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MSI P45 Platinum - MSI P45 Platinum
The chipset cooling system was cool to the touch throughout our testing, which may be due in part to the new Circu-Pipe 2 design, though the change in chipset fabrication process from 90nm to 65nm probably helps, too. There's another element to the power/heat/cooling cycle as MSI has rejigged the power regulation hardware around the CPU socket. Its DrMOS system uses chips that combine three components in one to tidy up the appearance and layout of the board, while also claiming greater efficiency.
Meanwhile, the layout of the P45 Platinum, though generally very good, doesn't exhibit the build quality or premium feel for which we look. The Northbridge cooler is retained by a couple of screws where three or four would seem more appropriate, while the other coolers are secured with plastic pop-pins.
We did, however, like the wide spacing of the two graphics slots as you can be sure that even the largest graphics cards will have space for airflow, while locations of the USB ports on the I/O panel also make life easier. On the other hand the two rubber micro buttons for the Power and Reset aren't clearly labelled and are a touch fiddly, while the Clear CMOS button on the I/O panel is easy to hit in error.
In short, the major elements are all bang on the money, but there are a few minor details that cause annoyance.
Pricing is a bit vague as we only have an SRP for the MSI as it won't launch for another week or so, but provided it sells for the expected £130 it offers pretty good value for money given the pricing and features. And, were the price to fall any further than that, this board would probably be worthy of a recommendation.
This is the first P45 motherboard that we've reviewed and it is very promising. Given its similarities to the P35 chipset it's not a nailed purchase for those going with a single GPU configuration, but if you're planning on running ATi CrossFire graphics it offers superior performance at a reasonable price.