With the holiday season upon us, you've decided to treat yourself to a new PC. Good for you. ;-) With so many choices on the market, picking out components that don't break the bank, yet still offer great performance, can be a challenging task.
The consensus in the computer world is that Intel's Core
2 Duo series of processors deliver the best performance, for a reasonable price.
If you're going to be buying new parts now, you might as well go that route.
There's no sense in spending the same amount of money for something slower.
You'll need a good motherboard to go with that shiny pinless Core 2 Duo processor, and platforms based on the Intel P965 Express chipset offer some of the best value at the moment. A P965 Express board is not as pricey as an Intel 975X Express, or nVIDIA nForce 500-series, but it delivers a high level of performance and can run dual ATi Radeon videocards for CrossFire goodness.
Computer P965 Platinum motherboard is one
such candidate with a healthy dose of enthusiast friendly features to match. The MSI P965
Platinum utilizes the Intel P965 Express Northbridge and Intel ICH8R Southbridge
chipsets. It supports all Socket 775 processors that operate on a
1066/800/533MHz FSB. This includes the Intel Core 2 Duo/Extreme, Pentium 4/D/XE
and Celeron D to name just a few.
Standard equipment includes an Intel PCI Express based
Gigabit network card, IEEE 1394a, a Realtek 7.1 channel Intel Azalia High
Definition audio controller and an additional Serial ATA II/IDE RAID (0,1,0+1)
controller. There are seven 3GB/s SATA connections and one IDE channel.
Expansion is possible through a PCI Express x16 slot, one PCI Express Lite slot
(in yellow, PCI-E x4 transfer rates), two PCI Express x1 slots and two 32 bit
PCI slots for legacy devices. The Intel P965 Express chipset is compatible with
CrossFire technology, so you can run two
ATI videocards for dual rendering goodness; the only caveat being that the
second PCI Express x16 slot (in yellow) has just 4 PCI Express lanes available
to it, and two of those are shared with the boards' PCI Express x1 slots. The
two PCI Express x1 slots are disabled with the yellow PCI Express Lite slot is populated with a videocard.
With a retail price of $154
CDN ($135 US, £68 GBP) the MSI P965 Platinum motherboard offers a good set
of mainstream-to-performance features. The board accommodates a maximum of 8GB of DDR2 800/667/533 memory in a dual channel
configuration - more than enough for Microsoft Windows Vista to run
The MSI P965 Platinum is full size ATX motherboard at
305 x 245mm in size. The motherboard layout is quite good; the main 24 pin ATX
and floppy connectors are all located to the right of the DIMM slots which keeps
those cables out of the way, and the lone IDE along the very bottom edge. Of note at the rear I/O panel are four USB2.0 headers, six jack-sensing audio jacks, coaxial/optical audio outputs and a FireWire port. A USB and Firewire PCI bracket are also included, there is one additional Firewire header and three USB2.0 headers on the board itself.
If you plan on running a high end Intel Core 2
Duo system, you're advised to upgrade your power supply to something that's
ATX2.0 compatible and has an ESP12V connector. The MSI P965 Platinum will run on
supplies but older units are not designed to handle the power requirements
of modern machines. A compatible power supply is definitely required if you plan
on running a dual videocard setup. This Corsair HX620W PSU is a good example.
The MSI P965 Platinum motherboard is compatible with
ATi's CrossFire technology, that's why there are two physical PCI Express x16
slots on the motherboard, though only the primary slot
(in white) gets a full 16 PCI express lanes to itself. The
yellow PCI Express Lite slot has four lanes, two of which come from the two PCI
Express x1 slots when its in use according to MSI documentation.
nice that MSI place the two
PCI Express x16 slots far apart. Dual slot videocard coolers have
become standard gear, so cards to closely positioned create hot spots. With the P965 Platinum at least
you get some space for air to get in. The Intel P965 Express and
ICH8R chipsets get quite warm, but to keep noise at a minimum
large passive heatsinks are used. This motherboard will operate best with good internal system
The MSI P965 Platinum motherboard is equipped with a
JMicron 8361 Serial ATA II/IDE controller. Intel has done away with all IDE
channels in the ICH8R which seems a bit premature. In any case you have one IDE
channel available which will most likely be for the optical drives. Six of the boards' 3GB/s SATA II headers (purple) are
native to the ICH8R southbridge, and support RAID 0/1/10/5. The seventh SATA II header
(aqua), care of the JMicron chipset, supports RAID 0/1/JBOD with the lone IDE
The user manual is well done, providing novice users with enough guidance to make it through hardware installation. Everything is explained in an easy to understand language.
MSI colour coordinates the memory slots with green and orange colours to indicate memory channel (as in A or B), rather than which slots a pair of memory modules should occupy to enable dual channel memory support. With the MSI P965 Platinum, you must put the memory in different colour slots in order to enable dual channel memory support.
Dual CoreCell (dual for the two processors) is the fancy
name for MSI's IC which controls things such as dynamic overclocking and voltage
control, fan adjustment and temperature monitoring. Most enthusiast grade
motherboards come with a similar feature. CoreCell is an excellent tool for
novice enthusiasts who want to get into the world
but don't yet know where to start. Just be careful though because
CoreCell does offer values high enough to damage hardware if you're not
A quick look at what the Intel P965 Express chipset has to offer is