Page 1 of 3
MSI P7N SLI Platinum
Nvidia's mainstream chipset is the base on MSI's mid-ranged offering. The price won't break the bank, but how does the performance look?
Today we'll be looking at the , featuring the Nvidia 750i chipset. This isn't Nvidia's high-end offering, but it also isn't forcing buyers into selling some organs to finance the purchase.
That isn't to say that the itself is a budget board. The product is clearly aimed at the mainstream consumer market who are serious gamers on a moderate budget. The Nvidia 750i is an Intel based board and readily supports 1333MHz FSB. The packaging is typical of MSI, featuring futuristic artwork in a normal sized box.
The Platinum series of MSI boards are one step under their top-of-the-line MSI Diamond products. It's been a long time since we've looked at one of those, but only thing you are really missing out on is the Creative X-Fi sound chip. Otherwise, the package contents are generally similar. For the MSI P7N SLI Platinum, what you'll get is a quick start guide, manual, driver CDs for XP and Vista, a rear IO shield and storage related cables.
As the name implies, the supports Nvidia's SLI, and thus the required connection for the video cards is part of the package. In the resealable bag, we have some custom "M-Connectors". What these connections will do is that you can install the internal case front IO to these connectors and place them right on to the motherboard itself. This makes the install, and if needed, reinstall much easier as it's quite a hassle sometimes trying to fish your fingers into this are and connect the wiring.
The MSI P7N SLI Platinum is a standard full sized ATX board. We haven't mentioned this lately, but we miss MSI's red boards they used to produce. The colour now, or technically, the absence of colour, is now black. It's laid out a little differently than some of the Intel chipset boards we've looked at recently, but for the most part it is well laid out. There are a couple areas of concern in terms of placement, but come into play only if you need to make component changes after installation. We'll point these areas out shortly.
The four memory banks are colour coded to visually assist the ram installation process, though at the same time a bit misleading. In our opinion, it would have made more sense to colour code the odd DIMM slots one colour and the even slots another. This will make it perfectly clear how to setup dual channel. System support is officially DDR2-800 and lower. The board supports a maximum of 8GB.
Just below the memory slots is the 24-pin ATX1 power connection. Some more low profile capacitors line around this area, but these should not interfere with installation of any other parts. There is one system fan header in this area next to the power connection. Another system and CPU fan connection is located near the edge of the motherboard, right next to DIMM1/2 to the upper right in the image above.
The memory slots run nearly flush with PCIE#1, which can make the changing of ram modules a bit tricky if you have a longer PCI Express video card in this slot. It isn't impossible to make changes, but another half centimeter would make life a bit easier.
At the center of the action is the Socket-T area. The low-profile capacitors and MOSFETS line the surrounding area, but should be a non-factor for heatsink installs. The area around the CPU is much like the MSI X48 motherboard we've looked at earlier and we don't anticipate any issues with most heatsink installations. Our Asetek Vapochill Micro cooler fit without any issues.
The Circu-Pipe cooling is an array of passive heatpipes that pass through key areas of heat. The design uses a high number of heat fins, arranged vertically which allows for larger coolers, and effectively cools the chipset and MOSFETs silently. Thus, for those of you looking for a HTPC or quiet PC application, this board can be a viable option.
Amongst the heat pipes, to the right of the main Circu-Pipe block is the JPWR2 connection. This is my preferred location since it's out of the way and should prevent the power cable from having to pass over the CPU cooler. It's also an improvement over MSI's first P35 board where it placed this connection between the heatpipes.
The MSI P7N SLI Platinum uses the Nvidia nForce 430i (MCP51) Chipset South Bridge which handles most of the storage and connectivity needs. Four SATA II connections are grouped together near the edge of the motherboard and are setup facing away from the board. The nice thing about this is it keeps SATA cables directed away from the board (SATA cables don't bend well), but if you have a small ATX case, it can be tricky working with these connections if you have drive bays aligned in this area. The chip supports 300MB/s transfer rates as well as RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 or JBOD.
The 430i also takes care of the IDE connections, which support IDE HDD/CD-ROM with PIO, Bus Master and Ultra DMA133/100/66 operation modes. There are two eSATA connections managed by the JMicron JMB363 chipset.
Moving on to the peripheral slots, there are three PCI Express graphics x16 which supports PCI Express 2.0. The mazarine slot PCI Express x16 slot (PCI_E1) supports PCIE 2.0 x 16 mode. The two light-blue PCI Express x 16 slots (PCI_E2 & PCI_E3) support PCI Express x8 mode only. There are two traditional PCI slots as well. The PCI Extender chip sadly uses up any space that could have been occupied with PCI Express x1 slots.
Near the edge of the motherboard is the Realtek ALC888 audio chip. The chip is Azalia 1.0 compliant and is a flexible 8-channel audio solution that is also jack sensing. This the board can detect which jack you plug a speaker or headphone into provided you install all the required sound software.
Rounding things out are the external inputs and outputs. From left to right we have; two PS/2 ports, FireWire, S/PDIF, two eSATA, CMOS reset, LAN, two USB, and the audio block. The CMOS reset is a nice feature as it lets you reset the CMOS without having to open up the case and do this the old fashion way.
The MSI P7N SLI Platinum uses the AMI BIOS which over the years has become quite the favorite around here. The menu is very intuitive, with each option opening a new page with further options for modification. Most of the items are straight forward, but there are a few areas of note.
The Advanced BIOS features page is the first place you would go to to configure the boot order and some of the basic chipset features. You can enable or disable the boot logo as well as choosing a quick boot or something more verbose.
All of your I/O needs are on the integrated peripherals page. No video options are here since a discreet card is needed, but audio, networking and storage are all handled here.