The layout of the X48 Platinum and list of ports and connectors is identical to the X38 Diamond which is to say that it’s rather good. The funky Circu-pipe passive cooling system does a fine job and leaves plenty of space for the CPU cooler of your choice. The pack of M-Connectors speeds up your PC build and the fact that it seems to be an idea borrowed from Asus is neither here nor there. We were introduced to the TroubleShoot Poster on the X38 Diamond and immediately fell in love with this brilliant diagnostic display and are happy to see it on the X48.
There are two PCI Express 2.0 graphics slots connected to the Northbridge but MSI has added two more long PCI Express slots on a secondary controller chip that is located below the Southbridge. These slots each supply four lanes of PCI Express so it is questionable whether they will be up to the job of CrossFire X when the drivers are released in January. There are two blue slots and two yellow slots and MSI clearly realizes that you might need guidance to install your graphics card in the correct slot so the set-up sheet tells you to ‘Insert graphics card in mazarine PCI Express slot.’
Did you know that mazarine is a shade of blue? I had to look it up in the dictionary and it seems that it’s the colour of an exotic butterfly.
The new features in the X48 model, as mentioned, are support for a 1,600MHz front side bus along with support for DDR3-1600 memory compared to X38 which tops out at 1,333MHz in both cases. Well that’s the theory but Asus has already proved it can persuade a P35 to do the same job so there’s every chance that your existing motherboard can be updated to support a new processor without any need for either an X38 or an X48. When you consider the price of DDR3 memory it may turn out that the sensible course of action is a combination of P35 and DDR2 with a fast processor. Some of you power-hungry gamers want the latest hardware come what may so let’s take a look at the price. MSI gave us an estimated price for the X48 Platinum of £188 which is exactly the same as the X38 Diamond however you don’t get the Diamond extras which consist of a PCI Express X-Fi riser and a PCI Skype adapter.
You can buy an X-Fi Xtreme PCIe for £30 and the Skype doo hickey is worth a few quid so in essence you’re paying a premium of £30 or more for the X48 chipset just to add official support for 1,600MHz, which seems a bit steep.
What about performance? Good question. Both the X38 and X48 stonk along and deliver oodles of grunt. Our QX9650 Penryn overclocked from 3.00GHz to 3.51GHz with the minimum of effort however the QX9770 was less responsive and would only run at the standard clock speed of 3.2GHz. No doubt a BIOS revision or two will transform the overclockability of this processor but there’s a certain irony when you consider that the 1,600MHz feature is the only new part of X48 and as things stand it’s a bit of a token gesture.
MSI’s X48 Platinum adds supports for Intel’s new QX9770 processor that features a 1,600MHz front side bus. However with nothing else extra over the X38 Platinum, it’s demanding an eye-watering price for this small privilege. So the only reason to go for it would be the very illusive notion of future-proofing but we all know how pointless that pursuit is.