MSI Big Bang Fuzion P55 motherboard
MSI has quite a few innovative and well-designed products to their credit, and the MSI Big Bang Fuzion P55 motherboard is one of them.
- Feature packed, Hydra Engine has potential
- No USB 3.0, no SLI support, no SATA III
Lucid Hydra is an exciting technology to play around with, and hopefully future updates make it more useful. On the whole, the MSI Big Bang Fuzion is a well-featured motherboard for PC hardware enthusiasts. The inclusion of SLI support, USB 3.0 ports, and SATA 6Gbps ports would have been nice.
MSI Big Bang Fuzion: Performance
All tests were run using an Intel Core i7 870 (2.93 GHz quad-core with HT) processor with the stock CPU cooler, Intel X25-M 80GB SSD, 2GB of DDR3 Kingston HyperX RAM, Radeon HD4870X2 graphics card, powered by a Tagan BZ-1300 PSU with Windows 7 Ultimate Edition. The board obtained a WorldBench 6 score of 129. It got 12,361 points in PC Mark Vantage, and 13,993 points in PC Mark 05. In the Multiprocessor rendering part of CineBench R10, it saw 14,264 CB-CPU points. In the game Crysis with settings of 1024x768, Ultra High and no anti-aliasing, it gave 58.2 fps (frames per second).
All the performance numbers seen above are good, and are normal scores in line with what is expected from the given system components of the test rig. Benchmarks for the memory and storage sub-systems returned normal numbers, proving these components of this motherboard are at least as good as other P55-based boards. You can get more information from the “Performance” tab of this review.
We managed to overclock to a stable 4.06 GHz on plain air-cooling, using the stock heatsink and fan of our processor. This was done using an open testbed in an AC room, so heat conditions within a cabinet are likely to be different, just as using a high-end after-market CPU cooler or liquid-cooling would be. While over-clocking, note that power consumption of a processor can shoot up by over 50 per cent beyond its normal TDP rating.
MSI Big Bang Fuzion: Lucid Hydra
A big USP of the MSI Fuzion, is its so-called “Hydra Engine”. This embedded Lucid Hydra 200 chip is supposed to be able to simultaneously support discreet graphics cards from competing camps (AMD and NVidia). In theory, this would make it easy for you to purchase two or three graphic cards from any vendor you choose and make all of them work together.
Using this controller allows MSI to provide three graphics card slots (PCI-Express), in a segment where two slots is the standard. Not only that, the slots even offer acceptable speed – one PCI-E x16, and two PCI-E x8 slots each, which translates to less of a bottleneck than motherboards from competitors. The 3 PCI-Express slots go through Hydra, so theoretically the Fuzion can scale up to 3 cards whenever the driver software is updated. Made by a company named Lucid, the Hydra software can be enabled/disabled right from your system tray. Its control panel is fairly simple as seen below. MSI Big Bang Fuzion: Lucid Hydra Control Panel
Hydra can operate in three modes – N, A, and X:
N Mode: Two GeForce 9000 or G200 series graphics cards.
This was initially what Lucid seems to have been working towards. It scales fairly acceptably. But why MSI did not include official support for full-blown Nvidia SLI in the Fuzion, we do not know.
A Mode: Two Radeon 4000 or 5000 series newer graphics cards.
A little pointless since the P55 already supports CrossFire for AMD cards. We were not satisfied by the scaling. Just putting two cards together with a CrossFireX (CFX) connector was a better option in the end, but that disables Hydra.
X Mode: A supported Radeon and GeForce card together.
This is the holy grail, sadly botched at present. By far the biggest feature that differentiates the MSI Fuzion from others, we shall have to suffice saying it had major issues in our tests – even while using the latest Lucid drivers and the few titles supported by Hydra X-Mode. Let us know (there is a Contact Us link at the bottom of this page) if you’d like to know the sordid details, which would run into many pages.
The fact that you have to rely on Lucid to update their driver to support the latest applications or games, is a downer for gaming enthusiasts. A lot of people want to play, and finish playing, a new game within a week or two of its release. If the driver needs time and is ready after that period, it is as good as pointless. This happens to be a problem faced by SLI/CFX gamers too, who need a game profile created by the vendor or a third-party. Multi-GPU support is complex, but Nvidia/AMD mitigate this to an extent, by the frequency of beta driver releases to support newly released games. Lucid on the other hand takes more time sometimes, possibly because of the sheer variety of environments they will have to cater to. Another hobbling factor, is that pairing a less powerful card with a better one, drags down the overall performance.
And then there are some concerns that owners of a high-end rig such as the Fuzion would have. You can use X-mode only in Windows 7. In Lucid Hydra X-Mode you cannot use PhysX or Nvidia Anti-Aliasing modes. In X-Mode you cannot access the proprietary control panel of the primary graphics card. Hydra does not support multi-GPU for DirectX 11 currently. Hydra does not support dual-GPU single-cards (such as the Radeon 4870X2, Radeon 5970 or GeForce GTX295). There is negligible CPU overhead. You can run Hydra only with supported AMD Catalyst or Nvidia ForceWare driver versions. The howlers that are actually technically sound but verge on the point of being ridiculous are the following instructions, quoted from MSI’s website for the Big Bang Fuzion motherboard:
• For HYDRA driver ver 1.3.105 we recommend you install NVIDIA graphic card to the first PCI-E X16 slot while running X mode.
• For HYDRA driver ver 1.5.106 we recommend you install ATI graphic card to the first PCI-E X16 slot while running X mode.
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GGG Evaluation Team
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