The board is very neat with a passive cooling system that is called a Split Thermal System. It consists of a tiny low profile cooler on the Southbridge that is linked to the hefty Northbridge cooler with a pair of heatpipes. The ‘Split’ refers to the fact that these two coolers are separate from the cooler on the power regulation hardware. We have become used to a string of heatpipes that link every cooler in sight but MSI has used its DrMOS Pulse Width Modulation hardware to increase the efficiency of the power regulation system and hence to reduce the amount of waste heat. The Northbridge of X58 is actually inherently cool in operation, anyway, as it doesn’t contain a memory controller. It’s really only the Southbridge that needs help because of its location between the two graphics slots.
If you feel the need for extra cooling there are five fan headers in addition to the CPU fan which is at least three more than most of us are ever likely to use. Connecting your power supply and storage drives is a cinch thanks to the orientation and location of the connectors on the edge of the board.
At the foot of the board there are illuminated micro buttons for Power and Reset and next to them is a small red block with three white dipswitches that you can just about see in the photo. This is the Hardware Overclock CPU clock Switch, which is a dreadful name for what is actually quite a cool gadget. It sets the base clock to 133MHz, 166MHz, or 200MHz, to give a quick route to overclocking.
MSI has included a number of handy features in the BIOS including a switch to disable the many bright LEDs on the board. This sounds trivial but it is a blessing to be able to use the LEDs to check that everything is working properly during set-up and then simply switch them off.
Overclockers get a helping hand as the settings you choose only take effect once the BIOS has started so if Windows should fail to start you can re-enter the BIOS to fix the problem. Again, it’s a simple thing but it’s very welcome.
MSI has introduced a new feature called M-Flash that adds a new dimension to the process of updating the BIOS when using a hard drive or USB key as the source for the BIOS file. You can also use M-Flash to boot a second BIOS from a USB key or hard drive to try it out before you permanently install the update. In effect this is the same as the Gigabyte dual BIOS feature without the need for a second BIOS chip on the board.