Shootout at the Core 2 Corral: Seven P965 Motherboards Compared

MSI P965 Platinum: One Mean Hombre

It seems that 1986 must have been a busy year for Taiwan startups, as MSI is the third company to add a 20th anniversary to its list of accomplishments this year.

Feature Overview

A surprising entry from MSI, the P965 Platinum presents itself as a mid-priced board with enhanced features, such as the dual PCI Express x16 graphics card slots (the second with x4 pathways) normally reserved for more expensive models. Other upscale features include an IEEE-1394 FireWire controller, and an enhanced 4-phase voltage regulator with three transistors and one choke each, which results in a total of 12 transistors.

MSI is quite proud of the value in its 12-transistor regulator, the same number typically found in 6-phase designs. Increased current capacity and decreased transistor temperature are key benefits, but at reduced expense compared to further-enhanced 6-phase designs.

The layout of the board is generally adequate, but with a few difficulties. Test fitting an X1950XTX into the lower slot confirmed that one Serial ATA port was blocked by the card's fan power plug. Greater annoyances include an 8-pin ATX12v connector positioned so that cables must pass over or around the CPU cooler, and a front-panel audio connector located in the hardest-to-reach bottom rear corner.

MSI P965 Platinum
Northbridge Intel P965
Southbridge Intel ICH8R (82801HR)
Voltage Regulator 4 Phases
BIOS 1.0BD (08/29/06)
Clock Generator ICS9LPRS514EGLF
266.6 MHz (FSB1066) 266.6 MHz (+0.00%)
Connectors and Interfaces
onboard 2x PCIe x16 (2nd with x4/x2 pathways)
2x PCIe x1
2x PCI
6x USB 2.0
1x IEEE1394 FireWire
1x Floppy
1x IDE
7x SATA 3.0Gb/s
1x Front Panel Audio
1x S/P-DIF In
1x CD-In
2x Fan 4 pins (CPU, System)
1x Fan 3 pins (Power Supply)
IO panel 2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse)
1x Serial Port
1x Parallel Port
1x Network
4x USB 2.0
1x IEEE1394 FireWire
1x Digital Audio Out (optical+coaxial)
1x 7.1 Channel Audio, Mic/Line-In (5 jacks)
Mass Storage Controllers
ICH8R 6x SATA (RAID 0,1,5,10)
JMicron JMB361 1x IDE (ATA133/100/66)
1x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0, 1, JBOD)
Realtek RTL8111B PCIe 1x 1 Gbit/s LAN
Realtek ALC883 7.1 AC97 or High Definition Audio
VIA VT6307 2x 1394a (400 Mbit/s)

MSI uses the same method as Asus to deal with the P965 chipset's limited number of PCI Express pathways. Since two of the six unreserved pathways are dedicated to Gigabit Ethernet and Ultra ATA controllers, the remaining four can be divided across x1 slots and the second x16 slot as x1-x1-x2, or all four can be sent to the second x16 slot by disabling the x1 slots.

Rear panel ports include PS/2 keyboard and mouse, parallel, serial, FireWire and four USB 2.0. A single Gigabit network connection reminds us of the board's mid-priced aspirations. Coaxial and optical S/P-DIF connections serve digital audio needs, and five analog audio ports support 7.1 channel outputs plus one input device (line level or microphone).

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