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MSI Big Bang Trinergy

Extreme P55: Four LGA 1156 Motherboards Over $250
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MSI’s Big Bang Trinergy approaches the extreme gaming market differently than either Asus or EVGA, but with a little of both approaches mixed in. Three x16-length slots are available, like they are on the Maximus III Formula, but MSI uses the same nForce 200 PCIe bridge as the P55 Classified 200 to distribute bandwidth.

I/O panel ports are similar to EVGA’s, but with a second PS/2 port added for those who really like their older peripherals. The panel even features a connector for a tuning device controller, but unlike its competition from EVGA, the Trinergy actually includes one.

MSI connects its nForce 200 PCIe bridge differently than EVGA, directing all 16 of the processor's PCIe 2.0 lanes through the bridge to allow identical bandwidth to all three cards, regardless of any restrictions on the bridge's north end.

MSI’s OC Dashboard might not be as complex as the one offered by EVGA, but the big advantage to MSI customers is that this one doesn’t have to be purchased separately. Although its cables are a little short, MSI OC Dashboard can be connected and disconnected from the rear panel, unlike Asus’ TurboV remote. Notice we said cables in the plural form, as the OC Dashboard relies on a separate USB cable for power.

MSI uses the biggest single heat pipe we’ve seen on a motherboard to keep its nForce 200 bridge and both banks of voltage regulators at a similar temperature, spreading the cooling effect of directional fans. MSI claims a decrease in temperature of 50 degrees Celsius compared to its competitors, but it can’t mean Celsius since we haven’t seen a VRM even reach 50 degrees over ambient temperatures in a very long time. Also unique to the Big Bang series are the flat, rectangular Hi-C capacitors--we would have thought Hi-C would come in a can.

Jokes aside, the Trinergy motherboard does have a few of its competitors' idiosyncrasies, such as a third PCIe slot that’s too low on the board to allow for the installation of a graphics card with a double-slot cooler in a standard case, which is a potential issue with the Maximus III Formula. Yet, this is a much bigger problem for the Trinergy, since the Maximus III Formula’s third slot is nearly useless for triple-card graphics arrays by virtue of where it gets its PCIe connectivity.

MSI uses not one, but two JMB322 SATA port multipliers to allow its two-port JMB363 controller to support four drives. All of these drives, plus any Ultra ATA drives also controlled by the JMB363, must communicate with the rest of the system over a single 2.5 Gb/s PCIe link. On a more positive note, the two eSATA ports connected directly to a JMB362 controller are interfaced by the P55 PCH, with nothing beyond the PCIe interface to create additional bottlenecks.

MSI places a row of voltage checking points across the front edge of its Trinergy to allow easy volt-meter access to CPU core, VTT (Uncore), DDR, and PCH voltage rails. MSI doesn’t include the onboard volt meter like EVGA does, but the Trinergy’s detection pins are surrounded by a plastic shell that’s actually capable of holding the voltage probes of most meters in place.

Audio functions on a riser card allow the Trinergy, like the competing Maximus III Formula, to get rid of the dreaded bottom-rear-corner, front-panel audio-header placement issue. MSI’s riser card supports EAX Advanced HD 5.0 (compared to Asus’ version 4.0), and the motherboard itself beats Asus in front-panel cable management by moving its IEEE-1394 connector three inches forward along the bottom edge.

One small problem we did notice concerning MSI’s audio card is that its shield is in contact with several live motherboard circuits, leading to the two paint chips seen above. MSI knows of the issue and plans to modify the design prior to new shipments, but anyone who has purchased a Trinergy from its current U.S. source (ZipZoomFly) should visually check this before starting the system and remove the metal cover if necessary.

BIOS

The Trinergy Cell Menu contains most of the voltage and frequency settings needed by most overclockers, plus DRAM reference voltage and VDroop controls.

The only motherboard in today’s comparison to offer per-channel timing control, the Trinergy complicates the configuration process by not providing a setting to tie both channels together. System tuners must remember to scroll through the menu settings and set their timings twice to address both channels.

MSI M-Flash allows updating BIOS from non-bootable media and saving BIOS to a drive.

The Trinergy has enough extra room on its ROM to store up to six custom BIOS configurations as user profiles.

Accessories

MSI packs its Trinergy box with so many separate manuals and pamphlets that we had to splice two photos together simply to include accessories in the same image. This is likely done to maximize the visual impact of the support kit, since most of this documentation could have been combined.

In addition to the pure essentials, the Trinergy includes the previously-mentioned OC Dashboard device and associated cables, plus a SATA-to-eSATA breakout plate and associated cables. MSI includes three SLI bridges to address both two- and three-way configurations, and adds a slightly longer-than-normal CrossFire bridge, too.

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  • 2 Hide
    kumaiti , January 20, 2010 5:43 AM
    I will comment the same as in the previous motherboard roundup: please add more details the CODECs on each board. There is almost nothing about the Via VT2020 and many crucial features of the ALC889 are vendor-dependant. It would be really good to know if they support Dolby Digital Live, DTS connect, Dolby Headphone and so on.
  • -5 Hide
    notty22 , January 20, 2010 6:46 AM
    Keep spreading the love for the best platform PERIOD.
    1156 FTW !!!!!
  • -8 Hide
    dcay , January 20, 2010 7:01 AM
    "Already several years old, we have yet to build a system that can overcome Crysis’ system demands at 2560x1600 and 8x anti-aliasing (AA). That makes this outdated game a solid benchmark application."
  • -9 Hide
    dcay , January 20, 2010 7:01 AM
    "Already several years old, we have yet to build a system that can overcome Crysis’ system demands at 2560x1600 and 8x anti-aliasing (AA). That makes this outdated game a solid benchmark application."
  • 1 Hide
    johnbilicki , January 20, 2010 7:05 AM
    So socket 1156 is supposed to be the most awesome thing in the world?

    - No six core CPU's, EVER.
    - Requires a glued on chip for more then 16 lanes.
    - Motherboards overpriced compared to socket AM3.

    When you buy a socket 1156 system that is all the performance you're going go get out of it. The top-end CPU's won't come down in price by much and Intel made it clear it's a mainstream platform. My socket AM3 has playable FPS, the motherboard is high end and under $200, and I'll be able to continue upgrading in the future. That is what matters to me. The Intel fan boy articles are getting so old.
  • 5 Hide
    Crashman , January 20, 2010 7:45 AM
    kumaitiI will comment the same as in the previous motherboard roundup: please add more details the CODECs on each board. There is almost nothing about the Via VT2020 and many crucial features of the ALC889 are vendor-dependant. It would be really good to know if they support Dolby Digital Live, DTS connect, Dolby Headphone and so on.


    They don't.
    johnbilickiThe Intel fan boy articles are getting so old.


    It might surprise you that new motherboard series articles follow new chipsets. So AMD fanboy, where's the new AMD chipset?
  • 2 Hide
    kumaiti , January 20, 2010 8:02 AM
    CrashmanThey don't.


    1. Do you mean on these boards or in general?
    2. If it is for these boards, did you install the drivers/software from each manufaturer or used the default Windows drivers?

    Thanks for the reply
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , January 20, 2010 8:51 AM
    kumaiti1. Do you mean on these boards or in general?2. If it is for these boards, did you install the drivers/software from each manufaturer or used the default Windows drivers?Thanks for the reply


    None of the manufacturers list support for DDL or DTS Connect any longer. Those technologies were most likely licensed in the past and neglected due to lack of demand and cost, because typical buyers don't know what they are and won't pay extra for them.
  • -6 Hide
    dman3k , January 20, 2010 9:24 AM
    Sorry, I'm not an Intel fanboy, but AMD thoroughly sucks right now. Heck, even with their top of the line 5xxx series graphics, they still can't damn write a driver.

    It may well be Intel's monopolize actions that got AMD to this point when AMD had the top processors, but the truth is AMD products suck right now.

    There are P55 mobos under $160 that you can easily find, which will still beat AM3 systems quite handily. For example, get a DFI Lanparty P55-T36.
    johnbilickiMy socket AM3 has playable FPS, the motherboard is high end and under $200, and I'll be able to continue upgrading in the future. That is what matters to me. The Intel fan boy articles are getting so old.

  • 4 Hide
    Crashman , January 20, 2010 10:34 AM
    dman3kSorry, I'm not an Intel fanboy, but AMD thoroughly sucks right now...There are P55 mobos under $160 that you can easily find, which will still beat AM3 systems quite handily. For example, get a DFI Lanparty P55-T36.


    First of all, most reviewers are begging AMD to pull a rabbit out of the hat just to get the competition moving again. Second, AMD does give you more chipset for your money.
  • 0 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , January 20, 2010 11:13 AM
    Thanks again for including mainstream application benchmarks.
  • -4 Hide
    lradunovic77 , January 20, 2010 11:51 AM
    Only an idiot would buy these boards over 1366 socket.
  • -3 Hide
    a4mula , January 20, 2010 11:55 AM
    Here we had a perfect chance to test Tri-Fire 5870s, or QuadfireX dual-5970s, and instead we get a 280? What is the point of even testing the NF200 boards if you aren't going to test the capability of the NF200 on an 1156!
  • 4 Hide
    Zenthar , January 20, 2010 12:45 PM
    zipzoomflyhighWho would pay $250+ for a 1156 mobo? Anybody?
    I was wondering that myself, really. How does those 250$+ board compare to lower-priced ones? Where is the budget breaking point where you should go from LGA1156 to LGA1366? Maybe the budget itself doesn't even matter, it might be only features.
  • 0 Hide
    a4mula , January 20, 2010 1:06 PM
    The problem is this, if 1156 can support bottleneck free pci-e solutions then there is no reason to go with 1366. Triple channel memory and support for a 1k+ future cpus do no justify the latency and heat caused by the NB, 130w tdp vs 90w tdp and higher initial cost (these motherboards should be being compared to the Asus WS Supercomputer and EVGA Classified 3x SLI, 400$ mobos).

    Don't rule out P55 as a viable upgrade path, While the vast majority of people will pass on Gulftown due to price, the 32nm Sandybridge will support 1156. Give me low-thermal, high effeciency, super-overclockability in an affordable quadcore package, I'd take that over a hexacore all day long.

    But 1156 has to support bottleneck free pci-e. I'm already 98pct sure the NF200 can't pull it off, but was really hoping we'd have a definitive answer.
  • -4 Hide
    notty22 , January 20, 2010 1:23 PM
    They make 200 dollar AMD boards to if you really want to o/c you might check out their features. Another thing, 790 AMD will never run dual gpu Nvidia. With Fermi about to rock the gaming world, I'm sure we will have a whole slew of new turncoats in 2010. Do yourselves a favor and join us :) 
  • 1 Hide
    ta152h , January 20, 2010 1:33 PM
    I don't know why sites like this keep trying to convince people that a low-end technology is well suited for high end processors.

    I agree with the others who wonder why anyone would want this lobotomized platform instead of the x58. There are serious compromises with this. It's great for the Clarksdale, which is a low-end product with a lot of compromises made so it's mainstream, but when you start to go high-end, it just makes no sense at all.

    First of all, despite the opening page's assertion that these overclock better than Bloomfields - they don't. They overclock worse, and generally need significantly higher voltages to hit the same clock speeds. They also have to multiplex the already more restricted memory bus of the processor when using video cards that access main memory (since PCI-E is on the processor, it's got to use processor pins to reach memory). On top of this, to get full performance from modern technologies like USB 3.0, or SATA 6.0 GB, you have to do weird things with the PCI-E lanes, which increase latency and/or steal lanes from the video card so it can't use all 16.

    This platform is a kludge. It's a series of compromises made to keep costs and power down. It's fine for a mainstream platform, but when we're told it's good for high-end too, it's got a lot of us scratching our heads wondering why we're being told this. It just makes no sense and we're not buying it. Intel can put all the lipstick they want on this pig, but it's still not a Hippo.
  • 4 Hide
    notty22 , January 20, 2010 2:10 PM
    ta152hI don't know why sites ........blah blah It's fine for a mainstream platform, but when we're told it's good for high-end too, it's got a lot of us scratching our heads wondering why we're being told this. It just makes no sense and we're not buying it. Intel can put all the lipstick they want on this pig, but it's still not a Hippo.


    Ok this attitude is the EXACT opposite conclusion show here
    http://www.fudzilla.com/content/view/16729/40/1/4/
    Let's keep it simple: the Socket 1366 platform is obsolete. The turbo modes are very limiting and the three channel memory setup gives only a slight advantage. Of course, Socket 1366 CPUs don't come cheap either. The quite new i5 CPU is much easier to overclock and it's not that hard to achieve higher memory speeds.

    Considering system cost, then the P55 platform is the clear winner. We have already proven that Hyperthreading/SMT is more or less a marketing gimmick. It works only with very few applications and in highly optimized applications such as x264 or games, it decreases performance. That's also the reason why we did not consider to use the i7-800 CPU series for this review.

    Looking for the best performance money can buy, we recommend the i5-750 CPU. If you need SLI or Crossfire, shop for boards with an additional NF200 chip to get the most out of your two graphics cards, otherwise the P55 does just fine.

    System costs are less, no northbridge, never going to have to worry about cooling that. less to troubleshoot.

    But I don't think either is a "kludge" whatever that is. Theres a right choice for everyone. It seems if a personal choice is threatened in a tech article people lose it !
  • 0 Hide
    arkadi , January 20, 2010 2:29 PM
    johnbilickiSo socket 1156 is supposed to be the most awesome thing in the world? - No six core CPU's, EVER. - Requires a glued on chip for more then 16 lanes. - Motherboards overpriced compared to socket AM3.When you buy a socket 1156 system that is all the performance you're going go get out of it. The top-end CPU's won't come down in price by much and Intel made it clear it's a mainstream platform. My socket AM3 has playable FPS, the motherboard is high end and under $200, and I'll be able to continue upgrading in the future. That is what matters to me. The Intel fan boy articles are getting so old.

    You sound like AMD fanboy to me..
    And what a bs about upgrading lol, AMD or Intel they all will make you to upgrade, as for pricing, 965 cost same as i5 750, so do the math mate.
    Both Intel and AMD here 4 profit, you just need to find a better deal.
  • 3 Hide
    ta152h , January 20, 2010 2:48 PM
    notty22Ok this attitude is the EXACT opposite conclusion show herehttp://www.fudzilla.com/content/view/16729/40/1/4/Let's keep it simple: the Socket 1366 platform is obsolete. The turbo modes are very limiting and the three channel memory setup gives only a slight advantage. Of course, Socket 1366 CPUs don't come cheap either. The quite new i5 CPU is much easier to overclock and it's not that hard to achieve higher memory speeds.Considering system cost, then the P55 platform is the clear winner. We have already proven that Hyperthreading/SMT is more or less a marketing gimmick. It works only with very few applications and in highly optimized applications such as x264 or games, it decreases performance. That's also the reason why we did not consider to use the i7-800 CPU series for this review.Looking for the best performance money can buy, we recommend the i5-750 CPU. If you need SLI or Crossfire, shop for boards with an additional NF200 chip to get the most out of your two graphics cards, otherwise the P55 does just fine.System costs are less, no northbridge, never going to have to worry about cooling that. less to troubleshoot.But I don't think either is a "kludge" whatever that is. Theres a right choice for everyone. It seems if a personal choice is threatened in a tech article people lose it !


    Do you guys have anyone technical writing your articles? Is this a cheap way of generating traffic for your site ?

    P55 is a series of compromises. The NF200 chip adds cost, power use, and latency, and does not have the same performance of the x58. How could you not know that? If you're going to use this chip, why bother with the P55?

    Also, several P55 processors do support hyperthreading. It's not the issue here. However, it clearly does show advantages in some applications, and the cost is negligible in terms of hardware. It does, of course, work better on the x58, since you'll put more strain on the memory bandwidth, which is considerably better.

    The memory bandwidth does help in a lot of applications, and some it doesn't. It will matter more the more you are doing, since if you have four active processors, running eight threads, sharing one memory bus, you're going to depend on that bus a lot than when you're barely using it. Again, hyperthreading will make it more important, since you're also going to be missing the caches more often. Throw in a video card that needs memory accesses (which have to go through the processor on the P55), and you can have some problems with the more limited bandwidth of the P55.

    On top of this, for reasons mentioned above, you probably will not see more than four cores on the P55 since the platform is so compromised. The x58 can work with more, without the same performance fall off.

    No one with any technical knowledge would say the x58 is obsolete. It's not even opinion at that point. It's just a terrible analysis. If you want to say it's unnecessary for most people, we could argue that. But obsolete? It does things the P55 can't do, and does them better. It's a very, very poor choice of words.
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