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MSI Big Bang XPOWER Intel X58 motherboard review

The board really is a stunning looking design, with black and blue accented slots, it is also difficult to miss the six Gen2 PCIEx16 slots. There is passive cooling galore all over the PCB. The NEC USB 3.0 controller is called D720200f1 and there are a pair of Realtek RTL8111DL chips for LAN. There is also a VIA VT6315 1394 PCIE host controller onboard.

This impressive looking passive cooler keeps the ICH10R chipset operating within expected parameters and as you can see, there are eight sata ports, two of these are white and are SATA 6gbps ports. Next to the sata ports are plugs for the v-kit which means you can check voltages directly rather than just use software solutions. You can check CPU, VTTD, DDR, IOH and ICH voltages. Plug six is ground.

At the bottom right above there is an LED which will show post codes and explain any errors. There is also a little blue panel here with four movable switches, these allow the user to increase voltages across a range of components.

  • Switch one is for CPU voltage
  • Switch two is for QPI voltage
  • Switch three is for DRAM Voltage
  • Switch four is for IOH Voltage

The motherboard also is home to touch sensitive buttons. Central to these is the O.C. Genie button which, when pressed will cause it to light up and next time you start the board will automatically overclock your system. To the right of this button is a reset and power touch sensitive section and to the left are + and – keys which allow the user to change the base clock of the system while it is up and running during Windows. To the left of these is a pin out area for a Firewire bracket and a Trusted Platform Module.

As we mentioned earlier there are six PCI-e x16 expansion slots which offer various combinations of graphics card configurations. Obviously single card is supported but you can run 2x SLI, 3x SLI, Quad x Sli and Crossfire X. When you use two cards in SLI or Crossfire X the first and fourth PCI-e slots are used and they will both run in 16x bandwidth. Using all six means they will run in a x8, x4, x4, x8, x4, x4 configuration.

There is a single 6 pin power plug here which supplies additional power to the graphics cards, if you have one spare obviously from your PSU.

Beside the PCI-e x16 slots is a single PCI-e x1 slot which can be used to support the supplied Quantum Wave sound card.

On the panel there are five USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two e-Sata ports (one is a hybrid of E-SATA/USB 2.0), two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a firewire port, two PS/2 ports (keyboard and mouse). There is also a CMOS reset button and a plug for the MSI OC dashboard. Audio is supplied by the dedicated sound card.

This is a Quantum Wave audio processing unit which combines Creative EAX Advanced HD 5.0 with THX Trustudio PC. MSI say this delivers a quality level previous unheard on other motherboards. It is a 7:1 high definition card.

There are no capacitors around the 1366 socket because MSI are using Highly conductive capacitors (Hi-c Cap). These have a very long life span, rated to be eight times that of Solid Capacitors with improved thermal capabilities. To make matters even better the core of these are Tantalum based which is a stable, rare material.

MSI use Super Ferrite Chokes (SFC’s) which use a Ferrite core that is Super permeable – meaning they have a 30% higher capacity, higher overclocking potential and operate at 35c lower temperatures.

There is also an area next to the ram slots (video above) which is a series of LED’s showing the current level of power phase the CPU is taking. There are also LED’s for the QPI, DDR and IOH power phases.

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