MSI X58 PRO-E Motherboard Review
We take a look at another offering from MSI. Think of this one as a budget oriented X58 board that's pretty much all business. It brings SLI and CrossfireX support to a more mainstream price point. The board's packaging sports a "Gaming Series" logo on it which is a telltale sign of who they are targeting with this product.
Those who have been enjoying this hobby or have been working in this industry for some time have certainly become familiar with MSI. They've been in the business for quite a few years and let's be honest. Not all their offerings over the years have been stellar. Some of them have been far from it actually. However in the last year or so MSI has really stepped up and brought their "A" game to market.
We've been very impressed with their more recent offerings. Personally I've had no reservations about recommending them to anyone. Like everyone else MSI has several offerings in various price points. The board we are looking at today is the X58 PRO-E. Think of it as a budget oriented X58 board that's all business. It brings SLI and CrossFireX support to a more mainstream price point. The board's packaging sports a "Gaming Series" logo on it which is a telltale sign of who they are targeting with this product.
The X58 PRO-E is sort of a "low end" X58 offering of sorts. We don't have an endless sea of phases or as many features with marketing buzzwords attached to them as we've seen with other boards. Think of it as a no nonsense type of X58 board with a little of this and a little of that. Sadly we don't have any USB 3.0 or SATA 6G support. In fact this board is pretty much run of the mill without the big expense. It is currently selling for $160 after MIR with Free Shipping. A heck of a nice price for an X58 motherboard.
Like some of MSI's more recent budget offerings the X58 PRO-E uses a 4+1 phase power design. It is a far cry from higher end boards sporting 24 or even 32 phases. Though as I've said before quality beats quantity every time. Frankly I've seen overclocking results that are just as good or nearly as good from so called budget offerings. So don't let the lack of phases fool you into thinking this isn't a solid board. In power saving mode the board can actually operate on a single power phase and do so with complete stability. It uses active phase switching to keep the "wear and tear" equal on each phase. By doing this the amount of heat buildup is reduced and supposedly prolongs the life of the hardware.
Despite being a more budget oriented offering, the MSI X58 PRO-E does sport a solid feature set. It features 7 SATA ports, eSATA, IEEE1394 support, 12 USB ports, SLI and Crossfire support, 6 DIMM slots, and even legacy IDE support. Following industry trends, the MSI X58 PRO-E requires very few additional components to create a complete system. The required components are: LGA1366 CPU, DDR 3 memory, power supply, drives, and a video card. MSI integrated the following features into the design; 7 SATA 3G ports, (all but one of which is provided by the ICH10R south bridge), 1 eSATA port (via the JMB363 controller), 1 EIDE port, 12 USB 2.0 ports, 1 IEEE1394a port, 1 RJ-45 port supporting 10/100/1000 Megabit speeds, standard PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, six mini-stereo jacks and one optical out port.
Main Specifications Overview:
Detailed Specifications Overview:
The packaging is pretty standard fair these days. The board arrived intact and free of damage. The included accessories are: user guide, driver disk, installation guide, HDD backup guide, SATA port cables, IDE cable, 2 SATA data cables, I/O shield, Crossfire bridge and one SLI bridge. Last but not least are the included "M-Connectors" which we've seen before on other boards.
The layout of the X58 PRO-E is solid. There are no stand out problem areas that I can think of. All the power connectors, I/O ports, slots, and switches are well placed. The boards actual model number is MS-7522. Version 3.1 was what our board's PCB was marked with.
Thanks to the near minimalist design of the X58 PRO-E, the CPU area is very clean. You should be able to install nearly any cooling hardware you like without any difficulty.
Like many X58 chipset based boards, the X58 PRO-E has six DDR3 DIMM slots for a total memory capacity of 24GB. They are properly color coded to denote triple channel or dual channel mode operations. Plenty of space has been left to allow the installation and even removal of memory modules with the video card installed.
The X58 chipset is a conventional north bridge and south bridge combination. The north bridge is cooled with heat pipe based cooler. Unfortunately I think MSI fumbled the ball with this thing. On my open air test bench the heat sink was too hot to touch. The heat pipe going to the south bridge was large to say the least, but it didn't seem to be particularly effective. Heading into the overclocking for the board I didn't expect much as the south bridge temperatures were the highest I've ever seen on any X58 chipset based board. The ambient room temperatures for my work area were also below the norm for most homes at about 70F or less. I'd hate to see this thing tucked away inside a case.
The south bridge is cooled by a tiny and flat heat sink. It is connected via heat pipe to the north bridge cooler. Fortunately most of the ridiculous heat built up by the north bridge doesn't seem to transfer well to the south bridge. The south bridge controls the six primary SATA ports which are directly in front of it. Additionally it supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1 5, and JBOD spanning.
The expansion slot configuration of the X58 PRO-E is really quite good. Though it does have the ever common flaw of the top most PCI-Express x1 slot being utterly worthless for nearly any card you can imagine using. (Editor's note: I have to disagree with Dan on this point. Most of the x1 cards I see are very small and MSI has left the slot moved to the side of the Northbridge heatsink, so I think it will be just fine in a real world usage scenario.) That's about it for complaints. As you can see the board has three PCI-Express x16 slots, two of which operate at x16 speeds while the third is strictly an x4 slot. There are two PCI-Express x1 slots, one of which is useless as I said before and finally there are two legacy PCI slots.
The I/O panel has your standard PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, optical out port, six USB ports, one RJ-45 port, and six mini-stereo jacks for audio. All in all it is a clean setup. I would have liked to have seen a clear CMOS button here, but at this price point, it's rarely done.
MSI Included the "Overclocking Center" with the X58 PRO-E. The application is broken into two categories. System Information and D.O.T. Under System Information we have three tabs, motherboard, memory and PCI. The motherboard tab basically shows board model and manufacturer data, serial number, BIOS information and processor information. It does also show VGA information. The memory tab shows you total installed memory, memory usage, and SPID information. the PCI tab basically shows PCI device addresses and vendor IDs.
Switching over to D.O.T. which stands for Dynamic Overclocking Technology, we have a basic and an advanced mode. Essentially the basic mode has 5 default overclocking profiles. You simply toggle between them with a single click. The advanced mode actually gives you manual control of these profiles and allows you to save and load custom profiles.