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MSI X48 Platinum, Continued

X48 Motherboard Comparison

A system status display near the lower rear corner is bright enough that some users will surely need sunglasses simply to determine what it says!

Photographic trickery was required simply to get a look at the device: we had to use camera flash to diminish the display's brightness, and then toned-down the "flash back" reflections of the circuits beneath using a photo editor.

MSI is the only brand in this comparison to provide a model with onboard power and reset buttons, which are perfect for bench-testing the board outside a case.

The buttons are so tiny that casual observers are unlikely to notice them. Some builders are very fond of internal buttons, but end users probably won't have much use for them once the X48 Platinum is installed into a case.

MSI X48 Platinum (Revision)
Northbridge Intel X48 Express MCH
Southbridge Intel ICH9R
Voltage Regulator Eight Phases
BIOS VP.2B4 (01/10/2008)
333.3 MHz (FSB1333) 334.5 MHz (+0.035%)
Clock Generator ICS 9LPRS910BKL
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard 4x PCIe x16 (Two with x4 pathways)
2x PCIe x1
1x PCI
2x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)
1x IEEE-1394 Header
1x Serial Port Header
1x Floppy
1x Ultra ATA (2 drives)
6x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s
1x Front Panel Audio
1x CD-Audio In
1x VoIP interface connector
2x Fan 4 pins (CPU/System)
4x Fan 3 pins (System)
1x Internal Power Switch
1x Internal Reset Switch
IO panel 2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse)
2x RJ-45 Network
8x USB 2.0
6x Analog Audio (7.1 Channel + Mic-In + Line-In)
2x Digital Audio (S/P-DIF Optical+Coaxial)
2x eSATA (External Serial ATA) interface
1x CLR_CMOS Button
Mass Storage Controllers
Intel ICH9R 6x SATA 3.0 Gb/s (RAID 0,1,5,10)
Marvell 88SE6111 PCI-E 1x Ultra ATA-100 (2-drives)
2x SATA 3.0 Gb/s
Realtek RTL811B PCI-E 1x Gigabit LAN Connection
Intel 82566DC (GLCI) PHY 1x Gigabit LAN Connection
HDA (Azalia) Controller Interface Realtek ALC888T 8+2 Ch. +VoIP Codec
VIA VT6308P 2x IEEE-1394a (400 Mbit/s)

Unlike "everyone else" in today's comparison, MSI reserves its 8+2 channel codec for the more expensive "Diamond" series motherboards. The X48 Platinum's Realtek ALC888 codec is capable of 7.1-channel sound streams at a rated 97db signal-to-noise ratio, the same rating as the 8+2 channel multi-streaming ALC888T used in MSI's more expensive boards.

Also unlike its competitors, MSI takes advantage of Intel's integrated GLCI connection for one of its Gigabit Ethernet controllers. Doing so frees up a PCI Express pathway for other uses, without limiting the controller to PCI bandwidth.

PCI Express onboard devices include the Marvell 88SE6111 Ultra ATA plus SATA 3.0 Gb/s controller, and a second Gigabit Ethernet controller. The ICH9R Southbridge has but six PCI Express lanes, with the remaining four lanes dedicated to expansion slots.

MSI continues to use its strange-appearing USB riser on the rear panel, to support a total of eight USB 2.0 ports in addition to a single IEEE-1394 FireWire, two External SATA, and two RJ-45 network ports. The eSATA ports are particularly interesting, in that they tie to the Intel ICH9R controller, rather than the third-party Marvell controller.

Other rear panel features include PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, a digital optical audio output, six analog audio jacks, and a tiny CLR_CMOS button right in the middle. We found no method to disable the rear-panel CLR_CMOS button, so users will need to be particularly careful while inserting cable ends into the nearby USB and eSATA ports. Fortunately, the button is small enough to prevent "most" accidents.

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