioshock
• F.E.A.R
 
Overclocking
 
Overclocking is something I have not particularly enjoyed on the latest Nvidia platform so using one of the middle range boards I hadn't much hope.  First of all let me say my hopes were unfounded due to the way MSI have designed and made the board. Overclocking and indeed stability were excellent and the board recovered from a bad overclock by simply switching the power button on and off 4 times...but I only had to do this twice as the board seemed happy to boot into BIOS even when the overclock was unstable. Let's see what we got:
 
 overclocking max oc
 
As you can see, the MSI P7N Platinum outstripped all of the higher end boards in this test, with a very nice overclock of 3892MHz on our Q6600, which is the highest I've seen this chip go, especially good on air.
 
Max fsb
 
470 FSB isn't an amazing result but is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.
 
I was very happy with overclocking on the P7N as it was easy to do, stable and not overly fussy as some boards can be. All in all a great result from this mid range board giving it huge value for money.


MSI P7N SLI Platinum 750i based motherboard Page: 6
sisoft sandra
 
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.
 
sisoft sandra
 
sisoft sandra
 
sisoft sandra
 
sisoft sandra
 
sisoft sandra memory bandwidth
 
sisoft sandra memory bandwidth
 
sisoft sandra memory latency
 
lavalys everest
 
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 3.
 
everest memory read
 
everest memory write
 
everest memory latency
 
Result Observations
 
The MSI P7N SLI Platinum is middle in the performance terms for the CPU tests, but tends to fall down a little on the memory benchmarks. The board does perform fairly similar to the XFX 780i based board we reviewed previously.


MSI P7N SLI Platinum 750i based motherboard Page: 7
ViMark
 
ViMark is the latest addition to the OC3D motherboard testing process and a relatively new benchmarking application in general. Designed to take the inaccuracies and guesswork out of measuring the time taken to encode video files, ViMark produces easily comparable and consistent results for encoding raw video into Windows Media, Quicktime, AVI and Gif formats. As always, a total of 5 benchmark runs were performed with the highest and lowest scores removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 scores.
 
vimark - WM
 
vimark - qt
 
vimark AVI
 
vimark gif
 
7-zip
 
7-Zip is an open source winzip-style file compression utility that has the ability to compress and decompress many file formats including it's 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.
 
7-zip compression
 
7-zip decompression
 
Result Observations
 
The MSI P7N does very well here throughout these tests, performing consistently at or near the top of the board for every test which is fantastic.


MSI P7N SLI Platinum 750i based motherboard Page: 8
HD Tach
 
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.
 
HD tach burst speed
 
hd tach avr read
 
HD tach random access
 
HD tach cpu utilization
 
Sisoftware
 
sisoft hdd
 
sisoft hdd test
 
Result Observations
 
HD Tach does not seem to like the Nvidia 7 series as far as speeds go and I was a little disappointed with the burst speed result. Having said that, the MSI P7N SLI Platinum managed an awesome 0% CPU utilization, even after repeated testing. Average IO results from the board.


MSI P7N SLI Platinum 750i based motherboard Page: 9
cinebench
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to guage 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.
 
cinebench 1 x CPU
 
cinebench multi cpu
 
cinebench opengl
 
3dm05  3dm06
 
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.
 
3dm05
 
3dm06
 
Result Observations
 
A mixed bag of results, the MSI P7N does generally well in rendering and wins its own in the synthetic 3DMark tests, a pretty good result for a board designed for gaming.


MSI P7N SLI Platinum 750i based motherboard Page: 10
quake 4
 
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording along with 0xAA, 0xAF settings at a resolution of 1024x768. The benchmark was set to run a total of 5 times, with Quake4Bench automatically calculating an average result at the end of the run.
 
quake 4
 
FEAR
 
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. Included in the game is a benchmark facility that taxes the entire PC system. This benchmark was run a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being excluded and an average being calculated on the remaining 3 results.
 
FEAR
 
Bioshock
 
Bioshock is a recent FPS shooter by 2K games. Based on the UT3 engine it has a large amount of advanced DirectX techniques including excellent water rendering and superb lighting and smoke techniques. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S with a total of 5 identical runs through the same area of the game. The highest and lowest results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
Bioshock
 
Result Observations
 
The P7N Platinum fell a little behind in real gaming terms, consistant with the previous performance of the 780i platform we tested. This was a little disappointing, although perhaps with a card that is PCI-e 2.0 compatible we would see better results.


MSI P7N SLI Platinum 750i based motherboard Page: 11
Conclusion
 
MSI have produced a decent board based off of Nvidia's 7 series platform. It managed to hussle it's way among more expensive boards during testing and did show up some of the ultra-expensive boards on the market. The P7N still suffers from some of the 7 series down points such as slow IO performance, but it picks up in other areas.
 
Pricing is an interesting issue here. MSI have recently sent us a mail saying that this motherboard is now available as a "Zilent" Edition for £118 from Komplett. This includes the Zalman NP9500 CPU cooler, which makes this an absolute bargain.
 
komplett p7n zilent
 
The main thing to notice from this review is that the overclocking is fantastic. Let's face it, you buy an enthusiast motherboard for overclocking...and if you don't then you're basically wasting your money and could have got a much cheaper solution. What am I getting at? Well the MSI P7N Platinum is a great overclocker for a mid range board and possibly the best value SLI solution on the market at this time.
 
This being the case, I am giving the MSI P7N Platinum the Editors Choice Award, including a Value for Money addendum.
 
MSI P7N Platinum Editors choice  p7n platinum value award 
 
The Good
 
+ Awesome overclocking
+ Decent all-round performance
+ Amazing value for money
+ Decent bundle (especially the Zilent Edition)
 
The Mediocre
 
* Slightly "Fisher price"-esque looks
 
The Bad
 
- IO performance (although this is more an Nvidia problem)
 
Thanks to MSI for the review sample
 
Want one? Rave about it here