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MSI X58 Pro
A few weeks ago I referred to the MSI X58 Platinum as a budget X58 motherboard thanks to a price around the £225 mark. That makes it tricky to hang a tag on the MSI X58 Pro as it is priced a full £50 below the Platinum so we're going to have to come up with a new rating system. Hmm, perhaps we need a supermarket theme with the high end MSI X58 Eclipse as Waitrose, the X58 Platinum is Tesco and this Pro model might be Lidl.
Grab your trolley and let's go for a tour of the aisles.
The specification of the Pro includes the essentials however it's not exactly generous with the ports and connectors. There are dual PCI Express 2.0 graphics slots that support CrossFireX with a third, long PCI Express slot that only has four lanes of bandwidth. We'll come back to graphics support later as we have something interesting to report in the meantim. In addition there are two PCI Express x1 slots and two regular PCI slots so you should have no trouble adding any expansion card that you choose.
Things are a bit less rosy on the I/O panel as there are two legacy PS/2 ports, an optical audio TosLink connector, six USB 2.0 ports, one Firewire, one eSATA, Gigabit Ethernet and six audio mini jacks. The stacks of ports are widely spaced so there is nothing to stop you using any port that you choose. Our concern is that six USB ports seems inadequate and there are no USB brackets in the package however there are headers for six more USB ports on the board. If you have case mounted USB ports you'll be fine but if not you may be struggling.
The layout of the X58 Pro is generally quite good with the main power connector located outboard of the six DDR3 memory slots and the eight pin EATX connector in the corner behind the PS/2 ports. The six SATA connectors and single ATA133 connector are laid down keeping them from interfering with long graphics cards and making it simple to hook up the cables to your storage drives. There is a single, solitary vertical SATA connector that stands just inboard of the ATA133 connector, where it may cause problems, but we think that six SATA ports will be sufficient for most people anyway.
At the foot of the board are three micro buttons for Power, Reset and Clear CMOS along with a block of dipswitches to control the hardware Base Clock setting feature.
There's one area where MSI has let the side down and that is in the fan headers department. The CPU fan header is correctly located but the three case fan headers are in lousy positions. Two of the connectors sit just above the main graphics slot but they are too close to the slot and are blocked by a mid-range graphics card such as a GeForce 8800 or Radeon HD 3850. To add to the problems the third fan header is blocked by any graphics card that you choose to install in the second graphics slot. We don't usually get too exercised by the number of fan headers on a motherboard, provided there are one or two available if you feel the need for a spot of extra cooling. The problem is that MSI has chosen to use a small passive cooler on the chipset and it gets surprisingly hot.