MSI Big Bang P67 Marshal review
Posted by Hilbert Hagedoorn on: 02/02/2011 02:00 PM [ 0 comment(s) ]
Final words & conclusion
Well, there's no way of denying it, the Big Bang Marshal is a thing of beauty. The motherboard has been designed in such a fashion that everything possible to add, was included ... and then some more.
The features are grand, the options amazing. The board was spared no expense and chucked full with everything you can want or hope for with a Sandy bridge ready motherboard. The performance, well that's another story. Fact is that any sub 200 USD P67 motherboard with regular cooling (and do take note of the fact I say regular here) will get you the very same baseline performance as the Big Bang Marshal, overclocking wise it's all pretty much the same as well. So if you are planning only a mild overclock and can live with two to four USB 3.0, one Gbit NIC and six SATA ports, then that's the more logical path to follow money wise. Once you equip liquid cooling or anything more advanced from there on, there the Marshal will make a difference.
I'm deliberately including this bit as the Big Bang Marshal is quite expensive at 450 USD as MSRP (incl VAT). The reality is also that even at that price MSI probably is not making a lot of money on the product. The R&D and component usage on this thing are amazing, then add the large PCB, the extra features, the three NEC chips, the Hydra chip, two Realtek NIC ICs, the extra SATA controller, the USB 3.0 HUB IC, the OC Dashboard, the extra USB headers, the military class component selection, EFI (Click BIOS) BIOS... dude, the list just doesn't stop.
So while I can hardly justify you spending so much money on a motherboard, surely everybody can see as to why it is that expensive. And if money is not a big deal to you, yeah then this might be a worthwhile investment. Connectivity wise you are golden for the years to come, features wise it's the same.
The one negative has to be the inclusion of the Hydra chip, MSI preferred it over an NF200 controller(s), with a board like this you at the very least want 3-way SLI as an alternative right? Well, nope, 2-way SLI is supported and it ends there. Now the Hydra IC will allow you a 3/4-way multi-GPU setup as well, but really... Lucid Hydra sucks badly. It is the most sub-par solution you can opt as an ODM, yet they keep implementing it as hey... it's another feature on the box. That really has to stop as it's harming the Marshal more than it does good.
Another cruel pointer is the available PCIe bandwidth on the PCie slots, this board has eight PCie x16 slots, but four of them really function only as x1 slots while the other four share x32 available PCIe lanes, that does sit right at all. And that again it tracks back to the Hydra IC. My advise to the MSI R&D team for future boards, kick out the LT22102 IC and let Hydra die a slow death, implement NF200 chips and do it properly the next time. Hydra is nothing more than a questionable compromise and after a full year of nothing other then negative coverage from the media on it, ODM's please take this less than subtle hint... we-do-not-want-it.
Anyway, a minor point on an overall lovely product. Moving on to other features then, oh hey... the OC Genie button does its magic alright. When the PC is powered down, click the OC Genie button and your PC will be automatically be overclocked in merely seconds. The end result for this automated overclock was 4200 MHZ on the CPU. It's a very hassle free way of overclocking. In the end we personally prefer manually overclocking as you'll gain even more result, but that's kind of end-user's choice specific of course. We don't see you spending 450 USD and then not opting a manual overclock really.
Component usage is done military style, quality primary components that you'll spot throughout the board, three important elements fit into the new Military Class II including SFC, Hi-c CAP and Solid Capacitors.
The baseline performance is on par with the reference Intel motherboard, give or take a few random occurrences. However this reader base we presume will all get the K model processors and start to overclock, and that did not disappoint. With the reference Intel CPU cooler, 4.8 GHz is reached quite quickly without forfeiting on too much CPU voltage. The beauty is that we can leave all power saving features enabled thus in idle the CPU clocks down all the way to 1.6 GHz saving on energy.
For this review we used G.Skills RipjawsX DDR3 modules, which have a 2133 MHz rating. Next to the overclock we merely flicked the XMP switch in the BIOS and boom, that memory was running at 2133MHz at CAS7, delivering ridiculous amounts of impressive memory bandwidth. So as a tweaking capable motherboard the Marshal definitely is very striking. I have no doubt you'll tweak out every last bit of performance as the motherboard will certainly allow you to do exactly that.
So yeah let me simply round up, we can not easily justify 450 USD for any motherboard, then again every fiber in my body suggest that the Marshal is worth the investment. If you are in the interested in the quality build, extra features and simply an enthusiast to pro-overclocker class product then the Marshal might just be what the doctor ordered. But if you are an NVIDIA man and are planning more than 2-way SLI then you'll be royally screwed. I mean, the board is designed for extreme-overclocking, a little LN2 lovin and sure... a board which you'd like to break a record on with say GTX 580 3/4-way SLI right? And that's just not possible as you will be forced to pursue the Hydra route. That's the biggest beef I have with this motherboard. Goodness, can we just get rid of Hydra please?
Other then our remarks, this is a motherboard design at it's very best. A true piece of art, but it's not perfect.
Update: January 31 2011 Intel announced a recall on all series 67 chipsets due to a bug in the SATA2 controller. We were wondering wether or not we should post the article already, but we felt the chipset SATA2 issue does not have an effect in this review. It would be advised to wait a couple of weeks to purchase a P67 motherboard with the new updated P67 silicon. March/April 2011 would probably a good indication to look into a new motherboard purchase.
You can find more info on MSI P67 motherboards right here.
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