WHAT DO YOU do as a motherboard manufacturer when you have to come up with a flagship product that is unlike anything your competitors have? Well, in the case of MSI you create the Big Bang Marshal, a monster of a board that features no less than eight x16 PCI Express slots in an XL-ATX form factor.
The first and most obvious question is how MSI managed to get enough bandwidth for eight x16 PCI Express slots and the simple answer is, they didn’t. The more complex answer is that the board has four slots with x16 bandwidth and if you want to use all eight slots, they operate at x8 bandwidth. This is still way more bandwidth than the Sandy Bridge processors offer and MSI didn’t use a pair of nF200 chips either, instead the Big Bang Marshal uses a new Lucid Hydra chip that we sadly don’t have any specific details on at this moment, but from what we understood, this time around we’re talking about a bridge chip rather than a solution that allows for mix and match graphics cards to work in tandem.
It’s not hard to see that MSI has tried its best to create something out of the ordinary with the Big Bang Marshal and so far it’s one of the most impressive P67 boards we’ve seen in terms of features. One thing that caught our attention was four dip switches at the front of the board which are labelled PCI-E CeaseFire. Each switch corresponds to one of the four x16 PCI Express slots and allows the slots to be manually switched off. This is meant to be a feature that some overclockers have requested for when they’re using multiple graphics cards in a board. As for the blue block of four dip switches, it’s referred to as a V-switch and has something to do with Voltage adjustments.
The Big Bang Marshl features a 24 phase DrMOS PWM design and some of the components have been moved to the rear of the PCB, a very unusual solution on a large motherboard such as this. In addition to the regular 8-pin 12V connector, MSI has added a second 8-pin 12V connector and a 6-pin 12V connector near the PCI Express slots. The power regulation components across the board appears to be way over spec and in a way it’s a shame that this is a P67 board as we can’t really see all the extra hardware being taken advantage of in the same way as it would’ve been on say an X58 board. There are even a few potentiometers spread around the board indicating some kind of manual control over at least some of the power regulation circuitry.
As far as other features are concerned, you’re looking at four SATA 3Gbps ports, four SATA 6Gbps ports (two via a Marvell 9128 controller), no less than three BIOS chips with a manual switch, two USB 3.0 pin headers for four ports, three USB 2.0 pin headers for six ports, a POST80 debug LED display, a FireWire header, a serial port header and a few pin headers we’re not quite sure what they’re for, as well as a power, reset and OC Genie buttons and a multimeter measurement point.
Around the back the Big Bang Marshal has a PS/2 port, two USB 2.0 ports, eight USB 3.0 ports (using a single host controller and two hubs), two USB 2.0/eSATA combo ports, a FireWire port, a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports and 7.1-channel audio with optical and coaxial S/PDIF out. We presume the little button is a CMOS reset button, but we couldn’t make out any labelling, so it’s possibly for something else.
Be aware that this isn’t the final board design, so some changes might still take place before this board launches sometime in the middle of Q1 next year, but if anything we’d expect more rather than less features on the final board. We asked about the PLX bridge chip located just below the chipset heatsink, but didn’t get a definite answer as to what it was for, as an example of features that might change. The board will feature MSI’s ClickBIOS which is MSI speak for UEFI and MSI will also provide software X-Fi audio and a range of other software features. If it’s not obvious by now, the Big Bang Marshal isn’t for your average user, but we can see MSI stealing a few customers away from Asus and Gigabyte simply based on the number of features on offer here. No word on pricing as yet though, but we’d expect this to be one of the most expensive P67 boards.S|A
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