Layout and Design - MSI K9N Diamond
Of the three motherboards being reviewed, the MSI K9N Diamond is the most subdued, at least visually. Case in point, the K9N Diamond offers its own chipset heat-pipe cooler, which spans the Southbridge and Northbridge, while utilizing active cooling on the Northbridge side. The heat-pipe did not extended across the power array surrounding the CPU like the ASUS and Gigabyte boards, which used the air from the CPU fan rather than an added fan. The ASUS and GIGABYTE boards offer an ideal solution which cools more components and will be one less mechanical component to potentially fail down the road.
As far as features go, the K9N Diamond is well equipped. Like the ASUS M2N32 WS Pro, the K9N Diamond has two PCI Express x16 slots. The board also sports two PCIx1 slots and two PCI 2.2 compliant slots with the second designated as a communications slot. The board sports dual Gigabit Ethernet that supports teaming for improved bandwidth and redundancy. A VIA 6307 chipset drives up to three IEEE1394 ports, one on the rear port console and two by headers and add-on bracket.
The K9N Diamond offers four DDRII DIMM slots, supporting up to 8GB of DDR2 memory in frequencies of 400, 533, 667 and 800MHz. The storage options for the K9N Diamond are the least of the three boards, relying solely on the Northbridge's native RAID features and 6 SATAII port capacity. RAID support ranges from RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD. Additionally, there is a single IDE controller for two IDE devices as well as a single Floppy controller. The total device complement is the lowest of the three boards, topping out at 9. No secondary RAID or SATA controller was offered with the K9N Diamond nor was an external SATA port.
The rear port configuration offers up four USB ports with six additional ports available through headers on the main board. Of the three boards we're looking at here, the K9N Diamond has probably the best known audio options by driving the K9N Diamond's audio subsystem, with its Creative Sound Blaster Audigy SE chip. The Audigy delivers up to 7.1 channel, 24-Bit / 96KHz audio. When compared to the Realtek ALC888DD on the GIGABYTE board and the ADI 1988B on the ASUS M2N32 WS Pro, the K9N Diamond may have the most brand-name recognizable audio chip, however, all three delivered excellent sound quality in our analog speaker set up.