MSI Eclipse Plus ReviewRHKCommander959 -
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With most of the major motherboard manufacturers having a few motherboards on the market for Intel’s Core i7 architecture, manufacturers have been trying to remain competitive with high-end designs and also by reworking past designs. Consumers have a large choice for high-end Core i7 motherboards, the basic versions generally come with two PCI-Express slots and some only officially support Crossfire and come with a single LAN port, while other, more expensive boards come with dual-LAN, and three PCI-Express slots for tri-SLI and tri-Crossfire setups.
After the successful MSI Eclipse SLI motherboard was released, higher end motherboards have come out that are very competitive and leaving the Eclipse SLI with few unique features that would cause consumers to buy it over other motherboards. The newest flagship model from MSI is the Eclipse Plus, a revamp of the older Eclipse SLI, which includes an additional PCI-Express x16 slot; the board sports a NF200 chip for full graphics bandwidth in multi-card configurations - the X58 chipset only provides 36 lanes - typically motherboards based on the X58 chipset have three PCI-Express x16 slots with either a x16/x16/x4 or x16/x8/x8 configuration. The motherboard also sports a more uniform and elegant design with blue and black as the color theme with shorter and thicker heat sinks for the power and chipset. All of the SATA ports are now located in the same row, the Eclipse Plus also drops another PCI slot down to one to make room for the extra PCI-Express slot. Onboard overclocking has changed from switches to a knob, with all of the buttons moved to the corner of the motherboard, making it easier to use with a video card in the lower slots. Another nice feature is the debug LED located in the I/O Panel for an alternative to the D-LED2 kit, which can be blocked by a video card.
Micro-Star International was founded in 1986 and is a major motherboard provider that employs over 2,500 engineers in their research and development team with the goal of improving MSI’s products, and bringing new and innovative products to the table. Products include motherboards, video cards, notebooks and barebones computers, server devices, and more!
Opening the shipping box reveals the large and shiny, dark MSI box. MSI and the MSI logo are virtually in each corner of the box, which also states that this is a Gaming Series motherboard. The board also features the ability to run Crossfire and SLI, as do most X58 i7 motherboards. The front flap also shows that the package includes a copy of Norton, as well as some features of the DrMOS enabled motherboard – GreenPower (Highest Efficiency), XpressCool (Zero Noise), and RapidBoost (Best Performance). Opening the front flap reveals a plethora of information as well as a glimpse at a few accessories and the motherboard itself. The package states that the Eclipse series offers “the ultimate gaming platform,” and goes on to explain the features on the front cover. GreenPower energy efficiency comes with the 3-phase power with APS technology, which improves efficiency up to 93.6% from single-phase power designs, and also brings 128 levels of voltage adjustment. GreenPower Center is a program that can be used to activate other energy-saving settings. XpressCool is the use of separate heat sinks for the chipset and power regulation circuitry, claiming to keep the DrMOS and chipset at around 45C. Combined with this are the Hi-c capacitors that bring higher over-voltage and overclocking capabilities, and are rated for 40,000Hrs at 85C. Lastly, RapidBoost, which consists of Drive Booster and VGA Booster. Drive Booster is enabled through four blue SATA ports and provides Plug & Play RAID and claims to boost performance without complicated settings or CPU usage. VGA Booster supports both SLI and CrossFireX in full bandwidth, combined with PCI-E Express 2.0, which doubles the effective bit rate and should allow multi-GPU users to enjoy the full capabilities of their cards. On the inner flap, two cutouts show off the GreenPower Genie, DrMOS, and SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio module. The Genie module connects the power supply to the motherboard and provides the first hardware power savings. It allows users to monitor and manage the motherboard's power configuration. DrMOS supports Active Phase Switching APS, which allows dynamic power modulation. It also claims very high power efficiency of up to 95% and an average temperature that is 16C lower than discrete MOSFET in high loading. The SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio module plays audio in 24-bit/96KHz, providing high-quality audio.
Turning to the back of the box reveals the features of the motherboard and all of the included peripherals. The motherboard is standard ATX (305x245mm), and supports Intel Core i7 processors with QPI up to 6.4GT/s, with six 240-pin DDR3 SDRAM slots that support tri-channel DDR3-1333/1066MHz up to 24GB. The motherboard comes with dual LAN ports that operate at 10/100/1000 Mbits/sec and supports teaming through the Realtek Ethernet controller. Audio is provided for by the Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio module, which provides HD audio for up to 7.1 channels, through five analog audio plugs and one optical S/PDIF digital audio. Video output is supported through four PCI Express x16 slots that support both SLI and CrossFireX. The board also has two PCI Express x1 slots and a single PCI slot. Supported interfaces are composed of twelve USB 2.0 ports, six SATA 3.0Gbps ports through the Intel ICH10R supporting RAID, four SATA 3.0Gbps ports with hardware RAID function and two eSATA 3.0Gbps ports, and two IEEE-1394a interfaces with one internal header and one external port, as well as PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports. Accessories include a pair of guides, driver DVD, HDDBackup CD, three CrossFireX cables, three SLI cables, eSATA bracket/cables/power converter cord, SATA and SATA power cables, USB 2.0 bracket, and M-Connectors. The top comes with a handle for carrying the box and a sticker with barcode and basic information. The handle feels fairly sturdy.
Both sides are the exact same, with large MSI and Eclipse Plus logos and Gaming Series/Core i7 badges. Not too much to be seen here.
With the box opened, two smaller boxes are inside, one for the motherboard and the other for all of the many accessories. Covering the motherboard is a formed plastic case that holds the Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio card and GreenPower Genie.
The motherboard is protected by the plastic layer and by a plastic anti-static bag that sits on top of a foam sheet. MSI has narrowed the color scheme for the Eclipse Plus to black and blue. Opening the accessories box shows plenty of cables and the manuals that are included.
With everything unpacked, let's move on and snag a closer look at the accessories included!