MSI P55-GD85 (PCIe Switching)
The third board in this roundup is MSI’s P55-GD85. With the exception of the company's Big Bang family, this is the highest-end LGA 1156 motherboard you can get from MSI. The board comes with dynamic voltage regulator switching (called APS, or active phase switching), the OC Genie overclocking assistant, dual gigabit Ethernet controllers, heatpipe-based cooling, and a handful of other enthusiast-oriented features.
Though it isn't loaded with as many extras as some of the other high-end P55-based motherboards out there, the P55-GD85 does sport some of the most important additions for a flagship platform trying to introduce next-gen storage peripheral interfaces. For instance, the same PLX 8608 PCI Express switch found on Gigabyte's P55A-UD7 makes an appearance. With MSI's P55-GD85, though, we have a fully-featured board with two x16 PCI Express 2.0 slots able to run on eight physical PCIe 2.0 lanes and still allow the USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s controllers (again, from NEC and Marvell) to receive sufficient bandwidth through switching. In addition to these controllers, the board also sports a controller to enable eSATA.
The main difference between the MSI board and Gigabyte’s latest flagship is the absence of Nvidia's nForce 200 bridge chip. Nevertheless, MSI still has the SLI license needed to expose multi-GPU support using Nvidia-based graphics cards.