MSI P6N SLI Platinum - The Board
The P6N SLI Platinum is an ATX board built upon a black PCB. Both the northbridge and southbridge are passively cooled by a custom heatpipe design that is connected to the northbridge, southbridge and PWM. Passive cooling of course means that no fans are used to cool the chipset, and that means no extra noise from the motherboard. MSI does include a fan that you can put on the northbridge, though, in case you feel like doing some serious overclocking. In addition to its lack of noise, we like the cooling employed by MSI because of its looks -- the copper looks great on the black PCB.
When it comes to expansion slots, the P6N SLI Platinum boasts two PCI Express x16 slots, one PCI Express x1 slot, and three 32-bit PCI slots. As we mentioned before, although the board features two PCI Express x16 slots, the second slot operates at x8 mode when SLI is enabled. In between the expansion slots, you can see the SLI switch card, which is a small PCB with connectors on both sides.
For your storage needs, MSI includes four SATA 3Gb/s ports, two IDE connectors and one floppy connector. That should meet the storage requirements of 99% of users out there. In addition to the storage connectors, you can see the four colored DIMM slots. Channel A is green and channel B is orange, so that means you will want to populate one DIMM in a green slot and one is an orange slot to take advantage of the chipset's dual-channel memory capabilities. One final thing we'd like to point out in the first picture below is the small, red button in between the SATA ports and the CMOS battery. That button is for resetting the CMOS. Nice touch, MSI. We wish every manufacturer would implement this level of convenience for clearing the BIOS.
Overall, we found the layout of the board to be good and logical. Although the board's cooling system may be a bit unconventional, we don't believe it will pose any problems for even large coolers. The CPU socket has plenty of clearance.
The rear I/O ports include many of the usual suspects: PS/2 keyboard, PS/2 mouse, 4 USB 2.0, 1 parallel, 1 IEEE 1394a (FireWire), 1 RJ45 LAN jack, and 1 set of analog audio ports. Additionally, MSI throws in a digial coaxial out jack, a digial optical out jack, and an eSATA port. Although this is an entry-level SLI board, the rear panel reminds of us a high-end board.