HydraLogix Vs. SLI And CrossFire: MSI's P55A Fuzion Tested

Mid-Priced Motherboard: MSI’s P55A Fuzion

While MSI has offered high-end (read: expensive) boards in the past using Lucid’s Hydra controllers, the company appears to have figured out that the most likely reason users would mix cards is for value. This logic compelled the company to target a sub-$200 price point when developing its P55A Fuzion, and the final product is available for around $175.

That price gets you a feature set that resembles several $140 motherboards, with the addition of its $35 Hydra 200 controller. Two full-bandwidth PCIe 2.0 x16 slots are fed by that Hydra 200 controller from the LGA 1156 socket's 16 processor-driven PCIe lanes.

The I/O panel has only one USB 3.0 port because its controller’s second port was moved inside. This was one of the proposals we saw in response to last year’s pleas for internal USB 3.0 ports. While a competing design is poised to become the industry standard, MSI’s design will at least allow a few current cases to access one port internally rather than looping out of the case to the I/O panel. We’d have accepted either MSI’s or the competing solution, but wanted at least two internal ports in addition to external ports.

Value also comes from overclocking, so MSI equips its P55A Fuzion with a ten-phase voltage regulator comprising “military-class” components. Though we’ve had great success using boards with this design, we have yet to quantify the benefits of these components.

Some builders might have already noticed that the P55A Fuzion has no rear-panel eSATA connectors. MSI supplies the board with one third-party controller, Marvell’s RAID-capable 88SE9128, and leaves it up to the user to decide whether to connect it to internal drives, a front-panel eSATA connector, or a rear-panel slot plate (accessories that are not included). Intel’s P55 Express PCH takes care of an additional six drives in RAID 0, 1, 5, or 10.

MSI uses touch sensors rather than buttons for onboard power and reset functions, making it easier to test the board without a case. An OC Genie button sets the motherboard to automatically run overclocking and stability tests at boot.

The one problem this editor found in the P55A Fuzion’s design is its bottom-rear-corner front-panel audio connector, a location that typically requires a 16-24” cable. I’ve tested over a dozen cases that came up 1-3 inches short. Though the short cable reach is primarily a case design issue, this formally-trained designer has never found an adequate excuse for placing the motherboard’s front-panel audio header so far away from a case’s front-panel connectors.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • tacoslave
    Still seems to buggy to me but at least they're still working on it right?
  • duk3
    Looks good on the 1st 2 games and synthetics.
    I hope Lucid gets all the issues worked out.
  • anacandor
    So basically it's just a universal CF/SLI connecter built into the motherboard? Seems odd that it's taken this long to be developed, but great nonetheless :)
  • Darkerson
    Looks like it has some promise, if they can further work the kinks out. Something to keep an eye on in the future.
  • ruffopurititiwang
    The 6870 scales better in cfx than that 5850. Why not test that?
  • punnar
    I can see it as a standard in the future. I think I will buy a board with Hydralogix on my next build.
  • Yargnit
    It would have been nice to see how well this works with two differing AMD/ATI cards and two Nvidia cards. For instance someone has a GTX260 and wants to add a GTX460, or someone with a AMD5850 who wants to pick up a new 6870 (damn numbering change) to go with it.

    Also comparing performance pairing two cards from the same generation (say GTX 460 + GTX 470) vs differing generations. (GTX 260 + GTX460)

    Lastly what affect would pairing a two cards with varying amounts of memory have? (two regular versions of a card vs 1 reg + 1 dbl memory vs 2 dbl memory) Since it isn't clear from what I've read if both cards would be limited to lowest memory level or not.

    Interesting tech for sure
  • sudeshc
    this should become a standard, allowing us to enjoy features from both manufacturers. I would also be prepared to pay few extra bucks for this as well.
  • Maziar
    Overall,Lucid is a great idea of mixing different cards but it still needs quite a lot of work with drivers.
  • Yargnit
    Ah, thank you. It was posted before I was frequently following the site, I'll give it a look.