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MSI's P965 Platinum and 975X Platinum motherboards


Your choice of alloys
— 12:00 AM on January 2, 2007

WHEN INTEL UNVEILED its P965 Express chipset at Computex, many were left wondering if any motherboard manufacturers would bother building boards based on the older 975X Express. The P965 was a newer design—one built on fancier 90nm process technology—and its ICH8-series south bridge chips offered a more advanced array of features than the 975X's year-old ICH7s. At the time, motherboard makers questioned whether they'd bother building 975X boards for enthusiasts, and they seemed to be leaning toward making high-end boards based on the P965.

Abandoning the 975X in favor of the newer, flashier P965 was a bold idea, but one that was ultimately sunk by the P965's lack of support for CrossFire multi-GPU configurations. However, ATI recently began supporting CrossFire on the P965, raising the question of whether there's much point to the 975X anymore. To find out, we've collected the P965 and 975X Platinum motherboards from MSI. Both boards support CrossFire and Intel's latest Core 2 processors, but the 975X Platinum costs about $20 more. The question is: why?


Board specs
The P965 Platinum and 975X Platinum really are very similar boards. However, we can spot a few key differences as we run down their respective spec sheets.

MSI P965 Platinum MSI 975X Platinum V.2
CPU supportLGA775-based Celeron, Pentium 4/D, Core 2 processorsLGA775-based Celeron, Pentium 4/D, Core 2 processors
North bridgeIntel P965Intel 975X
South bridgeIntel ICH8RIntel ICH7DH
InterconnectDMI (2GB/s)DMI (2GB/s)
Expansion slots2 PCI Express x16
2 PCI Express x1
2 32-bit/33MHz PCI
2 PCI Express x16
2 PCI Express x1
2 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory4 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 8 GB of DDR2-533/667/800 SDRAM
4 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 8 GB of DDR2-400/533/667/800 SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
1 channel ATA/133 via JMicron JMB361
6 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 support
1 channels Serial ATA via JMicron JMB361
Floppy disk
1 channel ATA/133
1 channel ATA/133 via JMicron JMB361
4 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 support
1 channels Serial ATA via JMicron JMB361
Audio8-channel HD audio via ICH8R and Realtek ALC883 codec8-channel HD audio via ICH7DH and Realtek ALC882M codec
Ports1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
1 serial
1 parallel
4
USB 2.0 with headers for 6 more
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Realtek RTL8111B

1 1394a Firewire via VIA VT6308 with headers for 1 more

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF output
1 coaxial digital S/PDIF output
1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
1 serial
1 parallel
4
USB 2.0 with headers for 4 more
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Intel 82573L

1 1394a Firewire via VIA VT6308P with headers for 1 more

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 coaxial digital S/PDIF output
BIOSAMIAward
Bus speedsFSB: 200-500MHz in 1MHz increments
PCI-E: 100-133MHz in 1MHz increments
DRAM: DDR2-533,667,800,709,886,1067
FSB: 266-550MHz in 1MHz increments
PCI-E: 100-120MHz in 1MHz increments
Bus dividersNAFSB:DRAM: 1:1,1:1.25,1:1.33,1:1.5,1:1.66,1:2
VoltagesCPU: +0.0125-0.7875V in 0.0125V increments
DDR: 1.75-2.5V in 0.05V increments
NB: 1.26-1.85V in 0.04V increments
CPU: 1.21-1.58V in 0.001V increments
DDR: 1.8-2.4V in 0.05V increments
PCIe: 1.55-1.8 in 0.05V increments
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed controlCPU, SYSCPU

Obviously, the two differ when it comes to their chipsets. I won't dwell on that point here, but you can learn more about how Intel's core logic stacks up in our Core 2 chipset comparison. The 975X Platinum is a little different from most of the 975X boards on the market, though. Instead of packing Intel's ICH7R south bridge, it's sporting an ICH7DH. The DH is essentially identical to the R, but with the addition of what Intel calls Quick Resume Technology, or QRT.

With the help of Intel's drivers, QRT enables a special Quick Resume state that attempts to mimic the instant power on/off response of consumer electronics equipment. Of course, QRT doesn't actually make your system boot or shut down any faster. Instead, the Quick Resume state halts video output, mutes audio output, and switches the monitor into a low-power state, leaving the rest of the system running as-is. So rather than actually shutting down, the system just plays dead—and not very well with all its fans spinning as if nothing had happened.

In addition to requiring support for QRT, Viiv certification has stringent standards for onboard audio. As a result, the 975X Platinum is equipped with Realtek's ALC882M codec, and there's a fancy Dolby Master Studio sticker on the box. The 965P has to make do with Realtek's value ALC883 codec, which has a lower signal-to-noise ratio than the ALC882M.