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MSI P7N2 Diamond

790i Ultra SLI Motherboards Compared
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MSI’s Diamond series offer enhanced features compared to its high-end Platinum parts, such as a discrete audio solution rather than a simple codec. Recent models have put the discrete audio controller on a separate card, simplifying the motherboard’s rear panel ports.

Though large coolers are typically expected of enthusiast-market motherboards, one thing that stands out visually about the MSI P7N2 Diamond is its PCI Express x16 slot arrangement. Four graphics cards are supported.

MSI puts the uppermost PCI Express x16 slot in the highest possible position, with two spaces between it and the next x16 slot down. This allows an SLI system to be built with two enormous triple-thickness graphics coolers, though the top graphics card does crowd the DIMM latches a little.

Providing two spaces between the top two x16 slots does have other drawbacks, most notably that the third and forth x16 slot are adjacent. It would be impossible to use four double-thickness cards. MSI could have moved the middle two slots upwards by one position to alleviate the latter problem.

MSI is the only manufacturer to take advantage of the 790i Ultra SLI’s support for four high-bandwidth graphics cards, but the chipset also has one glaring limitation: the fourth slot only provides eight PCI Express lanes. Additionally, all 790i series motherboards provide PCI Express 2.0 transfer mode to only two of the x16 slots.

Four x16 slots might be the most noticeable feature of the P7N2 Diamond, but that doesn’t mean we can completely skip any discussion of the chipset cooler. Because the loop of this “Circu-Pipe” is so tall, users of ultra-wide sinks might have clearance issues — our Zalman CNPS9700 fit, but only because of its unique shape. Furthermore, the three heat pipes that wrap around one corner of the CPU socket could hinder builders from reaching the attachment hardware of some less-ergonomically designed units. Finally, MSI only avoids additional mounting issues by using no sink whatsoever on two of its eight CPU power phases.

MSI uses the same JMicron eSATA controller as Asus, but rather than waste this component’s Ultra ATA capabilities, it has added a second Ultra ATA connector. Thus, this is the only motherboard we’ve seen recently to support four ancient Ultra ATA drives in addition to six internal SATA drives and two eSATA drives.

The top Ultra ATA connector is located above the center of the front edge, perfect for stretching cables to the upper bays of tower cases. The lower connector is likewise perfectly located for connection to lower-bay hard drives, at the front of the P7N2 Diamond’s bottom edge.

Unfortunately, the floppy header is too far away from the 3.5” external bay of most cases, and the continued use of these devices is an unfortunate fact for most Windows XP users who prefer AHCI or RAID mode for their hard drives. XP may be “dead”, but it still has a huge following among the gaming community.

Like Asus, MSI turns all of its internal SATA connectors towards the front edge of the motherboard, which makes for tidy cabling in enormous cases, but prevents cable insertion in many smaller designs. At least MSI put its IEEE-1394 port a few inches forward of the location its competitor chose...

Tiny power and reset buttons go almost unnoticed on the P7N2 Diamond’s bottom-front corner, easing bench testing.

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  • 1 Hide
    trainreks , July 31, 2008 7:17 AM
    FINNALY !!!! A Review on the 790i
  • 0 Hide
    doxicity , July 31, 2008 7:21 AM
    Mystery Motherboard = GA-N780Ultra-DQ6?
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 7:42 AM
    This was ALL OF THE AVAILABLE 790i Ultra SLI MOTHERBOARDS: Other graphics brands with NVIDIA reference boards INCLUDING EVGA are selling the same unit as XFX, even with the same BIOS (except for the boot logo). XFX was the only one who cared to send one.
  • 1 Hide
    giovanni86 , July 31, 2008 7:45 AM
    Thats what i was going to say!!! Thank god. Well i guess i made the right choice. XFX 790i, exactly what i am going to buy in the coming month. Just need to save for it XD.
  • 3 Hide
    jaragon13 , July 31, 2008 8:39 AM
    Who would pay four hundred dollars,when you can just buy a P45 for 100-150 dollars which has roughly the same real world experience as an X48 or 790I?
    Nah,I'd rather buy better and more reliable parts-such as power supply,processor,GRAPHICS CARD,and maybe go buy a rifle :p 
  • 6 Hide
    kitsilencer , July 31, 2008 9:37 AM
    $400 for a motherboard? What the hell is wrong with the X48 Express that people would rather consider buying a 790i? And it can't be because of SLI. Makes more sense to buy the X48 and Crossfire.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 9:39 AM
    jaragon13Who would pay four hundred dollars,when you can just buy a P45 for 100-150 dollars which has roughly the same real world experience as an X48 or 790I?Nah,I'd rather buy better and more reliable parts-such as power supply,processor,GRAPHICS CARD,and maybe go buy a rifle


    If you want SLI you're going to need an SLI motherboard. The article specifically stated that the reference design motherboard was almost as good in many ways as the winning board, but far cheaper.

    The site only has two awards, one is for top value and the other is for "best of the best". It's hard to award a $350 motherboard for top value, but it's not so difficult awarding the "best of the best" even if the price is outrageous
  • -1 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 9:41 AM
    kitsilencer$400 for a motherboard? What the hell is wrong with the X48 Express that people would rather consider buying a 790i? And it can't be because of SLI. Makes more sense to buy the X48 and Crossfire.


    It does! Well, sorta. If you want the absolute fastest rig on the planet, you're going to need at least two, possibly three, GTX280's. But if you can wait a few days or maybe a couple weeks, you might be surprised at how well a Crossfire set of HD4870X2's can perform using an X48 motherboard.
  • 0 Hide
    jaragon13 , July 31, 2008 12:59 PM
    My point is that,even though you could theoritically have 3/4 GPU's all at once,you won't get nearly as much performance as you'd want.A simple 750I or P45 chipset will do nearly the same job.
  • 0 Hide
    zer00000 , July 31, 2008 1:13 PM
    It is a foxconn board i bet.I just read a review elsewhere with same stuff except it had an x48 chipset."All manner of goodies are bundled with the Black Ops: a 120MM fan, a plastic dry ice cooling pot for the Northbridge, and a Plexiglas "benching table" for open-air use."
  • 3 Hide
    ovaltineplease , July 31, 2008 2:02 PM
    For anyone thinking of grabbing these boards - confirm that the manufacturer has a bios fix for drive corruption if you intend to use RAID; its a known issue.
  • 0 Hide
    sirrell , July 31, 2008 2:22 PM
    Hey i just bought an EVGA's nForce 790i Ultra SLI 775 A1 Version Motherboard can you test this against them please?
    I wanna see how my motherboard performs against these. :) 
  • 0 Hide
    theLaminator , July 31, 2008 2:38 PM
    Why buy a 790i? Just wait for Nehalem and get a mobo with the x58 chipset. It supports SLI and CrossFire. Seems like the way to go to me. http://www.custompc.co.uk/news/604443/intel_x58_chipset_to_support_sli_and_crossfire.html
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 3:42 PM
    sirrellHey i just bought an EVGA's nForce 790i Ultra SLI 775 A1 Version Motherboard can you test this against them please?I wanna see how my motherboard performs against these.


    The EVGA motherboard WAS tested. It's the same motherboard as XFX sells. EVGA has never made a motherboard, it buys them from other companies, and in this case XFX and EVGA buy the SAME motherboard from the SAME company. Even the BIOS is the same, which you'd probably know if you read a little more of the article.

    XFX wants your business more than EVGA, which is why XFX sent a motherboard when EVGA did not. In fact, EVGA wouldn't even respond to the request.
  • -1 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 3:45 PM
    theLaminatorWhy buy a 790i? Just wait for Nehalem and get a mobo with the x58 chipset. It supports SLI and CrossFire. Seems like the way to go to me. http://www.custompc.co.uk/news/604 [...] sfire.html


    X58 DOES NOT support SLI any more than the X48 did. Either motherboard could use the nForce 200 bridge to let NVIDIA's graphics driver SEE the "Compatibility". It's all driver tricks, as Intel chipsets supported SLI until NVIDIA locked Intel out in the graphics driver.

    So, we might see some X58 motherboards with an nForce 200, and we might also see some that don't have it. All that is well and fine if you're interested in waiting for the "next big thing". But if you want to buy now and instead wait for the next big thing...perhaps you'll see something else on the horizon by then, and never buy anything.
  • 0 Hide
    efranchi , July 31, 2008 4:09 PM
    mmhh...I would like if asus make a "ready-watercooled" motherboard. For someone who want a silent PC, watercooled, is there a motherboard better than evga 790 ultra black pearl?
  • 0 Hide
    surfbum , July 31, 2008 4:17 PM
    just so everyone knows, the "mystery motherboard" is a foxconn board. i was just on their website the other day and they had some information on this board which is no longer there. any they are the only company that has a LN2 cooling solution for the chipset
  • 0 Hide
    Niva , July 31, 2008 4:25 PM
    Looks like both nVidia and Intel are guilty of not providing information to each other. Intel for not giving the specs to run the 45nm chips and nVidia for restricting the driver on Intel chips... that second move by nVidia sounds borderline monopolistic. Surprised they haven't ended up in courts, no wonder tensions are so high between these companies.
  • -1 Hide
    Crashman , July 31, 2008 4:34 PM
    NivaLooks like both nVidia and Intel are guilty of not providing information to each other. Intel for not giving the specs to run the 45nm chips and nVidia for restricting the driver on Intel chips... that second move by nVidia sounds borderline monopolistic. Surprised they haven't ended up in courts, no wonder tensions are so high between these companies.


    Both moves are monopolistic, but you could say NVIDIA delivered the first shot in this war since SLI has been restricted for so long.

    I was surprised about the news that Intel had traded "permission to use the nForce 200 on Intel chipsets" for its new CPU interface: That would mean Intel gets nothing (still has to buy an nVidia chipset component) while NVIDIA keeps on rolling.
  • 0 Hide
    anartik , July 31, 2008 4:56 PM
    Yup... all it took was the mention of the liquid nitrogen tower to know it had to be a 790i version of the Foxconn Blackops. If it does come out I hope it's considerably better and more reliable than their disaster of an X48 board. Hmmm... maybe thats why this board is delayed or cancelled. Just having a notable overclocker jump ship from DFI to Foxconn does not turn a traditional junk maker into a shining star.
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