MSI Big Bang Fuzion P55 motherboard
MSI has quite a few innovative and well-designed products to their credit, and the MSI Big Bang Fuzion P55 motherboard is one of them.
The claim to fame of the MSI Big Bang Fuzion is its ability to run graphics cards from opposing camps (NVidia and AMD) in parallel using its “Hydra Engine”. Apart from that, it is a nice motherboard targeted at the higher mid-range segment considering all the extras contained within the box. It supports the LGA1156 socket which means all mainstream Intel Core i5/i7 processors.
- Feature packed, Hydra Engine has potential
- No USB 3.0, no SLI support, no SATA III
Lucid Hydra is an exciting technology to play around with, and hopefully future updates make it more useful. On the whole, the MSI Big Bang Fuzion is a well-featured motherboard for PC hardware enthusiasts. The inclusion of SLI support, USB 3.0 ports, and SATA 6Gbps ports would have been nice.
MSI Big Bang Fuzion: Design and Features
Despite the full-ATX form factor, and a great layout the MSI Big Bang Fuzion board still feels chock-full. This is unlike most full-ATX motherboards, which feel large and spacious, but this is not a negative thing. The Big Bang Fuzion just has so much to offer that it could not have been any other way. The board is coloured black, with dashes of blue seen on certain heatsinks and slots. The thermals are not a problem at all with heatsinks placed in all the right places, and heatpipes connecting them.
The heatsinks bunched around the processor socket may hinder installation of a few high-end after-market coolers though. Components like solid capacitor ferrite core chokes used on the Fuzion are nice for durability (lives longer) and stability (reliability improves with no inexplicable crashes).
As we saw with MSI’s P55-GD80 motherboard, there are a number of LED activity indicators. A small LED is located near the processor, to display the number of power phases currently in use, where 8 is the maximum number. MSI offers a so-called “Easy Button 2” touch panel which is useful for enthusiasts who would like to switch their system on/off without having to short pins on the board. This panel is located at the bottom-right, consisting of three electro-magnetic touch-sensitive buttons – green power, reset, and power on/off. It might sound like fantasy and amazingly different from what you’re used to, but there is no physical button! Additional buttons on the motherboard are the “Clear CMOS” and “OC Genie” for overclockers.
The storage sub-system is well taken care of by 10 SATA ports that support RAID modes, one PATA (also called IDE) port on the board and 2 eSATA ports at the backpanel. Since the Intel P55 chipset does not natively support SATA 6Gbps and there aren’t many hard drives supporting this standard just yet, the absence of next-gen SATA 6Gbps may not be a problem. Four of those SATA ports are provided using two JMicron JMB322 controllers. The 4 dual-channel RAM slots allow for upto 16GB of memory, at speeds of upto 2133 MHz.
The back panel is populated with the following input/output ports – 8 USB, two PS/2, two Gigabit Ethernet (LAN), two eSATA, one FireWire (IEEE1394) port and a connector for plugging in MSI’s “OC Dashboard” (more about this later). Headers are present for adding an additional FireWire port, 4 USB ports, and for powering 4 system fans. A separate PCI-Express x1 card is provided for audio. It is not a dedicated sound card though, it is just an application layer add-on.
The motherboard’s integrated Realtek 889 chipset still handles sound, although it is enhanced by Creative with a software layer. The so-called “Quantum Wave” audio card supports THX and EAX audio, offers 6 audio output ports for 7.1 channel HD audio, and two S/PDIF sockets (one analog and one digital). This card will occupy one of the two PCI-E x1 expansion slots. The other PCI-E x1 slot becomes unusable if you use a dual-slot graphics card so you are left only with the two normal PCI slots for any expansion cards.
The layout of the motherboard’s ports is well thought out. Even if you were to use all three PCI-Express graphics slots, with high-end graphic cards that are wider and longer than the usual ones, at least one PCI slot still remains usable. All the storage ports remain accessible, and don’t get hidden under the graphics cards. This has been achieved because one PATA port and 6 of the SATA ports are angled to the side.
The package contents of the MSI Big Bang Fuzion clearly marks out the premium, enthusiast class to which it belongs. There is a lot of documentation to address various special features of the board, including pictorial representations that will help you overclock and setup X-mode Hydra graphics in a jiffy. In addition to a quick guide for the motherboard itself, documentation provided includes a quick installation guide, Fuzion user guide, OC Genie manual, WINKI user guide, Control Center user guide, HDD backup user guide, OC Dashboard user guide, OverClocking guide, Hydra quick guide, and a solitary paper with the Hydra Graphics Card Combination Table.
Three discs are bundled – drivers for the Quantum Wave sound card and Lucid Hydra 200 chip, and one as the motherboard chipset’s drivers and utilities. Brackets are provided for installation of additional ports at the back, including one USB bracket (2 ports) and one eSATA bracket (provides two eSATA and one molex power connector). So called “V-check” cables are provided to help test voltage if you have a power meter. A lot of cables are bundled, including 7 SATA cables, 1 PATA cable, and 2 Molex-to-SATA power cables.
The “OC Dashboard” supplied by MSI also performs functions that used to be provided by their D-LED bracket (POST error codes). This “dashboard” is a small device about the size of an external memory card reader, with two buttons and has a single-line display that can be used for various purposes including overclocking and system diagnostics. It connects to the Fuzion’s backpanel using a 14-pin connector cable and is powered by a mini-USB cable bundled with it. With this motherboard you can over-clock (run your computer beyond its rated speed) your processor in three ways – the OC Genie, the buttons on the OC Dashboard, and the old hardcore method of puttering with the “Core Cell” menu within the BIOS. The BIOS is great for tweakers, and the extensive hardware overrides for voltages to various system parts allow for coaxing every last bit of performance out of them.
Those who do not want to run their components beyond the rated spec can just use the defaults, though that would be a shame on such a mobo like the Fuzion. This motherboard is based on the P55 chipset so it will automatically use the TurboBoost feature on supported Core i5/i7 processors. When not all cores are being utilized, TurboBoost will disable half of them on the fly, and the remaining cores will run at a higher speed - when an app wants more cores, TurboBoost will set the processor back to normal.
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