Skip to main content

Does Saving Power Mean Hurting Performance?

MSI P45 Neo2-FIR Motherboard

Board Revision: 1.0 BIOS Version : 1.1 B5

When we first planned to write this article, MSI offered to send us one of its P45 Neo2-FIR motherboards for review. This is a typical P45 mainstream motherboard, which doesn’t carry an extreme amount of features. However, it is still well-equipped and implements all of MSI’s current extras, including DrMOS and its power-saving technology, which performed well in our P45 power consumption analysis.

The name of this motherboard is MS-7558, and it is designed to offer the best bang for the buck. Hence the heat pipe solution is rather compact and only covers the northbridge and the southbridge. Using the CPU cooler airflow, this should be a good compromise, though. MSI decided to only implement four voltage regulator phases. However, we have found that a reasonable number of voltage regulator phases is more energy efficient than running too many, while more components allow for better power distribution and stability at extreme overclocking and increased voltage levels, which clearly isn’t the purpose of the P45 Neo2-FIR.

The motherboard uses DDR2 memory, which we still find reasonable for cost reasons. Two x16 PCI Express 2.0 slots can be used for AMD CrossFireX graphics, two more x1 (PCI Express) PCIe slots offer connectivity for add-on cards, and there are two 32-bit PCI slots for legacy hardware. MSI added a floppy controller and an additional storage controller, which adds two SATA/300 ports and one UltraATA/133 channel on top of the six-port SATA/300 ICH10. Gigabit networking, HD audio, and comprehensive overclocking features are mandatory today. The GreenPower feature, which is part of the DrMOS function-set, offers dynamic voltage-regulator switching to save power at low loads.

When we ran our tests using the Core 2 Duo E8500, we found that the system consumed more power with EIST enabled than without the power-saving feature. After contacting MSI, we received an updated BIOS to install, which fixed a bug that caused an insufficient CPU core voltage supply to the processor when EIST was disabled. Since the processor was being run outside of its spec, MSI quickly fixed the issue.