So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
MSI P35 Platinum
- Unique cooling system, Two eSATA ports with onboard power
- Dual and Single channel RAM performance anomalies
If you can ignore the anomalies we came across in our testing, the MSI P35 Platinum is a fair performer, but not the top of the class. It has some interesting design features and managed to overclock by a reasonable percentage with good stability. Unfortunately some odd inconsistencies make us worry whether this is the right choice.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
As well as offering Intel's latest P35 and ICH9R chipsets, and a pair of eSATA ports, the MSI P35 Platinum boasts one of the more inventive-looking cooling systems available on the market. Built to handle DDR2 memory modules, despite the P35 chipset's capability to also use DDR3, the MSI P35 platinum offers reasonable speeds, and some good overclocking options among its features. However, it doesn't quite perform as well as some other boards we've tested recently, such as the Gigabyte P35 DS4, and its BIOS features are fairly minimal.
The P35 chipset is Intel's latest, and offers support for the upcoming CPUs, codenamed Penryn, which will be built using a 45nm fabrication process and will use the faster 1333MHz front side bus (FSB). The P35 Platinum supports CPUs with a 1333MHz FSB, but it also supports CPUs and dual-channel RAM running at 1066MHz, 800MHz and 667MHz. Although buying a DDR2-based P35 board may seem like a waste of potential, it does offer the option to upgrade your CPU, without having to buy new RAM.
The board itself is reasonably manageable, but there isn't much space around the CPU heatsink and we found it a little tricky to mount the fan (if you don't correctly seat the heatsink on the CPU, the heat will invariably rise and the motherboard will clock down the CPU to maintain a safe idle temperature). We do have a niggle about the colour coded memory slots on this board, which aren't an indicator of dual-channel operation, like they are on current ASUS and Gigabyte boards we've seen. We were caught out by this and installed both modules in the same coloured slots, which turned out to be single-channel mode, according to the POST message. Funnily enough, the board performed faster in single-channel mode.
In our benchmark tests, the MSI P35 Platinum wasn't outstanding when compared to other P35 motherboards we've tested, but it still did well. Running with 1GB of Corsair 800MHz DDR2 RAM and a QX6700 2.6GHz Core 2 Extreme CPU, the board scored 95 in WorldBench 6. In our MP3 encoding tests, where we encode 53 minutes of WAV files to MP3 files using Cdex, the P35 Platinum took 102sec.
We tried overclocking the CPU to 3.3GHz, while leaving the RAM at its default speed of 800MHz. At this speed, the system became unstable, so we dropped the speed down to 3.2GHz while again maintaining the RAM at 800MHz. This remained stable, and we were able to complete a batch of tests without issues. In WorldBench 6, at the overclocked speed of 3.2GHz, the MSI P35 Platinum scored an impressive 108. The Cdex test completed in 88sec, a clear improvement.
As for cooling, the MSI Circu-Pipe copper heat-pipe array is something to marvel at. Not satisfied with a conventional design, MSI's heat-pipes manoeuvre from spot to spot in a rollercoaster-style loop-the-loop fashion. Specifically, two prominent loops on the north bridge extend noticeably above the RAM height. The loops create a longer pipe in the same space, forcing heat to travel further, while a series of tiny fins jut from the loops with the intent to dissipate heat.
The board's BIOS offers basic FSB speed and multiplier controls for unlocked CPUs, as well as automatic overclocking system that determines the systems clock speed according to load (called D.O.T).
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