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Although there are three USB 2.0 headers on the motherboard, there are no USB expansion card brackets provided to take advantage of them. This seems particularly strange as a Firewire bracket is included in the box but it only houses a single Firewire port - leaving ample room to fit a couple of USB ports. It's not too much of a problem, though, as there are already six USB ports housed on the back panel already.
Aside from the two PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, all legacy connections have been removed from the back panel. In their stead are an extra two USB ports and pair of eSATA ports. Along with these you get a full set of six 3.5mm jack sockets to provide analogue audio I/O and an optical SDPIF output is available to pass audio processing onto an external device. There's also one Firewire port and a single Gigabit Ethernet port rounding out the connection options.
Looking at the BIOS, there are all the usual options there with plenty of adjustments for overclocking. For those new to overclocking, MSI has its own D.O.T overclocking utility that will automatically increase your system speed up to a maximum of 20 per cent. You can apply it to both PCI-Express and CPU separately. If you want to do things manually there are options for manipulating the FSB, PCI-E Frequency, CPU Multiplier, and memory timings as well as their corresponding voltages. FSB maxes out at 500MHz which should be enough for all but the most avid of overclockers.
To test performance we used our usual set of components, namely an Intel QX6800 quad-core CPU coupled with 2GB of Corsair CMX1024-6400C3 running at 800MHz with latency settings of 3-4-3-9. We ran our usual set of 2D tests, which consist of automating some everyday tasks in a single and multi-tasking environment and timing how long they take to complete, you can find a full explanation of each task here.
It's pretty obvious that P35 brings little to the table, in terms of performance, over P965 and the choice really comes down to features. This is slightly disappointing but not wholly unexpected and the new chipset still has enough going for it to be the obvious choice over a P965 based board.
P35 brings many new features to the table, though many of them we have yet to see the benefit of - DDR3 and TurboMemory, and gives as good performance as it's predecessor. So, as long as boards aren't priced above their P965 counterparts - which at the moment they aren't - then they're the obvious choice.
As for the particular MSI board I'm looking at today, the only fault I can find is with the meagre bundle but, for the price, that's forgivable. The board looks good, has a decent layout, passively cooled chipset, plenty of overclocking options, rock solid stability, and adequate performance. You can't really ask for much more.