Last of all on the hardware side it’s time to check out the rear I/O connectivity. Let’s get the minor disappointment out of the way first: while keyboard PS2 ports can still be handy for bios testing, the mouse port should be permanently relegated to the halls of history along with the floppy connector.
Still, the rest of the connectivity is more than up to spec. For the onboard Realtek ALC889A audio there are co-axial and optical digital outputs, as well as the usual complement of six 3.5mm jacks for 7.1 surround sound. Sure, it’s not quite up to the 10-channel chip on the Asus Sabertooth 55i, but then how many people do you know with 9.1 sound systems?
There are seven standard USB ports and one combined USB/eSATA port, a six-pin FireWire output and the aforementioned highlight of dual Gigabit LAN ports. This is certainly enough to keep MSI in the game, though some manufacturers are now starting to offer dual eSATA connectors.
Moving onto the software and BIOS side of things, first-off we have Winki, MSI’s proprietary instant-on Linux-based OS. While the box claims the P55-GD65 board has this feature, after a quick scurry round the BIOS and a double check on MSI’s website it’s clear this isn’t the case. While not a great loss, it is a bit of a concern that the box doesn’t accurately reflect the contents.
As you would expect from an experienced motherboard manufacturer, the BIOS is logically laid out and easy to use. Menus of most interest will be H/W Monitor – which allows control over the CPU and system fans (for which there are two headers on the motherboard) and lets you monitor CPU and system temperatures and voltages – and the enigmatically-named Cell Menu. This gives you every important setting for overclocking, including adjustments for the BLCK, voltages, ratios, etc.
Finally we have M-Flash, which lets you update your BIOS or boot a second BIOS from a memory stick, and Overclocking Profile, which lets you save up to six profiles and set the OC Retry Count.
The most interesting software utility is undoubtedly Control Center, which is just what the name implies. Rather than the various applications with different functionality many other motherboard manufacturers supply (we’re looking at you here, Asus), MSI avoids the hassle and possible confusion by rolling it all into one.
Control Center is an easy and intuitive way of checking all the necessary information about your board, CPU and memory. More importantly though, it’s an excellent tool for software-overclocking. The Overclocking menu features a number of intelligent presets. “Cooling”, for example, will slightly underclock your PC to keep things running nice and cool, while “Game” increases a few settings to give you a small performance boost. Best of all, each of these presets can be altered or you can make new ones and save them to your hard drive.
With all these various ways of overclocking, how does the P55-GD65 actually fare when push comes to shove? Well, the answer to that question is a bit more complex than it should be.