MSI Eclipse SLI Review

ccokeman - 2008-10-05 13:22:04 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: December 22, 2008
Price: $322

Introduction:

With the introduction of the Core I7 architecture there is a need for a new platform. This platform begins with the X58 and ICH10R chipsets and builds upwards from there. The initial fears about the inability of the Core I7 processors not being able to overclock have been proven false. We have found that they do indeed overclock and performance scales well in non-gaming applications. What does this platform offer for the gamer? We are no longer bound to one chipset or the other depending on our video card preferences. So whether you prefer ATI or Nvidia, they are both covered on the X58 based Eclipse SLI. What else is there to distinguish one board from the other at this point? Feature set, technologies, price, performance, and brand loyalty, these are things that most people take into consideration. MSI has released the Eclipse SLI X58 based motherboard as a board that has the features and uses the latest technologies.

The MSI Eclipse SLI includes a multitude of features that include the X-Fi Extreme audio sound card sound solution in lieu of an on-board solution, OC switches for no fuss overclocking, on-board reset and power switches, ten SATA ports, DRMOS technology for cleaner power and lower temperatures, a split cooling system, the capability to run both TRI SLI and CrossfireX video solutions and much more. At $322, the Eclipse is what would be called an enthusiast grade product. Billed as the fastest motherboard, I am anxious to see how it performs when compared to its peers.

Closer Look:

The MSI Eclipse packaging, strangely enough, shows a picture of a solar eclipse on the front and rear panels, The front panel shows that the Eclipse SLI is part of the Gaming series and uses DRMOS technology and is built using the X58 chipset for use with socket LGA 1366 Intel Core I7 processors. The rear panel lists the specifications of the Eclipse in detail. The front cover flips open to give a description and glimpses of the exclusive features that MSI has included on this series. These items include the X-Fi sound solution, DRMOS technology, Rapid Boost and the GreenPower Genie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling the contents from the packaging, the Eclipse is shipped in a plastic enclosure with the X-Fi sound card, DLED Module and Green Power Genie module in compartments on top of the board. The balance of the accessories are shipped in the box underneath the motherboard container. The box is quite full with the documentation and the balance of the accessories.

 

 

Let's take a look at everything that is included with the Eclipse as well as the board to see how it stacks up against the competition.

 

Closer look:

The bundle of accessories included with the Eclipse SLI from MSI is pretty substantial. It includes pretty much everything you need to get the Eclipse installed and running up to its maximum capabilities. From the M-Connectors to the SLI and CrossfireX bridge connectors to the drive cables, you get it all. The bundle is so substantial it takes two pictures to get it all in. The documentation is provided for all of the accessories so you have the information right at your finger tips. From a quick start guide to the DLED-2 functions to the X-Fi manual, it's all there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drive cabling provided will allow you to connect up to six SATA drives, two e-SATA drives and two IDE drives. There is a floppy drive connector but it is not used in this application. SATA power connections are provided for three drives in case your power supply is not so equipped. There is an expansion bracket that allows you to have two more USB 2.0 ports on the back side of your chassis if needed. Many newer cases will easily take up the other two USB ports via the front panel connections.

 

 

The I/O shield is just standard fare with nothing special to note. It is labeled to show what the connection points are. The bridge connections that are supplied will allow you to run multiple video cards in a multiple GPU configuration. Nvidia cards can run in Tri SLI mode with the ATI cards running in a CrossfireX configuration.

 

 

The diagnostic LED mounts to the Eclipse SLI right above the front panel connection points. This little tool can give you information on the error codes as well as system information including temperatures and voltages. The temperature information it displays is gathered by a thermister that is connected directly to the DLED-2. This you can put anywhere in your system that the thermister will reach. I used it to measure the temperature of the air coming out of my heatsink but you can fiind any number of uses.

 

 

The Green Power Genie module is mounted in line with the ATX 24-pin power connection from the power supply. It interfaces with the Eclipse SLI via a three wire connection to provide power consumption statistics to the Green Power Genie program. In a mid tower case this may provide some headache with a fully loaded case since it is right where the optical drives are located.

 

 

The M-Connectors are truly one of your best friends when it comes time to connect the front panel connections to the Eclipse. These allow you to make all of the small connections to a larger plug so that installation to the board is easy. If you have ever tried connecting a front panel USB connection with its nine single wires you will understand the ease with which it can be done now. You make your connections to the M-Connectors outside the chassis and then plug in one connection. Those with bigger hands will seriously appreciate this feature, I know I do.

 

Last, but not least, is the Creative X-Fi Extreme audio solution that is an MSI Exclusive. This is a design that uses the PCI-E x1 slot instead of the PCI slot. This card is capable of 7.1 surround sound and EAX 5.0. The inputs are color coded so you cannot make a mistake when connecting the speakers and microphone unless you really just aren't paying attention.

 

 

It's great to see the manufacturers send out this kind of all inclusive bundle. For the price of today's high end motherboards that is the expectation when paying a premium price for this kind of product. MSI has done well on this account.

 

Closer Look:

The MSI Eclipse SLI is based on the X58 and ICH10R chipsets and is designed for use with the latest Core I7 socket 1366 processors from Intel, including the 965 Extreme. The Eclipse features six memory slots that can be populated with up to 24GB of system memory in a tri-channel configuration at speeds of 1333/1066/800MHz. Cooling the components on the PCB is accomplished via a series of heatsinks interconnected via heatpipes. The heatsinks are held in via push clips instead of the bolted on design used by some manufacturers. Many of the major components are colored in an alternating black and blue on a black PCB. The exception being the components along the bottom edge of the board. The layout appears very functional but I had concerns about the TRUE heatsink fitting, but it fit with room to spare. However, if you are using 38mm fans, you may lose the use of the first DIMM socket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The I/O panel offers plenty of connectivity as expected on a high end motherboard. Included are PS/2 ports for both a mouse and keyboard, eight USB 2.0 ports, two E-SATA ports, two RJ-45 LAN ports, one IEEE 1394 Firewire port and one of my favorite accessories, the clear CMOS button. One thing you will notice missing are the jacks for the sound solution. This is because this is taken care of via an exclusive feature from MSI, that being a Creative X-Fi based solution on an add in sound card. The available expansion slots include two PCI-E x1 slots, two PCI slots and three PCI-E x16 slots, two of which run at 16x with the third limited to 4x speeds.

 

 

Across the bottom and right hand side are where the majority of the additional connectors is placed. Along the bottom you have the 1394 header, system fan header, The power, reset and DLED switches and the manual overclocking DIP switches. These will allow you to set an overclock without going into the BIOS. There are three levels that adjust the clock frequency from 133MHz to 200MHz. Next in yellow are the USB 2.0 headers, serial COM connection, TPM (Trusted Platform Module) and the front panel connections. Behind the JTPM header is the socket for the Diagnostic LED.

 

 

Moving up the right side of the Eclipse you will see the IDE drive connection and the ten SATA ports, four of which are straight up. It looks as though MSI has thought out the location since it looks like they are positioned in such a way that they will not present a clearance issue with larger video cards such as the HD4870x2 or GTX280. The six DIMM sockets are color coded by channel so there is no need to worry about how to fill the DIMM sockets with three modules. If you move up to six modules there is a specific sequence in which they should be filled to maintain a tri-channel configuration.

 

 

Power is supplied to the MSI Eclipse SLI via two power connections, the 24-pin ATX power connector and the 8-pin 12v auxiliary power connection located close to the CPU socket. Additionally, there is a small 3-pin connector that hooks into the Green Power Genie module located between the 24-pin and SATA connections.

 

 

The CPU socket area is far from crowded. Around the socket you can see the 6+2 phase power design and the tremendous amount of room. MSI has included its second generation DRMOS technology and active phase switching to provide a stable power supply to the CPU memory and X58 chipset. This technology allows for more precise control of the voltages and effectively lowers power consumption. A byproduct is that the operating temperatures are reduced by 30% on the power supply components. The Eclipse uses solid capacitors, shielded chokes and Hi-c capacitors on the CPU power circuits for added reliability and system stability .

 

The cooling system used on the MSI Eclipse SLI is a split thermal design that is used to effectively lower the operating temperatures of the power control MOSFETs and chipsets. The cooling system for the chipsets is interconnected via heatpipes while the cooling for the MOSFETs is cooled by an independent heatsink to manage the thermal load and provide reduced operating temperatures.

 

 

Closer look:

Getting the Eclipse SLI up and running requires another step after the operating system installed. That would be installing the drivers that tell the hardware how to interact with the operating system to gain as much performance as possible and to work as efficiently as possible. Additionally, I will show the applications MSI includes on the driver disc that provide added functionality. These include an overclocking tool, a software monitoring tool and the Green Power Center.

The first part of this little puzzle starts by inserting the driver disc into an optical drive and letting the autorun feature bring up the installation GUI. There are four tabs available to explore. The first tab includes the drivers. Here you will install the INF chipset utility and the balance of the drivers excluding sound, which has its own driver disc. Next up would be the utility tab, here you can install the Green Power Center, MSI Overclocking utility, Live Update 3 and the Drive Booster Manager.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third tab is Website. This tab lists an assortment of links that are MSI related as well as links to free software you may find useful. The last tab contains the manual in an electronic form. If you feel you want to manually search for the drivers you can always browse the supplied driver disc to find the drivers you wish to install.

 

 

 

The Creative X-Fi sound card comes with its own driver disc. Just insert and allow the auto run feature to start the installation. Choose the programs you wish to install with the drivers and complete the installation.

 

Under the Utility tab MSI has included some useful applications you can use to overclock your system, reduce the carbon footprint of your system and to provide updates for the BIOS, programs and utilities supplied by MSI. These are the Green Power Genie, MSI Live Update 3 and the Overclocking Center. Each of these utilities has a specific purpose. The Green Power Genie enables you to make adjustments to the power profiles you will use with the Eclipse SLI. When you first open this application you can view the system information about the board, the installed system memory and the PCI bus.

 

 

From there you can move onto the Green Power section. There are two tabs here, Basic, which allows you to choose from three different power profiles, to the Advanced section that has the same three options but allows them to be configured. The last item that can be configured is the onboard LED functionality. You can choose to leave it on for the max bling factor or shut it down. When run in the max power saving mode, you really are in a max saving mode. The CPU and voltages are downclocked to reduce the energy needed to the lowest possible amount. Even running Prime 95 with eight threads did not push it into a high performance mode.

 

 

 

The Overclocking Center has a look similar to the Green Power Genie. This utility has the System Information tab to view the system information and the D.O.T. overclocking section. This tool includes a basic section where you can enable five different profiles to meet a specific need or you can go to the advanced section to manually configure a profile or modify the existing profiles to make one that best suits your needs.

 

 

 

Live Update is a program that monitors and checks to see if there are updates for the BIOS or drivers for specific hardware used in your system. These are more specific to MSI products but is useful nonetheless.

 

Closer look:

The MSI Eclipse SLI X58 motherboard uses a BIOS from American Megatrends. The current BIOS revision used for this system and review is version 132b. Flashing the latest BIOS can alleviate many problems, especially with newer, less mature products. The 132b is a substantial improvement over the as-shipped BIOS. The BIOS is where the hardware installed into the Eclipse is set at the most basic level. The CPU, system memory, attached drives as well as hard mounted components can be configured. Let's dig into this BIOS to see just what MSI has made available for the enthusiast.

Standard CMOS Features:

This option lets you set the time and date as well as configuring basic drive settings. The list of attached storage and optical drives attached to the system are shown here. In the system information tab you can see the processor installed as well as the amount of system memory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced Bios Features:

In this section you can view and enable or disable CPU features such as Hyperthreading and Overspeed protection, adjust the boot sequence, and enable or disable the Trusted Computing function.

 

 

Integrated Peripherals:

This section lets you enable and disable the devices hard mounted to the Eclipse. Raid controllers, USB device functionality and the LAN features are all the items in this section.

 

 

Power Management Setup:

Here is where you can adjust the standby settings and the manner in which you wake the computer up from standby mode.

 

 

Hardware Monitor:

This section is just what the name implies. You can view the temperatures and voltages of the items MSI has allowed. Items shown are the CPU, IOH and system temperatures and voltages that include the CPU and the three main rails from the PSU. Fan speed is monitored and the speeds can be set manually for the fan headers on the Eclipse.

 

 

Green Power:

This section allows you to enable the Green Power Features of the MSI Eclipse SLI. The on board LED functions can be enabled or disabled in this section. Under the adjustments are a listing of the amperage currently used by the system.

 

 

Cell Menu:

This is the section where all of the performance enhancements can be made to get the most from your system components. System and component voltages, skew settings memory timings and more can be adjusted here. I will take a deeper look through this section later on to show the immense flexibility in this section.

 

 

User Settings:

This section allows you to save specific profiles that you have used. You can save up to four different profiles. You can have a gaming profile, a workstation profile, or the extreme overclock profile to use for when your are doing some serious benchmarking.

 

 

M-Flash:

M-Flash is a utility to allow you to save and flash the BIOS with a simple utility much like the EZ-Flash used on boards from Asus. You must use the latest BIOS for this program to work properly.

 

 

The balance of the items shown on the BIOS main page are things that have functionality but no additional menus. They do perform functions and are self explanatory.

 

Closer look:

Cell Menu:

The Cell Menu section of the BIOS is where you can adjust the performance parameters and overclock your CPU and system memory. There are plenty of options to choose from to gain additional performance through overclocking your installed hardware. Voltages, skew settings memory timings and more can be found here. If you plan on running your system at stock speeds these settings will remain untouched but for those that like to tinker and push the limits, the settings are there to do so.

At the top of this section you are given a quick snapshot of the current CPU, memory and QPI frequencies. First on the list is the CPU specifications option. This gives a run down of the technical specs of the processor installed into the Eclipse. The one used in this review is the I7 965 Extreme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The EIST function can be set to either on off or automatic to let the system best decide how this function should work. Intel C-State technology is used to manage the power savings of the Intel Core I7 at idle. When enabled there are several more options that become available to configure the system to maximize the energy savings.

 

 

Intel Turbo Boost Technology can be enabled or disabled and configured to deliver a small overclock by adjusting the configuration based on the processor installed. The Core I7 920 and 940 have the multiplier locked at 20 and 22, respectively, but the Turbo Boost technology ups this by one or two depending on CPU loading and to get the maximum benefit in single threaded applications. This dynamic clock control offers a nice little performance boost when enabled.

 

 

QPI Link Speed and Frequency are both adjustable. The Link speed can be set to full speed or slow mode and the QPI Link Speed is dependent on the CPU installed. The Core I7 965 Extreme has a maximum of 6.400GT

 

 

Memory Z gives you the SPD information on the DIMMs installed in the system as well as giving you the option to view the XMP profile information. Advanced DRAM Configuration is where you can manually configure the system memory timings to maximize the performance of the system memory to get the most from your system. The Memory ratio sets the multiplier for the memory. To calculate the final memory speed you would multiply this number times two, times the Bclock frequency to get the final speed. In this case the multiplier is 5 x 2 x the Bclock of 133, giving us a memory speed of 1333MHz.

 

 

 

 

The Clock Gen tuner allows you to set the the amplitude and skew settings for the CPU and the IOH or X58 chipset. These are settings that you can use to fine tune your overclock to get those last few MHz.

 

 

Moving to the voltage options you can see that there are quite a few that can be adjusted. Instead of inputting the requested voltage, MSI has made it so that you must increase the voltage above the base voltage for the components. While this system works, you must know the base voltage level so that you do not overvolt a component. The voltages are color coded as you increase the offset voltage but it is still best to know the base voltage. Voltage on the CPU can be increased to a maximum of +630mv, the QPI up to an offset of +630mv.The PLL volts and Dram voltages do give the actual voltage with the maximum possible of 2.43 volts on the PLL and 2.77 volts on the sytem memory. Quite a large increase over the Intel specified maximum of 1.65 volts. Under the memory voltage is a long list of DDR reference voltages, these allow you to adjust a voltage offset by memory module in case you have a single module that may benefit from additional voltage. Both the north and southbridges can be overvolted. The IOH can be pushed to a max of 1.73 volts with the ICH adjustable to 2.13 volts. All of these voltages are quite a bit out of spec but to get the most from your components, you have to push the limits sometimes.

 

 

 

 

Now let's see what the Eclipse has to offer in the way of performance when compared to one of its peers as well as the previous generation's top performers.

 

Specifications:

CPU
Supports Intel® i7 based processors in LGA1366 package.
Chipset
• 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
Main Memory

• 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
Slots
3 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
• 2 Black PCI Express x1 slots
• 2 PCI slot, support 3.3V/ 5V PCI bus Interface
On-Board IDE/SATA
• 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 chipest
- 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.
 
Audio
• Creative® SB X-Fi Xtreme H/W Audio Card (MS-4132)
- 24-bit / 96KHz audio quality
- 100dB SNR clarity
- Up to 7.1ch EAX 5.0 Surround Sound
LAN

• Supports two PCI Express LAN 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Realtek 8111C.

EEE1394 / FireWire
• VIA® VT6308P chipset
- Supports up to two 1394 ports. (Rear panel x1, pinheader x1)
- Transfer rate is up to 400Mbps.
Internal I/O Connectors
- ATX 24-Pin power connector
- 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
- CPU / System x 5 FAN connectors
- CD-in connector
- Front panel audio connector
- Front panel connector
- 1 x chasis intrusion connector
- 1 x serial port pinheader
- 2 x USB 2.0 connectors
- 10 x Serial ATAII connectors
- 1 x ATA133 connector
- 1 x IEEE1394 connector support additional 1 port
- 1 x GreenPower Genie connector
- 1 x Reset Button
- 1 x Power Button
- 1 x SPDIF-out connector
- 1 x D-LED2 connector
- 1 x TPM module connector
Back Panel I/O Ports
- 1 x Clear CMOS button
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse
- 2 x eSATA ports
 
- 1 x IEEE1394 port
- 8 x USB 2.0 ports
- 2 x RJ45 LAN jacks
- 1 x 5 in 1 + Optical SPDIF out Audio Card
BIOS

• 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.
Dimension
• 30.5cm(L) x 24.4cm(W) ATX Form Factor
Mounting
• 9 mounting holes.

 

Features:

Easy OC switch

All Solid Capacitors:

All Shielded Chokes:

Hich C Cap on PWM:

MSI M Connectors:

 X-Fi Audio:

User Freindly: 

ATI CrossfireX:

NVIDIA 3-way SLI

Live Update on line:

Live update 3 :

 

 

All information courtesy of MSI @ http://global.msi.com.tw/index.php?func=proddesc&maincat_no=1&cat2_no=&cat3_no=&prod_no=1695

Testing:

To see just what kind of performance the MSI Eclipse SLI is capable of I will run it through the OverclockersClub benchmarking suite. This contains synthetic and gaming benchmarks to show how it performs. I will compare the Eclipse against the P6T Deluxe OC and our current testing platform with an Intel QX9770 instead of the usual Q9450 you are used to seeing. This will give a comparison against a current platform as well as the last generation's best processor on a high performing X48 based motherboard. All of the stock testing is run with the factory default settings in the BIOS, save for manually setting the memory clock speeds, voltage and processor voltage. On the X58 boards Turbo mode has been disabled to eliminate any variables due to changing clock speeds during single and multi threaded benchmarks. SMT was enabled during testing as well. To overclock the Eclipse SLI I will push the limits and try to show results that should be easily duplicated based on the capabilities of your CPU and system memory.

 

Testing Setup I7:

 

Testing Setup Core2:

 

Comparison Motherboards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Setting the I7 965 up to run at stock speeds is a no brainer really, but to push the limits it took a little bit of trial and error. Well, a lot of trial and error. There are a few ways to go when overclocking the Core I7 processor and system. You can up the baseclock or if you have an unlocked processor the multiplier can be increased while maintaining the lower overall baseclock (133MHz). The first BIOS was not all that overclocking friendly, but the 132b BIOS changed that. Just upping the baseclock alone is not enough to get you up to the 200MHz level. Whereas the P6T was incredibly resilient when it came to recovering from a bad overclock, the MSI was not nearly as friendly. It would more often than not fail to boot after pushing the limits just to have to clear the CMOS. This resulted in a total loss of your settings so taking good notes is essential. Touching just about all of the voltages was required to get to 205x19 and 822MHz on the six gigabytes of system memory. To get there the Vcore was bumped to 1.42, the memory to 1.64v, the QPI voltage to 1.425, and the IOH to 1.4v as well as bumping the timings to the modules' default 9-9-9-24. I could boot up to a 215MHz baseclock but could not gain any stability at this level.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SpecviewPerf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02
  7. Cinebench 10
  8. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. Bioshock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Far Cry 2
  7. Company of Heros-Opposing Fronts
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

 

Testing:

The first part of our testing regimen will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

 

 

 

RAR:

 

 

 

In Apophysis, there is no difference in performance when run with identical components. The differences noted in WinRAR with our test files show that there is no real world difference in performance between the two X58 motherboards. The performance differential between the X48 and X58 platforms is just massive.

 

Testing:

Specview 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance. Since the E8400 is a Dual core CPU results will only be shown in the 2 thread test.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

Higher is Better

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

PcMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.

 

Throughout the Specview testing the P6T is the stronger performer in five out of six tests run. In PCmark Vantge the results show a negligible difference in performance between the two X58 platforms. By comparison, the X48 is just outperformed in these tests.

 

Testing:

Sisoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key areas of the motherboards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

 

 

Testing:

Sciencemark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher is Better!

 

Cinebench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

In Sciencemark 2.0 the Asus board is clearly doing more work with the same components. This trend continues in Cinebench in both the single and multi threaded tests. The drive testing numbers on the Eclipse are pretty consistent with the results shown by the Asus, the burst rate was slightly higher on the Asus but the rest are on the money.

 

 

Testing:

Crysis has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there's yet to be a single or multi-GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game.  The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across all four resolutions the two X58 based boards are running right at identical frame rates showing that there is no performance to be gained with one board over the other. The X48 and QX9770 perform slightly better from 1280x1024 up to 1920x1200.

 

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of real time strategy and simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies and prove your mettle on the open seas.

 

The settings we will use are below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across all four resolutions the MSI Eclipse and P6T perform identically. The MSI Eclipse and P6T have a slight advantage over the X48 chipset and QX9770, but not much.

 

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games out in the wild, chronicling the building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong, with its inhabitants driven mad by the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now, Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory, with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left, while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies." It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Settings:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The MSI Eclipse is beaten across all four resolutions by the P6T, the margins are small but as the frames rate lowers the importance of the lost frames is more important. One thing I noticed is that the sound issue with a Creative card in Bioshock is still not resolved with the latest drivers. What happens is that as soon as the game is loaded, sound goes away. This is not an MDI issue but a Creative issue.

 

Testing:

Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a U.S. Marine or British S.A.S. trooper. SInce this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.6.

 

The settings used are listed below:

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1024x768 the MSI Eclipse get the top billing with a ten frame increase over the P6T. Once above that the scores are pretty much the same between all three boards. At 1680x1050 the Eclipse does perform 3 FPS better than the Asus offering.

 

 

Testing:

World in Conflict: Released last year, World in Conflict is a Real Time Strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe with limited opportunities to replenish your troops.

 

The settings we will use are listed below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance across all three boards is similar. There is not enough of a margin to declare a clear winner. At the frames rates run in this game, 1FPS is around a 3% loss or gain but will not really be seen in game.

 

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

"Far Cry 2 has been on the horizon for a while now and is finally here. Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation first person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. This quick preview is meant as a first look and performance evaluation, so let's take a look at the game."

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance differentials are less than 1FPS across all four resolutions. Again, there is no clear cut winner here. Gaming is not where the I7 shines over the previous generation of processors.

Testing

Benchmark: Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts)

Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts) is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first Allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This real time strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eclipse finally starts to pull away from the P6T at 1680x1050 and continues to outperform it at 1920x1200, although we are only talking about 1FPS.

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The MSI Eclipse is beaten in all four resolutions by the P6T but does pull ahead of the X48 and QX9770.

 

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across all four resolutions the P6T was again the better performer, beating both the MSI Eclipse and the X48-DQ6. Both systems run equally well but the performance advantage goes to the Asus by a slight margin.

 

Conclusion:

The MSI Eclipse is a full featured motherboard that includes some interesting options, making the package as a whole a great buy for what you get. The Eclipse has the ability to run both SLI and CrossfireX so you are no longer locked into one multi GPU option, both options are available on an Intel chipset based motherboard. The Green Power Genie is a nice little setup that can help you in your quest to reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the clocks speeds and voltages when you are in an idle state. If you go further and go into max saving mode the clock speeds and voltages are reduced further and stay that way. So yes, you can do your part for the environment. The performance of the MSI Eclipse fell just short of or equal to that of the Asus P6T in most of the testing. Sure, there are some highlights but the total number of wins is far outpaced by the losses. The more telling tale is the difference in performance. It is almost negligible in most cases where wins are separated by one frame per second or a small increase in performance. Both of these items point to the fact that the performance is nearly identical in most cases. Something that I saw when working through all of the P35 boards reviewed by OCC is parity in performance. So what really is there to separate one from the other for a normal non-overclocked high performance gaming machine? Feature set, brand loyalty and price! Both the P6T Deluxe and MSI Eclipse are fully loaded with options to spare as well as top notch components, so all that really is left is price and brand loyalty. Price wise, the MSI Eclipse will set you back about $325 with current online retailers after rebates, this brings it in a scant $13 less than the P6T Deluxe OC edition. So all things considered, the two products are pretty even and with loyalty a non-issue in my book, it's a toss up. Some people will buy a Chevy (any make you choose really) regardless of price, reliability features or performance, it comes down to comfort. One thing I was not comfortable with on the Eclipse was the overclocking recovery or the overclocking in general with the original BIOS. The last BIOS (132b) is a huge improvement but still is a little sketchy on the recovery from a failed overclock. It took the CMOS clear button to get me going after most failed attempts. It does work, but if you get too far out of bounds, it's off to the button. I gotta give credit for making the CMOS clear button easily accessible on the I/O panel.

When it came to overclocking it does take a bit of work to get you to the promised land. Whereas the P6T was good with plenty of Auto settings, the Eclipse needs a little touch here and there to make her play nice. Most of the voltages needed some tweaking to get to my final overclock of 3905MHz. This I achieved with a baseclock speed of 205MHz with a clock multiplier of 19, with a QPI link speed of 3703MHz. Not totally stunning on the max clock speed, but my chip is a hot one, so it is temperature limited with it going under water here in the near future. The baseclock was stable at a scant 2MHz higher than the P6T and I was able to boot at 215Mhz, just without any stability. At the 3905MHz overclock, the performance in the scientific benchmarks showed dramatic improvement, whereas the gaming showed little increase.

Most boards are coming with an on-board sound solution that really is pretty decent in sound quality. MSI Is a bit different here in the fact that it went with a known commodity in the use of Creative's X-FI. Love 'em or hate them, this solution is used exclusively on the Eclipse. I found that the sound quality was equal to or better than the usual Realtek solutions with my jaded ears. The Green Power Genie is a way to reduce power consumption in this economically challenging time when every penny counts where you can go from full tilt to the least possible current draw with a change in some of the settings. The only part of the solution I did not like is the Green Power Module. It is placed inline on the 24-pin ATX power connection and feeds power through to a 24-pin jumper harness that plugs into the Eclipse. In a mid tower case this could present some serious challenges as well as just getting in the way. It works as intended, it's just entirely too large. MSI has done a good job putting together a full featured motherboard that is an enthusiast grade product that can overclock as well as reduce your carbon footprint for a price that is competitive.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: