MSI readying first P55 board with onboard USB 3.0, SATA3

Throws in a PLX chip and borrows Gigabyte branding for good measure

OUT OF THE three big motherboard manufacturers, MSI has been the most reluctant to add onboard USB 3.0 and SATA3 support to its motherboards, but the company is now getting ready to launch its first product with both features and it looks like it will be an Intel P55 based motherboard.

We’re a little bit curious as to what Gigabyte will think about the fact that MSI calls its new board the P55A-GD65, as Gigabyte has used the P55A bit on all its USB 3.0 and SATA3 6Gbps enabled boards. We’d guess that you can’t copyright the letter A, but it could lead to some consumer confusion. As you can see from the picture below, MSI has made quite a few changes compared to its current P55-GD65 board when it comes to the layout, although this isn’t entirely surprising.

MSI has followed suite on Asus and added a PLX bridge chip which in theory should improve the performance of the USB 3.0 and SATA3 controllers, although we know that Gigabyte has a slightly different opinion in the matter. MSI is using the NEC/Renesas USB 3.0 controller and a Marvell SATA3 controller, though we’re not sure which model of the latter. MSI has also added a second Silicon Image SATA and IDE controller that adds two more SATA ports, of which one has been located at the rear of the board as an eSATA connector.

In terms of slots we’re looking at a pair of PCI Express x16 slots, of which the second one is only enabled when the board is set to operate in dual x8 mode, as well as a pair of x1 PCI Express slots and a pair of PCI slots. Other features include six SATA ports that belong to the P55 chipset for a total of nine internal SATA ports, three USB 2.0 headers, a FireWire header, MSI’s usual arrangement of touch sensitive buttons and MSI’s OC Genie button which is meant to make overclocking as easy as pressing a single button. The board uses a rather unusual 10 phase power regulation scheme built around MSI’s proprietary DrMOS.

Around the back you’ll find a pair of PS/2 ports, a clear CMOS button, six USB 2.0 ports of which one is a combo eSATA/USB port, two USB 3.0 ports, a FireWire port, Gigabit Ethernet and 7.1-channel audio jacks with both optical and coaxial S/PDIF out. The current P55-GD65 board features a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports and we’re not quite sure why MSI axed one, but we’d guess it has to do with a lack of PCI Express bandwidth.

Speaking of missing features, the P55A-GD65 also lacks SLI support, something you also get with the P55-GD65 and we’d guess MSI has left out SLI support to cover the additional cost of not only the USB 3.0 and SATA3 controllers, but also the PLX bridge chip. The new board also has a slightly more basic heatsink, as most of the power regulation circuitry is now not covered by a heatsink and this also means that there’s no heatpipe, but we doubt this makes the least bit of a difference in most cases.

MSI might be late to the USB 3.0 and SATA3 game, but better late than never as the saying goes. The biggest problem is that the retail price for this board appears to be quite high, although we’ve only managed to find some pre-order pricing in Euro. German retailer Alternate has the board listed for €169.90 which is roughly $227. The P55-G65 is listed at €30 or $40 less, so it’s like that MSI will continue to sell both models considering the differences between the two.S|A

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