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As expected from MSI, the BIOS is an AMI based BIOS with the usual blue DOS like environment (roll on UEFI!), laid out in the usual MSI manner.
The Standard CMOS Features allows you to set the basics such as Data and Time, base hard drive operation, system information and halt settings. Usually we would comment on this page being there and move on, but worth a mention is that the eSATA port is identified as a separate entity.
The Advanced BIOS Features page allows you to set the options for the full screen logo, BIOS protection, Numlock, etc. There are a few sub menus to let you set/see the CPU Features, Chipset Features, Boot Sequence and Trusted Computing settings.
Integrated Peripherals obviously controls the integrated hardware such as LAN and Audio, but also has the settings for the SATA/ RAID modes.
Power Management is pretty much standard. The GreenPower entry lets you turn on the GreenPower features (Auto/Off) and is Off by default. CPU, DDR and MCH phase control can be set to auto or an exact phase as you require.
The Cell Menu is where all the fun stuff happens and hasn't really changed much from previous boards. CPU and DRAM frequencies are displayed/controlled here and everything is nicely grouped. One nice touch is that the CPU FSB is displayed in both QDR and real numbers. Going into the sub-menu for memory, you can see the SPD and EPP information (if you have it) of each module you have in the system. I expected to see an entry above the D.O.T. Control labeled Multi-step OC Booster; A.K.A the RapidBoost feature. Completely absent.*
*see updated overclocking
Overall, it's pretty much the usual fair for an MSI BIOS, although the GreenPower is new. I find this style of BIOS more intuitive to navigate than the Award BIOS personally, and you won't likely get lost in here. We have seen much more options in other BIOS from other boards, but everything you should need is here, and the majority of it has an automatic setting. Like many boards today, you should be able to set up the basics, and jump straight into overclocking. Saving multiple settings profiles is possible too. One thing I didn't see is provision for flashing your BIOS, and with a UEFI image, it's obviously not going to fit on a floppy either. Personally, I've been happy using Windows software (I hear a collective gasp of horror from many of you) for flashing for a while now, but if you simply do not trust Windows flashing software, you could always make a .
Software and Audio
I freely admit, I dislike MSI's Dual / Core Center software. Generally I'll install it, look around to see if anything is new for review purposes, and then uninstall it. I'd probably be more inclined to make more of an effort with it if it didn't just warn me my CPU fan was at 0 constantly. As a watercooling user, I don't have a CPU fan and all my other system fans are powered by a separate controller.
But, for the MSI P45 Platinum, it provides access to the GreenPower interface, which I have to say is quite simple and easy on the eyes. Everything is in it's own place, and it's all very easy to understand. Voltages for everything can be controlled here, from the VTT FSB Voltage to the current CPU PWM Power Phase. You are even told the current systems power draw; at least I hope it's the systems. It's marked as CPU Using Power, but I'm pretty sure that my E6420 isn't using 216W. Actually, I think it's a case of the decimal point is in the wrong place, since I also don't have a 23kW PSU ... then again I don't have a 2300W PSU either ... It's an interesting bit of software, and if it wasn't tied to the Dual / Core Center and it's constant CPU siren, even with the errors above I would persevere and probably use it during desktop overclocking/underclocking and day to day use*. One other thing, I thought that when the software started, that it was disabled, so I of course hit the enable button which promptly disabled it. The problem is that the button marker is also the status indicator, so when it says Green Power Center Disable, it's enabled and you click disable to disable it. A little confusing.
*It turns out you can use GreenPower without DualCoreCenter, just go into the MSI directory and run it from the GreenPower directory/create a shortcut to it.
All these little issues do mean that the software comes across as very beta, which is a shame really. Hopefully it won't take MSI too long to sort it out. Perhaps an interface based on the Green Power interface could be used for the entire Dual / Core Center software, with tabs for the various sections.
MSI uses the Realtek ALC888 7.1 channel High-Definition audio codec for the P45 Platinum, which works well enough. There are certainly better options out there though, but for general sound output it works fine. Subjectively, unless you are listening on an expensive pair of headphones/speakers, you will find the sound OK but a little heavy on the mid range. If you are looking for something a little bit special, perhaps with Dolby/DTS features or even a basic card for HTPC use, then I'd start looking for a 3rd party card now. This is a Ford, not a Ferrari when it comes to sound.
Test Setup: Intel E6420 (2.13GHz), 2x 1024MB Patriot DDR2 PC2-6400, MSI 8600GT, Maxtor 500GB 16MB Cache HDD, Vista Home Premium SP1
For Comparison, the MSI P35 Platinum and the Asus Blitz Formula (P35) were used.
- We ran the memory bandwidth benchmark.
- A good indicator of CPU/Motherboard performance is version 4.2, by Xavier Gourdon. We used a computation of 10000000 digits of Pi, Chudnovsky method, 1024 K FFT, and no disk memory. Note that lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.
- CDex v170b2 was used to convert a 440.5MB Wav file to a 320kbs MP3. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.
DVD Shrink - We ripped the War of the Worlds bonus feature off the disk at 100% and compressed the file from the hard drive to 70%. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.
Auto-MKV – We converted the newly created VOB files from our War of the Worlds bonus feature to a 350MB MP4 and recorded the time taken.
- Photoshop is probably the defacto standard when it comes to photo editing tools. Given that it is so popular, we have incorporated DriverHeaven's latest test into our review process. Lower scores are better and time is in seconds.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars @ 640x480 and Crysis @ 800x600 at LQ Settings - While higher resolutions tax the video card, lower resolutions rely on CPU and subsystem speed. Higher scores are better. We used Guru3D's Crysis benchmark tool and a custom timedemo for ETQW.