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ATX mobo includes USB 3.0 and SATA III

Jan 28, 2010 — by Jonathan Angel — from the LinuxDevices Archive
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MSI announced an ATX-format motherboard based on Intel's P55 chipset that supports LGA1156-socketed Core i3, i5, and i7 processors. The “P55-GD85” offers connections including USB 3.0, SATA II, SATA III ports, RAID , PCI Express, PCI, and FireWire, and offers a Linux-based fast-boot OS called “Winki.”

The P55-GD85 is sold as a basis for Windows computers, offering Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP drivers. However, the mobo can also boot into Winki, MSI's Linux-based fast-boot OS. Announced last March, Winki is now appearing in some MSI mobo designs in its 2.0 rev, available as a thumbdrive that plugs into an onboard USB pinheader. Winki provides access to Firefox web browsing, Skype calling, email, Pidgin-based IM, Flickr, and YouTube, and offers "ultra-fast booting speed and a multi-language interface," among other benefits, says the company.

While the P55-GD85 (below) accepts some of the embedded-specific, 32nm Core processors Intel announced earlier this month, it is obviously aimed at PC enthusiasts and gamers rather than embedded devices. The board is noteworthy, however, because of the many new technologies it embraces.


MSI's P55-GD85
(Click to enlarge)

For example, the P55-GD85 is one of the first few motherboards to support USB 3.0, which, at 5Gbps, is said to be ten times faster than USB 2.0. According to MSI, its board uses an NEC USB 3.0 controller, and we'd guess this to be the µPD720200 that was announced last May.


A block diagram of Intel's P55 chipset
(Click to enlarge)

As the above diagram shows, the Intel P55 used on the P55-GD85 already provides SATA functionality. But MSI says it has added a JMicron JMB363 SATA controller, employed to provide an eSATA/USB combo port, among other things. In addition, the company adds, the P55-GD85 has a Marvell SE9128 controller, which provides the board with its two 6Gbps SATA III ports. 

According to MSI, the P55-GD85 has a coastline (below) which includes, from left to right, PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, coaxial and digital S/PDIF outputs, an IEEE 1394 ("FireWire") port, five USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA/USB combo port, two gigabit Ethernet jacks, two USB 3.0 ports, and six 3.5mm audio jacks. Internal connectors, meanwhile, include seven SATA II connectors, two SATA III connectors, a front-panel audio connector, and three more USB 2.0 ports.


External ports on MSI's P55-GD85

MSI says that via its rear-panel jacks, the P55-GD85 offers 7:1 surround sound, while the front-panel audio connector mixes sound down to stereo, for headphone use. The board accepts up to 16GB of DDR3 memory via four DIMM slots, and allows storage to be configured in RAID levels 0, 1, 5, or 10, the company adds.

The 12 x 9.6-inch ATX format gives the P55-GD85 room for two 32-bit PCI slots, two PCI Express x16 slots, and two PCI Express x1 slots, according to MSI. The board is said to be compatible with ATI CrossFireX and Nvidia SLI technologies, involving the use of multiple discrete graphics cards to speed gaming on a single screen.

Finally, the P55-GD85 offers other interesting technologies, including: "OC Genie," which is said to provide optimized overclocking with the press of a button; "DrMos," which uses a Renesas R2J20602 IC (PDF link, here) for claimed efficiency gains in voltage regulation; and a "SuperPipe" 8mm heatpipe, claimed to be 60 percent thicker than those previously employed.

Specifications provided by MSI for the P55-GD85 include:

  • Processor — 32nm Core i3, i5 or i7 processors in LGA1156 package (see MSI site, here, for list of 11 compatible CPUs)
  • Chipset — Intel P55
  • Memory — Up to 16GB of DDR3 RAM via four DIMM slots
  • Storage — SATA II and SATA III
  • Expansion:
    • 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, with Nvidia SLI and ATI CrossFireX support
    • 2 x PCI Express x1 slots
    • 2 x PCI
  • Networking — 2 x gigabit Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • External:
      • 2 x PS/2
      • 2 x S/PDIF (optical and coaxial)
      • 1 x IEEE 1394
      • 6 x USB 2.0 (one is USB/eSATA combo port)
      • 2 x USB 3.0
      • 6 x 3.5mm audio jacks for 7:1 surround sound
    • Internal:
      • 3 x USB 2.0
      • 7 x SATA II
      • 2 x SATA III
      • 1 x ATA133
      • 1 x IEEE 1394
      • S/PDIF connector
      • TPM (trusted platform module) connector
  • Operating temperature — n/s
  • Power — ATX power supply; consumption n/s
  • Dimensions — 12 x 9.6 inches

Availability

MSI did not provide pricing or availability information for the P55-GD85, but the board appears to be on sale now. More information, including a complete listing of compatible Core i5 and i7 CPUs, may be found on the MSI website, here.


This article was originally published on LinuxDevices and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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