The MSI P35 Platinum Combo: Close Up
At first glance, the MSI P35 Platinum Combo is eye-catching with its elaborate looking Circu-Pipe heat-pipe assembly. The Circu-Pipe spans the power circuitry, Northbridge and Southbridge, utilizing residual CPU cooler airflow for cooling, but seems a bit over the top with its rollercoaster style appearance. When comparing the P35 Platinum to the original Platinum we evaluated back in July, both board's remain nearly identical save for the addition of DDR3 support with the 'Combo' model. The board is built with an Intel P35 Northbridge and ICH9R Southbridge at its core, supporting all Core 2 Quad, Core 2 Duo, Pentium and Celeron processors using LGA775 packaging.
Again, not much has changed with the 'Combo' aside from the addition of two DDR3 DIMM slots while four DDR2 DIMM slots are offered as well. In both cases, there is a maximum support of 8GB and only one type of memory can be used at a time, never both. To help the board discern between the two memory types, MSI utilizes what they call DDR2/DDR3 Turbo Cards, which need to be used in conjunction with either type of memory. Essentially, the Turbo Cards occupy the two DDR3 DIMMs when DDR2 is used and conversely, when DDR3 is used, the Turbo Cards occupy the second and fourth DDR2 DIMMs for proper operation. To help confirm everything is set up properly, the Turbo Cars illuminate, signifying which state the system is in. As seen below, each card reports "MSI DDR III" in DDR3 mode whereas when in DDR2 mode the cards report "MSI DDR II". While we had no issues with the Turbo Card design, we have to be concerned somewhat that this is one more component to consider when trouble arises. By adding another link in the chain, so to speak, that is one more link that can break.
Like its predecessor, the P35 Platinum Combo offers a PCI Express x16 PEG slot while the other PEG slot has only an x4 electrical connection. There are also two PCI Express x1 slots and 2 standard PCI slots which provide a wide range of expansion options. The ICH9R Southbridge drives 4 SATA II ports as well 2 eSATA ports mounted on the rear of the board and it supports Intel Matrix RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 as well as AHCI. There is an additional SATA II port powered by a Marvell 88SE6111 controller which also drives the single IDE connection. The back panel also offers an IEEE1394 port, 6 USB Ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, six auto-sensing audio jacks, one Optical S/PDIF Out and PS/2 Mouse and Keyboard inputs. The onboard audio is driven by a Realtek ALC888 CODEC providing full 8-Channel audio.