Introduction - Part 2

Intel P35 succeeds Intel P965 chipset, being targeted to mainstream motherboards. The difference between these two chipsets is the support for DDR3 memories and the new 1,333 MHz bus on P35. Please note that DDR3 support does not mean that all motherboards based on P35 accept DDR3 memories: since DDR2 and DDR3 sockets are different, is up to the manufacturer to decide which kind of memories the motherboard will accept. This is the case of P35 Platinum: it has only DDR2 sockets. We think this was a smart choice. DDR3 isn’t easily found yet, its performance gain is questionable and when the motherboard features both DDR2 and DDR3 sockets the maximum memory capacity is cut in half, plus you have only two memory sockets available, so in this case if you want to add more memory in the future you have to replace your old modules – i.e., there is no way to simply add two additional modules, meaning more cost (in this case, for example, if you have two 512 MB modules for a total of 1 GB and you want to have 2 GB total on your computer, you would need to buy two 1 GB modules and remove the old ones; you couldn’t simply add two 512 MB modules).

Another difference between P35 and P965 is the south bridge chip. Intel P965 uses ICH8 chip, while P35 uses the new ICH9 chip. The difference between the two is very small, with ICH9 supporting 12 USB 2.0 ports instead of 10. The ICH9R variant – which is used by P35 Platinum – supports RAID, six SATA-300 ports (the plain ICH9 support only four) and the new “Intel Turbo Memory” technology, codenamed Robson Technology, which is a disk cache technology using flash memories, available through the installation of a x1 PCI Express card. Click here to learn more about this technology.

Officially Intel P35 chipset supports DDR2 memories up to DDR2-800 and DDR3 memories up to DDR3-1066. However, just like it happens with Intel P965 chipset, P35 unofficially supports DDR2-1066. We had no trouble configuring your DDR2-1066 modules to run at 1,066 MHz on this motherboard.

This motherboard has four DDR2 sockets, supporting up to 8 GB total. On this motherboard sockets 1 and 2 are green and sockets 3 and 4 are orange. MSI has the bad habit of trying to be different as everybody else, and in order to enable dual channel you need to install your memory modules on sockets with different colors, not on sockets with the same color as it happens with all other motherboards.

On the storage side, this motherboard has a total of seven SATA-300 ports, six controlled by the ICH9R south bridge (supporting RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10) and one controlled by a Marvell 88SE6111 chip. This chip also controls a parallel ATA (ATA/133) port, since Intel P35 chipset does not support parallel IDE devices. Two of the SATA ports controlled by ICH9R are eSATA ports, which MSI soldered on the rear panel of the motherboard, which is simply great – they allow you to connect external hard disk drives and access them at their full speed.

This motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by the south bridge using one Realtek RTL8111S chip to make the physical layer interface. We think that the absence of a second Gigabit Ethernet port is the only thing that prevents us from classifying this motherboard as a high-end model.

This motherboard has 12 USB 2.0 ports (six soldered on the motherboard and six available through I/O brackets, which don’t come with the motherboard) and two FireWire ports controlled by VIA VT6308 chip (one soldered on the motherboard rear panel and another available through an I/O bracket that comes with the motherboard) – both FireWire ports use the standard “big” FireWire connector, not the miniature one.

The audio section from this motherboard provides 7.1 audio, produced by the south bridge chip with the aid of a Realtek ALC888T codec. This codec provides fair specs for the average user, with a 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its inputs and a 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its outputs. The maximum sampling rate of its inputs is of 96 kHz, while its outputs supports up to 192 kHz. While these specs are enough for the average user someone thinking of working professionally with analog audio editing and capturing should look for a motherboard with at least 95 dB SNR and 192 kHz sampling rate for its inputs.

Another very interesting of the “T” version of ALC888 codec is that it supports VoIP connections using a regular phone set. You need, however, an adapter – which doesn’t come with the motherboard – that is connected to the motherboard on a specific VoIP header (JSLIC1).

This motherboard has independent jacks for all analog inputs and outputs on the rear panel, so you can easily install a 5.1 or 7.1 analog speaker system without “killing” your line in and mic in jacks. It also provides an on-board optical SPDIF output, making it easy to connect your PC to your home theater receiver.
On the rear panel (Figure 5) you can find the PS/2 mouse and PS/2 keyboard connectors, one FireWire port, optical SPDIF output, six USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, two eSATA ports and analog audio inputs and outputs. As you can see this motherboard doesn’t have serial nor parallel ports, not even through I/O brackets.

MSI P35 PlatinumFigure 5: Motherboard rear connectors.

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.