MSI Big Bang Fuzion

MSI Big Bang Fuzion
Rating
Overall:

The weirdest design choices we’ve seen yet.

Performance:
4
Value:
2
Features:
4
Build:
6
Price
Price: $580
> Pricing info
Specs
Socket LGA1156; Intel P55 chipset; Lucid Hydra 200; ATX form factor; 3x PCIe x16 (2x8 w/ Crossfire); 2x PCI; 2x PCIe x1; 10x SATA2; DDR3-1866+

An emphatic disappointment from MSI.

The motherboard space is very hard for manufacturers to innovate in - with a reliance placed upon bigger players such as Intel to embrace the latest features, the only alternative is to add these desired features in with add-on chips. We've seen this a lot in other boards, using the Marvell SATA3 and NEC USB3 chips to grant access to the latest storage standards; but the Fuzion offers neither of these options. Nor does it quite offer native SLI support, but we'll cover that point in just a minute.

The chipset used as the backbone of the Fuzion is not the X58; rather MSI's engineers have gone with the P55, which presents an unfortunate limitation on PCIe bandwidth. However, there are three full size PCIe slots included. These are all able to be used, but in a way that we've never quite seen before - managed by a Lucid Hydra 200 chip.

The Hydra 200, specifically the LT22102, is a dedicated hardware chip that boasts a x16 PCIe uplink stream with a x32 downlink stream. Effectively similar to the PLX bridge chip used in other designs, this multiplication of PCIe lanes gives huge bandwidth between the two primary PCIe slots, though the Hydra only receives x16 bandwidth from the LGA1156 socket. The remaining slot is powered by the P55 chipset's spare lanes. But simply rearranging the PCIe lanes isn't what the chip is supposed to do; instead, it's a radical re-thinking of graphics technology from the hardware level upwards.

Being placed at the top of the system, or 'mountain', means that the Hydra has complete control over where the graphical workload can flow. It also means that the SLI and Crossfire bridges are unnecessary; the cards don't communicate with each other at all, and simply do the work they're given by the Hydra. Fantastically, this also means that you can use heterogeneous pairings of cards from NVIDIA or ATI (think mixing a GT220 with a GTX285, or 4450 with a 4870). Even more incredibly is the ability to mix cards from different vendors - you can run a GTX285 in tandem with a 4870 at the same time!

However, this system has some serious limitations. First and foremost, it's entirely dependent on too many drivers on the software side: the Lucid drivers must be the latest version, and you can only use compatible NVIDIA/ATI display drivers as supported by the Lucid driver. Not only does this limit you to sometimes months-old drivers, but it also precludes the use of the latest drivers that add new features. On top of all this is the need for each game to have a profile included, and if the game you're playing doesn't have one, you'll get an error - and if you try using a newer driver, you'll get a "Current vendor driver not supported" message. To make matters worse, you can't use the latest 5xxx or GTX4xx cards, and to top it all off, the performance when using the Hydra actually moves backwards - making it technically possible to do, but ultimately pointless.

So yes there is a good motherboard under all this stuff; yes it does overclock very well and actually hit a phenomenal 4378MHz at 198x22 with 1.475V, but it's also a motherboard with crippled dual-card graphics performance. It doesn't have support for the latest storage standards, nor does it have native SLI support if you don't want to use the Hydra, and finally, it clocks in at almost six hundred dollars. No matter which way you cut it we can definitely say this; it's an impressive technical achievement, but it is in no way worth buying.

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This Review appeared in the May, 2010 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine

See more about:  msi  |  bang  |  fuzion  |  motherboard  |  review
 
 

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