P67 $190 Part 2: MSI, ASRock and ECS

Our first look at $190 P67 boards started with ASUS and Gigabyte. Within hours of posting the review, I was commandeered by several other companies to look at their $190 motherboards. This is still one of the best selling P67 price points, even with Z68 around the corner. Here, we look at the MSI P67A-GD65, the ASRock P67 Extreme6 and the ECS P67H2-A2, and come up with some interesting results.

Does P67 Have A Future?

P67 has received a lot of criticism since its inception. With all the Sandy Bridge CPUs containing an integrated GPU in the form of Intel’s HD graphics, we’d expect each chipset to have some form of graphical output. But for some reason, it wasn’t included in P67—this may be part of Intel’s divine strategy of separating different features in different chipsets, or that Z68, the successor to P67 which will include video outputs, just wasn’t ready. With the lack of access to the iGPU, we also lose access to QuickSync, and end up with silicon real-estate we can’t use. One other sticking point was that Cougar Point does not natively support USB 3.0, whereas it seems that AMD will for their next generation of chipsets.

We expect Z68 to command a premium, this much is certain. With the recent news regarding NVIDIA bringing Optimus to desktops, and we’ve known Virtu will also be available for a little while now, we can expect lower 2D power usage, as well as use of QuickSync. Both the CPU and iGPU can be overclocked, which will also mean that manufacturers will have to put more testing into CPU power delivery, leading to higher board cost. So where does this leave P67, exactly? A lower priced alternative to overclocker the CPU while using discrete GPUs?

Let’s not forget the Intel recall of all Cougar Point chipsets with the mild manufacturing issue. P67 is painted with the stigma of this issue, and the only way to ensure a B3 stepping of the PCH is to buy a board with B3 in the name, or from a reputable retailer that would have replaced all their stock. Z68 isn’t scarred with this issue, adding more credence to P67 potentially disappearing.

So here I am, ranting about P67 and Z68. Why should we review these P67 boards if they might disappear? The importance of future sales of P67 will depend exactly on the price premium over Z68. It could be argued that P67 is to be squeezed out of the market, and the rest of the P67 product will be sold with discounts, but it’s currently here, and people are still buying, wanting the best deal, and it may still stay with us for a long while yet.

With that in mind, today we’re looking at three P67 boards, all initially released around the $190 price point (though some have changed since). First is the MSI P67A-GD65 ($180) offering more bells and whistles than a county fair. Then the ASRock P67 Extreme6 ($210), which is the model above the P67 Extreme4, which we liked very much in terms of price/performance/add-ons—it will be interesting to see what has changed between the two models. Finally we test the ECS P67H2-A2 ($195), offering simplicity and functionality. Let the games begin!

MSI P67A-GD65: Overview and Visual Inspection
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  • maxhavoc - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    The review states that the ASRock board doesn't support RAID on the SATA3 6.0 GBps ports but the NewEgg page says that it does. I can't find anything on the manufacturer's website. For a >$200 board to not support SATA3 RAID is pretty ridiculous so I'd like to know for sure. Does it or doesn't it?
  • cbass64 - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    I haven't seen the p67 extreme6 in person but I have used the extreme4 and all of the Intel ports (including the 2 SATA3 ports) support RAID. The other SATA3 ports use the Marvell controller and do not have RAID support. Any ports controlled by the PCH will be able to be RAIDed through the OROM.

    You should be able to RAID all 6 PCH SATA ports on this board.
  • TheJian - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    I'm still waiting to see a review of something 95% of us will actually buy :) I'd also like to see a lot more discussion of the power phases on boards. 8/12/16/20, analog or digital? How does each affect the power bill etc. I haven't paid over $135 for my board (just missing SLI usually, but still lots of connectors always) since clear back to 386/486. These are commodity items now. I've sold a ton at $60-100 (used to have a PC business). What's with the $200 tag always garnering the most attention.

    It seems like the only products reviewed these days are flagships. The problem with that is we often aren't seeing what we can expect from what we'd buy in the store (most of us have no need for more than 1 vid slot - I'm shocked at how the industry has embraced something that almost nobody uses). This situation is far worse in SSD's. Where's the article on a family of drives (or just the bottom/top from two makers in the same family) and the performance hit you take buying the small 40/60/80/128 vs 256/300+ etc. I suspect 75% of your readers think they perform the same (as this has only been mentioned, not the major focus of an article). It's great manufacturers want to send you boards (expensive ones, duh), but not so great if not that many of us plan on touching anything over $150. Don't forget these are the same people buy vid cards based on $10 differences (LOL). I'm probably just ranting

    Or how about an article on 3-5 cpu's (low, mid, top from the last few generations), with say 10-20 vid cards from the last few years to today. Most people would be surprised to know they don't have a slow PC, they just need a vid card and they suddenly have a new PC. Knowing which one is best (or overkill) for an Dual core Athlon X2, or P4, can be difficult to figure out (I haven't seen an article like this in years).

    In short (heh), bring back some articles that help 95% of us out instead of 5%. I don't know anyone with more than a single vid card (never have, oops 3dfx long time ago), and it blows my mind that we have more boards from makers that have more than 1 slot than ones with only 1 slot. For what? To set benchmarks, that's about it. I don't know many that want to deal with the heat/noise or air conditioning bill for multiple cards. Very few people need that kind of power for current games (running 30in I guess).

    Review was fine, just not what I think you're audience is about to rush out and buy. I am glad to see you testing USB/Lan/Sata on the boards.
  • ggathagan - Friday, May 13, 2011 - link

    Yeah, you *are* just ranting.

    Anandtech is an enthusiast's site.
    95% may not buy actually buy a flagship board, but I'll bet that 95% of us want to see the flagship boards reviewed and reviewed in detail.
    Flagship boards are usually the first to come out with cutting edge tech, so they provide information that someone can use to determine what the performance across an entire family of boards will probably be.

    A P67 board is a P67 board is a P67 board, so that which is discussed on a flagship board is applicable to the lower tier boards using the same chipsets.

    As for the rest of what you want:
    It's not like Anadtech and the other sites have this huge warehouse of all the parts they've ever reviewed and can just go back in the back room and whip up a dozen or so systems.

    Additionally, exhaustive testing takes time. Even if they *did* have that warehouse, going back to test every conceivable combination of old and new hardware would be a waste of their time. They've already reviewed the old stuff.

    AT puts out articles on a regular basis regarding their recommendations on top, mid, and lower-priced systems.
    They may not put out thse articles every week, but they are frequent enough that you can get a general idea of cost and capability from them.

    Do your own legwork, go back and read the past articles and figure it out for yourself.
    It's a pretty safe bet that pairing a couple of 6970's or 580's with a P4 or an Athlon II is going to be a waste of money. Do you really need to know much more than that?

    SSD performance has been discussed ad nauseam in the many articles that AT has put out. Lower capacity SSD's suffer in performance when compared to a larger SSD, but are still head-and-shoulders above the performance of a traditional drive. The reasons for that have been discussed exhaustively. The same holds for Intel vs. Sandforce vs. Marvell vs. Jmicro.
    Do you really need every piece of SSD-related information repeated in every single article? Can't you just read all the articles yourself and come to your own conclusion?
  • ruzveh - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    My msg is to and for Anandtech to reply: My concept of dual lan with teaming is really not clear and i am not able to understand ur lang as well.. Can u explain in a lay man term with example what does it mean and what its used for what it do?

    Is it something that one lan i can use for my cable internet and other lan port i can use to connect it to my local area network?

    Or does it mean that i can use both the ports for internet or both for local intranet

    Or does it mean that both of them i can use for boosting my internet sharing. If yes, then both the connection has to be same or different. Do i have to use both different ISP or can i use from same ISP? How does it work? Do i have to make it work having two different isp?

    I mean can i make it like my 2mbps + 2mbps internet connection = teaming of 4mbps connection? Or is it like 2mbps + same 2mbps = 2mbps teaming?

    Its really confusing and exciting to know. I always wanted to buy dual lan motherboard to use one port for internet and other port for connecting other computers for file sharing and internet sharing if possible.

    I hope u have understood my query and 1000s of people have similar queries which is still unsolved across all fourms. I hope you wont dissapoint us. Thanks in advance
  • ggathagan - Friday, May 13, 2011 - link

    Teaming within this context relates to network connections and is not applicable to internet connections.

    Other names for it are aggregation or trunking.

    If your computer is connected to a network switch or to a firewall/router that has more than one LAN port, you can increase it's transfer speed by aggregating the computer's LAN connections together. This is done in software.

    The computer and the network see the aggregated ports as a single network connection.
    If you have two gigabit LAN ports on the system and you have the approptiate software, it is seen as a single 2 Gigabit connection.

    The only reason to do it in this particular circumstance is if you have a home network or are in a networked environment at work.

    Multiple internet connections *can* be set up in a similar fashion, but it takes specific hardware and multiple connections to your ISP.
    That is both expensive and more complex than it's worth for the average user.
  • dweilbacher - Thursday, May 19, 2011 - link

    "...in the OS I saw a constant 42x multiplier applied, with no SpeedStep down to 16x which is what we’ve seen on other boards."

    In the article you mentioned the OC Genie will OC, but turns off Speed Step (16x). So you are forced into a constant 42x speed. I saw this also and turned the Genie off. Then tried to manually overclock, but found any time I changed the multiplier to any value other than 33x (2500K), Speed Step was turned off.

    Is there any option in the MSI Bios to turn Speed Step ON when Overclocking?

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