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MSI P35 Platinum Motherboard
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Date: Jun 08, 2007
Section:Motherboards
Author: Paul Jastrzebski
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Introduction and Specifications

Just around this time three years ago, Intel launched their 925X and 915 motherboard platforms, bringing to market a new microprocessor socket, support for DDR2 memory, and support for PCI Express. Although the chipsets were decent performers and had good features, Intel was criticized for forcing the adoption of these new technologies when the market wasn’t really demanding it. At that time, Intel’s NetBurst processors trailed AMD’s and the company caught a lot of criticism from motherboard partners, OEM computer manufacturers, and press alike.

 

Fast forward to today, and we are in a completely different situation. Intel has received accolades for their Conroe and Kentsfield based processors, and their 975X and P965 chipsets have been very successful. And like we saw three years ago, Intel has recently launched a new chipset family - formerly codenamed Bearlake -  that usher in a slew of new technologies to the market place. This new chipset is replacing the mainstream P965 and is called the P35, and with it, Intel brings support for the 45nm Wolfdale and Yorkfield cores (Penryn), 1333MHz bus speeds, an improved memory controller and south bridge, and support for DDR3 memory. But unlike what we saw three years ago, the P35 chipset will also be available with support for DDR2, allowing the market to gradually transition toward DDR3, instead of forcing its adoption.

 

One of the first companies to market with a DDR2 variant of the Intel P35 chipset is MSI, with the MSI P35 Platinum motherboard we’ll be reviewing today.

 

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MSI P35 Platinum
Features and Specifications

                  

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CPU
   
Supports Socket 775 for Intel Core2 Extreme, Core2 Duo, Pentium 4 (Prescott, P4EE), Pentium D, Pentium XE/Celeron D processors in LGA 775 package
Supports FSB 800/1066/1333 MHz
Supoprts Intel 05B/05A and 04B/04A processors
Supoprts EIST techonology
Supports Intel Hyper-Threading (HT) Technology
Supports Intel Quad Core Technology to 1333MHz and up
     
  Chipset
   
Intel® P35 Chipset
Supports FSB 800MHz, 1066MHz & 1333MHz
Support Dual channel DDR2 667/800/1066 memory interface up to 8GB (P35 chipset supports up to DDR2-800 officially. For DDR2 800+, manually BIOS adjustment is needed)
Support Dual PCI Express 16X interface with either 1x16 or 1x4 operation.
   
Intel® ICH9R Chipset
Integrated Hi-Speed USB 2.0 controller, 480Mb/sec, 12ports
6 Serial ATAII ports (2 eSATA + 4 SATAII) w/ transfer rate up to 3Gb/s and support RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10
PCI Master v 2.3, I/O ACPI 2.0 Compliant
Integrated AHCI controller
     
  FSB
   
Support FSB 800MHz, 1066MHz & 1333MHz
     
  Main Memory
   
Supports 4 unbuffered DIMM of 1.8 Volt DDR2 SDRAM
Supports up to 8GB memory size
Support Dual Channel DDR2 667/800/1066MHz and up (Intel P35 chipset supports up to DDR2-800 officially. For DDR2 800+, manually BIOS adjustment is needed)
   
     
  Slots
   
Two PCI Express 16X slots with 1x16 and 1x4 operations (PCI Express Bus SPEC V1.0a compliant; supports CrossFire Technology)
Two PCI Express 1X slot
Two PCI 2.3 32-bit Master PCI Bus slots. (support 3.3v/5v PCI bus interface)
     
  On-Board IDE
   
One Ultra DMA 66/100/133 IDE controller integrated in Marvell 88SE6111
Supports PIO, Bus Master operation modes
Can connect up to 2 Ultra ATA 100 drives
   
Serial ATAII controller integrated in ICH9R and Marvell 88SE6111
Up to 300MB/s transfer speed
Can connect up to 7 Serial ATA II drives (4 internal drive & 2 eSATA drives from ICH9R, 1 drive from 88SE6111)
Supports ACHI controller with SATAII RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 (ICH9R)
Supports SATAII hot plug
     
  On-Board Peripherals
   
1 floppy port supports 1 FDD with 360K, 720K, 1.2M, 1.44M and 2.88Mbytes
1 Serial port (COM A, Pin-Out)
12 USB 2.0 ports (Rear x 6/** Front x 6)(** Front USB ports are supported by pin-out)
1 6-in-1 audio jack (S/SPDIF out)
2 PS/2 connectors
2 IEEE 1394 (Rear x 1/ **Front x 1) (** Front 1394 port supported by pin-out)
1 LAN RJ45 connector
     
  Audio
   
High Definition link controller integrated in Intel ICH9R chip
Audio codec Realtek 888T
Compliance with Azalia 1.0 spec
Flexible 8 Ch. audio with jack sensing
Supports VoIP Card (Optional)
     
  LAN
   
Realtek RTL8111B PCI-Express Gb LAN Controller
     
  IEEE 1394
   
VIA 6308P chipset
Supports up to two 1394 ports (Rear panel x1, front x1)
Transfer rate is up to 400Mbps
     
  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.
     
  Dimensions
    12in.(L) x 9.65in.(W) ATX Form Factor
     
  Mounting
    9 mounting holes

 


 

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Since the MSI P35 Platinum is targeted at the mainstream, the package contents of the board are very basic. Along with the standard documentation and driver disk, the P35 Platinum is equipped with four SATA cables, a PATA cable, a Molex to SATA power adapter, a PCI firewire port, and a back I/O panel.

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MSI P35 Platinum Features and Layout

Probably the first thing one notices when looking at the MSI P35 Platinum is the board’s unique heat pipe design. In what can most easily be described as a ‘roller coaster’ heat pipe implementation, the board has a single heat pipe that connects the south bridge, north bridge, and CPU / memory voltage regulators, passively cooling all three.

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The P35 Platinum uses the same black PCB that MSI has used in recent mid-ranged motherboards including the MSI 965 Platinum and MSI K9N Platinum. The board itself didn’t have any obvious design flaws and working with it yielded no serious problems.

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The board’s roller coaster heat pipe isn’t the only new and unique feature the P35 brings to the table. MSI has also decided to drop most legacy I/O ports (leaving the PS/2 keyboard and mouse inputs). Dropping serial and Parallel ports frees up enough real estate to offer a total of six USB 2.0 ports on the back panel. Notice how four of the six USB 2.0 ports are spaced out between each other, this is to accommodate multiple USB memory sticks and devices that take up more room than standard USB devices, like some oversized flash drives. The P35 Platinum also has 5.1 audio inputs, a firewire port, an optical PSDIF port, and two eSATA ports on the back I/O panel.

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The P35 Platinum’s heat pipe design is reminiscent of the ASUS A8N SLI Premium released a few years back, but taken to the next level. The P35 Platinum’s heat pipe did an excellent job of dissipating heat and was never at a point where it was too hot too touch during the review process. It’s refreshing to see a motherboard manufacturer put extra time and effort into designing a solution that can cool not only the board’s south and north bridges, but also its voltage regulators, as they can get extremely hot and cause instability when overclocking.

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The board’s 8 pin power connector has an extension already attached which thankfully makes connecting the cable inbetween the heat-pipe jungle an easy task. Here we can also see the molex PCI Express power connector and the two four pin case fan power headers. The board is complete with two PCIE 16X slots, but if both have cards in them at the same time, one is limited to only 4X speeds while the other keeps 16X. It’s also nice to see that the board still features regular PCI slots, as many people still have PCI devices they want to use in their new systems.

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The red button featured above (right-most image) is a CMOS reset button, allowing you to reset your system back to normal after those frequent failed overclocking attempts. Directly to the right of the CMOS reset button is MSI’s new LED based debug system. Although it is nicer than MSI’s traditional D-bracket debug system that needed to be housed in a PCI slot, we encountered some problems with the system while working with the board. One was during a botched heatsink install that didn’t make correct contact with the X6800 CPU and therefore the CPU reached its top internal temperature and shut down. During this, the debug codes kept saying it was a memory problem, so I kept switching memory out over and over again to see if the board was highly incompatible with the high end memory on the market. I also had a problem with the diagnostic LED’s being so bright that actually figuring out the sequence of colors in the debug system required some additional work.

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BIOS and Overclocking
Like in most other MSI motherboards, the company is using a modified AMI BIOS for their P35 Platinum motherboard.

MSI P35 Platinum
The BIOS

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The BIOS itself is impressive and reflects much of the customizability that we typically see in extremely high end boards. However, a missing feature many power users (even those on a budget) ask for is the ability to specify maximum temperatures and voltages the board can reach before it will automatically be shut down. Other than that, the PC Health Status section gives you the standard temperature, fan speed, and voltages you would expect in any modern motherboard.

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The Cell Menu is where the overclocking of the CPU takes place, and MSI includes a D.O.T. control mechanism, which allows for an easy, percentage based overclocking of your CPU, the PCIe interface, or both. Because we’re using an Extreme Edition CPU, we can also change the multiplier on our X6800 for a high FSB overclock within the Cell menu, but more on that just a little later.

MSI P35 Platium Overclocking
Not Bad.  Not Great, But Not Bad

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And finally as you can see from above, the customizability is also evident in the DRAM timing section of the BIOS, allowing you to customize your memory for the timings that you desire.

 

As for overclocking the board, we used a 7X multiplier and gradually cranked up the board’s front side bus and voltages. Our highest stable overclock that got us into windows and through a series of 3DMark06 loops was 475MHz, ending up at a final clock speed of 3.325GHz. These initial results aren’t spectacular, but definitely show that the P35 and Bearlake family in general have some serious overclocking headroom under their hoods.

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Test Systems and SANDRA

Test System Details
Specifications and Revisions

  • Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 (2.93GHz) Processor
  • 2 x Corsair XMS PC2-8500 (5-5-5-15) in 2T
  • 1 x Nvidia GeForce 8800GTX (Nvidia 158.22Driver)
  • 1 x Western Digital Raptor 10K RPM 74GB HDD
  • 1 x NEC ND-3550A DVD+/-RW Drive
  • 1 x Thermaltake Toughpower 850W Power Supply
  • Windows XP Professional SP2 (32-bit)

  • MSI P35 Platinum 
  • eVGA nForce 680i LT, Nvidia nForce 680i LT Chipset
    • Both motherboards are tested in a 1066MHz (11x266) and 1333MHz (9x333) FSB configuration with our X6800 CPU.

Synthetic CPU and Memory Benchmarks
SiSoft Sandra XI

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In our synthetic CPU and Memory tests, we see that the P35 Platinum is able to keep up with the nForce 680i SLI in all four of our tests, but although it kept up with the EVGA board, it didn't clearly beat it in any tests.

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3DMark06 and PCMark05

Synthetic Benchmarks

Futuremark 3DMark06 and PCMark05

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In our 3DMark06 CPU test, we actually see the MSI P35 Platinum barely edge out the EVGA 680i SLI board, with the EVGA board taking teh top spot in the rest of the benchmarks.

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Half Life 2 and F.E.A.R.
Half Life 2 : Episode One
High Quality Settings, No FSAA/Anisotropic Filtering

 

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Our Half Life 2 tests once again show the EVGA nForce 680i SLI board on top by a slight margin.

F.E.A.R

High Quality Settings, No FSAA/ 4X Anisotropic Filtering

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But unlike what we saw in Half-Life 2, the MSI P35 Platinum beat out the 680i board by a slim margin in our FEAR tests.

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Cinebench 95 and WME9 + WinRAR MT
Windows Media Encoder 9 + Winrar 2.61
Real-World Multi-Tasking Performance

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In our multitasking tests, we see that the EVGA 680i SLI once again is fastest, by five seconds when both boards are on a 1066MHz bus and by 3 seconds when they are at 1333MHz.

Cinebench R9.5

Maxon Cinema 4D  Application Performance

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Cinebench has long been a very popular rendering benchmark based on Maxon's Cinema 4D rendering software, and in Cinebench 9.5, we see the 680i SLI render Cinebench's scene one second faster than the P35.

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3D Studio MAX 8 SP2
3D Studio Max 8 SP2
3D Rendering Tests

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Our 3D Studio Max 8 SP2 3D Model renders once again continue to show the P35 and 680i neck to neck when we render to a HD (1920x1200) resolution. Our hair01.max tests are only single threaded, and in that test, we saw the 680i finish the render two seconds faster than the P35.

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Our Conclusion
Three years ago, Intel launched the 925X / 915 chipsets and were criticized by some for introducing some new technologies before the market demanded them. This time around, however, with the launch of Bearlake, Intel has scored some points. The P35 chipset brings with it a handful of new technologies, like official 1333MHz bus speed support and DDR3 to just name a few. But unlike 925X and 915G, P35 comes in both DDR2 and DDR3 flavors, making the platform all the more attractive to price sensitive end users looking to save a bit on their memory expenditures.

 

 

Not only does the MSI P35 Platinum, which is one of the first Intel P35 motherboards on the market, have an excellent feature set, it also showed that it has the raw horsepower to keep up with the EVGA nForce 680i SLI and in some cases, we even saw the MSI P35 Platinum outperform the 680i SLI, albeit by very small margins.

 

It’s also nice to see that MSI is once again trying to implement new and interesting ideas like their ‘roller coaster style’ motherboard heat pipe cooling technology. Not only does it look cool, it even stays relatively cool to the touch without a fan due to its effective heat dissipation.

 

The BIOS was also generally good, with a large number of customizable features that allow for some decent overclockability.

 

The only issues with the board that came up during the review process were the inaccuracy of the motherboards debugger and the fact that it was quite difficult to read. The board also only has four SATA ports, which because of today’s dirt-cheap hard drive market and more common SATA optical drives, may not be enough for even a motherboard targeted toward the more mainstream computer builder.

 

But overall, the MSI P35 Platinum is a solid motherboard. It is a solid performer, has good features and is overall, pretty well rounded. If you’re looking for a new motherboard for your next Intel Core 2 system and want the latest motherboard technology at a reasonable price, the MSI P35 Platinum is definitely a product to consider.

 

 

  • Good Layout
  • Elaborate Heat Pipes
  • Strong Performance
  • Stable
  • Innacurate Debugger
  • Decent Overclocker

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