The CPU area should accommodate most oversized heatsinks, although as I pointed out in our Sandy Bridge review, the socket on P67 boards seems closer to the memory slots than previous Intel offerings. This means that you could run into clearance issues with a large heatsink and memory with large heatspreaders. Do note that Socket 1156 heatsink mounts are compatible with Sandy Bridge.
MSI has equipped this board with Driver MOSfet, or DrMOS. DrMOS is MSI's power-saving technology and with everyone now "going green", it's a good trend to get in on. With DrMOS, MSI has combined three separate chips (bottom-MOSFET, top-MOSFET and Driver IC) into one that results in more efficient power, lower temperatures and longer life. Additionally, combining three chips reduces the total chip count on the board. This allows MSI to use a 6+2 phase power design.
Moving down the board we find two more 3-pin fan headers, two PCIe x16 slots, three PCIe x1 slots and two legacy PCI slots. Across the bottom of the board are connections for the front panel audio, CD audio, USB 3.0 front panel header, front panel FireWire header, front panel USB header, a Trusted Platform Module header, serial port header, power button, reset button and the OC Genie button. The red USB header supports MSI's Super-Charger technology, which allows you to charge high-draw devices like an iPad, something that most standard USB ports don't allow for.hi
The OC Genie II allows for 1 second overclocking simply by pressing the button before booting your computer. MSI claims gains of up to 36% performance just by pushing a button. This, of course, is if you are using a "K" series CPU. The OC Genie button works on H67 boards as well, although it functions as a GPU booster, not a CPU + Memory booster as it does on P67 offerings.
Moving up the right side of the board we find two front panel headers and eight SATA connectors positioned along the edge of the board (four SATA 3Gb/s in white, four SATA 6Gb/s in black). Although MSI includes the adapters for the front panel connectors, I am a bit disappointed they didn't label the actual pins on the board, although they do include a small pinout diagram near the pins. This seems like a step backwards as most newer boards color-code these pins for easier connectivity.
The rear I/O panel includes the following, from left to right: PS/2 mouse / keyboard port, two USB 2.0 ports, a Clear CMOS button, coaxial and optical S/DIF-out, FireWire port, four additional USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA ports, RJ-45 network jack, two more USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports and six audio jacks (Line-in, Line-out, Mic, RS-Out, CS-out, SS-out). The back of the board is pretty uneventful, as all are.
That covers the physical features of the board. Let's move ahead and check out our test hardware.