MSI K8N Diamond Plus nForce4 SLI X16 Motherboard

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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.

Motherboard Specifications
Looking over the Diamond Plus
CPU
  • Supports 64-bit AMD Athlon 64 / Athlon 64 FX / Athlon 64 X2 processor (Socket 939)
  • Supports Athlon 64 CPU: 3000+, 3200+, 3400+, 3500+, 3700+, 3800+, 4000+
  • Supports Athlon 64FX CPU: FX-53, FX-55, FX-57, FX-60
  • Supports Athlon 64 X2 CPU: 3800+ (E4 version), 4200 (E4 version), 4600+ (E4 version), 4400 (E6 version), 4800+ (E6 version)

Chipset

  • NVIDIA nForce4 SLI x16 SPP (C51D) Chipset
  • HyperTransport link to the AMD Athlon 64/Athlon 64FX/Athlon 64 X2 CPU
  • HyperTransport supporting speed up to 1GHz (2000MT/s)
  • Supports 1 PCI Express x16 interface

 

  • NVIDIA nForce4 SLI x16 MCP (nForce4 SLI) Chipset
  • Supports 1 PCI Express x16 / 2 PCI Express x1 / 1 PCI Express x2 connection
  • Two independent SATA controllers, for four drives
  • Dual Fast ATA-133 IDE controller

Main Memory

  • Supports dual channel DDR 266/333/400, using four 184-pin DDR DIMMs.
  • Supports the memory size up to 4GB
  • Supports 2.5v DDR SDRAM DIMM

Slots

  • Two PCI Express X16 slot (supports PCI Express Bus specification v1.0a compliant)
  • 2nd PCI Express X16 is compatible with PCI Express x 1
  • Two PCI Express X1 slot
  • One PCI Express X4 slot
  • Two 32-bit Master PCI Bus slots, one orange slot reserves as communication slot.
  • Support 3.3V/5V PCI bus Interface.

On-Board Peripherals

  • 1 floppy port
  • 1 serial port
  • 1 parallel port supports SPP/EPP/ECP mode
  • 1 audio jack (5-in-1), coaxial/fibre SPDIF out
  • 10 USB 2.0 ports (Rear x 4 / Front x 6)
  • 2 RJ45 LAN jack
  • 1 D-Bracket 2 pinheader
  • 3 IEEE 1394 a connectors (Rear x 1/ Front x 2)
  • 1 CD-in pinheader
  • 1 IrDA pinheader
On-Board IDE/SATA
  • An IDE controller on the nVIDIA nForce3 Ultra chipset provides IDE HDD/CD-ROM with PIO, Bus Master and Ultra DMA133/100/66 operation modes.
  • Can connect up to 4 IDE devices
  • NV RAID supports 4 SATA II ports (SATA1-4). Transfer rate is up to 300MB/s.
  • NV RAID (Software)
  • Supports up to 4 SATA plus 2 ATA 133 Hard drives
  • RAID 0 or 1, 0+1, JBOD is supported
  • RAID function work w/ ATA 133 + SATA H/D or 2 SATA H/D
  • Silicon Image's SATARAID supports another 2 SATA II ports. Transfer rate is up to 300MB/s
  • RAID 0 or 1 and JBOD groups are supported
  • Support up to 2 SATA devices connected to a single controller

BIOS

  • The mainboard BIOS provides "Plug & Play" BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
  • The mainboard provides a Desktop Management Interface (DMI) function which records your mainboard specifications.
  • Supports boot from LAN, USB Device 1.1 & 2.0 and SATA HDD

Audio

  • Creative sound Bluster Audigy SE H/W audio
  • 24-bit / 96KHz audio quality
  • 100db SNR clarity
  • Up to 7.1 CH Surround Sound, Dolby Digital ready

LAN

  • Supports dual LAN jacks
  • 1st LAN supports 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by nForce4 SLI
  • 2nd PCI Express LAN supports 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Marvell 88E8053

IEEE1394

  • VIA 6306 chipset
  • Supports up to 3 x 1394 ports
  • Transfer rate is up to 400Mbps

Dimension

  • 11.96 in (L) x 9.61 in(W) ATX Form Factor

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.

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