MSI P55-GD65 Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: October 1, 2009
With the recent launch of Intel's Core i5 and 8 series Core i7 socket 1156 processors there is a need for motherboards to match up with these new processors. You have the boards that are meant for the system builders and OEMs, but what we are interested in are the enthusiast class boards. Those with the features and build quality we demand as overclockers. Things such as better components more for more durable construction, a good BIOS so we can maximize the performance of our hardware, cooling solutions that work, not to mention a board that looks good, while having all of the right attributes. And, it must work no matter what we throw at it. A pretty big bunch of requirements. The MSI P55-GD65 is one of a series of four P55 Express chipset based motherboards for use with Intel's newest processors and is part of MSI's Gaming series motherboards. The P55-GD65 uses MSI's Extreme Speed design philosophy that includes the "OC Genie" for 1 second overclocking, Super Pipe technology that makes use of a heatpipe that is 60% larger than that used by its competitors at 8mm, and DrMos - a mosfet design that has been used since MSI's P45 chipset motherboards that take the place of four separate components with only one! Having had the opportunity to test a few P55 based motherboards, I wonder how these features will contribute to the performance of the P55-GD65 from MSI.
The outer package of the MSi P55-GD65 is white with orange and yellow flames as the accent. The front panel lists the model number as well as the hardware it supports. This board offers support for Intel socket 1156 Corei5 and 8 series Core i7 processors is capable of running both ATI and Nvidia dual GPU configurations and is Windows 7 ready. On the bottom right is the Extreme Speed logo that highlights some of the design freatures including DrMos, SuperPipe, OC Genie and the use of Solid Capacitors. The rear panel goes into detail on the attributes of these features in greater detail as well as showing the I/O panel and listing the specifications.
Opening up the packaging reveals a pretty large bundle of accessories with manuals for just about anything you could imagine. There are more than enough cables and connectivity options to get the P55-GD65 installed.
Let's take a look at the bundle a bit closer before looking at the motherboard and its features.
A good accessory bundle is a benefit that can't be overlooked as not everyone has a stock of cables, connectors and assorted hardware parts to get their brand new purchase installed and running. MSI has put together a nice bundle that includes all of the information for the technologies and software used with the P55-GD65. Even the WINKI OS has its own manual. The I/O panel is just your standard stamped steel panel that includes identification of the connections on the outward facing side. What almost seems standard fare is the inclusion of an extra set of USB ports on an expansion bracket. With most connectivity coming as USB these days a few extra can't hurt.
Surprisingly MSI has included FDD connectivity on this board, so you get an FDD cable and IDE cable, 4 SATA cables with locking ends and the molex to SATA power adapters to use in case your power supply does not have enough connections for the drives you have.
The bridge connections for multi GPU solutions have traditionally been supplied one of two ways. For ATI's CrossfireX solutions the bridge connections have usually come with the video cards while the Nvidia bridge connections usually came with motherboards that supported the technology. Now that the X58 and P55 chipsets support both its nice to see both connectors included. The M-connectors make it easy to hook up those small front panel connections to a larger block of pins out where you can see so you don't have to try and fit man sized hands into the bottom of a small chassis and make the connections blindly and hope you have the orientation correct so your HDD lights actually work.
Now let's take a look at the P55-GD65 and see what it has to offer.
What you have in the MSI P55-GD65 is a performance motherboard that is one step from the top of the line GD-80. The P55-GD65 is a full featured ATX form factor motherboard that offers support for the latest Intel Core i5, i8 series and Core i7 socket 1156 processors. Multi GPU solutions include both Nvidia's SLI and ATI's CrossfireX both supported without any additional on-board hardware or software besides of course a second video card for the manufacturer of your choice. The board has a pleasing blue and black theme with the cooling solutions in argent. Much better visually than the MSI X58 Eclipse SLI I looked at last year. The P55-GD65 is based, as the naming implies, on the Intel P55 Express chipset. There are a total of 4 memory slots that support up to 16GB of memory at speeds of DDR3 1066/1333/1600*/2000*/2133* (OC). Cooling of the DrMos components is accomplished by way of the 'Super Pipe' system that offers a 90% improvement in cooling capabilities over prior designs.
The I/O panel connections include P/S2 ports for both the mouse and keyboard, optical and coaxial S/PDIF ports, 1 IEEE 1394 port, a total of 7 USB 2.0 ports,1 eSATA, 2 Gigabit Lan ports and the 8 channel (7.1) sound connections. Strangely absent is an external clear CMOS button so frequently used on enthusiast class boards. The P55-GD65 has a total of 7 expansion slots - 2 16x PCIe slots that operate at 8x x 8x electrically when 2 graphics cards are installed, 2 PCI slots, 1x PCIe 4x slot and 2 1x PCIe slots. The spacing of the bottom PCI slot means that even with a dual slot cooling solution on the bottom video card a single PCI slot should be available for a sound card.
Along the bottom of the board you have additional connectivity in the form of the front panel audio, CD input, IEEE 1394, S/PDIF out, serial port, 3 USB 2.0 headers to make a total of 13 ports available and the front panel header. Wait - there was more there than just the connectivity on the bottom of the board! What you have are the OC Genie button that allows for a 1 second overclock by pushing the button while powered down and then booting right into a stable overclock. The power button is just what it implies and the bclock adjust buttons let you increase or decrease the bclock "on the fly".
Flipping around to the right hand side of the board you have the start of the drive connectivity with a total of 7 SATA 3GB/s ports. The six along the edge are controlled by the Intel P55 chipset while the lone blue port facing up is controlled by the JMicron JMB363 controller. Next to the SATA ports you have the IDE port also controlled by the JMicron controller. Moving further up the board what do we have here but an FDD port, something that has been missing from most of the boards I have looked at recently. Right behind the FDD port is the 24 pin ATX power connector and a feature that looks like it will be quite useful. The V-Check Point. You can check the CPU , VTT, PCH and Dram voltages against what you set in the BIOS. The fact that you can hook in your multimeter and leave it in to get voltages just rocks. Much better than the option on the Maximus III Formula.
Behind the power connection you have the four DIMM slots that are capable of supporting 4GB of DDR3 memory at speeds of up to 2133MHz. At the top of the board above the DIMM slots are the phase switching LEDs to show how the power management circuits are working. Further to the right is the 8-pin auxiliary power connection.
The CPU socket area of the P55-GD65 is not overcrowded with capacitors or chokes with the DrMos design. The cooling to the PWM circuits consists of two heatsinks interconnected with the 8mm SuperPipe heatpipe. The P55 chipset uses a stand alone heatsink to manage the thermal load. Just to the left of the P55 chipset heatsink is the OC Genie chip that does all the overclocking dirty work to make overclocking easy for the novice. The heatsinks are secured with screws instead of a set of push pins. A much more secure implementation.
The MSI P55-GD65 has the looks and the build quality to compete at the top end of the performance spectrum, so let's get her installed and see if the looks and components carry this board to the top of the heap of the P55 motherboards.
Just putting that shiny new set of hardware into the case and hitting the power button does not guarantee that the hardware will perform as advertised. You need the drivers/instructions to get the most from the hardware. Each manufacturer includes a driver disk at a minimum to get your hardware going with the operating system of your choice. Rather than hunting for the drivers on an optical disk or floppy drive one at a time the manufacturers have been using an installation GUI that means you have a one stop shoop for all of the drivers and utilities that they provide. You get drivers, proprietary utilities and even sometimes you get trial versions of software that the hardware can make use of such as video encoding or video viewing programs, antivirus programs and more. MSI provides a disk that has these options. To get the drivers and utilities installed just pop in the disk and let the installation GUI come up. MSI has revamped the installation GUI so it looks much better than the one used in the past with everything out in the open. You have 5 tabs , Drivers, Utilities, Service base, Information and Security.
The Driver tab contains the INF driver for the P55 chipset the Realtek LAN and audio drivers as well as the JMicron Raid driver. The utilities section contains three usable options with the most useful being the MSI Utility tab. The other two contain Adobe Acrobat reader and Esobi search utility. Under the MSI Utility tab you have three options, Live Uptdate 4 to update the software and drivers used on the P55GD-65, Auto-boot tool to schedule times to turn on the PC and Control Center an overclocking, monitoring and power management utility.
Next in line you have the Service base so you can find where to get service should the unthinkable happen. Product Information gives you the manual and allows a quick way to get the corect MSI website for your needs and Security provides a 60 day trial version of Norton's Internet security suite.
Live Update 4 is a one-stop-shop for keeping the BIOS and motherboard drivers up to date. You have three tabs to access. Information: this tab tells you the current drivers, BIOS and operating system. Live Update: does the work and About gives the version number of the Live Update software among other notables.
Control Center looks to be the the latest MSI overclocking, monitoring and power management utility. The three options are System Information, Overclocking and Green Power. The System information tab has three sub headings that you can use to identify your hardware including the motherboard revision , BIOS revision, driver versions of the on-board hardware and installed video card. The CPU tab gives some information about the CPU including the stepping clock speed and cache size. The Memory tab looks quite similar to the information displayed and as well as the layout of CPU-Z a well known utility. Rather than use multiple programs MSI has it all in one.
The Overclocking section allows you to do some basic as well a slightly more advanced overclocking from within the windows environment. Kind of handy to help you get some quick and dirty settings to work from in the BIOS. But this also gives the novice a way to work without having to resort to the dark art of BIOS tweaking. You have four preset levels you can use or you can make the move to adjust from the speeds in any of the profiles. I prefer working from the BIOS but you can get a decent overclock in this utility as long as you have your cooling in check.
Now if you really want to go green with your hardware the Green Power section of the Control Center is for you. Working with the Intel processors features and enhancing them you can reduce the carbon footprint you leave by using one of the three presets including Max Power Saving mode or you can make adjustments if you feel you can more aggressively hunt down that last watt of savings in the advanced mode.
ASUS has Express Gate as a small OS you can boot into before going into windows and mow MSI has WInki. WInki is a small Linux Distribution that can be run from the driver disk or loaded onto a USB drive. You boot into this small OS and you are able to do many of the things you do inside Windows. The upside to this is that you don't have to take the time to boot into the WIndows OS (Even as quick as it is now at least for most of us) when you can be in Winki much quicker. You can hit the net to browse, use Pidgin as your IM program, use Skype to voice chat, Open Office for your productivity needs, you can access files on your HDD to find your photos and fix them. All in all a pretty functional utility. The only thing I had to do was set up the network connectivity on first boot.
Let's take a look at the BIOS to see if MSI has had us overclockers in mind with the P55-GD65.
MSI has chosen to use an American Megatrends BIOS on the P55-GD65. The latest version OS 1.3 that was released midway through the testing, so I will be using version 1.2 for this review. For the most part the options are what have been in place for a while so that current MSI users will be right at home. Navigation is done via traditional methods using the arrow keys for up and down and side to side movements. You have several options along the bottom in a separate menu including basic instructions on how to navigate though the menus as well as the normal exit methods. I will show each of the tabs and what you can find when you enter each but will only go into greater detail on the Cell Menu section since this is where the overclocker will spend their time.
Standard CMOS Features This section contains the basic setup data for the computer and is used to set up the date, time and view how your disk drives are allocated. The installed processor and amount of memory are visible under the system information tab.
Advanced Bios Features Under this section you can set the boot order, decide whether or not to display your post sequence or the full screen display and choose which port to search first for a graphics card.
Integrated Peripherals This section allows you to setup the functionality of the on board devices such as the LAN ports, Raid Controllers,USB Controller and the serial port.
Power Management Setup In this menu you can set up the standby settings and how to react to a loss of power.
Hardware Monitor This section is just what the name implies. Here you can setup the CPU and chassis fan performance, monitor the CPU temperature, system temperature, fan speeds CPU Vcore and a few select voltages.
Green Power Here you can setup the phase control of the motherboard. The options are Auto and disabled. To use the Green Power energy management you need to have the phase control on Auto. The LED Control is to allow you to turn off the Phase monitoring LEDs on the board. Current draw can be viewed in this section.
BIOS Setting Password Here you can set up a password to secure your BIOS and system.
Cell Menu is where you do all of your overclocking. This section carries all of the voltage and clock speed tweaking options to get the most from the P55-GD65. This section will be covered in more detail on the next page as it deserves another section.
M FlashHave you ever had a hard time flashing the BIOS or been reluctant to do so because you thought it to complicated of a procedure with consequences you were not ready to accept (Unusable hardware), then worry no more. M Flash is a simple utility in the the BIOS to flash you BIOS with just a few simple easy to follow steps. You have the ability to save your current BIOS just in case something does go wrong making recovery a little bit easier.
Overclocking Profile Here you are able to store a total of 6 separate overclocking profiles so you do not have to keep starting from scratch each tome you want to overclock. You can save a 'Good' profile that you know is a stable starting point and then tweak from there or save profiles that work well for you one for day to day work, one for gaming and one for extreme benchmarking with a few still left over.
The rest of the menu items are pretty much self explanatory and are they as a one-click way back from the edge so you can have the factory start points set up in the BIOS based on your installed hardware.
Now let's take a more intimate look at the Cell Menu section of the BIOS.
The Cell Menu section of the BIOS is where you can manually or dynamically improve the performance of the installed CPU and memory. In this case an Intel Core i7 870 and 4 GB of Kingston HyperX DDR3 memory. You can chose to leave all of Intels energy saving and performance enhancing tools in use or can make a break from the normal and tweak the performance for faster computing or improved FPS in games.
The first couple items are the CPU Specifications and CPU Features tabs. Under the specifications tab you have information on the CPU that list the top line specs such as Cache size, VID and CPU Micro code. Under the CPU Features tab you have the ability to turn off the energy saving and performance enhancing technologies that the processor is designed to use such as EIST, C1E and Hyperthreading if your processor has the capability.
Active processor allows you to utilize all of the cores available on the CPU. Intel EIST C1E and Turbo technology are either enabled or disabled depending on how you want to run the system.
Adjust CPU base frequency allows you to increase the bclock to gain additional performance from the CPU. The maximum setting is 600 but this has proven to be an unreachable number. Heck even 300 at this point is unreachable. Even so this is the clock speed that the rest of the system clocks are based from. Right under this option you see the OC stepping tab. Under this section you can set one clock speed to boot at and then dynamically increase the clock speed in set intervals both in time and in clock speed. This feature can work to get you a higher overclock when you find you cannot boot any higher but can run at a higher level once into the Operating system. The Adjust CPU ratio section lets you adjust the CPU clock multiplier to increase or decrease the clock speed of your processor. Of course you cannot go any higher than your processor will allow.
The OC Genie and base clock button functions can be turn on or off if you chose not to use them. Although the OC Genie does provide a nice boost in performance at the touch of a button.
The Memory Z function allows you to see the SPD programming of the memory modules you have installed including the XMP profile information. DRAM timing mode can be left to auto or you can chose manual to do all of the tweaking on your own. If you chose to do so each memory channel can be adjusted independently.
XMP is a memory profile that is setup to work right from the start when you boot up your system. This make memory tuning almost as easy as the 1 Touch OC Genie. You can however gain more performance by manually tweaking the settings yourself. The DRAM timing mode lets you set the memory multiplier so that your memory can either reach its rated speeds or give you the ability to reduce the multiplier when overclocking so that you do not exceed its capabilities. The QPI Ratio has two settings when used with the i7 870. When increaseing the bclock you will get to a point where you can use the lower multiplier to reach a higher bclock speed.
Clockgen Tuner lets you tweak the voltage supplied to the CPU and PCI Express bus. The PCI Express bus is set to 100 but can be increased to help with reaching a higher bclock setting once you reach a wall.
Last but not least we get to the voltages that you can use to tweak the overclocking ability of the system and components. Load Line can help smooth out the transitional dips in voltage when overclocking. I found that I would either under volt or over volt the CPU based on how this setting was enabled. The CPU voltage can be adjusted to 2.07v, the VTT voltage to 2.018, the PCH 1.8 to 2.4v, the memory to 2.4 volts and the reference voltages can hit the 1.15v mark with the PCH hitting 1.95v. There is plenty of room on the voltages to get as high as you are comfortable with to get the highest clocks from your hardware. Spread Spectrum can be enabled or disabled.
• Supports Intel® i5 / i7 based processors in LGA1156 package.
Please refer to CPU Support for compatible CPU; the above description is for reference only.
• Intel® P55 Chipset
- Supports QPI up to 6.4GT/s
- Hi-Speed USB (USB2.0) controller, 480Mb/sec.
- 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 four unbuffered DIMM of 1.5 Volt DDR3 1066/1333/1600*/2000*/2133* (OC) SDRAM, 16GB Max
- Supports 1Gb/ 2Gb/ 4Gb DRAM size
- Supports Dual channel mode
• 2 PCI Express gen2 x16 slots
- If two graphics cards are installed at PCI_E2 & PCI_E4 slots, these two PCIE x16 lanes will auto arrange from x16/ x0 to x8/ x8
- supports ATI® Crossfire™ & NVIDIA SLI
• 1 PCI Express gen2 x4 slot
• 2 PCI Express gen2 x1 slots
• 2 PCI slots, support 3.3V/ 5V PCI bus Interface
• 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 Intel P55/JMicron® 363 chipset
- Up to 3Gb/s transfer speed.
- Supports six SATAII ports by P55
- Supports one SATAII port by JMicron 363.
- Supports one eSATA / USB combo port by JMicron 363.
- Supports AHCI controller with AHCI / SATA RAID 0/1/5/10 by P55.
• Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC889
- Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
- Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
- Meet Microsoft Vista Premium spec
• Supports two PCI Express LAN 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Realtek 8111DL.
IEEE1394 / FireWire
• VIA® VT6315N 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 3 FAN connectors
- CD-in connector
- Front panel audio connector
- Front panel connector
- 1 x chasis intrusion connector
- 3 x USB 2.0 connectors
- 7 x Serial ATAII connectors
- 1 x ATA133 connector
- 1 x IEEE1394 connector support additional 1 port
- 1 x Power Button
- 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
- 1 x SPDIF-out connector
- 1 x TPM module connector
- 1 x OC Genie Button
- 2 x Base Clock Control Buttons
MSI Reminds You...
• The floppy disk cable will be optional.
Back Panel I/O Ports
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse
- 1 x eSATA / USB Combo port
- 1 x IEEE1394 port
- 7 x USB 2.0 ports
- 2 x RJ45 LAN Jacks
- 1 x 6 in 1 audio jack
- 1 x Optical SPDIF-out
- 1 x Coaxial SPDIF-out
• 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.
• 30.5cm(L) x 24.4cm(W) ATX Form Factor
• 9 mounting holes.
Gold Accessory pack
Crossfire bridge Connection
SLI Bridge Connection
USb 2.0 Bracket
- Push to overclock in 1 second, MSI’s original invention, a fully automatic, smart overclocking chip. It will automatically detect the optimal settings for your individual system
1. 300% higher than Turbo Boost
2. Overclock 4 core B-clock & Ratio by OC Genie
3. Turbo Boost only overclock a little Ratio
*To enable OC Genie, we suggest you using the new 1.65V XMP memory modules and a high efficiency CPU cooler.
- Decrease of temperature by 50°C, The thick design of 8mm heatpipe, A surface increase of more than 56% compared to other competitors.
1. 8mm extra thick heatpipe
2. 60% thicker than traditional heatpipe
3. Thickest heatpipe used on mainboard
- 1 Phase DrMOS > 4 Phase Traditional MOSFET 3-in-1 server class power component, 400% faster than traditional MOSFET Offers excellent energy-saving capability and high-computing performance.
1. High Efficiency: Up to 96%
2. Efficiency Increase: +38.3%
3. Lower Power Loss: -4.01W (64% Max Saving)
- APS is Active Phase Switching, that is complete function to Control Power Demand With Switcing Dynamically, it’s for CPU, Memory and Chipset PWM.
Saving Power under Variable Loading.
Power Usage More Efficiency.
Voltage check points
- Provide CPU VCORE, VTT, DDR, PCH Voltage measure value
- Key part's voltage measurement for all end-users
- Instant CPU Base Clock adjustment
- Hardware low latency control
- Attain hardware overclocking performance at all circumstances
- Faster and Flexible and instant
- If BIOS crash, it still can boot from USB Drive
- Update BIOS from USB Drive by M-Flash Fucntion
- With the ESD dual-current protection chip, USB Safeguard can ideally protect your motherboard from the potential damage caused by static electricity when inserting USB devices.
- MSI Power eSATA. Normally eSATA devices need extra power via an adapter or an extra USB cable. This combo port supplies the needed power, so no extra USB cable for power is needed. MSI Power eSATA is 8x faster in transferring data than normal USB ports.
All Solid Capacitors
- Longer lifespan than electrolytic capacitors
- Endurable to operation under higher frequency & temperature
- Avoid exploding capacitors to cause mainboards failure
Blu-Ray Audio Support
- The loss-less content protection technology with full-rate audio enjoyment from Blue-ray Disc
- Support for 24-bit / 192kHz sample rate offers high quality digital decoders and speakers
- support 7.1 channels playback, plus 2 channels of independent stereo sound output (multiple streaming) through the front panel stereo outputs
User Friendly Design
- Functions designed with button to be easy use.
- Help power-users tweaking process in-chasis enviornment
- Onboard SATA ports are stacked on the mainboard to avoid mechanical issue with giant graphic cards like 8800 Ultra.
MSI Advanced Live Update Online
- The MSI Live Update online is designed to automatically download and update the BIOS and driver when there’s a new version online. It helps reduce the risk of getting the wrong file and minimize the trouble of searching the files from MSI website.
- Equip with 2 or more PCIe x16 slots, ATI CrossFire Ready.
- The ultimate multi-GPU performance gaming platform.
- Provides 2.7x faster performance than single graphic card solution.
- Live Update 4 is a single utility software that automatically checks BIOS, driver and utility updates and installs for you , which can save your time for searching and lower the risk while updating.
All information courtesy of MSI @ http://www.msi.com/index.php?func=proddesc&maincat_no=1&cat2_no=&cat3_no=&prod_no=1846
Testing is the only way to prove whether or not one motherboard is better than the others when it comes down to performance. Some groups like all the whiz-bang features while the hardcore enthusiasts just want good solid reliable performance. To find out which one gives that last little bit of clock speed or has the right options in the BIOS means you have to test the motherboards out one at a time. Quite an arduous task when you get down to it, but it's the only way. To test out the MSI P55 GD-65 I will be running it through the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks to see if it distinguishes itself from the comparison board(s). The only deviations from the default BIOS settings will be that the energy saving features as well as Turbo technology are disabled so that the motherboard can be tested with a measure of repeatability. The video card control panel settings are left at factory defaults except where noted. Since the MSI P55 GD-65 is part of MSI's Gaming series its only fitting to compare it to its direct competitor the ROG Maximus III Formula.
- Processor(s): Intel Core i7 870 133x22
- Motherboard: MSI P55-GD65
- Memory: Kingston HyperX KHX1600C*D3K2/4GX 7-7-7-20 1333MHz
- Video Card : ASUS ENGTX260 MATRIX
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800w Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: Lite-On 8x DVD+/-RW
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
- Processor: Intel Core i7 870 200x22 4200MHz
There are several ways to overclock the P55-GD65, The quickest and easiest is the OC Genie. 1 Touch overclocking at its finest. Second you can use the Control Center overclocking section to make adjustments from within Windows. Third you can use the bclock adjust buttons for on the fly overclocking to maximize the scores while benchmarking or you have the good old fashioned way of going into the BIOS and making your adjustments manually. Using the OC Genie the system set up a very respectable 3.7+ GHz overclock with no work on my part other than pushing the OC Genie button. You know, I actually liked how easy it was and it proved to be stable at this speed. The technology worked as intended and delivered results in a fraction of the time the ASUS took. The Control Center works as well but I am just not a fan of overclocking through Windows. Something to do with hosing up an OS in the past that just keeps me away from it so I resorted back to making my adjustments in the BIOS through trial and error. The first thing I do is turn off all of the energy saving technologies C1E, Intel Speedstep, EIST, and Turbo Technology and thermal management so that I will be able to push as hard as I can without anything to interfere with my overclocking. Then I go to the memory multiplier and knock it down to 6 or 8 so that the memory will not prove to be a limitation when pushing the bclock speeds. The Kingston kit used for this test will push to 1090MHz so I really did not worry that much about the memory speeds. I then start upping the bclock until I cannot boot then go in and adjust the voltage to the CPU a bit higher until I get to the point where I have diminishing returns with voltage. After finding the max bclock that the board/CPU combination can run I go back to finding the best combination of multiplier, blcock and memory multiplier to suit my needs. While I could run a 215 to 218Mhz bclock I got the best results at 200x22 or 4200MHz. Not too shabby as this is a prime stable clock speed versus just a bench stable clock. I will run all of the overclocked scores at 4200Mhz. Below are the screen shots for both the 4.2GHz clock speed set manually as well as the 3.7GHz clock speed obtained with the use of the OC Genie.
- Scientific & Data:
- Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
- POV Ray 3.7
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Far Cry 2
- Crysis Warhead
- Call of Duty World At War
- Dead Space
- Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War II
- Left 4 Dead
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
The first part of our testing 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:
- Resolution: 2750x2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory use: 512MB
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 100MB , 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.
Lower is Better
Lower is Better
While the results in Apophysis are dead even the Win Rar testing shows the MSI P55-GD65 has a distinct performance advantage on both file size and compression types.
Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel speadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.
Lower Is Better
POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.
Higher Is Better
PCMark Vantage x64 is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual CPU to see which CPU, if any, rises above the others.
In the Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch testing the MSI delivers identical performance to the Max II and Kingsberg board. POV Ray and PCMark Vantage show results that are within the margin of error.
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 functions of the CPUs.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
In the Sandra benchmarks the testing at stock speeds shows that the scores are very similar across the 3 boards. When overclocked the results scale upwards.
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 the MSI offering fell a bit short of the performance delivcered by the other boards. The scenario played out in the single thread Cinebench testing but the MSI redeems itself in the Multi threaded test. In the HDTune testing the NSI results comparable to those delivered by the Intel board.
Far Cry 2:
Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially 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 50km squared of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.
- Direct X 10
- Game settings to very high
- Vsync Off
To start off the gaming tests the results delivered by the P655-GD65 are comparable to the offereings from ASUS and Intel.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way ,there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.
- 2x Anti Aliasing
The results in Crysis Warhead show little advantage one way or another for the P55-GD65.
BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with 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 story line, will wrap you up for hours on end.
- All settings to maximum
- V-Sync: Off
The results the MSI P55-GD65 deliver are comparable all the way through the Bioshock testing. Overclocking shows performance gains in three out of the four resolutions tested
Activision's Call Of Duty World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30 inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.
- All in game settings to maximum
- FPS measured via Fraps
The results delivered by the P55-GD65 fall between those delivered by the ASUS and Intel boards at the lower resolutions while falling decidedly short at the top end.
In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion, you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse as starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.
- All in game settings to maximum
The MSI P55-GD65 performed within the performance envelope of the other two boards.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is a Real Time Strategy game that is significantly different than its predecessor, with improved AI and an improved physics engine. You can play either as a single player in campaign mode, or in a multiplayer game where Microsoft's Live ranking system can be used.
- Vsync: Off
- Ultra Preset
- Game Settings: Maximum
Higher Scores = Better Performance
At the lower resolutions the MSI P55-GD65 has a distinct advantage that disappears as the GPU becomes the limiting factor to performance.
Left 4 Dead is a now not-so-new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters, and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!
- 16x AF
- All other settings at maximum
During game play the FPS differences between the 3 boards is not great enough to sway you one way or another.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 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.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
The P55-GD65 falls a little short of the performance delivered by the Max III up to 1920x1200 and it falls between the level of performance delivered by the Intel and ASUS at 2560x1600.
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.
- All default settings in each preset level
- Entry 1024x768
- Performance 1280x1024
- High 1680x1050
- Extreme 1920x1200
All three of the boards perform almost identically through the Vantage testing. In the Entry testing the MSI P55-GD65 performs above the level of the Kingsberg board from Intel and just below the Maximus III.
All-in-all the MSI P55-GD65 proved to be a solid motherboard capable of delivering performance on par with its competitors. It is built using high quality components with an excellent layout. One thing I was surprised to find on this board that I have not seen in a while was the inclusion of an FDD port on the board. Not that I use one anymore, but some folks just can't move into the new world. The MSI P55-GD65 uses Japanese built solid capacitors, DrMos for a more efficient, cooler running, faster reacting power distribution system and the Super-Pipe heatpipe based cooling system to keep the DrMos cool with an 8mm heatpipe that is larger than that used by MSI's competitors.
When it came to overclocking the P55-GD65, I was able to reach a bclock of 215Mhz stable, while 218Mhz was good for a screenshot but that may mean I just need more tweaking. The maximum CPU clock speed I was able to run was right around 4.2Ghz - much the same as I have done on the comparison boards showing that max performance is not really a function of a ton of phases but just a good solid design. The OC Genie 1 touch overclocking button functioned perfectly. This little button dropped an 800MHz overclock with just a single touch of the button. I found that this was vastly quicker than the Turbo V function on the Asus Maximus III that took around 30 minutes to get a good stable clock speed at just over 3.7GHz. The OC Genie took a touch and then push the power switch - that's literally all it took to get an overclock similar to what the ASUS board did at just over 3.7GHz. For those who really do not understand overclocking and want a boost in performance without the hassles of playing around endlessly in the BIOS, this little button is a God-send. If that's not enough, you have the ability to overclock on the fly with the "Direct OC" buttons to increase or decrease the bclock as you need it. This feature while nice, could prove to be more beneficial for the more advanced overclockers.
The Green power solution does reduce power consumption, but only really when you use the board as Intel would have you run it, with all of the Intel power saving technologies enabled and in use. That just won't work for those that, well - listen to a different tune, let's say! The voltage check points are well done on the P55-GD65. There is no chance of your meter slipping out of a divot for a measurement point when you can leave them in place unattended and still get your voltage measurements. This is a huge advantage and it could not have been easier to use this feature. Unfortunately, this brings me to the thing I did not like about the MSI P55-GD65. Depending on the Loadline Calibration setting used in the BIOS you get a voltage under-shoot of about .05 to .07 volts when disabled and an over-shoot of about .45 volts on the CPU voltage when enabled. This answered some questions about instabilities and higher than expected temperatures for the voltage used. Once you know you are able to work around this although I would think a BIOS fix for this would be forthcoming.
The price point on the P55-GD65 puts it squarely in the mid range for a socket 1156 motherboard. This board comes in a full 50 bucks cheaper than the Intel Kingsberg board, while there is a 90 dollar saving over the ASUS Maximus III Formula, so you have to wonder if the features and performance are worth the extra cash. The included utilities work and provide a good mix of functionality. For my dollar though, if I wanted a simple no frills approach to overclocking, the OC Genie is the one feature that makes the MSI board stand out from the crowd. Excellent components, excellent overclocking, good cooling and you end up with a board that fits the bill!
- OC Genie
- Green Power
- CrossfireX and SLI capable
- Over-volts CPU with Loadline enabled
- Under-volts CPU with Loadline disabled