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MSI X58 Platinum
The MSI X58 Platinum is an unusual motherboard as it is, in essence, a budget X58 motherboard for Core i7, which up until now has been something of an oxymoron. Of course the word 'budget' is a relative term and you'll still be forking out over £200 for this board but, considering many X58 alternatives are priced well above £300, it's a relative bargain.
At first glance the X58 Platinum looks more like a high end Core 2 motherboard. What gives the game away, though, is the six DDR3 slots that are a new feature to emerge thanks to Core i7's triple channel memory.
Two PCI Express 2.0 slots are present but they only support CrossFire and not SLI, which is probably the single biggest reason this board costs less than most. If you do have a yearning for, say, dual nVidia GTX 260 graphics you'll need to consider the MSI Eclipse SLI with its triple graphics slots and full support for CrossFire and SLI. MSI has gone the whole hog with the Eclipse+ which has four graphics slots and an nForce 200 PCI Express chip but we gather that particular model might not make it to the UK. There are of course other options from alternative manufacturers, including the Asus Rampage II Extreme.
It's harder to spot the other features on the X58 Platinum that indicate cost cutting but if you know where to look you can see the evidence. The audio is supplied by a Realtek ALC888 chip and has a full selection of mini jack connections as well as optical S/PDIF but no coaxial connection. In contrast, the Eclipse costs nearly £300 and comes with the Creative X-Fi Xtreme riser we've seen on a number of high end MSI motherboards in the past.
At the foot of the board there's an open area, inline with the two PCI slots, where there's a mysterious button labelled D-LED 2. This is for use with a D-LED 2 gadget that displays debug messages during POST - the button allows you to select which information is displayed as you have a choice of debug or system information. Unfortunately the D-LED 2 gadget is only supplied with Eclipse motherboards and not our X58 Platinum. Presumably it would work fine if you could get hold of the gadget by some other means but we doubt they will be readily available to buy. For the moment, then, it's just a pointless adornment.