The MSI P6N SLI
Platinum motherboard is a good mainstream motherboard for part time
tweakers, full time gamers, or for anyone who wants a fully featured board
without too steep a price tag. The P6N SLI Platinum boasts a unique silent
chipset cooling system, an eSATA port for external hard drives to connect to,
and a full compliment of solid state capacitors. Even your friendly
neighbourhood PCSTATS techies have suffered at the hands of blown and
With a modest compliment
of accessories, and all the major must have's checked
off, we're mostly interested in seeing how the nVidia
nForce 650i SLI chipset handles. Follow along as PCSTATS asks the
question; is the P6N SLI Platingum going to be a good alternative to
expensive 680i SLI platforms? How will the 650i SLI overclock, run
games, and deal with office applications? All good questions for sure, so let's
with the workhorse nVidia nForce 650i SLI SPP and nVidia nForce 650i MCP
chipsets (nForce 430i according to MSI), the MSI
P6N SLI Platinum motherboard is compatible with all Socket 775 processors
on the market; Celeron D, Pentium 4/D/XE and Intel Core 2 Duo/Core
2 Quad. It supports processors that operate on a 1333*/1066/800/533MHz FSB (*when the higher
FSB processors are available), and accomodates up to 8GB of
memory in a dual channel configuration. The
bare minimum for Microsoft Windows Vista to run smoothly is 1GB, but PCSTATS
recommends starting off with at least 2GB RAM.
Standard equipment includes a PCI Express based Gigabit
network connection (Marvell 8056), two IEEE 1394a Firewire ports and a 7.1
channel High Definition Azalia certified audio controller. There are four 3GB/s
SATA channels in total (RAID 0/1/0+1/5 supported) and two IDE
channels. An additional eSATA port
at the rear of the board comes via a SIL3531 chipset.
Expansion is possible via two PCI Express x16 slots for graphics
cards (when running SLI, both PCI Express x16 slots get 8 lanes each),
while high bandwidth devices can be installed into a PCI Express x1 slot.
It is important to note that the second PCI Express x16 slot is only used for
a second graphics card running in SLI mode, according to MSI. There are three 32-bit
PCI slots for legacy devices. The MSI Dual CoreCell chipset adds onto all of this
with a few dedicated temperature monitoring capabilities, and assists
The nVidia nForce 650i
SLI chipset is compatible with nVidia's Scalable Link Interface (SLI) so you can run
two Geforce videocards for dual 3D game rendering. Since the 650i SLI isn't quite
as powerful as the 680i, the videocards are capped off at 8 PCI Express
lanes per card.With a retail price of $200
CDN ($171 US, £87 GBP) the MSI P6N SLI Platinum motherboard offers a good
set of mainstream-to-performance features.
|| MSI P6N SLI
Manual, Driver CD, Quick Installation Guide, Rounded Ultra/133
IDE Cable, Rounded Floppy Cable, 4x Serial ATA Cables, eSATA
Cable, 2x Molex to Serial ATA Power Cable, Northbridge Fan,
SLI Bridge, SLI Bridge Retention Bracket, USB Bracket, IEEE
Of note at the rear I/O panel are four USB2.0 headers,
six jack-sensing audio jacks, coaxial/optical audio outputs and one FireWire
port. There is one eSATA port here, though more than enough space for a
second. A set of USB and Firewire PCI brackets are included. There are three
USB2.0 headers waiting to be used, and one additional IEEE1394a header.
The motherboard layout is good on the whole, the
EPS 12V power connector is in a bit of tight spot but that's about it. A
physical CMOS reset button is a nice touch, and it certainly makes overclocking
this board a smoother process. Looking elsewhere, the main 24 pin ATX and two
IDE connectors are all located to the right of the DIMM slots which keeps those
cables out of the way. The lone FDD connector is right at the base of the board,
out of the way but difficult to reach when all the front panel connectors are
If you plan on running a high end Intel Core 2 Duo CPU
on this platform, we'd advise you to upgrade your power supply to an ATX2.0
compatible model with an ESP12V connector. The MSI P6N SLI Platinum will work
, but older units are not designed to
handle the power requirements of modern computers with multiple
videocards. A compatible power supply is definitely required if you plan on
running a dual videocard setup, one with at least 30A+ capacity on the 12V line
to be specific. This
Corsair HX620W PSU is a good option.
The user manual is well written, providing novice users
with enough guidance to make it through hardware installation. MSI also provide
a poster sized quick installation guide to get you started on the right path.
Solid Capacitors in place of the Electrolytic
Microstar Computer, the manufacturer of the P6N SLI
Platinum, has chosen to equip this motherboard entirely with solid state
capacitors as opposed to the electrolytic variety.
A few years back there
was a huge problem with motherboards that were suffering from
burst and leaking electrolytic capacitors . This
industry-wide event blossomed into a full blown epidemic, and almost single
handily dragged ABIT's name through the mud. The general consensus was that ABIT
boards were most affected at the time.
The MSI P6N SLI Platinum uses conductive polymer
aluminum solid capacitors of the kind pictured at left. These are the same type
of capacitors mostly found on videocards, or in the CPU's power supply
circuitry. The gist of the situation is that MSI have produced a motherboard
with only this kind of capacitor, because it improves overall stability of the
motherboard as the years roll by.
Being a solid-state device, the physical conditions
which caused poor quality electrolytic capacitors to burst after 3 years are a
non-issue. If you'd like to read up on the back story that led to the whole
problem of burst and leaking caps, have a look at thisPCSTATS article. It's actually a rather complicated
story of industrial espionage...
Next up, PCSTATS investigates MSI's totally silent
chipset cooling system on the P6N SLI Platinum...