X58 Showdown: ASUS Rampage II vs. MSI Eclipse

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MSI Eclipse - Layout and Features

 MSI Eclipse Layout and Features
 Form meets function

Although the X58 brings with it some new advancements that necessitate more board real estate, the Eclipse itself does not seem to be overly crowded in any one area, nor do we find any obvious spacing issues.  Due to changes within the CPU, the socket area is slightly larger than in the past to accomodate not only the new LGA-1366 socket but the larger coolers that come with the Core i7.  Some solid capacitors are found on one side of the socket, while the Hi-C capacitors are found lengthwise between the socket itself and a row of chokes, cooled by the heatsinks placed directly on top.

MSI Eclipse SLI top-down
MSI Eclipse SLI 

Cooling measures seem somewhat tame with a low-rise heatsink over the South Bridge, connected to the the larger heatsink over the North Bridge by way of two heat pipes.  Even this cooler seems rather slim in profile with a round set of fins that rise vertically away from the PCB.  These remain separate from the other nearby heatsink, all of which rely on passive cooling only.  There are no active measures taken at all, as well as no ventilation access to the exterior of the chassis.  Spring-loaded clips help keep each of the heatsinks in place, although one board we received had a few of these broken off in transit rendering the board inoperable.

South Bridge cooling   North Bridge cooling   DrMOS radiators
8-pin ATX connector   Chokes   Eclipse cooling methods

Of course, one of the main things that sticks out is the 6 DIMM slots, which offer support for three channels of DDR3.  Joined channels are colored either blue or black, and unlike builds of the past, you start from the outside first.  That is, the black slots must be populated before the blue ones.  There's not much room between these slots and the edge of the board, so nothing else gets placed here other than the 24-pin power connection.  With little space to give, the floppy drive connector finally meets its end here.

Triple-channel DDR3   24-pin ATX   Additional SATA ports

Directly to the left of these slots are six front-angled SATA ports and a single IDE port.  Four other SATA ports, colored in blue, rise vertically away from the board and, with the IDE port, are controlled separately of the rest by the nearby JMicron JMB363 chip.  These are placed just ever so slightly to the right of the PCI-E X16 slots and should allow larger graphic cards to fit in around them without a conflict.

Drive connectors   Expansion slots   PCI-X audio slot
Power, reset, and D-LED2 buttons   Header pins   Rear I/O options

The primary PCI-E X16 slot is sandwiched in between two PCI-E X1 slots, one of which will mostly likely be used with the X-Fi Xtreme riser card included in the package.  Two other standard PCI slots are intermixed with the other PCI-E X16 slots.  Most users will probably settle in with only a single or dual-graphic card configuration which is a good thing as far as the Eclipse is concerned - going down the Triple SLI route runs the risk of covering nearly all of the headers placed along the edge of the board with the possible exception of the front panel pins.  That list includes two yellow USB headers, the IEEE-1394 header in green, a fan header, and the handy when necessary power, reset, and D-LED2 buttons.  Of these, the loss of the buttons is a minor concern as they are only used to cycle through displays on the D-LED2 readout, while power and reset will probably only be used during the build process or by testers like ourselves.  These buttons also have a tendency to stick and hold, and don't bounce back nicely as we expected.

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