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MSI’s Big Bang Fuzion Motherboard

MSI Big Bang Fuzion: Pulling The Covers Off Of Lucid’s Hydra Tech

Before we break into the nuts and bolts of Hydra, let’s talk about MSI’s Fuzion motherboard—the reason we’re even able to explore the work Lucid has done in multi-GPU rendering.

Based on a similar board layout as the P55-GD80 that Thomas reviewed in his $200-$250 P55 motherboard roundup, and even closer to the Big Bang Trinergy in his upcoming $250+ roundup (which you’ll see next week), the Big Bang Fuzion is unquestionably a premium part at $350. Because the Lynnfield- and Clarkdale-based CPUs that drop into it are limited to 16 total lanes of on-package PCI Express 2.0 connectivity, it’s up to the Hydra 200 chipset to mux a 16-lane connection into a pair of 16-lane links. The Fuzion also supports x16/x8/x8 configurations, but if you’re doing any more than two cards, P55, in general, is not the way we’d go. Beyond that, the third x16 slot is located at the very bottom of the board, so any dual-slot card would hang off anyway, requiring a case with special concessions for additional slot counts.

Because the Fuzion board comes with Lucid’s Hydra, MSI doesn’t make a big deal over CrossFire or SLI. However, you can disable Hydra and run in CrossFireX mode, since that’s natively supported by Intel’s P55 platform. You cannot, however, revert to SLI in the event you discover an incompatibility with your dual-GPU solution running under Hydra. Thus, it’s particularly important that everything work the way it should with Hydra turned on.

As with most LGA 1156 platforms, the Fuzion sports four memory slots that tap into the Lynnfield/Clarkdale dual-channel on-package controller. Officially, both processor families support up to DDR3-1333, but MSI naturally enables overclocked transfer rates as high as DDR3-2133.

Twin gigabit Ethernet controllers, on-board FireWire 400, four additional SATA 3 Gb/s ports enabled by JMicron JMB322 port multipliers, and two extra eSATA ports enabled by a JMicron JMB362 controller are all part of this board’s enthusiast-class spec sheet. MSI further adds value through its PCI Express x1 QuantumWave sound card, employing Realtek’s ALC889 codec. The card’s specs are heavily licensed from Creative and include EAX Advanced 5.0, ALchemy, and THX TruStudio PC. That latter feature itself consists of a suite designed to compensate if you lack a subwoofer, fill in missing dynamic range, and “intelligently” applying gain/attenuation.

MSI’s other differentiators include tantalum surface mount capacitors, which are more reliable due to a tolerance for very warm conditions. They tend to be more expensive than aluminum electrolytic capacitors, which is probably why MSI is showing them off so prominently. There’s also a comprehensive accessory bundle to go along with the board, including an eSATA breakout panel with complementary data/power cables, six internal SATA cables, power adapters for SATA hard drives, an IDE cable, a two port USB 2.0 bracket, copious documentation, labeled jumper blocks, voltage-check leads, and MSI’s custom OC Dashboard. The dashboard is an external device wired in to a connector on the Fuzion’s rear panel, similar to Asus’ TurboV remote. It’s able to report temperatures/fan speeds, adjust voltages, tweak BCLK frequencies, and display debug codes at boot-up. It’s all hardware-based, so there’s no real need to worry about the sometimes-iffy software apps that accompany some of the top-end boards from other vendors.

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