P67 $190 Part 2: MSI, ASRock and ECS

Our first look at $190 P67 boards started with ASUS and Gigabyte. Within hours of posting the review, I was commandeered by several other companies to look at their $190 motherboards. This is still one of the best selling P67 price points, even with Z68 around the corner. Here, we look at the MSI P67A-GD65, the ASRock P67 Extreme6 and the ECS P67H2-A2, and come up with some interesting results.

Does P67 Have A Future?

P67 has received a lot of criticism since its inception. With all the Sandy Bridge CPUs containing an integrated GPU in the form of Intel’s HD graphics, we’d expect each chipset to have some form of graphical output. But for some reason, it wasn’t included in P67—this may be part of Intel’s divine strategy of separating different features in different chipsets, or that Z68, the successor to P67 which will include video outputs, just wasn’t ready. With the lack of access to the iGPU, we also lose access to QuickSync, and end up with silicon real-estate we can’t use. One other sticking point was that Cougar Point does not natively support USB 3.0, whereas it seems that AMD will for their next generation of chipsets.

We expect Z68 to command a premium, this much is certain. With the recent news regarding NVIDIA bringing Optimus to desktops, and we’ve known Virtu will also be available for a little while now, we can expect lower 2D power usage, as well as use of QuickSync. Both the CPU and iGPU can be overclocked, which will also mean that manufacturers will have to put more testing into CPU power delivery, leading to higher board cost. So where does this leave P67, exactly? A lower priced alternative to overclocker the CPU while using discrete GPUs?

Let’s not forget the Intel recall of all Cougar Point chipsets with the mild manufacturing issue. P67 is painted with the stigma of this issue, and the only way to ensure a B3 stepping of the PCH is to buy a board with B3 in the name, or from a reputable retailer that would have replaced all their stock. Z68 isn’t scarred with this issue, adding more credence to P67 potentially disappearing.

So here I am, ranting about P67 and Z68. Why should we review these P67 boards if they might disappear? The importance of future sales of P67 will depend exactly on the price premium over Z68. It could be argued that P67 is to be squeezed out of the market, and the rest of the P67 product will be sold with discounts, but it’s currently here, and people are still buying, wanting the best deal, and it may still stay with us for a long while yet.

With that in mind, today we’re looking at three P67 boards, all initially released around the $190 price point (though some have changed since). First is the MSI P67A-GD65 ($180) offering more bells and whistles than a county fair. Then the ASRock P67 Extreme6 ($210), which is the model above the P67 Extreme4, which we liked very much in terms of price/performance/add-ons—it will be interesting to see what has changed between the two models. Finally we test the ECS P67H2-A2 ($195), offering simplicity and functionality. Let the games begin!

MSI P67A-GD65: Overview and Visual Inspection
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  • S0me1X - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    Can you shed some light as to exactly what this does? There is talk of its effects but not what it is actually doing. Reply
  • IanCutress - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    Intel haven't released this information in an easy to read format, as far as I can tell - speculation is rife that it's to do with boosting the frequency signal to the CPU just that it's easier to distinguish between high and low states when you have a high overclock (PLL stands for 'Phase Lock Loop'). The downside of enabling this feature (and is a known problem) is that there are issues coming back from Sleep states.

    All the best,
    Ian
    Reply
  • GTVic - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    A Phase Locked Loop is designed to keep something on frequency, counteracting external forces which would otherwise cause a frequency drift. I believe the voltage levels on the CPU are controlled by the frequency of the Pulse Width Modulation so I'm guessing that this "Internal PLL Overvoltage" circuit allows the CPU to auto-manage the voltage levels required at various levels of overclock. If it needs more voltage, it gets more. As opposed to a table of preset voltage levels for various overclock frequencies which would not be optimal for all CPU chips in all environments. Reply
  • bf71090 - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    I don't think you were clear with the warranty information for the Asrock. As far as I can tell any p67/h67 board you buy today until June 30th will automatically have a 2 year warranty. Reply
  • IanCutress - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    I just double checked with ASRock, and all high end motherboards are two years warranty (with ASRock), while other motherboards come with a one year warranty.

    All the best,
    Ian
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Monday, May 16, 2011 - link

    Must clarify - it's other ASRock boards that have the one year. Reply
  • H8ff0000 - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    Can you guys please review the P67 Sabertooth? I'd like to know where you guys think it stands in relation to these. Reply
  • nightmare9920 - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    I just double checked with ASRock, and all high end motherboards are two years warranty (with ASRock), while other motherboards come with a one year warranty.

    All the best,
    Ian


    It depends on the region, in europe the standard warranty is 2 years with 3 years on some of the high end boards. I believe in NA it is 1 year as standard and 2 on the high end boards.
    Reply
  • Arbie - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    A feature important to me is fan headers and controls. I want to know how many headers there are, what electrical type (3-pin or 4-pin), and what the BIOS will actually do with them (manually set speed, or have it control on thermal inputs).

    This kind of info is often hard to find - sometimes impossible without buying the board. So getting this from someone who has actually used the board would be ideal.

    However, reviewers usually give fan controls short shrift, possibly because they are not putting the boards in cases. And I realize that, especially on a multi-board roundup, you can't go into such detail on each one. So - where it's available - maybe you could include a link to the mobo user's manual.

    Thx
    Arbie
    Reply
  • michaelheath - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    I appreciate the review, however I think tech writers are sensationalizing the 'fiasco that was Cougar Point' a bit too much. Yeah, it kinda sucked for the early adopters (and I say that with full sympathy, having been there before myself). For a person who's patient and waited for all the kinks and bugs to be ironed out, the fact that there was a release, a recall, and then a re-release may not weigh on their mind at all when making a purchasing decision. Personally, I'm waiting to see what Z68 does and then pulling the trigger, and I'll gladly buy a P67 board if it's the better option. Reply

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