At first glance the MSI Big Bang Trinergy motherboard might not look that different than other MSI P55 offerings but as you'll see that is a very deceiving trait. A lot of what makes this motherboard great are lesser known performance features that we'll touch on as we go.
The LGA1156 socket is surrounded by a heatpipe based cooling system for the nForce 200 chip and MOSFETs. There are enough expansion slots for most any type of user (single GPU, many GPU) and more than adequate storage and connectivity options.
Looking at the expansion configuration first, you'll notice that there are three x16 PCIe 2.0 slots, all colored blue. That should be your first indication that this motherboard is doing something different, as most board have two slots of one color and a third as another color. Why the change? All three of these slots are at least running at x8 PCIe ready thanks to the addition of the nForce 200 chip and a PCIe splitter in order to support 3-Way SLI. Remember that the nForce 200 takes a single x16 PCIe connection and splits it into two separate x16 PCIe connections. One of those goes to the primary PCIe slot (top) that always runs at x16 speeds. The second channel from the nForce 200 gets split using another PCIe switch to second and third PCIe slots. If you have two GPUs installed (in the top and middle slots) they will both get full x16 bandwidth and if you have three cards (for 3-Way SLI or 3-Way CrossFireX) then the bottom two slots will run at x8 PCIe. That should be more than enough bandwidth for the graphics cards to properly accelerating your gaming experience.
This is really the only way to do 3-Way support for multiple GPUs on the Lynnfield platform today - remember than the PCIe is directly integrated into the processor itself, NOT the chipset, and it only offers 16 lanes of PCIe 2.0 support. The P55 chipset itself doesn't have enough bandwidth to really support a graphics card in a multi-GPU solution.
The rest of the slots include a top PCIe x1 slot that is used for the audio riser card, another PCIe x1 slot under the primary GPU slot and two legacy PCI slots.
Below the final PCIe slot (which I should note will NOT be accessible if you actually have a card installed here) you'll find some of the unique MSI features including the protected clear CMOS buttom (good idea there), the OC Genie button as well as headers for additional Firewire and USB connections. The OC Genie feature is something we were really impressed with when we first saw it on the P55-GD65 motherboard in October
; it is essentially a hardware-based automatic overclocking feature. Don't worry - we'll be taking another look at it on our overclocking section of this review.
There are a lot of storage options for users of the Trinergy motherboard starting with the 6 SATA 3G connections from the P55 chipset itself. There four more SATA connections provided by the JMicron JMB322, 2 eSATA connections (on the back plane) provided by the JMicron JMB362 and even a single IDE channel courtesy of another JMicron chip, the JMB363.
Interestingly, MSI has included a new feature on the board for power and reset buttons - they are touch / capacitive buttons rather than physical switches. They work just as you would expect them too; the advantage being that you should be able to access them even with a long graphics card installed in the third PCIe slot by reaching under the card housing. As for the Green Power, this is another feature meant to lower idle power consumption and S5 off state power - I don't think most consumers will care about it much though.
There are four DIMM slots that support DDR3 memory up to 2133 MHz in an overclocked profile. The V-Check Point remains from the previous P55 motherboards and allows you to use a voltmeter to easily check the voltages to hte CPU, memory and chipset.
The set of four switches there is actually for some quick and easy hardware overvolting (0.1v for the CPU for #1, for example) and it also increases the maximums in the BIOS as well.
The LGA1156 socket is surrounding by a strong array of power features including Hi-C capacitors that offer lower resistance and lower leakage than most other cap offerings used today.
This is an interesting addition: the LED indicator here will tell which phase of power the motherboard is currently in if you are interested in see how the Dr. MOS technology is functioning on your board during overclocking.
The secondary 8-pin ATX power connector is hidden up here along the back panel connections and the heatpipe.
Here you can see all of those JMicron controllers powering the storage options on the Trinergy motherboard and the heatsink that covers the P55 chipset and the PCIe bridge responsible for the secondary and tertiary PCIe x16 slots.
The external connections on the MSI Trinergy board include two legacy PS2 ports, 8 dedicated USB 2.0 ports, dual Gigabit Ethernet, a single Firewire port and a pair of USB-powered eSATA connections. There is also the connection for the MSI OC Dashboard display (seen here plugged in) that we'll detail on the coming pages. You will also notice there are not any audio connections as they are included in a riser card also detailed on the next page.