MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 1
MSI or Microstar International have recently released the new X58 based motherboard upon the public and were kind enough to send us a sample motherboard to present you with yet another full X58 review.
The motherboard up for today's review is the MSI X58 Platinum Edition which currently sits at the entry level, below the higher-end Platinum SLI Edition and flagship Eclipse. It appears all three motherboards are aimed at different sectors and pockets so while the X58 Platinum does not support SLI or come with an XFI sound card, it is £50 cheaper. So unless you need those luxuries, the Platinum would be the sensible choice, if indeed you can call £235 for a motherboard sensible! However, the 'basic' Platinum does have Crossfire support, triple channel DDR3 support and of course support for Intel's latest Core i7 Nehalem processor, therefore I would be mad to accuse the MSI X58 Platinum of being basic.
Supports Intel® i7 based processors in LGA1366 package.
Intel® X58 Chipset
- Supports QPI up to 6.4GT/s
Intel® ICH10R Chipset
- Hi-Speed USB (USB2.0) controller, 480Mb/sec, up to 12 ports.
- 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.
Supports six unbuffered DIMM of 1.5 Volt DDR3 800/1066/1333 SDRAM, 24GB Max
- Supports 1Gb/ 2Gb/ 4Gb DRAM size
- Supports x8 / x16 data lines per DIMM
- Supports up to 3 channel mode
2 PCI Express gen2 x16 slots
- supports ATI® Crossfire™
3 PCI Express gen2 x1 slots
2 PCI slot, support 3.3V/ 5V PCI bus Interface
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 controller integrated in ICH10R/JMicron® 322 / 362 chipest
- Up to 3Gb/s transfer speed.
- Supports six SATAII ports by ICH10R
- Supports two SATAII ports by JMicron 322, support SATA RAID 0/1/JBOD.
- Supports one eSATA port by JMicron 363.
- Supports AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0/1/5/10 by ICH10R.
Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC888
- Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
- Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
- Meet Microsoft Vista Premium spce
Supports two PCI Express LAN 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Realtek 8111C.
IEEE1394 / FireWire:
JMicron® 381 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 5 FAN connectors
Front panel audio connector
Front panel connector
1 x chasis intrusion connector
1 x serial port pinheader
2 x USB 2.0 connectors
8 x Serial ATAII connectors
1 x ATA133 connector
1 x IEEE1394 connector support additional 1 port
1 x GreenPower Genie connector
1 x Reset Button
1 x Power Button
1 x SPDIF-out connector
1 x D-LED2 connector
1 x TPM module connector
Back Panel I/O Ports:
1 x Clear CMOS button
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x eSATA port
1 x IEEE1394 port
8 x USB 2.0 ports
2 x RJ45 LAN Jacks
1 x 6 in 1 audio jack
1 x Optical SPDIF-out
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.
30.5cm(L) x 24.4cm(W) ATX Form Factor
9 mounting holes.
As I said, the MSI is anything but basic. Featuring an impressive set of features and connectivity even the most picky enthusiast would have a hard time criticising these specifications.
Let's head over the page where we take a look at the packaging and contents...
MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 2
Packaging & Contents
In the past, MSI's packaging has been very complete yet has at times left a lot to be desired with regards to the design. Upon first examination, the X58 Platinum appears to be a much more refined package with a menacing matte black exterior sleeve, chromatic embossed lettering and no sign of weird aliens!
Interestingly, the front of the package signifies that the Platinum is indeed the younger brother of the flagship Eclipse. The package features a lunar eclipse on the front rather than the total eclipse on the...er...Eclipse model. Very cleverly done MSI! The rear of the package goes into some details regarding the features of the motherboard which include DrMOS, APS DDR3 Technology, Split Thermal Sensor and Drive Booster. There is also a schematic of the motherboard's specifications. In contrast to the rear of the box the top and sides of the box are sparse by comparison. The top however does have a plastic carry handle for easy transportation.
Removing the sleek outer sleeve we get closer to the goodies which are contained in a plain cardboard box. The box is made from reinforced cardboard that should prevent all but the sharpest/heaviest of objects from damaging the contents. As per the norm with MSI the accessory list is very thorough.
Two manuals are included with the X58 Platinum - your bog standard A5 booklet and a poster sized quick guide. The small manual is very easy to understand for the most part with clear diagrams throughout. Coloured diagrams with photos would however be much easy to follow rather than the shaded B&W drawings. The quick guide, as you would expect, is a very basic guide on the features of the X58 Platinum and what each component on the PCB is.
The I/O Backplate is a standard affair but MSI have gone to the trouble of colour coding the ports with good labelling. This should ensure ease of setup. For the price of the new motherboards I would like to see some sort of shielding though to protect the pinkies as some of the edges are very sharp.
Sadly, MSI have chosen to stick with bright red IDE, Floppy and SATA cables which is an opportunity missed, as they stick out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of the package which is more subdued (black) in nature. MSI provide 4 SATA cables as well as Molex/SATA power converters along with IDE and Floppy ribbon cables. I say it almost in every review and I will continue to do so until manufacturers' sit up and notice: Ribbon cables are ugly - time to change to rounded ones! MSI are forgiven however, as they have thoughtfully made connecting internal headers a breeze thanks to the inclusion of quick connectors.
So far so good then. Apart from the odd colour choice of the cables the packaging and contents are very good. Let's see if MSI can continue this run of good form with the motherboard itself...
MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 3
Board layout & Appearance
MSI motherboard's of old have been a kaleidoscope of colours with pink ram slots being the bugbear of fashion freaks everywhere. This time around, although there is a splash of colour here and there the theme is a lot more co-ordinated, with blue, black and white slots now dominating the black PCB. The rear of the board has a holding backplate for the CPU socket area which may prove troublesome for those wishing to use a CPU cooler backplate.
The CPU socket area itself is relatively uncluttered with the Mosfets situated to the left of the socket. Notable by their absence are the uppermost Mosfets. This is due to the ingenious DrMOS which is an integrated Driver-Mosfet allowing a 30% reduction in power and increasing efficiency to a reported 93.1%. Impressive figures which we will be keen to see if it actually makes a difference in the power consumption test later in the review.
The 2-Phase, Triple channel DDR3 slots utilise APS technology, again to improve power efficiency and raise the voltage adjustment table levels up to 128 levels. The slots however only officially support ram up to 1333mhz and 24GB in total so it will be interesting if this can be pushed higher as our test rig ram kit is 1600mhz. Thankfully MSI have finally done away with the wretched pink ram slots and replaced them with royal blue. While this wont affect performance it is easier on the eye and ties in much better with the overall theme of the board.
The PCI area is well laid out from top to bottom: PCIe x1, PCIe x16, PCIe x1 (x2), PCIe x16 and PCI (x2). With plenty of space between the two PCIe x16 slots Crossfire should not present a problem even with dual slot cards. SLI however would be a problem on this board, as at the time of writing, this version of the Platinum does not support SLI. Unfortunately, you will need to spend a little more cash to get the SLI version if you favour the NVidia camp.
The bottom of the motherboard is where most of the goodies are. To the right of the board are the quick 'M connectors' allowing easy connectiion of those pesky motherboard headers. Further along we see two USB headers and a Firewire header. Nestled between are the tools we're most interested in. The Power and Reset buttons are straightforward enough and while very welcome are now commonplace among high-end motherboards. The traditional dip-switches though are a throwback to yesteryear when the only way of overclocking a motherboard was by said switches. If they perform as well as they did on the recent AMD board we tested then I will be impressed.
To the right of the motherboard we see the 6 SATA ports which are conveniently positioned at 90 degrees so they will not interfere with the uppermost PCIe slot they are inline with. For whatever reason MSI have seen fit to stick with purple sockets and it gets worse - a yellow IDE slot sits just below them. This clash of colour is puke-worthy and needs addressing as it destroys the overall look of the motherboard. To the left of the IDE slot we see an extra two SATA slots.
The I/O area thankfully is much cleaner in appearance and with 8x USB ports, 2x LAN ports, 1x Firewire, 6x 3.5mm jacks and 1x S/PDIF optical port even the most discerning enthusiast will be satisfied. But thats not all, also situated conveniently on the I/O backplate is a CMOS clear switch which will be a godsend for those who intend on pushing this board beyond the boundaries it was designed for.
Both the Northbridge and Southbridge heatsinks are modest in appearance thanks to the Northbridge no longer having to deal with the memory controller. With copper used throughout and both heatsinks being connected via dual heatpipes, cooling should not be an issue. Incidentally, MSI claim an average temperature of around the 45 degree centigrade mark.
Removing the chipset coolers was a little tiresome due to the 'cement like' thermal interface material MSI insist on using. If you intend on removing the heatsink yourself I would advise on loosening the TIMs grip by heating the sinks up a little beforehand.
Here we see the X58 core and ICH10r controller in all their nakedness. The mounts, despite the push pin design on the heatsinks were quite good and while I am not a fan of push-pin designs they do seem to have done the job right this time around.
Enough of the pretty pictures, let's fire this baby up and head straight for the BIOS...
MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 4
Upon POST we are greeted very briefly with an MSI Eclipse page, the Eclipse being the Platinum's bigger brother. Immediately afterwards the familiar DrMOS screen pops up, inviting you to enter the BIOS by pressing the 'Del' key.
Like all enthusiast MSI boards, the main section of the BIOS is the 'Cell Menu' and this is the section we will be concentrating on today as it's where you will find the overclocking settings of the MSI Platinum X58.
Straight away we an in unfamiliar territory with a host of new options not found on the LGA775 boards. C-State, Base Clock, QPI frequency and Turbo Boost Technology are all part of the new Core i7 BIOS found on most of the LGA1366 boards. Think of the Base Clock and QPI as FSB overclocking of old and you won't go too far wrong. The C-State feature is a new feature of Core i7 and it achieved by making the power and thermal control unit part of the core logic and not part of the chipset as before.
A host of voltage options are available on the Platinum and above (right) you can see the maximum allowed (not recommended!) voltages. I'd be interested to know why MSI thought that 2.3V on the NB was necessary, particularly as the memory controller is now 'on die'. Like most of the settings here, excess is not a bad thing and it's certainly nice to have the options available, even if it is unlikely that you will use them!
Moving on we see that at the stock Bclk of our i7 920 CPU we have 3 QPI frequencies to choose from along with 6 memory dividers. Unfortunately, when we first received the motherboard no amount of changing the dividers made any difference to the actual frequency of the DDR3 and it wasn't until a new BIOS was released that we could change the frequency.
As well as the standard 4 timings, the advance timing menu offers a multitude of memory sub-timings that will allow you to get the most out off your shiny new triple channel kit. Above right we see the 'Clockgen Tuner'. I don't know why but I expected a dazzling array of new features here but I was left disappointed with a few basic clock skew settings.
Flashing the BIOS was not an easy task. I decided to use the M-Flash utility which is a feature of the BIOS and although it all looks pretty straightforward, the manual was little help. A few minutes of head scratching and I finally figured the combination of settings that worked, enabling me to flash the BIOS from a USB stick which worked a treat.
Above right we see the power saving 'Green Power' feature of the MSI board. While this is a good feature for those who intend on running the board at stock, power saving features can interfere with the stability an overclock so these settings were disabled for this review.
Last of all, we come to the Health and Power monitoring section of the BIOS. Three fan headers as well as the CPU fan can be controlled from here using percentages as a regulator. Once you have all your settings fixed you can then back these settings up to one of four available slots which is always useful.
Let's move on to our test setup to see if these settings can overclock our Core i7 past its stock settings...
MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 5
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:
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.
To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:
Synthetic CPU Test
• Sisoft Sandra 2009
• PassMark CPU test
• SuperPI 1m, 8m, 32m
• Sisoft Sandra 2009
• Everest 4.60
File Compression & Encoding
• Sisoft Sandra 2009
• 7-Zip File Compression
• River Past ViMark
Disk I/O Performance
• HDTach 188.8.131.52
• Sisoft Sandra 2009
3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark 05
• 3DMark 06
• 3DMark Vantage
• Far Cry 2
• Company of Heroes
Overall System Performance
• PCMark Vantage
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.
At idle, it is clear that the Asus board uses less power than the MSI Platinum X58 but things even out once the boards are put under stress. No software or BIOS power saving features were used during the testing which may or may not improve things further should you choose to install them. We took the readings under a clean environment with only the bare minimum of drivers and Vista updates installed.
Using a respectable Vcore of 1.45v, the remainder of BIOS voltage settings were left in their stock state to ensure equality throughout the testing.
Sadly, the maximum overclock I could attain with the MSI Platinum was lower than expected with a maximum Bclk value of 193 which also gave us our maximum overclock of 3850. Anything over this amount resulted in a BSOD on boot sequence which was strange, as the settings above were stable within Windows. No amount of tweaking the dividers and multipliers would improve the situation and so after a couple of hours fiddling with the settings I finally admitted defeat and moved on.
Let's take a look at how the MSI Platinum performs in our benchmarking section..
MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 6
While the Sisoft Sandra results were very even, SuperPI was a mixed bag with the MSI starting slowly but over longer periods ran out victorious. However, on this showing alone, it is clear that both motherboards are very evenly matched.
Let's see if there is anything to separate the board with our run of memory benchmarks...
MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 7
MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 8
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MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 10
MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 11
Asus seem to have the advantage in both First Person Shooters, outscoring the MSI in both Crysis and Far Cry 2. Company of Heroes however favoured the MSI, albeit not by much.
Let's take a look at the overall performance of the setups on test today...
MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 12
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.
PCMark produced a mix bag of results with the MSI taking the lead in all but the gaming and productivity benchmarks where the Asus had a big lead. The results here pretty much sum up the benchmark runs we ran today and echo the results we have seen previously.
Let's head over to the conclusion where I attempt to put some perspective on today's testing...
MSI X58 Platinum Motherboard Page: 13
As we have seen from the previous review of the P6T Deluxe, X58 has brought with it performance enhancements that while not on the scale of Pentium IV to Core2 are worthwhile nonetheless - especially where memory bandwidth is concerned. SLI support on some X58 boards is another major plus and this is where the Platinum falls down by not supporting SLI. While this may not be an issue for lovers of ATI or indeed users who do not intend to use a dual-card format the price should be such that it reflects this omission.
Sadly, the MSI Platinum is no cheaper than the standard P6T Deluxe which supports both Crossfire and SLI. Not only that but the Asus also supports SAS should you require this feature, whereas the MSI makes do with an extra pair of SATA ports. With the Asus motherboard also overclocking better than the MSI it becomes clear which board offers the best bang per buck.
At stock, both motherboards performed pretty much equally across the range of benchmarks that we ran today but the difference being that the Asus motherboard ran perfectly straight out of the box. This review was due to be our first review on X58 but sadly the shipping BIOS had issues with the memory divider and hence the review was delayed. MSI did however, quickly release a BIOS that sorted the issue which is a plus for the support MSI have to offer. Hopefully future BIOS revisions will also enhance the overclocking ability of the motherboard, but for now it's nudged into second place by the Asus P6T Deluxe.
If you don't mind the non-SLI support and are not looking for extreme overclocking then there can be no doubting the MSI is a solid, feature packed performer that will serve any enthusiast well. If you desire SLI then MSI do provide an SLI Edition motherboard as well as the range topping Eclipse, but at a premium in price. Credit should also be given to MSI for finally listening to consumers regarding the pink ram slots, but the SATA and IDE ports still look to have been stolen from the LGA775's parts bin which cheapens the overall look of the product.
I can't help feeling that at £235 MSI are asking consumers to make one too many compromises which may be off-putting for some and potentially limit the sales of the motherboard. Giving credit where credit is due, the MSI X58 Platinum is a very good board in its own right and is perfect for the user who is not looking for SLI or extreme overclocks. If these issues concern you then the P6T deluxe is perhaps the better buy, if not, then the MSI Platinum X58 is certainly worthy of consideration.
- No more Pink DDR slots!
- On board switches
- Overclocking could be better
- BIOS recovery (3 boots)
- No SLI
Thanks to MSI for providing the motherboard used in todays review. Please discuss in our forums.