We've already looked at quite a few X48 motherboards, all due to arrive in the latter part of February. Those who are willing to spend a hefty sum are going to come out with some of the fastest systems ever seen to date. If this isn't you, don't worry as we've got a tip on the solution you've be looking for - MSI's most recently announced motherboard, the X48 Platinum. Targeted at the enthusiast audience that wants top performance without breaking the bank, this board brings with it all the goodness of Intel's latest X48 chipset with a price that is sure to delight. Although the board is certainly cheaper than the other X48 offerings we've looked at so far (at least, going by estimated MSRP), the X48 Platinum makes use of the more expensive DDR3 technology so in the end saving $100 on the board only to spend three times that much on memory makes price discussions rather pointless (at least until DDR3 becomes affordable).

We just managed to get our hands on Intel's brand new 45nm dual-core E8500 processor; unfortunately, this did not happen in time to include this beast in our early look at MSI X48 Platinum performance. Of course, "settling" for quad-core performance results when testing the board wasn't a difficult choice, but we know there are many out there that like to see what a motherboard can do when pushed to the limit with a high-clocking dual-core CPU. These results, including maximum FSB results for those of you that can't seem to live without this information, will be included in a follow-up review of our X48 collection prior to Intel's launch of this seemingly old but new chipset.

We also tried our hand at 4GB memory overclocking but ran into a couple of problems that prevented us from finishing all of our testing. At this time the X48 Platinum is much better at overclocking 2GB of memory, but there is no reason to think this won't change very soon. (We believe the problem is being created by a small discrepancy in a couple of bank-to-bank memory timings that can easily be corrected in the BIOS before release.)

If appearance is any indication of performance, we expect the X48 Platinum to do quite well when it comes to operating two or more ATI/AMD Radeon 3000-series graphics cards in CrossFire. Again, we have chosen to hold off reporting these results until we have had a chance to work with all of the major motherboard vendors. This way we can concentrate on bringing you an accelerated first-hand look at all of the products coming down the pipeline before we get into the specific details.

Both the Intel X48 Express chipset and NVIDIA's 790i release are just a few weeks away. It is quite probable that the decision on which platform to go with in the high-end market will rest entirely upon which multi-GPU solution ends up being better. On the other hand, if NVIDIA 790i fails to perform when it comes to overclocking 45nm quad-core CPUs then AMD/ATI could gain some traction in the multi-GPU arena in the first half of 2008, especially if CrossFire X drivers are ever released. We can't wait to see what NVIDIA has in store for us, but for now let's look at what MSI has managed to create using Intel's X48.

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  • taylormills - Monday, February 4, 2008 - link

    Hi all,

    Just a newbie question.

    Does this indicate that sound cards will be moving to PCI Express.

    Just curious because I have an older Board and am going to want to upgrade and I find it hard to fit a sound card around my twin 8800 boards. Due to them taking up the available slots.

    Any info ?
  • karthikrg - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    how many ppl are using even crossfire 2x let alone think about crossfire 4x? 4 pcie slots IMHO is overkill. hope amd at least delivers crossfire x drivers in time. else it'll all be an utter waste.
  • ninjit - Friday, February 1, 2008 - link

    At the beginning of the article you mention that this is a DDR3 board, yet in the specifications chart you have lines for:

    [quote] DDR2 Memory Dividers [/quote]


    [quote] Regular Unbuffered, non-ECC DDR2 Memory to 8GB total [/quote]
  • nubie - Friday, February 1, 2008 - link

    "many x16 devices are only capable of down-training to speeds of x4 or x8 and without this bridge chip the last x1 lane would be otherwise useless." This does interest me, I have had 3 nvidia cards (2x6600GT and 6200) running on a plain jane MSI neo4 OEM (Fujitsu Seimens bios), simply by cutting the ($25) 6200 down to a x1 connector and cutting the back out of one of the motherboard x1 slots to allow the 6600GT to fit physically.

    I thought that part of the PCIe standard was auto-negotiation, wouldn't any device NOT compatible with x1 be breaking the standard?


    I am very curious about this, as the PCIe technology doesn't seem to be getting as much use as it could(IE it is MUCH more flexible than it is given credit for). The PCIe scaling analysis at Tomshardware showed that an 8800GTS was still quite capable at x8, so on PCIe 2.0 a x4 slot could be used for gaming at acceptable resolutions! (I am fully aware that only the first 2 slots are PCIe 2.0)

    The new Radeon "X2" card with 4 outputs could fit in this motherboard 3 times over, that is 12 displays on 1 PC with off-the-shelf technology!! With the quad-core and 12 displays, 2 PCs at around ~$1,000-$3,000 apiece could service a whole classroom of kids using learning software, typing tutor programs, or browsing the web. Even with regular old 2 output video cards you could get 8 displays on a much cheaper rig with sub-$50 video cards. So I wouldn't say "the performance potential of such a setup is marginal", unless I was measuring performance in such meaningless terms as how many $xxx video cards I can jam in a PC to get xx% increase.
  • kjboughton - Friday, February 1, 2008 - link

    You are correct when you say that PCIe devices are capable of auto-negotiating their link speeds; however, not all devices will allow for negotiated speeds of only x1. This includes most video cards, which will allow themselves to train to x16, x8, and x4 speeds but not x1. They are flexible to the extent possible, but nowhere does the PCIe specification require that that all devices support all speeds...after all, cards that make use of an x8 mechanical interface are obviously incapable of x16 speeds, too...
  • smeister - Friday, February 1, 2008 - link

    What's with the memory reference voltage?
    On the specification page (pg 2)
    Memory Reference Voltage Auto, 0.90V ~ 1.25V

    It should be half the DDR3 memory voltage
    1.5V x 0.5 = 0.75V, so should be: Auto, 0.75V ~ 1.25V
  • kjboughton - Friday, February 1, 2008 - link

    If you want half of 1.50V then leave it on 'Auto'...regardless, the lowest manually selectable value is 0.90V.
  • DBissett - Thursday, January 31, 2008 - link

    I can't find it now, but a couple of days ago I found this X48 board listed on MSI's website along with an X48C which would take either DDR3 or DDR2. Would be great to be able to use it now with DDR2 and upgrade to DDR3 when the prices get sane and it becomes clear why DDR3 is better.

  • feraltoad - Thursday, January 31, 2008 - link

    almost always recommend replacing the thermal interface material (TIM)

    You state to replace teh TIM for the PWM and Chipset heatpipe coolers. I have a question regarding that. I have a IP35 pro, and I bought a new case. I thought now might be a good time to replace my pushpins with bolts, but I am hesitant about removing the thermal pad. I know that a direct contact to the heatpipe cooling system will result in better heat transfer, but I am afraid of shorting something out. Is it safe to have the cooler setting directly on the PWM? Does the pad also function as an insulator? I can live with a bit higher temps, but I can't live with killing my MOBO. Anyone's comments with some experience on this would be greatly appreciated.
  • ButterFlyEffect78 - Thursday, January 31, 2008 - link

    I get 9631mb/s on my Nvidia EVGA 680i chipset at only 750mhz ddr2 with 4-4-3-5 1T.

    And my brother who owns an Intel P35 Foxconn Mars board gets 9132mb/sec at 950mhz ddr2 with 5-5-5-18 2t.

    So what is the point on moving to ddr3 when it offers no performance gains in memory bandwidth even at a whopping 1600mhz. Is it just me who thinks Cas7 is wayyyy too high to even consider to push ddr3 to the market right now?

    I believe this is what only Intel wants so it can make AMD look old just like how they forced AMD a few years ago to make AM2 boards that only supported dd2.

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