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MSI P6N SLI Platinum MSI P6N SLI Platinum: The 650i chipset from NVIDIA shares a lot in common with the 680i, so we see how MSI's iteration stacks up.
Date: May 4, 2007
Manufacturer:
Written By:
Price:

As much as I would love to say I always buy the best, the flagship products, the most expensive, that simply isn't the case. Would I like to? Oh yeah, surely I would. But I'm not rich, I do have a family and other considerations besides PC parts which means I can't always have the most expensive.

Luckily that doesn't always mean I can't have the best, or at least something nearly as good as the best. A lot of manufacturers cater for the likes of me with products that are more middle of the range, but often these products are almost as good as the high end products, and depending on the end application, most of us won't notice the difference if there is one.

NVIDIA chipsets come in a few flavours, the 680i being the top end, but if you want to save some cash then you can look at the 650i chipset. is based on the 650i and not only will it save you some cash over a 680i product, it also attempts to let you have your cake and eat it. Does it succeed? Let's find out.

Specifications

Form factor
ATX
Chipset
NVIDIA® nForce 650i SLI (C55) Chipset
CPU
LGA775 - supports FSB 533MHz, 800MHz, 1066MHz & 1333MHz* (FSB 1333 requires FSB 1333 CPU and manual FSB adjustment in the BIOS)
FSB

1333/1066/800/533

BIOS
Phoenix BIOS
Memory
4 DDR2 (240-pin) DIMMS / Max 8GB / Dual Channel capable (ECC or non-ECC)
PCIe
2 – x16 (PCIe x8 in SLI mode) / 2 – x1 / 3 - PCI
NIC
Supports 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Realtek® RTL8211BL
IDE
430i - 2x IDE (ATA133/100/66) / 4x SATA-II (NV RAID 0/1/5/0+1/JBOD) / 1x eSATA
Audio
Realtek ALC888 HD 8-Channel CODEC Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing Compliant with Azalia 1.0 spec
Ports USB 2.0 (4 rear, 2x2 headers) / IEEE-1394 (1 rear, 1 header) / E-SATA / PS2 (2) / S/PDIF (Fiber and Copper) / D-Bracket 2 pinheader / 1 parallel port supports SPP/EPP/ECP mode / 1 Serial port (COM 1, supported by pin-out) / 1 CD-in pinheader / 1 floppy port
Misc

Supoprts EIST techonology / Supoprts Intel 05B/05A and 04B/04A processors / Supports Intel Dual Core Technology to 1066MHz and up


The NVIDIA® nForce 650i SLI (C55) Chipset

The 650i chipset is aimed at the more budget orientated end user, however the has taken advantage of all it has to offer and more. Of note is that the supports the upcoming 1333MHz CPU's from Intel, however you do have to 'overclock' the board to run at this FSB as it won't currently do so by default. While many boards on the market offer twin NIC's, the 650i supports only a single port. It does offer FirstPacket Technology, so you can game while downloading (on paper at least). SLI mode is achieved by twin PCIe x16 slots, however during SLI mode, the 16 lanes are split to offer 8 lanes for each slot.

 

The box for the MSI P6N SLI Platinum is black with the usual MSI product placement around the box. A spaceship adorns the front while a thumbed rundown of the features of the board sport the rear. Inside we find the motherboard itself, 3 red SATA cables, 2 Molex to SATA power adapters, 1 red rounded floppy cable, 1 red rounded IE cable, 1 SLI bridge with retention bracket, 1 Northbridge fan, a 6pin Firewire port PCI bracket, 2 USB 2.0 ports and LED Diagnostic array on a PCI bracket, a metal I/O Shield, Manual, Quick Start Guide and Driver CD. While this is a cheaper board, the Platinum badge does mean you get a quite robust contents package, although not up to the standards of a high end package; it's more than you would expect considering the price.

The motherboard itself is based on a black PCB with contrasting orange, green and yellow slots for other components. This is quite typical for MSI, and nothing has changed here with the 'theme' for the board. One thing that stands out right away is the use of a heatpipe cooling system for the PWM, Northbridge and Southbridge. An overall look at the board shows that this is a very well laid out motherboard, nothing too crowded, nothing too out of place or in an awkward position.

The board uses a 4 phase power cycle, and with the exception of the sound codec, the board also uses Conductive Polymer Aluminum Solid Capacitors throughout. The CPU socket is quite clear and I doubt you'll find any cooler a problem with this board. One thing of note though is that the heatpipe cooling does perform better when a cooler that blows over the cooling fins is installed (naturally). Of course, if you have water-cooling or some other cooling that doesn't blow over the heat pipes then you can use the supplied Northbridge fan, something you may find a necessity if you're overclocking.

The ram slots area features 4 slots, paired and different colours; green and orange. A nice touch here is that MSI have had the channels printed onto the motherboard itself. Channel A is green while Channel B is orange. You simply can't go wrong here any more (unless your the kind of person who also ignores safety labels). Also in this area is the yellow IDE ports and the 24 pin power port. While the board will power up with a 20pin PSU, you really should be using a 24pin for stability.

Moving down we get to the SATA ports. Coloured blue, there are 4 ports on offer here (RAID is supported), while a fifth port is available elsewhere on the board (more on this later). Also of note is the inclusion of a CMOS reset button. Using a jumper to clear CMOS is so 90's, a push button just makes things a lot easier. Lower still is the floppy port and headers for USB, power, reset, etc. The VIA chip you can see in the photo is for Firewire support.

The PCI slot area features 3 PCI slots, 2 SLI PCIe slots and a single 1x PCIe slot. During SLI mode, the 16x PCIe slots function in 8x mode. You can also see between the top most PCIe 16x and the first PCI slot, the SLI switch card. I'm not too fond of these; I'd prefer a switch or a BIOS option, but chances are you won't be altering this often and if it's cheaper I won't argue the matter.

Moving up we can see the Northbridge (SPP) cooler sporting the Platinum moniker. Also just to the left in the photo is the P8 power socket. When you first look at the board, 4 of the slots are covered over, indicating which 4 to use if your PSU doesn't have a P8 connector.

Moving to the rear I/O panel we find the traditional twin PS2 ports for keyboard and mouse, a parallel port, eSATA, Firewire and Coaxial SPDIF, 4 USB 2.0 slots, a Gigabit NIC and 5 analogue sound ports with an Optical SPDIF. Anyone who has need of a serial port, there is provision for one via pins on the motherboard. For sound, the P6N SLI Platinum uses the Realtek ALC888 codec, which while not quite up to the standards of the Creative X-Fi used on higher end MSI products, does have the benefit of arguably better driver support. It also has Dual Zone Audio capability. One thing that will please many, and it is something that MSI have been criticized for with other boards, is that the MIC function is of a sufficient sound level and has a boost function.

One really great feature, especially considering the price point, is the inclusion of an eSATA port on the rear. Coupled with the supplied cable, you can easily add a fifth external drive. Of course you will still need to figure out how to get power to your device, but most external SATA devices include their own power supply.

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