It's a shame, really. After nearly one year on the market, Socket-939 Athlon64 motherboards are finally getting to a point where we've always wished they would be. Feature packed, refined, tweakable, and quiet. Why is this a shame? Well, as AMD is transitioning to their new Socket-AM2 interface, interest in Socket-939 platforms will undoubtedly dwindle away. However, there is a huge install base of Socket-939 users on the market already, and new Socket-939 processor sales will likely continue throughout 2006. So, while Socket-AM2 may be getting all the press lately, it's still Socket-939 that's the workhorse, powering the vast majority of AMD desktop and gaming systems on the market today.
nVidia's nForce4 SLI X16 remains the top of the line chipset for Socket-939 processor owners, as its excellent base feature set and dual PCI Express x16 graphics cards slots have fended off all potential competitors. The largest threat has been ATI's Radeon Xpress 3200 chipset, whose feature set was largely similar to nVidia's, but also boasted far lower power consumption levels. While this chipset was an excellent performer, ATI's Southbridge technology remained somewhat lackluster compared to nVidia's, and ATI's backup plan, relying on ULi Southbridge controllers, fell through when nVidia purchased ULi and largely put a halt to that. The end result is that the nForce4 SLI X16 stayed on top, largely due to the fact that it was the well known name to look for, but beyond that, nVidia's feature set simply remains the best on the market.
With the chipset battle largely won by nVidia, and the Socket-939 interface packing up its bags for a long retirement from the spotlight, one might think there is little room or desire to create innovative Socket-939 platforms. Well, you'd be right. Most of the tricks which motherboard makers had up their sleeves have already been utilized on shipping motherboards, but we're still seeing some interesting additions to what will likely be the major last push for Socket-939. One company still adding some interesting features to their Socket-939 motherboards is MSI, whose K8N Diamond Plus motherboard (which we'll be looking at today) is still a top of the line platform in every sense. MSI was pretty late to the party in regards to making an nForce4 SLI X16 platform, but now that they finally have one on the market, we see that its feature set stands out from the competition in several ways worth noting. Can a platform such as this help stir up some interest in Socket-939 once again? Perhaps.