MSI Big Bang XPower Review: X58, Military Style - HotHardware

MSI Big Bang XPower Review: X58, Military Style

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MSI Big Bang XPower: Overview

The Big Bang XPower combines a subdued color scheme and functional design to good effect. There's nothing jutting off the board at the wrong angle and socket areas are clean. The southbridge heatsink is considerably larger than what we've seen on other motherboards, but it neither intrudes nor detracts from the overall design.

Next up we've got the CPU socket and RAM slots. MSI has eschewed the use of traditional 'can chip' electrolytic capacitors in favor of what it calls "Hi-c CAPS." Supplementary information we've dug up generally indicates that these types of capacitors offer improved performance at high temperature and reduce electrical noise compared to standard solid capacitors. MSI claims that Hi-c CAPS improve overclocking potential, are more resistant to extremes of heat and cold, last up to 8x longer than 'average' solid state capacitors, and feature a 'unique self-repair mechanism.'

The DIMM slots sit hard against each other and are single-lever designs--gamers or enthusiasts with DIMM heatsinks even slightly larger than normal may find their modules don't fit particularly well.


The images above highlight some of the board's unique hardware features. On the top left, there's MSI's auxilary plug for providing additional power to the PCI-Express video cards, an x1 slot (for the system's sound card), and then two system fan headers, the FireWire header, and MSI's OC Genie tweaking solution all along the bottom. NEC's USB 3.0 controller is also visible just across from the first PCIe x16 slot.

Continuing along the bottom edge, we've a better angle on the touchpad power buttons, the two USB2 headers, and a box of four switches. Each of these controls a different overvoltage setting. Then there's an LED readout, the front panel connectors, another fan header, MSI's V-Check point, and the assorted SATA headers. The pair of white headers attach to the Marvell SATA 6G controller; the others connect to Intel's ICH10R. Note that if you have the 1.0 version of this board, the two Marvell headers are mounted vertically rather than on edge. 



Finally, there's the back plate. All of the usual suspects are accounted for; from the left there's the standard set of PS/2 ports, a clear CMOS switch, two more USB 2.0 ports, Firewire and eSATA, and USB 2.0 port and eSATA connector, an RJ45 ethernet jack above two more USB 2.0 ports. And finally, the blue ports underneath the furthest RJ-45 ethernet plug are the USB3 connectors. 

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Nice Mainboard!

It's just hard for me to wrap my brain around a $300.00 Mainboard. So many of the ones in the 120-140 dollar range are quite capable of delivering stellar performance. So I must agree that this is a board for enthusiasts,....those with money to burn. I wish them the best with it too.

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Agreed.  $250 is the most I ever spent on a motherboard, and what it taught me is that the tiny extra that you get isn't worth the $100 price jump.

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I understand the price remarks--I went to some trouble to highlight that lower-cost boards are still quite strong/preferred options, after all--but if you *are* looking for a high-end board, this is a good one. Luxury products always carry price premiums, but at least the premium on this one is smaller than its competition. ;)

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I feel the same way Neil, though since this is an X58 board your looking at $160~180 instead of $120~140.  Still a heck of a lot cheaper than $300 though.

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This motherboard has 7 usable PCI-e slots. The other mobos offering this many slots are the ASUS P6T7 WS ($400) and the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD9 ($700). This board is not cheap, but it is still a very good deal for us that require more slots.

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Marc.

Would you mind sharing what you use those slots for? As the article author, I'm quite curious. I can see using, say, four slots + the x1 slot (three video cards, one additional network card, and a separate sound card). Four slot boards, however, aren't too hard to find.

What sort of configurations actually make use of seven-slot boards?

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Isn't it obvious? You fill them up with PCI-E modems and run a BBS.

Wait... what year is it again?

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Joel H:

The issue is less about needing all Q7 slots but the bandwidth limitations on boards with Q4 slots. On every X58 board with four slots I've looked at, the bandwidth is used up prior to the loading the fourth slot for my purposes. I need the slots for a new hot swap HD server that will also be used for video capture.

Below is my slot allocation:

Q1 PCIe x16 Slots - Video Card

Q2 x Pcie x8 Slots - Raid Card & Host Adapter

Q1 x Pcie x4 Slots - HD-SDI Capture Card

Regards,

Marc B.

 

 

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Marc B,

It's not clear if you're planning to use a Big Bang, but I'm going to assume you will. You may want to refer to this:  http://hothardware.com/Reviews/MSIs-Big-Bang-XPower-X58-Military-Style/?page=5

You can't build a configuration above three cards that maintains an x16 electrical link to any one slot. I don't think this actually matters very much, since PCIe 2.0 x8 = x16 (and should handle the bandwidth needs of a single card just fine). Are there now PCIe x8 RAID cards that actually take advantage of that much bandwidth? Last I checked around most storage cards seemed to top out at x4 PCIe 1.1.

One other note. Depending on your GPU needs, you might be able to use a 4-slot board with attached x1 connectors. Zotac now builds a 512MB Ion video card that uses the x1 interface. This might let you reapportion your bandwidth in a more suitable configuration.

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Looks like a solid board but I agree lots of the features will never be put to use by the average Joe. With that said its good to see MSI putting out a quality product.

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