X58 Showdown: ASUS Rampage II vs. MSI Eclipse

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MSI Eclipse - Specifications

MSI's latest board utilizes a new naming scheme, somewhat reminiscint of ASUS' Republic of Gamers boards in that the name itself seems completely isolated from anything computer-centric, in this case, the MSI Eclipse.  The box is thick and heavy, with a stylized solar eclipse on the cover.  Opening the box flap gave us a quick rundown of the some of the main selling points of the Eclipse, including their GreenPower technology which uses a more polished version of the GreenPower Genie, SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio, and Hi-C CAP - highly conductiove polymerized capacitors, which can reportedly handle higher over-voltages, and thus, offer greater overclocking possibilities.

MSI Eclipse package

ASUS Rampage II Extreme Motherboard
Specifications & Features

Processor Support 
Supports Intel® Core i7 based processors in LGA1366 package

Intel® X58 Chipset

  • Supports QPI up to 6.4GT/s

Intel® ICH10R Chipset

  • Hi-Speed USB (USB2.0) controller, 480Mb/sec, up to 12 ports
  • 6 SATAII ports with transfer rate up to 3Gb/s
  • PCI Master v2.3, I/O APIC
  • ACPI 2.0 compliant
  • Serial ATA RAID 0/1/5/10
  • Integrated AHCI controller
Supports six unbuffered DIMM of 1.5 Volt DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600 SDRAM, 24GB Max
Supports 1Gb/ 2Gb/ 4Gb DRAM size
Supports x8 / x16 data lines per DIMM
Supports up to 3 channel mode
Expansion Slots 
3x PCI Express gen2 x16 slots
two Black PCIE x16 slots (PCI_E2 &PCI_E4) support up to PCIE x16 speed, one Blue PCIE x16 slot(PCI_ E5) supports up to PCIE x4 speed
supports ATI® Crossfire™, NVIDIA® SLI
2x Black PCI Express x1 slots
2x PCI slot, support 3.3V/ 5V PCI bus Interface
Storage I/O 
One Ultra DMA 66/100/133 IDE controller integrated in JMicron® 363
  • Supports PIO, Bus Master operation modes
  • Can connect up to two Ultra ATA drives

SATAII controller integrated in ICH10R/JMicron® 322 / 362 chipset

  • Up to 3Gb/s transfer speed
  • Supports six SATAII ports by ICH10R
  • Supports four SATAII ports by JMicron 322, support SATA RAID 0/1/JBOD
  • Supports two eSATA ports by JMicron 362
  • Supports AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0/1/5/10 by ICH10R
Multi-GPU Support
Support NVIDIA 3-Way SLI™ / ATI CrossFireX™ Technology
Creative® SB X-Fi Xtreme H/W Audio Card

  • 24-bit / 96KHz audio quality
  • 100dB SNR clarity
  • Up to 7.1ch EAX 5.0 Surround Sound
Supports two PCI Express LAN 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Realtek 8111C

VIA® VT6308P chipset
  • Supports up to two 1394 ports (Rear panel x1, pinheader x1)
  • Transfer rate is up to 400Mbps
12x USB 2.0 ports (4 ports at mid-board, 8 ports at back panel)

Back Panel I/O Ports
1x Clear CMOS button
1x PS/2 Keyboard
1x PS/2 Mouse
2x eSATA ports
1x IEEE1394 port
8x USB 2.0 ports
2x RJ45 LAN jacks
1x 5-in-1 + Optical S/PDIF-out Audio Card
Internal I/O Connectors
1x ATX 24-Pin power connector
1x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
1x CPU / 5x System FAN connectors
1x CD-in connector
1x Front panel audio connector
1x Front panel connector
1x chasis intrusion connector
1x serial port pinheader
2x USB 2.0 connectors
10x Serial ATAII connectors
1x ATA133 connector
1x IEEE1394 connector support additional 1 port
1x GreenPower Genie connector
1x Reset Button
1x Power Button
1x D-LED2 connector
1x TPM module connector 
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.

Special Features
DrMOS - integrated Driver IC, Top-MOSFET, Bottom-MOSFET
GreenPower Technology
All Solid-Capacitors
All Shielded Chokes
Hi-C CAP (Highly-conductive polymerized capacitors)
X-Fi Audio
Easy Buttons
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
Overclocking Features
Easy OC Switch
D.O.T. (Dyamic Overclocking Technology)
MSI Overclocking Center Utility
DrMOS - integrated Driver IC, Top-MOSFET, Bottom-MOSFET
Hi-C CAP (Highly-conductive polymerized capacitors)

Media and user guides   Assortment of cables

MSI packs the Eclipse with a complete assortment of not only manuals and driver CDs, but cables and assorted paraphenelia as well.  Separate discs are used for Windows XP and Vista owners, with proprietary drivers for the X-Fi Xtreme audio.  Manuals include a quick installation quide, a full user's guide with all the little details, and HDDBackup and X-Fi Xtreme setup guides as well.  SATA, IDE, and floppy cables, addtional brackets with USB, IEE-1394 and eSATA ports - you'll find it all in this high-end entry.  And, like the "green-powered" P45 Platinum and Diamond boards that we reviewed last year, the Eclipse also supports the GreenPower Genie, which helps conserve energy by shutting down unused components.

X-Fi audio and Greenpower Genie   D-LED2 installed   D-LED2 all lit up

One new addition is the D-LED2, a small daughterboard with display which replaces the cryptic LED readouts of the past.  Installing the D-LED2 seems to be a no-brainer, until you run into a cautionary note in the manual that states that improper placement could damage the unit and/or the board itself.  However, the unit is large when compared to the pins, and making sure you're plugging them in correctly becomes a hassle, especially after the board has been installed into the chassis.  We ran into various issues with the board not starting, or the D-LED2 not being active when trying to install it after the fact (luckily, we did not run into any damaging situations).  On a subsequent build, we made sure to connect this item first before placing it into the chassis, but even then found that temperatures were not being reported correctly.  Any way you look at it, we'd appreciate if MSI took another route in the future.  We love the idea of concise troubleshooting readouts and informational displays, but without the hassle that the D-LED2 created.

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