The MSI K9A2 Platinum: Up Close
Upon first inspection, the K9A2 Platinum grabs your attention with its custom "Circu-Pipe" heat pipe cooler, which straddles the Northbridge, Southbridge and power circuitry. The next items to stand out are the four PCI-E X16 graphics slots. Nestled between the first two PCI-E X16 slots is a PCI-E X1 slot while two standard PCI slots are situated adjacent to the third and fourth PCI-E X16 slot. Naturally, the board has an AM2+ socket to support the new Phenoms, but it's also backward compatible with all AM2 based Athlon 64, Athlon 64 X2 and Athlon 64 FX processors as well. The board supports up to 8GB of memory across four DIMM slots, officially supporting DDR2 800 and 1066 speeds.
For storage needs, the K9A2 Platinum features an ATI SB600 Southbridge that drives one IDE UDMA 133 port for up to two devices and four SATA ports with support for RAID 0, 1 and 0+1. Additionally, a Promise T3 chips drives two additional SATA II ports and two external eSATA ports, with RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 available across all four ports. A floppy port is also included for those still working with floppy drives. For integrated audio, the K9A2 Platinum is equipped with a Realtek ALC888 audio codec for 8 channel audio. The rear I/I panel also includes one Gigabit LAN connector driven by a Realtek 8111B chip. A VIA VT6308P chip powers two FireWire ports, one on the rear and one through a header and included bracket mentioned on page one. The system also supports 10 USB 2.0 ports, four on the rear and the remainder through headers. Lastly, a serial port is available through a header, but no bracket is included to take advantage of the feature.
From an overall layout and design perspective, there is much to like about the K9A2 Platinum. The ATX power connectors are placed optimally, the board comes with three chassis fan headers on top of the CPU fan header, and component placement was well balanced. However, there was one minor issue that we didn't care for. Note with the first graphics slot how the copper tubing wraps around the rear of the slot before terminating at the Southbridge. With our test bed, this tubing was high enough that our video card hit the tubing before being fully seated in the slot. While pressing firmly on the card seemed to seat it properly, we are concerned that over time a card may slowly rise out of the slot and cause potential video issues. The slot itself doesn't have a definitive locking mechanism, so there is the potential for issues, however, we did not encounter any problems while testing the board. Like we said, we feel this is a minor issue, but were a little surprised by this design oversight and wanted to make you aware of it.