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Nathan Edwards Jul 11, 2008

MSI P35 Combo Platinum

At A Glance

XB-70

Good performance for a pretty resonable price.

B-58

You can run DDR2 or DDR3, but is that really a big deal?

You can change CPU sockets, dump PCI, and jettison legacy ports all day long, but nothing, absolutely nothing, pisses people off like moving to a new type of RAM. Luckily, there’s a fallback: dual-format RAM motherboards such as MSI’s P35 Combo Platinum board.


The P35 Combo Platinum uses RAM cards to let it run either DDR2 or DDR3.

Based on Intel’s P35 chipset, the Combo Platinum will take up to four DDR2 modules or two DDR3 modules. But don’t think about running them simultaneously—it’s impossible. You’ll also have to run a pair of funky blank adapters to get the board running.

The Combo Platinum performed quite well (unlike most combo boards we’ve tested), with scores on par with or slightly better than those of the Intel and Gigabyte X48 DDR3 boards we reviewed in the July issue. Why? We run our DDR3 board tests with fairly relaxed RAM timings to eliminate stability issues. We’re certain that the X48 boards would be faster if we pushed the RAM timings a bit.

Now for the big question: How do the DDR2 and DDR3 modes compare? We tested the board at DDR2/800 and DDR3/1333 and saw DDR3 outperform DDR2 by about 4 percent in most benchmarks. That’s not bad. Overclocking, however, was only fair. We pushed our Core 2 Quad Q9300 from its stock 333MHz front-side bus to about 450MHz but couldn’t break the 500MHz mark, which we did easily with the Asus Striker Extreme II board (July 2008). That board, however, costs more than $300.

The Combo Platinum’s biggest downside is SATA placement. A large GPU, such as a GeForce 9800 GTX, will block two of the five ports. The mobo was also finicky with our DDR2 modules and would not hit DDR2/1066 speeds.

The real question you should ask yourself is if purchasing this board makes any sense. If you have a boatload of DDR2, you’re better off buying a DDR2-only P35 board. Are you really going to throw away your existing DDR2 RAM and buy DDR3 in 12 months? Probably not.

Still, we understand the appeal of the upgrade path, and warts aside, the board’s performance is certainly respectable.

Benchmarks

MSI P35 Combo (DDR3 Mode) MSI P35 Combo (DDR2 Mode)
Intel DX48BT2
PCMark 2005
8,729 8,826 8,432
3DMARK06 Overall 12,756 12,732 12,268
ScienceMark 2.0 Mem
6,291 6,110
6,550
Valve Particle Test (fps)
97 93 91
UT3 (fps) 117 110 104
FEAR (fps)
261 250 247
Quake 4 (fps)
177 172 174
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed consists of a Core 2 Quad Q9300, a GeForce 8800 GTX, a Western Digital Raptor 150, Windows XP Pro, and Corsair Dominator DDR2 and DDR3 RAM.
THE VERDICT

MSI P35 Combo Platinum

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