Architecture

MSI big bang marshal

When we say everything has gone into the MSI Big Bang Marshal we're not just whistling Dixie.

You want the latest I/O options? You've got em with four SATA 6Gbps sockets and twelve USB 3.0 ports. You want more PCIe lanes than you can shake a dual-slot GPU cooler at? You can have those too, eight of em.

You want voltage check points, dual-BIOS, auto overclocking, extra power points, 24-phase power design, hardware switches to turn off the PCIe lanes, server-grade componentry?

With the Big Bang Marshal you literally can have it all.

The big deal and the big draw of the Big Bang though is the multi-GPU PCIe support it offers.

The packaging obviously claims they're all x16 lanes, and there was a deal of confusion when we first clapped sweaty paws on the board at this year's CES show. We were told that of course they would all operate at x16 speed in full CrossFire, four-way graphics mode. We were also told by another MSI rep that wasn't possible with the board.

The latter rep was right.

You can run twin cards at x16 speeds, but if you keep adding cards that functionality disappears. With three GPUs you're limited to a single x16 lane and two x8, and when you add another they all drop off to x8.

According to the right MSI rep though there's little overall performance difference between the full x16 and x8, so you shouldn't notice a huge amount of difference.

An interesting point about the PCIe lanes though is the fact MSI has used the Lucid Hydra chip in the board. Though it isn't employing the Lucid silicon in order to avoid SLI licensing (it already has that) or to allow Nvidia and AMD cards to be used together.

All it's actually using the Lucid tech for is to give the board those extra PCIe lanes. The Sandy Bridge chipset only comes with a single x16 lane as standard, so the extra silicon provides the extra brandwidth necessary.

MSI has incorporated its Military Class Materials ethos into the Big Bang Marshal too, with Hi-C capacitors and Super Ferrite Chokes (SFC). This means there's less power leakage and a far more stable flow of power to the board and CPU than with more traditional parts.

Which should all point to the overclocking prowess of the board. So how does it fare?