MSI P45 Platinum Review

ccokeman - 2008-05-28 17:13:59 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: June 29, 2008
Price: $189.99

Introduction:

Now that the latest motherboards featuring the Intel P45 chipset have been released, the questions on which one performs best have started. For some, the feature set will ultimately make the final determination on which one to purchase. Others will base their purchases on price regardless of performance or feature set. Then there is the enthusiast, for whom the only thing that matters is performance and the ability to reach insane clock speeds on the processor and memory. Some boards have it and some don’t. “It” is the ability to reach the maximum speeds that your hardware is capable of, CPU or system memory.

Using the Intel P45 northbridge chipset and the Intel ICH10R southbridge, the MSI P45 Platinum is one of these latest releases and is part of MSI’s Gaming Series of motherboards. Support is available for the latest Core 2 Duo. Quad core and Extreme 45nm CPUs, 16 gigabytes of system memory running at speeds of 1200 (OC)/1066/800. Supporting the latest enthusiast grade hardware, does the MSI P45 Platinum have “It?”

Closer Look:

Any of you who have used the RyderMark benchmark might recognize the character on the front panel of the box. If it's not the character it looks darn close. The front panel shows the 45nm compatability, Certification for Windows Vista and the DrMos features. The rear panel expands on the DrMos features, Green Power, Express Cool and Rapid Boost.

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the box to this Gaming Series motherboard from MSI we have the bundle of accessories as the first visible items. The quick start guide is on top followed by the drive cables and the rest of the accessories. Last, but not least, is the P45 Platinum board itself.

 

 

Closer Look:

Included with all motherboards is a bundle of accessories. The number of items included varies by manufacturer and the level at which the board falls in the series. Economy models usually have the manual, driver disk, I/O panel, IDE , floppy and maybe a SATA cable to round out the bundle. The top of the line models contain the basics and much, much more. The MSI P45 Platinum falls in between these two extremes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The I/O shield is color coded for ease of making the connections to the I/O panel. Since the P45 Platinum supports Crossfire X, MSI includes a Crossfire bridge connector for use with Crossfire compatible ATI video cards.

 

 

MSI has included a 1394 Firewire / USB 2.0 expansion slot bracket. This connects to the onboard headers and improves on the six USB and single 1394 port on the I/O panel. Included drive connectivity is accomplished with the supplied four SATA cables, one IDE cable, and floppy cable.

 

 

One of the coolest things that MSI includes is a set of “M” connectors. If you have ever tried putting the single pin front panel USB connectors into the motherboard you will appreciate these connectors. All you have to do is to put the wires into these connectors, then push them onto the headers instead of the single wire shuffle.

 

Closer Look:

The MSI P45 Platinum is an ATX form factor motherboard built around the Intel P45 northbridge and ICH10R southbridge. The XpressCool heatpipe system looks like many of the others in use but is slightly different in its implementation. The back side of the board is absent of the additional heatsinks seen on other manufacturers' boards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The I/O panel includes all of the normal connectivity options seen on performance motherboards. PS/2 for both the mouse and keyboard, six USB 2.0 ports, one 1394 Firewire, one e-SATA, one Optical S/PDIF output, one RJ-45 LAN port, a Clear CMOS switch and the six audio ports for the HD audio.

 

 

Expansion needs are met with the two x16 PCI-E 2.0 slots that support Crossfire X, two PCI slots and the tw PCIe x1 slots. When dual graphics cards are run in Crossfire mode, the two x16 PCI-E slots auto configure from x16 x x0 to x8 x x8. While that seems a step backwards, the bandwidth offered under the PCI-E 2.0 spec makes this a non-issue. An auxiliary 4-pin power connector is used to provide power to the video card(s). The front panel connections and additional onboard headers are located along the bottom edge of the P45 Platinum.

 

 

The connections available along the bottom of the board, from left to right, are the front panel audio, CD sound input, digital sound output, 1394 Firewire, front panel headers, three USB 2.0 headers for six more ports, Trusted Computing Module and a COM port. The P45 Platinum has onboard power and reset switches available if you use a tech bench or need to diagnose the front panel connections.

 

 

All of the drive connectivity is located on the right side of the motherboard. There are a total of eight SATA connections available, six controlled by the ICH10R chipset and two by the Jmicron controller. Also on the side are one IDE port and one Floppy drive connection.

 

 

The four DIMM slots can house up to 16 gigabytes of DDR2 1200 (OC) memory. Yes kiddies that’s right, 16GB. Even with the rows of capacitors around the LGA 775 socket, installing a water block or large heatsink did not present any issues. Across the top edge of the P45 Platinum just over the DIMM slots are a series of diagnostic LEDs. There are still more spread throughout the board.

 

 

The Circu-Pipe cooling system is a series of heat pipes that interconnect the heat producing components of the motherboard. Not much stands out from the crowd until you get to the northbridge heatsink. This heatsink sports five, yes five, heatpipes attached to a mini tower. Not only is it unique looking, but it works to keep the northbridge cool. The power supply circuits for the CPU are all sinked and feed the heat into the system for dissipation.

 

 

 

Just to get an idea of the height of the Circu-pipe heatsink, I put the I/O shield up next to it to offer that comparison. There are two jumpers in between the x16 PCI-E slots. These jumpers can be used to increase the CPU clock frequency, in essence a quick and easy way to overclock outside the BIOS.

 

 

Closer Look:

The BIOS is a place where you can make or break the performance of the motherboard. By the same token not having the available options to adjust can make maximizing the performance of the installed hardware leave you wanting more. The BIOS on the MSI P45 Platinum is by American Megatrends. Let's see if MSI made this BIOS overclocking friendly.

Standard CMOS Features:

The Standard CMOS features page shows items that include the time, date, attached optical and hard drives and the basic system configuration under the System information tab. The CPU frequency, amount of installed system memory and the BIOS revision are all listed here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced BIOS Features:

The Advanced BIOS Features page allows changing the boot sequence, viewing and disabling or enabling the CPU features, enabling the Trusted Computing Module (if included), setting the order in which the BIOS polls the expansion slots for a graphics cards.

 

 

Integrated Peripherals:

The Integrated Peripherals section is used to configure the on board devices including the sound, USB, LAN, 1394 Firewire and the way you want to set up the hard drives.

 

 

Power Management Setup:

This section of the BIOS allows the standby state of the computer to be setup. The ACPI functions and power loss recovery state.

 

 

Hardware Monitor:

The Hardware Monitor allows the end user to monitor the temperature of the CPU and System. The fan speed for the CPU can be controlled based on the temperature of the processor or set to 100% duty cycle by disabling the temperature control. The two additional fans can be monitored and controlled based on the duty cycle set for each fan.

 

 

Green Power:

The power savings features of the MSI P45 Platinum are found under the Green Power Section.

 

 

User Settings:

Using the capabilities of this section just make sense if you will be overclocking the P45 Platinum. Saving a batch of settings that work as a baseline for pushing further as well as saving the best batch of settings for every day use leaves a couple extra slots for those special bench sessions.

>  

 

The Cell Menu is where the majority of the adjustment will take place. This section will be looked at in more depth next. The Load Fail safe defaults, Load Optimized Defaults and Exit options are self explanatory.

 

Closer Look:

The Cell Menu section of the BIOS is where all of the performance adjustments can be made. The voltages for the CPU, System Memory and many of the motherboard components can be adjusted as well as the memory sub timings and much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first section of the Cell Menu includes the CPU related options. D.O.T. (Dynamic Overclocking Technology) can be enabled or disabled. When enabled, the D.O.T. feature can be used from within the Windows environment with the Dual Core Center utility. EIST is one of the power saving features that Intel now uses with its processors. Disabling it is recommended when overclocking. Adjusting the CPU frequency will result in the reported frequency increasing based on the clock multiplier used. In this case the clock multiplier of the CPU is eight, with a core clock speed of 333MHz that results in a processor speed of 2.66GHz. 800MHz is the maximum adjustable speed. With 600+ FSB being reached with some Wolfdale processors, this level is not as unrealistic as was once thought.

 

 

 

The advanced DRAM Settings are accessed by entering this menu. There are several sub menus that can be accessed under this tab. Memory Z is used to view the SPD programming in detail. Once into the menu the additional memory sub timings can be viewed and adjusted. These adjustments can be made down to the single DIMM level.

 

 

 

The FSB DRAM ration can be left on auto so the BIOS can choose the best possible option for the occasion. Other options are available if you are adventurous enough to push your system memory to its limits. Once adjusted, the result can be viewed in the window below the option window.

 

Clockgen tuner allows for additional low level voltage and skew adjustments. This can help with reaching or stabilizing an overclock. Adjust PCI frequency has three adjustments, Auto, 37.5 MHz and 42MHz.

 

 

The voltage options that MSI has given the enthusiast are pretty substantial. CPU voltage to 1.9 volts, DRAM volts to 2.77 volts, MCH volts to 2.62v, FSB volts to 2.47v. The GTL reference voltages can be adjusted up or down to help stabilize your overclock or enable you to push even further.

 

 

 

Configuration :

Just because the hardware is installed does not mean it will work in harmony with all of the installed components. For this to happen the drivers, or instruction set, that allow them to work correctly and have the performance optimized for the device need to be installed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing to do to make all of this happens is to insert the driver disc for your specific operating system and let the auto run feature bring up the installation GUI. This GUI has several different tabs that each cover a specific area. The first tab is the Driver tab. Here the chipset, audio, LAN and J-micron Raid driver. The Utility tab gives the option to install the MSI Utility (Dual Core Center), MSI update or browse the disk to use the manual install process.

 

 

 

The Website tab provides links to websites that might prove useful to the enthusiast. Each in turn can be investigated.

 

 

MSI's Dual Core Center is an application that can be used from within the Windows environment. This utility can be used for many things. Overclocking, fan and voltage controls as well as being used as a monitoring utility for the clock speeds, voltages and fan speeds. The Energy saving or Green Power section is used to modify the power profile to maximize the energy the system uses.

 

 

Specifications:

Socket
775
CPU(Max Supported
Core 2 Extreme
FSB
800/1066/133/1600
Chipset
Intel P45
DDR2 Memory
DDR2 800/1066/1200
DDR3 Memory
N/A
DImm Slots
4
Maximum Memory GB
16GB
PCI-E 16x
2
PCI-E 8x
N/A
PCI-E   4x
N/A
PCI-E   1x
2
PCI
2
IDE
1
SATA
8
RAID
0/1/5/10
TPM
1(optional)
LAN
10/100/1000 *1
USB Ports (Rear)
6
Audio Ports (Rear)
6 + Optical S/PDIF
Serial Ports (Rear)
N/A
Parralel Ports (Rear)
N/A
1394 Poerts (Rear)
1 (Optional)
e-SATA
1
VGA
N/A
DVI
N/A
HDMI
N/A
Form Factor
ATX
DR.MOS
Y

 

Features:

DrMOS

All Solid Capacitors

All Shielded Choke

Circu-Pipe 2

2-phase Power

VGA Booster

OC Jumper

M-Connectors

User Friendly Design

CrossFireX Support

Green Power Design

MSI Advanced Live Update Online

 

 All information on this motherboard was provided by MSI @http://global.msi.com.tw/index.php?func=proddesc&prod_no=1479&maincat_no=1

Testing:

The MSI P45 Platinum will be put through our benchmarking suite to see what kind of performance the motherboard delivers. The OverclockersClub series of benchmarks includes both system tests and gaming benchmarks to verify the performance of this product. Testing will include a direct comparison of several boards, including another P45 variant. CPU clock speeds will be kept at the manufacturer's specified clock speed and multiplier for the baseline testing. All motherboard and video card settings were left at setup defaults, again to eliminate any variables. The overclocking phase of the testing will be accomplished by using all of the available settings on the motherboard to gain the maximum performance from this, the latest Intel chipset-based board from MSI.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Motherboards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

A song from the group Disturbed comes to mind here, "Down with the Sickness." The P45 Platinum is the first and only motherboard I have been able to get a Quad core processor over 500MHz. In fact, 515MHz was achieved and was stable enough to run some of our benchmark suite. 515MHz is a great validation screen shot but I wanted to find out where I could gain a measure of stability without having to cook my little piece of silicon. This I found at 491MHz with 1.424 volts and running the memory at a 1:1 ratio. Auto settings were good for the voltages up until 470MHz. The exception being the Vcore and Vdimm voltages. These were manually set from the start of the testing. After this point the GTL reference voltages played a large role in increasing the stability of the overclock. The GTL reference voltage settings needed for stability will vary from CPU to CPU. Much the same way no two CPUs will be identical in the voltages needed to reach a set clock speed. The MSI P45 has got some serious overclocking cajones! Just keep in mind this is air cooled through and through!

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SPECviewperf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. SiSoft Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02 Final
  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. Call of Juarez
  7. Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional

 

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:

 

 

 

The P45 Platinum fared a bit worse than the other P45 offering in the Apophysis testing, taking one minute longer to render the OCC fractual flame image. The WinRar testing was a little good and a little bad. The MSI P45 offering finished the compression tests faster than the other P45 based board but still not quite as quickly as the X48 based board. The one test it beat the X48 board was the 500MB RAR compression test.

 

 

Testing:

SPECviewperf 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

At stock performance levels, the X48-based board is outperforming the P45-based boards in all the categories in Specview. The performance numbers for the P45 boards show the Asus board outperforming the MSI offering in three out of the six Specview tests. Vantage testing has the MSI offering performing slightly better than the comparison P45 board but still far from the performance of the X48 chip based board.

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

 

The MSI P45 Platinum shows some promise in the Sandra testing. In several tests the performance is equal to or better than the X48-DQ6. The performance against the comparison P45 board shows performance to be equal to or slightly lower in many categories.

 

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 MSI board performs on par with the X48 based board. Drive testing shows a lower burst rate but higher average read speed for the MSI. CPU usage is comparable and access time is slightly better than the X48 comparison board.

 

 

Testing:

Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite used at OverclockersClub.com. This game is one of the most anticipated and system intensive games on the market right now. The Crysis single player demo includes a GPU benchmark to test the performance of the video card installed in the system. 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1024 x 768, the MSI is outperformed by the comparison boards. From that point forward the performance between the two P45 based boards is identical, even outperforming the x48 comparison board at 1920 x 1200.

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identical components lead to identical performance between the two P45 offerings. Three out of four tests are taken by the P45 based MSI against the X48 based comparison.

 

Testing:

Benchmark: BioShock

BioShock is one of the newest games on the market. 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.

 

Settings:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The X48 board is outperformed in all four resolutions. The MSI takes the top spot at the lowest resolution and comes up even in the last two against the P45 comparison board.

 

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 2.9.3.

 

The settings used are listed below:

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance in COD 4 is not as good as the X48 board in all four resolutions tested.

 

Testing:

World in Conflict is a newly released DX10 Real Time Strategy game that simulates the all-out war that 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 - you advance by conquering your foe.

 

The settings we will use are listed below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In World in Conflict, the MSI P45 Platinum performed as well as or better than the X48 based board. The performance between the P45 based boards is almost identical in this benchmark.

 

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DirectX10 First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800s. The game is inspired in part by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played in both single player and multiplayer modes. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

The settings we will use are listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance of the MSI P45 Platinum is equal to the X48 except in the 1920 x 1200 resolution where it outperforms the X48 based comparison board by five frames per second.

 

Testing

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, the P45 based boards have almost identical performance numbers. The MSI does pull ahead at the 1920 x 1200 mark.

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of those benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest breaks out. 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 P45 Platinum is at the top of the scoring in three out of the four resolutions tested and falls only in the 1920 x 1200 benchmark by ten points. The performance of the MSI P45 Platinum eclipsed that of the X48 based comparison board in this benchmark across all four resolutions.

 

Conclusion:

The performance of the MSI P45 Platinum falls somewhere between the two comparison motherboards. In 47 out of 67 benchmarks, the MSI P45 solution performed equally or better than the P45 comparison board, the Asus P5Q Deluxe. Against the X48-DQ6, the performance was equal to or better than the X48 based board in 40 out of 67 benchmarks. Overall, it outperformed both boards in only 9 out of 67 tests run. While this looks like a really poor performance, you have to look at the number of times the performance was equal to the comparison systems. What this shows is that the performance is very close across the board. The scientific benchmarks were really not the strong suite on the MSI offering when compared to the X48 based board. But the performance is not far off the pace considering closeness of most of the results.

The performance of the P45 Platinum at stock speeds does not quite rival that of the X48 based comparison board. Where it really shines is when it comes time to push the clock speeds. This board, in no uncertain terms, allowed me to reach the highest FSB and core speeds of any board I have tested with my Intel Q9450 at 515 FSB and 3920MHz. For a quad core CPU it seems the stars need to be aligned just right to get to and through the 500 FSB plateau. The MSI P45 Platinum reached this plateau and pushed even further than I thought was possible with this chip. I had booted at 500 FSB before, but never was able to gain enough stability to get into the operating system, much less run benchmarks. 500 FSB? No problem! Run benchmarks? No problem! Awesome! Any time the settings deviate from the stock settings on a motherboard there is the chance that it will not boot. On many boards this requires a CMOS clear to get back to the baseline default settings. Just about all of the times I pushed a little too hard all that was required to get back to square one was a simple shut down and reboot. MSI has made the failed overclocking recovery an almost pain free proposition. Almost pain free because the Clear CMOS button on the I/O panel came in handy more than once.

Part of the performance equation with any board is the ability to shed the heat generated by the power regulating components and the chipsets. Over the past few years the predominant solution for enthusiast class boards has been the interconnected heatpipe system that connects all of the heatsinks together to work as a system. MSI has offered a unique look and solution to the heat problem with the Circu pipe system. Five, count them five, heatpipes terminate in finned assemblies over the northbridge and effectively shed the heat generated by the board. The airflow flowing across the finned coolers from the CPU cooler was sufficient enough to keep the assembly from getting too warm. Nice work considering some of the cooling solutions here lately have become so hot that an additional fan was required to keep the heat in check. At 189 dollars, you have a board that falls well under the $350 and up premium that performance boards have been priced at these past few months. If you take the feature set, the performance, overclocking potential with a quad core CPU, then consider the pricing (as low as $159 after rebates) the MSI P45 Platinum is one heck of a bargain.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: