nForce 650i SLI Shoot-Out: MSI P6N SLI vs Abit Fatal1ty FP-IN9 SLI
Performance Summary and Conclusion
Benchmark Summary: We know we're starting to sound like a broken record, but the benchmarks tell the story. The MSI P6N SLI Platinum and Abit Fatal1ty FP-IN9 SLI are basically identical in terms of performance. The MSI P6N SLI Platinum did demonstrate an edge in Lame MP3 encoding, but nowhere else. For all intents and purposes, we wouldn't choose one board over the other based on performance alone. The benchmarks just don't favor one board enough to declare a clear winner in the performance category.
MSI P6N SLI Platinum:
The more astute among you may be wondering why we didn't include a BIOS and overclocking section for the MSI P6N SLI Platinum. Unfortunately, we had some strange stability issues with our sample. When we initially tried to benchmark with 3DMark06, it would consistently fail. We tried different RAM and power supplies, and tried various software changes and reinstallations to no avail. We did eventually get the 3DMark06 score, however, and were able to reliably finish the benchmark suite. Over the course of our testing, a new BIOS was released, however. So we updated the BIOS to see if that would make any difference, but things only got worse from there. The flash appeared to go smoothly, but afterwards it wouldn't boot. We weren't getting any activity whatsoever, no matter what we did...no beep codes, no POST, no Windows (obviously). So, we weren't able to explore the board's overclocking capabilities. And unfortunately, multiple e-mails to MSI went unanswered. We apologize for the hole in the article, but luck wasn't on our side (or MSI's for that matter).
With that said, others don't seem to be suffering from the same problems we did, and the MSI P6N SLI Platinum is clearly one of the most feature-rich nForce 650i SLI motherboards on the market at this time, and the price reflects that. While most of the board manufacturers opted to leave some features and connectors on the cutting room floor, MSI figured out a way to include most of them at what amounts to about a $20-25 premium versus many other 650i SLI boards. We think the price bump is worth it if you are interested in more than just the basic necessities, specifically if you are interested in a well-designed cooling solution, eSATA connectors, FireWire, and two digital audio output options. MSI includes a relatively generous bundle as well that also helps explain the price premium.
Despite our less than optimal experience with this board, we're hesitant to completely dismiss it, especially considering how highly it has been praised by users and some of our peers. We are willing to chalk our experience up to a bad sample for the most part. Do some research, and you'll see the MSI P6N SLI Platinum is still worthy of consideration.
Abit Fatal1ty FP-IN9 SLI:
With the Fatal1ty FP-IN9 SLI, Abit takes a much more practical approach. Abit essentially includes only the features that a die-hard gamer would need. There are no extra bells and whistles like eSATA, FireWire, or a copper heatpipe cooling solution. We can definitely appreciate this approach as well, and we know that it will appeal to many readers who don't like to spend money on things they'll never use, especially if this board is to be used for a dedicated gaming/LAN party rig. We like that Abit still opted for a silent cooling solution with three heatsinks, and we think the black and red Fatal1ty design looks great. Our sample didn't quite overclock as well as we'd like to see, but as we mentioned before, we've seen others hit higher speeds. If a simpler bundle and more practical solution appeals to you more than extras, and you're in the market for a good SLI board, then we recommend you add the Abit Fatal1ty FP-IN9 SLI to your short list of considerations.