MSI X58 Platinum Review
Reviewed by: Zertz
Reviewed on: March 1, 2009
Just a few months ago, Intel presented to the world the fastest processor it had ever designed. Core i7 is, without a doubt, the leader in terms of pure performance, although it's a bit on the expensive side. As you probably know, it comes in a new and much larger socket, with 1366 pins this time, which is 571 more than what we got used to from Intel since the not so glorious Pentium 4. Obviously, this means we need a new platform to run those four cores and eight threads. The new motherboards are identical in terms of platform used since there is only one to choose from at the moment, which is the combination of the X58 and ICH10 or ICH10R chipsets. With the memory controller integrated on the processor, there shouldn't be much difference between every motherboard and it will be interesting to see what manufacturers will come up with to impress the consumer. Features, board layout, power regulation, looks and, of course, overclocking will be even more important than ever before.
The MSI X58 Platinum is one of the least expensive boards to support the latest Intel Core i7 processors, but with a price tag of $230 it can hardly be called an entry level board. Fortunately, it has features to back this price up, including CrossFire, on-board power, reset and clear CMOS buttons, but lacks SLI. MSI surely and rightfully does not market it as an entry board but more like a gaming board. On paper, it looks like it has what it takes to hang out with the big boys out there. Hopefully the numbers will prove me right.
The MSI X58 Platinum packaging has a pretty good looking design with the model clearly displayed and some of the main features listed on the bottom left. Those include MSI's DrMOS technology, which is compromised of GreenPower, XpressCool and RapidBoost. On the back of this same box there is a ton of information about the board, I'd even dare to say there might be too much stuff. It shows off the main features with those famous charts saying it will double the performance and cut temperature by half. All of this is basically a cover to the white box housing the motherboard and its accessories. Finally, just in case you'd want to travel with your motherboard's box, there is a nifty handle that will make your life easier.
Opening that box reveals a rather generous amount of accessories, on par with what we have come to expect from a motherboard in this price range. All of it is packed up to fit tight so there isn't more room for anything to move. Under this thick layer of various cables and manuals is hidden the board itself. It comes in an anti static bag and a layer of foam at the bottom of the box to keep it safe from damage.
Let's take a closer look at what exactly is included with the MSI X58 Platinum.
The accessories bundled with MSI's X58 Platinum are certainly more than enough to get you up and running in no time, although it doesn't come with anything out of the ordinary. The documentation in the user and installation guides is done clearly and it's easy to find the thing you are looking for. There's also the quick guide and the HDDBackup manual, which are nice additions to the usual paper work. Oddly enough, the drivers and MSI programs are distributed on two CDs, depending on which operating system you use, Vista or XP. The MSI Extras disc surprisingly contains no programs or anything that could be considered extras.
The quick start poster is pretty interesting, on one side it shows most of the important features also found on the box. It also gives a brief explanation on how to install drivers as well as a basic description of overclocking using the proprietary D.O.T. - Dynamic Overclocking technology - and what it does for you. The other side of the poster explains the point of CrossFireX technology with all the information needed to set it up properly as well as a couple key tips including which slot you should use if a single card configuration is used. On the right, there's a full scale picture of the motherboard with a list of the connectors, buttons and switches the user will interact with at some point.
The I/O shield has nothing spectacular to show except a noteworthy Clear CMOS button which is much easier to access than the jumpers found on a lot of boards. Other than that, there are eight USB ports, eSATA, Firewire and a pair of PS/2 connectors for those times where the USB keyboard won't work. Everything is properly labeled and color coded. Those two CrossFire bridges will allow you to run a pair of ATI cards.
The motherboard also comes with floppy and hard disk ribbon cables for those who still rely on them. For the rest of us, MSI supplies four SATA cables, usually enough for most people. I would have appreciated having a couple more, especially considering that the board has a total of eight SATA connectors. Finally, just in case your power supply doesn't have enough SATA power connectors, MSI included two Molex to SATA adapters.
The M-Connectors are a very welcome and awesome accessory that every board should come with just to save the user some frustration. These allow you to make all of the tiny connections coming from the case to a larger and much easier to access plug. Since the connections can now be made outside the case, this definitely makes the installation a lot easier. 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.
Lastly, MSI bundled an expansion bracket that will provide you with two more USB ports. Although, with already ten of them, two more might not make much of a difference. Personally, it's something that will sit in the box, but some people just might need twelve USB ports.
Now that you know what's included with the X58 Platinum, let's take a closer look at the motherboard.
The MSI X58 Platinum is built around Intel's latest chipset, the combination of the X58 northbridge and the ICH10R IOH (input output hub). It is designed for use with the latest Core i7 socket 1366 processors. The Platinum features six memory slots that can be populated with up to 24GB of system memory and officially support speeds up to 1333MHz. Cooling of the PWM area is done by a single small heatsink, while the northbridge get a much bigger one connected via a heatpipe to the southbridge's tiny heatsink. They are held by push pins, similar to those used by Intel. This type of attachment isn't as tight as bolts like some manufacturers now use, which could lead to higher temperatures if contact isn't correctly made. The color theme has room for improvement, although it's far from ugly. The components are well laid out with both the eight and 24-pin power connectors easily accessible. The angled SATA and PATA ports are also nice and usually help with cable management. The front panel connectors are all found at the bottom, once again this helps keep cable clutter to a minimum.
The I/O panel offers plenty of connectivity as we have all come to expect on a a motherboard of this caliber. PS/2 ports for both a mouse and keyboard are included as well as eight USB 2.0 ports, a single e-SATA port, a pair of RJ-45 ports, one FireWire port and last, but not least, a clear CMOS button. There are also five sound outputs as well a microphone input, handled by the onboard sound chip. The available expansion slots include three PCI-E x1 slots, two PCI slots and two PCI-E x16 slots, both capable of running at full x16 speed.
Across the bottom are where the front panel connectors are placed. Starting on the left, you have the audio and FireWire headers. Then there are the handy power and reset buttons, closely followed by a dip switch that will allow you overclock right there, without even stepping into the BIOS. There are three levels that adjust the clock frequency from 133MHz to 200MHz. Next up in yellow are the pair of USB and serial headers. Finally, on the far right are the headers for power and reset switches and LEDs. The socket for the diagnostic LED is present, although it is only bundled with the higher end Eclipse.
Moving up the right side of MSI's Platinum, you will see the PATA drive connection and two SATA ports heading straight up that are handled by the JMicron chip. The remaining six SATA connectors belong to the ICH10R controller and are angled so they don't cause any clearance issues with long video cards such as the HD4870X2 or GTX280 - very well thought out. The six DIMM sockets are color coded by channel. However, if you are only using three of them, they must be in the black slots otherwise the board simply wont POST. Fortunately, it's documented and easy to find in the manual.
The area around the processor's socket is also free of obstacles so installing a huge heatsink won't cause any issues. I successfully installed the Noctua U12P without a hitch and it's among the largest of coolers. Power is supplied to the processor via the 8-pin 12v auxiliary power connection that is conveniently located right on the top edge of the board.
The MSI X58 Platinum uses a split thermal design, which means the power MOSFETs around the processor use a separate cooling apparatus from the north and south bridges, which are themselves linked by a heatpipe. This might keep the MOSFETs a bit hotter than if everything was connected together, but it should allow the other two to stay cooler since they won't share the load with the power distribution system.
Let's now take a look at the MSI exclusive software.
Getting the MSI X58 Platinum up and running perfectly requires more than just installing the operating system. Those few extra steps are essential to attain full and proper functionality of every board feature, which starts with using the correct supplied disc, depending on whether you went for XP or Vista, and installing additional drivers. I will take you through a tour of MSI's various software tools bundled with this motherboard. These include an overclocking tool, a software monitoring tool, and the Green Power Center.
Obviously, the first thing you should do is to drop the disc into your optical drive and watch the magic happen. A window will appear with four tabs available to explore. The first tab includes chipset, RAID, audio and LAN drivers. Next up is the utility tab, where you can install the Green Power Center, MSI Overclocking utility, Live Update 3 and the Drive Booster Manager. The third tab consists of outside links to MSI's website and third party drivers for nVidia video cards and Realtek's onboard LAN chip. The fourth and last tab has contact information should you ever need it.
Under the Utility tab, MSI has included some useful applications you can use to overclock your system, save the planet and keep your motherboard drivers, BIOS and MSI software updated. These are the Green Power Genie, MSI Live Update 3 and the Overclocking Center, which each possess their unique utility. Using the Live Update tool is rather simple, just let it launch at start up and it will automatically check for newer software versions. The Configuration tab even lets you change the application's color theme. Awesome.
From there you can move onto the Green Power section. There are two tabs here, Basic and Advance. The first section merely lets the user stare at the current power consumption and various voltages. Although since the Platinum, unlike the Eclipse, does not come with the GreenPower Genie accessory, it cannot display power consumption on the 3.3, 5 and 12V rails. The next section is very similar, it sports the same three options but allows them to be configured. You could set up different profiles if you want to go for higher performance or just save energy. Although the system cannot be overclocked from this program, various voltages can be set in order to decrease energy draw. The last item to be customized is the onboard LED functionality. You can choose to leave it on for the max bling factor or shut some or all of them off.
The Overclocking Center has a look incredibly similar to the GreenPower Center. The leftmost tab, System Info, displays various bits of information about the motherboard, the integrated components and the processor. The Memory tab shows the amount of RAM installed as well as SPD information, but not the current timings. The last tab, PCI, display a ton of uninteresting information about various low level system devices.
While the System Info was a bit boring, the D.O.T. tab is significantly more interesting and useful. The Basic setting has five presets you can choose from depending on how you prefer the system to run. If you're watching a movie, you might not want to have fans blowing at full speed on an overclocked processor, and that's what this allows you to do so in a very simple manner. The Advanced tab is all the same, except you can customize everything from frequency to voltages and fan speed. Once you have figured out a suitable setting, the Save button in the lower right corner lets you save the current configuration into a profile. This makes it easy to set up and load different settings depending on your usage pattern. As you can see from the screenshot below, the voltage range is more than generous and not so healthy for your system. The processor can be moved up to about 2v while the RAM can be set up to a scary 2.7v. It's great for overclocking from Windows, but system hangs should be expected from time to time when you get a bit enthusiastic.
Let's take a look at the BIOS now.
The MSI X58 Platinum motherboard uses a BIOS from American Megatrends. The latest BIOS revision available and used in this review is version 1.1. Flashing the BIOS to the latest version can often alleviate many problems, especially with newer, less mature products. The BIOS is where the hardware installed onto the motherboard is set at the most basic level. The processor, 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.
This section lets you enable and disable the devices hard mounted to the X58 Platinum. 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.
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.
This section allows you to enable the Green Power features of the MSI X58 Platinum. However, since the Platinum doesn't come with the GreenPower Genie module like its bigger brother the Eclipse, this feature is only partially functional. The onboard LED functions can be enabled or disabled in this section. Under the adjustments are a listing of the amperage currently used by the system.
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.
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 you are doing some serious benchmarking.
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.
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 Platinum. The one used in this review is the i7 920.
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/s while the 920 and 940 are locked at 4.8GT/s.
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, fortunately, RAM voltages do give the actual voltage with the maximum possible of 2.43 and 2.77 volts, respectively. 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 south bridges 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 MSI X58 Platinum has to offer in terms of performance compared to current and last generation products.
|IEEE1394 / FireWire||
|Internal I/O Connectors||
|Back Panel I/O Ports||
- Excellent energy-saving capability and offers high-computing performance.
- Provide superior energy-saving function and maintain an ultimate low temperature operation.
- Comes with three incredible features.
Active Phase Switching
- APS is Active Phase Switching 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.
All Solid Capacitors
- Longer lifespan than electrolytic capacitors
- Endurable to operation under higher frequency & temperature
- Avoid exploding capacitors to cause mainboards failure
All Shielded Chokes
- A choke is an inductor responsible for storing power and regulates the current.
- All shielded choke could reduce core power loss, lower EMI interference.
- Store energy longer at higher frequency, achieving higher efficiency.
Easy OC switch
- Help end-users upgrade CPU FSB directly
- Buy an essential CPU but want to reach higher performance
- Skip the complicated BIOS OC setting and enjoy the higher level CPU performance
- Easy connect to front panel & chassis cable
- 2x USB, IEEE 1394, front panel (JFP1/2)& audio(JAUD1) M-connector in the package
- Easy to tell the definition of each pin
- 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.
- 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 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.
Live update 3 :
- Live Update 3 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://global.msi.com.tw/index.php?func=proddesc&maincat_no=1&prod_no=1696
To see just what kind of performance the MSI X58 Platinum is capable of I will take it through the OverclockersClub benchmarking suite. It includes synthetic and gaming benchmarks to show how it performs. I will compare the Platinum against the MSI Eclipse and Asus' P6T Deluxe OC. 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 MSI X58 Platinum 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:
- Processor: Intel Core I7 920 150x20
- Motherboard: MSI X58 Platinum
- Memory: Crucial 3x2GB DDR3 1066MHz 7-7-7-20 1.6v
- Video Card: nVidia GTX260 Core 216
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800watt Modular Power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Opticals: LG DVD-RW
- O/S: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition SP1
Note:* The above boards were originally tested with the Core I7 965 Extreme but have been retested with the Core I7 920 at the speeds listed above.
- Processor: Intel Core I7 920 202x18 1.4125 volts
- Sytem Memory: Crucial 3x 2GB 7-7-7-20 606 MHz 1.6 volts
The i7 runs at 2.66GHz and only needs around 1v to work at this frequency, a pretty impressive feat. Getting it up to 3GHz was simple enough, all it took was to bump the base clock up from 133 to 150MHz. Then things started to get a bit complicated and required some, actually a lot, of trial and error. Since I am using a processor with a locked multiplier I started by decreasing it and finding the highest stable BCLK. The highest I could hit was 215MHz, although it was only stable up to 204MHz. The MSI board dealt reasonably well with failed overclocks, it would turn on for about ten seconds and then shutdown and so on until I manually shut it down and turned it back on myself. Never did I have to make use of that nifty clear CMOS button on the back.
Now that I knew how high the board could clock and already knowing the limits of the RAM, I set off to find out how high the MSI X58 Platinum could drive the i7 920. Tweaking core and QPI voltage properly was absolutely necessary to make the overclock stable. I needed +0.18V on the processor and another +0.15 on the QPI link, any more than that and temperatures got out of control, but it was enough to get a not too shabby 3.646GHz overclock. The memory modules we're kept at 1212MHz 7-7-7-20 and the other voltages were left on the Auto setting.
- Scientific & Data:
- SpecviewPerf 10
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Far Cry 2
- Company of Heros-Opposing Fronts
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
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:
- 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 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.
In Apophysis, every board finishes the benchmark in the same amount of time. Overclocking cuts four minutes off the Platinum's time, which lets it take a solid lead. The WinRAR tests are sometimes just slightly better than the other boards, otherwise they all perform about the same.
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, MSI's Platinum can't quite keep up with the higher end motherboards from Asus and MSI, although it still does reasonably well. In PCMark Vantage, the Platinum has trouble hanging out with the other boards. Fortunately, overclocking lets it catch up and best the performance charts.
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.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
In Sandra, all three X58 boards have a negligible difference in performance. Both MSI boards fall behind in hard drive tests and trail the Asus in power management efficiency.
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
Sciencemark and Cinebench yield very similar results on all three X58 motherboards. However, the MSI boards, especially the Platinum, trails their Asus competitor by a large margin in HDTune's burst speed test.
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."
- Direct X 10
- Game settings to very high
- Vsync off
FarCry 2 seems to favor the more expensive Eclipse and P6T, especially at stock settings where the Platinum trails behind by three to six frames. However, this gap closes at 2650x1600 where all three motherboards perform identically. Ubisoft's game obviously enjoys the extra processing power the i7 offers at 3.6GHz, enough to let the Platinum win at every single resolution.
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
Performance is the same all across the X58 motherboards, none of them stand out in either a positive or negative manner. Overclocking doesn't even show any improvements, proving once again Crysis relies a lot more on the video card than any other component.
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.
- All settings to maximum
- V-Sync off
Once again, the motherboards kept trading wins and none really stand out. However, the Platinum consistently takes the last spot by a small margin, except at 1920x1200 where it manages to regain its honor.
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 high 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 the performance of these video cards.
- All in game settings to maximum
- FPS measured via Fraps
At 1280x1024, the Platinum takes the lead, but it doesn't keep the top spot for too long. Higher resolutions give the two other high end boards a performance advantage, albeit a small one. Setting the clocks up to 3.6GHz gives the Platinum a few more frames, but it's not quite enough to claim the first place.
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. In one frame a Necromorph is visible right before an attack from behind.
- All in game settings to maximum
All three X58 boards score about the same in Dead Space, except at 1920x1200. The Platinum does take a slight lead but nothing major considering the game is already running at very high FPS. Bumping the frequency to 3.6GHz lets MSI's Platinum take the lead at all four resolutions.
Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.
- 4x Anti-Aliasing
- 15x Anisotropic Filtering
- All other in-game settings to maximum
Fallout is another game that doesn't enjoy one board more than another and it's once again impossible to declare a clear winner. All three boards kept the game at a very playable 60 FPS up to 2560x1600.
Left For Dead is a 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 in game settings to maximum
There are no significant differences between every board in Left 4 Dead, MSI's Platinum always stays a frame or two behind its competitors - nothing major.
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.
- 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
Except at 1280x1024 where MSI's Platinum is about 700 points late, it stays within striking distance from the other boards. Overclocking gives it an edge even though 3DMark06 doesn't show huge improvements with high processor clock speed.
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
Oddly enough, the Platinum lost to its big brother, the Eclipse, by about 900 points at the "Performance" preset, but other than that it performs just as well as the others. Overclocking shows a pretty good advantage at the lowest resolution "Entry" setting, but no more than that.
Since the introduction of Intel's new processors based on the Nehalem architecture, the market mostly consisted of very high end boards selling for $300 and beyond, let alone the far from affordable DDR3 memory that is now a requirement. More recently, a few less expensive boards have been released based on their high end counterparts minus some of the fancy features. This strategy has drove the price down to around $200, which is actually not bad at all. The MSI X58 Platinum is one of those, it shares many aspects of the Eclipse SLI. Physically, it's clear the boards share more than the chipset. The Platinum's PCB is nearly identical to the Eclipse, beside the color theme and the cooling system. That makes the Platinum an extremely capable board, my particular sample was able to hit 204MHz base clock with stability, although of course not every board will overclock the same. That's a pretty impressive feat for a stripped down model on such a young platform. The layout of the onboard components is also well done, the power connectors are exactly where you want them to be. The lone PATA and six SATA ports are well placed and angled 90 degrees so they don't interfere even with the largest video cards.
On the software side, the Platinum is bundled with the same MSI exclusive programs - LiveUpdate, GreenPower Center and Overclocking Center. The first one, LiveUpdate, is pretty interesting especially for people who don't religiously check for updates. The last two should have been merged into a single application and for some reason you cannot run both at once. It's not like they were indispensable, but it is annoying nonetheless. The Overclocking Center is actually pretty impressive for an overclocking application under Windows, although it is a bit more limiting than doing it straight from the BIOS. Speaking of which, the BIOS was easy to navigate and there is a good deal of customization to be done, but it's not overwhelming unlike some so-called extreme boards. The one thing that really annoyed me is setting the voltage on the processor and QPI link. Instead of using actual values, MSI decided it was better to use relative values like +0.15. While it isn't entirely a bad idea since it makes you realize how much over stock settings you are pushing your parts, there isn't any way to know what the reference values are. Basically, you never really have anything more than a rough idea of how much voltage you're pushing into the components.
Other than that, the MSI X58 Platinum is a great board for those wanting to jump on the i7 bandwagon while also looking to cut costs as much as possible. With the memory controller now part of the processor, performance between different boards is not only similar but often identical. One of the only missing major features is the lack of SLI, although it most likely won't be a huge deal to the audience interested in this board. The Platinum SLi version is available for $229 on Newegg if you are looking for SLI which is only about a $10 to $15 difference. The board was very stable throughout my testing and I didn't experience any major issues, even during some enthusiastic overclocking sessions. Overall, I can wholeheartily recommend this board for anyone running on a relatively tight budget. Performance wise, it has nothing to envy compared to the more expensive X58 boards. However, if you're looking for those extra fancy features, you might want to look into something in the higher end of the spectrum.
I found out late this morning that if you use the latest Bios for the Platinum SLI board SLI does in fact work. This is a very intresting piece of news and we will be testing this and we will update shortly.
- Onboard power, reset & clear CMOS buttons
- Relative voltage values in BIOS