MSI P45 Platinum Review & Overclocking

Author: William Henning
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, July 21st, 2008
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/msi_p45_platinum/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Today we take a look at MSI's P45 Platinum - an Intel P45 based DDR2 board for enthusiasts.

The board is packed full of features - which is not unusual for an enthusiasts board - however it sports a very unusual looking heatpipe/heatsink arrangement.

As we would expect from a P45 based enthusiasts board, it supports processors all the way up to the current top of the line QX9770 - so if you have the funds available, you can put the latest & fastest Intel quad core processor into the board, as MSI has qualified the 136W TDP monster as being supported on the P45 Platinum.

In our first P45 review (the Asus P5Q Deluxe) we found that the BIOS made a huge difference to memory performance, and that the P45 seemed a bit slower for memory access than the P45. It will be interesting to see how the MSI P45 compares to it.

Specifications

Socket 775
CPU (Max Support) Core 2 Extreme
FSB 800/1066/1333/1600
Chipset Intel® P45
DDR2 Memory DDR2 800/1066/1200
DDR3 Memory N/A
DIMM Slots 4
Max Memory (GB) 16
PCI-Ex16 2
PCI-Ex8 N/A
PCI-Ex4 N/A
PCI-Ex1 2
PCI 2
IDE 1
SATA 8
RAID 0/1/5/10
LAN 10/100/1000*1
TPM 1(Optional)
USB ports (Rear) 6
Audio ports (Rear) 6+Optical SPDIF
Serial ports (Rear) N/A
Parallel ports (Rear) N/A
1394 ports (Rear) 1(Optional)
eSATA 1
VGA N/A
DVI N/A
HDMI N/A
Form Factor ATX
DrMOS Y

The Board

Other than the funky heatsink, the MSI P45 Platinum looks pretty much like any other enthusiasts board - plenty of I/O connections and slots, lots of solid state capacitors and ferrite cores. The "Dr. MOS" branding is prominent on the second largest heatsink - the one that cools the VRM section of the board.

I am somewhat concerned that the oversize heatsinks and higher than usual heat pipes may interfere with the mounting of some of the larger third-party coolers. Fortunately our Noctua-12 mounted without any problems.

Here is another look at the funky cooler - looks like each heatpipe gets its own heatsink with its own fins.

Four ordinary DIMM slots for DDR2 memory.

Unlike some people, I don't like the 90 degree SATA and IDE connectors, I find working with them in a built-up case to be a pain in the posterior.

LOTS of slots - two PCIe 2.0 16x, two PCIe 2.0 1x, and two PCI - however if you use two GPU's with double slot coolers, you will lose access to one PCIe 1x and one PCI slot. Note the Molex four pin power connector next to the primary GPU slot.

The back panel has PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors, firewire, optical audio out, six USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, a CMOS reset switch, a Gigabit  ethernet port and six analog audio jacks. At first I did not like how four of the USB ports were mounted, purely due to the aesthetics, however once I remembered some oversize USB memory sticks and other attachments the spacing is most welcome.

The Stuff

Here are the cables and stuff packed with the board:

The BIOS

The MSI P45 Platinum has a standard AMI BIOS. MSI has added F5 to evoke  "Memory-Z" - a popup windows showing the EPD settings for the DIMM's installed in the motherboard.

The main menu is pretty standard, the only thing really new was F5 & "GreenPower" menus.

Bog standard IDE device description and settings pages.

The Advanced BIOS menu controls logo's, PCI latency and more:

The Integrated Peripherals menu lets you enable/disable the on-board I/O devices

Power Management is also standard.

 

More BIOS

The H/W monitor screen should show some more information such as VDDR.

The GreenPower screen lets you enable/disable GreenPower and control the CPU, DDR and MCH phase control.

The Cell menu is where it's at... this is where you get to tweak the system.

User settings allows you to save/load one of two sets of CMOS settings to/from flash.

And here is the Memory-Z SPD display

 

Test Setup 

We tested the MSI P45 Platinum against every other motherboard we have tested so far with our Core 2 Duo E8500 - so it should give us some very interesting results!

Hardware used for testing the motherboards:

Benchmarks Used

For now, here is a listing of the tests performed:

Video drivers used were the NVIDIA ForceWare version 169.12

 

Business Winstone

The MSI P45 Platinum did well at stock, beating an X48, and even better overclocked - however some other extreme overclocks beat it.

Content Creation

Pretty much the same story as above; the MSI P45 Platinum did well, but did not take top spot wen overclocked.

WinRAR

The MSI P45 Platinum did quite well at stock, it was only slightly beaten by the Asus P5Q there - however it did not fare as well when overclocked.

HDTach

Again, the MSI P45 Platinum does well at stock, and not so well overclocked - however the difference is minor.

LAME MP3

The MSI P45 Platinum performed very well at MP3 encoding at stock speed, and pretty decently when overclocked.

TMPGEnc

Again, the MSI P45 Platinum does well at stock, and decently when overclocked.

Call of Duty

The MSI P45 Platinum does not do well at all for Call of Duty - either at stock speed or when overclocked. I have no idea why.

Commanche 4

On the other hand, the MSI P45 Platinum took top spots for Comanche at both stock and overclocked settings.

Doom 3

The MSI P45 Platinum did quite well for Doom 3 at stock and overclocked settings - second from the top in both cases.

Quake 4

Ummm.... yuck. The MSI P45 Platinum did not fare well at Quake 4 at all.

 

Halo

Once again, the MSI P45 Platinum mystifies us - it turns in top stock and overclocked results for Halo.

Jedi Knight

The MSI P45 Platinum does okay but not great here.

UT4K

And the MSI P45 Platinum does quite well for UT.

Sandra CPU

The MSI P45 Platinum does very well at the Sandra CPU test; it takes top spot for stock results, and second best overclocked result where it is only beaten by an X48 DDR3 board that overclocked 95MHz higher.

Sandra Bandwidth

The Sandra memory bandwidth for the MSI P45 Platinum is mediocre.

Sandra Latency

The latency is poor for the MSI P45 Platinum.

RightMark Read

Rightmark read performance is mediocre for the MSI P45 Platinum.

RightMark Write

And the write performance is also mediocre.

RightMark Latency

The latency here was a bit better than average for the MSI P45 Platinum - but nothing to write home about.

RightMark Bandwidth

The bandwidth was good at stock, and underwhelming when overclocked for the MSI P45 Platinum.

 

Overclocking

Overclocking the MSI P45 Platinum was a pain in the posterior.

Everything was fine until I tried to go over 450MHz FSB. It then became intensely painful, as most attempts would result in the board not posting - and even worse yet, not recovering, requiring that I clear the CMOS pretty much after every attempt.

I did find a newer BIOS on the MSI site, however the Windows based update utility does not find it, and the BIOS file is too large to fit on a floppy. This would not be a problem if the hard drive was formatted as a FAT drive, however our test drive is an NTFS drive; thus I have not yet been able to load the newer BIOS.

MSI really needs to add a BIOS based flash utility that can re-flash from a USB stick. Most XP and Vista installs use NTFS, so its not reasonable to require a FAT formatted hard drive and a boot floppy to re-flash when the on-line utility does not work with beta BIOS's.

A year ago, I'd have been amazed at a board that would run stably at 450x9 - however I've gotten spoiled by boards that can run stably with a 500-515MHz FSB (albeit with a lower multiplier).

I also find that there is something amiss with the memory performance - and by now I have to conclude that it is something to do with the P45 chipset's memory controller as I had similar memory performance issues with the Asus P5Q Deluxe that I recently reviewed.

Power Consumption

As you can see the MSI P45 Platinum idles at 90W at 3.16GHz, and goes all the way to 166W when loaded at 4.05GHz.

Conclusion

The MSI P45 Platinum is a fine board for most users - it is certainly choke full of features, and is overall a decent overclocker.

But I feel that the P45 Platinum desperately needs a BIOS update to allow it to overclock better, and increase the memory performance, in order to truly to capture enthusiasts hearts. I found it strange that I could not reliably run the memory at 1000-4-4-4-12 once I exceeded a certain processor speed; and I found it very worrisome that the readings from the H/W Monitor showed the processor Vcore being higher than I set it in the Cell menu.

If you don't need to tweak the last HZ out of your setup, an E8400 and an MSI P45 Platinum combined with a good cooler such as the Noctua 12 would probably let you run at 9x450MHz without too much difficulty - as long as you had some good memory that ran at 900-4-4-4-12.

With a good BIOS update, this board could easily become an enthusiasts' favorite - however even now it is quite a decent board.

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