MSI P965 Platinum (also known as MS-7238) is a socket LGA775 motherboard targeted to new Core 2 Duo family, as it is based on the new Intel P965 chipset. One of the main advantages of this new chipset is the unofficial support for DDR2-1066/PC2-8500 memories, feature present on this motherboard from MSI. Let’s see how this new motherboard from MSI performed against competitors from ASUS and Gigabyte.
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Figure 1: MSI P965 Platinum motherboard.
The first thing that immediately drew our attention is the use of a second x16 PCI Express slot. This second slot, which is yellow and called ”PCI Express Lite“ by MSI, works at x4 rate and its function is to allow the installation of a second video card in order to increase the number of independent video monitors you have on your system (with two video cards you can have up to four independent displays) or to increase the video performance, as MSI told us that this slot support ATI's CrossFire technology.
It is important to note that this PCI Express Lite slot is sharing the same PCI Express connections as the two x1 PCI Express slots available on this motherboard. So if you install a video card on this yellow x16 PCI Express slot the two x1 PCI Express slots are automatically disabled.
This motherboard also comes with a ”special“ PCI slot, which is orange, just like K9N Diamond. On our K9N Diamond review we said that MSI didn’t explain what is different about this slot. They corrected this on P965 Platinum manual: on MSI words, this slot has two ”master“ signals (we guess that this slot has two DEVSEL pins instead of one), allowing special two-in-one daughterboards manufactured by MSI to be installed there, like a wireless LAN and bluetooth combo card.
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Figure 2: Slots found on this motherboard.
This motherboard uses a passive cooling solution on its chipset and does not use any cooling solution on its voltage regulator transistors, as you can see in Figure 1.
On the memory side, MSI P965 Platinum has four DDR2-DIMM sockets, supporting up to 8 GB officially up to DDR2-667 or 4 GB if DDR2-800 memories are used. This motherboard supports also DDR2-1066/PC2-8500 memories (we installed four DDR2-1066 modules and they worked just fine at 1,066 MHz). On this motherboard sockets 1 and 2 are green and sockets 3 and 4 are orange, and you have to pay close attention, as MSI uses a different color scheme compared to other manufacturers. While on other motherboards you need to install memory modules on sockets that have the same color to enable dual channel, on this motherboard you need to install memory modules on sockets that have different colors in order to enable dual channel. So you need to install one module at a green socket and the other module on an orange socket.
On the storage side, this motherboard has a total of seven SATA-300 ports, six provided by the south bridge (ICH8R) and one provided by a JMicron JMB361 chip (see Figure 3). The ports controlled by the chipset support RAID (0, 1, 5 and 10). This is one of the main differences between this motherboard and its competitors: most of mainstream P965-based motherboards use ICH8 south bridge – which only provides four SATA-300 ports and does not support RAID –, not ICH8R.
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Figure 3: SATA ports.
It is very important to notice that the single ATA/133 port available on this motherboard is controlled by the JMicron chip, not by the chipset. This means that if you still have a parallel IDE optical drive it will only be recognized on Windows after you install the JMicron driver. The problem is that this driver comes on the motherboard CD-ROM, and you won’t be able to install it, as the system does not recognize your optical drive. You can download the driver from the net, however the driver for the on-board LAN port is also on the CD-ROM… The only option you have is to copy the JMicron driver from the CD to a floppy disk or a USB pen drive using another PC. This problem happens not only with this motherboard from MSI, but also with all other motherboards based on Intel P965 chipset we’ve seen to date. Of course if you have a SATA optical drive you won’t face this problem, if you install it on a port controlled by the south bridge chip, of course.