MSI P55 GD85 Review
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.