MSI K9N SLI Platinum nForce 570 SLI Motherboard

Board Layout (Continued)



MSI places the two PCI Express x16 sized slots fairly far apart on the motherboard, which leaves ample airflow room between the boards if two graphics cards are installed. In between, there are two PCI Express x1 slots and below are three 32-bit PCI slots. MSI claims that the orange slot is "optimized" for communications cards (modems, NICs?). With two dual-slot graphics cards installed, this would leave you with one PCI Express x1 slot and two 32-bit PCI slots, plenty for most high-end users. 

Expansion Slots

Serial ATA-II Ports

Well placed on the right side of the board are six Serial ATA-II/300 ports, all connected to the nearby nForce 570 SLI chip. All of these six ports support RAID connectivity through Nvidia's NVRaid software layer, supporting RAID 0 / 1 / 0+1 / 5 array modes. The ports are somewhat oddly placed on the motherboard, four being vertical to the chipset, two being horizontal - this means that if all six ports are used, cabling around this area will be somewhat messy. We like motherboards where all the SATA ports are facing the same direction, which allows for much cleaner cabling. Directly below the NVRAID ports is MSI's custom Dual CoreCell processor, which is designed to provide greater overclocking (with on-the-fly overclocking support), cleaner voltage levels and thermal/voltage monitoring and moderation (i.e, controlling fan voltages to allow them to run quieter).

Let's swing around and check out the I/O panel. 

K9N SLI Platinum I/O Panel

For a "budget" platform, the K9N SLI Platinum is fairly well stacked, providing dual Gigabit LAN ports, Firewire 400 connectivity, and 8-channel analog and digital audio ports as standard. Particularly of note is that the onboard audio has both optical and RCA based S/PDIF outputs, which means the board will be compliant with just about any high-end speaker setup you might have.

The audio is connected through the Realtek ALC883 codec, which is located to the left of one of the 32-bit PCI slots. The ALC883 is a commonly used chip, providing HD audio through nForce 5-series chipsets. In terms of audio quality, the ALC883 HD Codec will certainly be able to provide sufficient surround sound abilities for the vast amount of people using the platform, although hardcore enthusiasts will still likely opt for a hardware audio based solution for 3D audio processing which doesn't hit the system's main CPU. For DVD watching, music playback, light gaming, or really any standard day to day applications, the onboard audio will be above and beyond the needs of most. 

Realtek HD Audio Codec

Vitesse Gigabit Ethernet PHYs

The motherboard's dual LAN feature is controlled by two Vitesse PHY chips which sit near the I/O panel, which are basic hardware interfaces for the chipset's dual GigE MACs. Vitesse PHY's are commonly seen in low cost platforms, but this does not detract from the core features of the nForce 570 SLI's networking which remain in place. These NIC's support Ethernet Teaming, TCP/IP Acceleration, and Nvidia's FirstPacket technologies, and also can be used with Nvidia's firewall technologies in Windows. Both chips support 10/100/1000 speeds. There's also a VIA-based Firewire 400 controller chip nearby, which runs off a standard 32-bit PCI connection - nothing new here, but it's good to see Firewire support on an inexpensive platform.

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