Introduction

MSI P55-GD65 Specifications

With Intel's launch of the P55 chipset based Core i7 and i5 processors, we knew it would not be long until we saw a slew of motherboards with the P55 chip. Today is the first full review of one of such board from MSI! Our first example is the P55-GD65, which is priced right smack in the middle of P55 motherboards. That should give you an early indication as to where this board stacks up as far as features and performance are concerned. In actuality, this motherboard has an incredible number of features, which we will touch on shortly.

The first thing that strikes you about the board is the black PCB with blue and silver accents. I really like this color scheme and the heat sink design; it's not too over the top but enough to keep it from being dull or boring.

Let's take a look at some of the specifications before we get into board layout and impressions.

MSI P55-GD65 Specifications

Bundle and Board Layout

MSI P55-GD65

The box for our MSI P55-GD65 clearly displays the model and a number of technologies it supports, like CrossFire and SLI.

MSI P55-GD65

Our bundle is pretty standard stuff. We have the user guide, a user guide to the included HDDBackup utility, a quick install guide, and the driver disk. Cables include SATA, molex to SATA power, IDE, and a floppy cable, aka the peripheral that will never die.

MSI P55-GD65

The P55-GD65 is a nice looking board. From this angle you see that the heatsinks are bulky but not tall, just what is needed to get the job done!

MSI P55-GD65

The area around the CPU socket is clear of obstruction; we were able to fit the monster Cooler Master V10 with no problem. You can spot the 8-pin CPU power connector just to the right of the smaller heat sink in this photo.

MSI P55-GD65
MSI P55-GD65

Here you can see the CPU Phases that MSI has installed on this board. All 6 have an LED that will light up when active. The LED's may be disabled in the BIOS should you so choose.

MSI P55-GD65

In this picture you can see the OC Genie and the Base Clock buttons. By activating the OC Genie button during startup, you can simply use these buttons to increase or decrease the base clock of your system on the fly. This is handy for trying new overclock settings within Windows without having to reboot all of the time!

MSI P55-GD65

Notice the right angle SATA ports; these are extremely handy if you have a long video card like the GTX 295.

MSI P55-GD65

To the left of the Legit Reviews watermark, you can see a small blue block. Each of the openings gives you access to measure the voltage of some of the system components, like the CPU and memory. Probing this with a multimeter, you can be sure about how much voltage is actually being applied.

MSI P55-GD65

This photo gives you an idea of the height of some of the board components. The small "MSi" heatsink is easily out of the way of any graphics card that I've seen. Overall I like the layout, though if we could get rid of that darned floppy connector, we could move the IDE connector over and clear out some room at the end of the video cards!

BIOS Configuration

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

This is the primary screen of the MSI P55-GD65 BIOS. It uses an AMI BIOS. Most of your time will be spent in the Cell Menu.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

This is the Hardware Health monitor menu. You can monitor various temperatures, voltages, and fan speeds here to be sure that your system is healthy before we get to overclocking.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

This is the Green Power menu. MSI has been working on lowering power consumption when the system isn't doing anything. Here you can enable and disable the Green Power options. If you don't plan to overclock you'll likely want to keep these enabled.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

Finally, we make it to the top of the Cell Menu. Here we can see a number of things, like current CPU, Memory, and QPI speeds. You can also set Turbo mode, EIST, multiplier, and Base clock here.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

This picture is further down the page of the Cell menu. Here you can see a number of voltage settings that can be changed.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

On the right, you can see the voltage range that can be set for the CPU. With up to 2.07v available, it has more than we'll ever need!

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

Here is the CPU VTT voltage range. Again, far more available than we'll ever need.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

Here are the two multipliers available in QPI. If you are shooting for 4GHz or higher you'll want to go with the 16, or just leave it on auto and the system does a great job of managing this for you.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

Here we can see the memory multipliers. With a 6x at the standard base clock of 133, we get 1600MHz. Just above the red highlighted area you can see the options to configure the memory timings. Memory-Z will show you the memory's SPD settings in case you've forgotten what your memory has a profile for.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

At the bottom in the highlighted area we have the memory voltage option. On the right you can see the range available. 2.4v is, once again, far more than most of us will ever use.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

Here is the memory timing menu that we mentioned above. Notice that this BIOS requires you to change the memory timings by the channel. You can see we are looking at channel 1 here; simply scrolling the menu down gets you to channel 2.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

This is the memory "SPD" that we mentioned above.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

Finally, we have the Overclocking Profile menu that is available from the first BIOS screen. Save your overclocks here so that you always have the settings available in case you are testing out different settings and need to get back to an overclock that is stable.

Test Setup

MSI P55-GD65

 

Intel Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

Intel Core i7 860

Motherboard

MSI P55-GD65

Memory

Kingston HyperX DDR3

Video Card

eVGA GeForce GTX 295

Hard Drive

Seagate 1.5TB

Cooling

Cooler Master V10

Power Supply

Corsair HX620

Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit

Our system was set up with a fresh install of Vista Ultimate 64 with SP1.

To ensure that we equal performance to the Gigabyte motherboard, we ran the CPU clocked to the same settings of 166x21 and memory at 1666MHz with 9-9-9-24 timings.

Test Results

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

The first difference that we can really measure in performance is memory bandwidth. Both Sandra and WinRAR indicate that MSI has slightly less aggressive sub timings in order to ensure system stability and compatibility. In day to day operations you would not notice this very slight difference in performance. Note that the Gigabyte board had the memory timings set to "Xtreme" in its sub menu which would give it this slight advantage.

I was very surprised to see that the render time in Cinebench was actually 1 second faster on the MSI P55-GD65.

In 3D Gaming performance, the two systems again perform identically.

Finally, in PC Mark Vantage, the MSI P55-GD65 trades blows with the Gigabyte P55-UD6 in the various tests, with neither really outperforming the other overall.

Overclocking and Power Consumption

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

Being a mid-range board price wise, which starts to encroach X58 board prices, we were very curious to see how well the MSI P55-GD65 overclocked. In the screen shot above, we pushed the Base Clock as high as we could without encountering any issues. We were able to run 205 Base Clock without any issues, and combined with a 21x multiplier of the i7 860, this affords plenty of speed for any 24/7 air cooling set up.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

Next we decided to see just how high we could push the memory and CPU speed with our board. With the Base Clock dialed back to 200, we ran an impressive 4.2GHz, with memory running at 2000MHz! Again, this is enough to push even the best 24/7 air cooling systems to, and likely past, their limits.

Power Consumption

For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Seasonic Power Angel. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers, we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running 3DMark Vantage.

MSI P55=GD65 Specifications

As you can see the MSI system consumed slightly less power at both idle and load. Keep in mind that our system is using a dual GPU graphics card and that the 860 is overclocked to 3.4GHz!

Conclusion

MSI P55-GD65

After our barrage of testing, the $159.99 MSI P55-GD65 came through with flying colors. Comparing it to a similar motherboard that costs nearly $100 more, the performance was nearly identical. The only place you would be able to tell a difference is running benchmarks, because in day to day performance it would seem identical.

Where the MSI P55-GD65 was what we would consider a solid overclocking motherboard, others may think the limits were too low. Honestly, unless you are spending upwards of $100 for CPU cooling, you are not going to see the benefits of a motherboard with extreme limits. I have no doubt that the memory overclocking results would improve if we were using our 2133MHz kit, but due to the heat spreaders' height, we were not able to use them with the Cooler Master V10.

The Intel Lynnfield CPU line is designed to bring the incredible performance of the Core i7 architecture to the mainstream and also offer great value. With that in mind, I feel that some of the more expensive P55 motherboards designed for overclocking are out of place. If I were suggesting parts for someone to build a system with, the MSI P55-GD65 would be on the short list of motherboards due to its great performance, excellent overclocking, and affordable price. Overall, I think it represents one of the best value motherboards on the market today, and fits the spirit of the Lynnfield CPU.

The P55-GD65 survived all of our testing, as well as our attempts at overclocking, with a hiccup. Failed overclocks were easily recovered by simply waiting for the system to try to boot with the settings we put in. After three tries, it simply reverted to known good settings (you can change this number as well). This was a refreshing change as recovering a failed overclock can be quite frustrating with some boards!

The onboard OC Genie is a nice touch for tinkering with an overclock without having to restart to get into the BIOS. The included voltage measuring points are very handy for checking the actual voltage supplied to the individual components.

All in all, this is a great motherboard for the price. Combined with a Core i5 750 CPU this would be a killer gaming system on a budget, and one that would reach 3.6GHz with very little effort.

Legit Reviews Value Award

 

Legit Bottom Line: The MSI P55-GD65 is a solid motherboard that offers users a full range of overclocking and tweaking options. It's an incredibly good board that still maintains the value that the Core i5 and i7 800 series CPU's shoots for.