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Onboard Devices

790i Ultra SLI Motherboards Compared
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MSI P7N2 Diamond (Revision 1.0)
Northbridge Nvidia nForce 790i Ultra SLI SPP
Southbridge Nvidia nForce 790i Ultra SLI MCP
Voltage Regulator Eight Phases
BIOS V25.0B3 (05/28/2008)
333.3 MHz (FSB-1333) 333.3 MHz (+0.0%)
Clock Generator Nvidia
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard 2x PCIe 2.0 x16 (Full Bandwidth)
2x PCIe x16 (Modes: 1x 16, 1x 8)
2x PCIe x1
1x PCI
2x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)
1x IEEE-1394 FireWire
1x Serial Port header
2x Ultra ATA (2 drives per connector)
6x Serial ATA 3.0 Gb/s
1x Fan 4 pins (CPU/Chassis)
4x Fan 3 pins (Chassis/Chipset)
1x Internal Power Button
1x Internal Reset Button
IO panel 2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse )
6x USB 2.0
1x IEEE-1394 FireWire
2x External SATA
CLR_CMOS Button
2x RJ-45 Network
Mass Storage Controllers
nForce 790i MCP 6x SATA 3.0 Gb/s (RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5, JBOD)
JMicron JMB363 PCI-E 1x Ultra ATA-100 (2-drives)
2x SATA 3.0 Gb/s (RAID 0,1, JBOD)
Network
2x Realtek RTL8211BL PHY 2x Gigabit LAN Connection
Audio
Creative X-Fi Xtreme Audio Card 7.1 channel digital/analog output
FireWire
JMicron JMB381 PCI-E 2x IEEE-1394a (400 Mbit/s)

MSI provides most of the onboard features one would expect of top-level parts, but goes a step farther by skipping the audio codec and instead including a PCI Express discrete sound card. It’s not a huge step, of course, as this is the most modest of Creative’s X-Fi products.

Because the included sound card has its own digital signal, MSI makes no use of the chipset’s HD Audio capability. No digital audio outputs are found anywhere on the P7N2 Diamond, neither internally nor on the port panel.

Outdated PS/2 ports supplement the otherwise modern port selection, allowing gamers to keep their favorite keyboard or mouse regardless of age. In addition to the expected six USB 2.0, single IEEE-1394, dual eSATA 3.0 Gb/s, and two Gigabit Network ports, MSI also provides a handy CLR_CMOS switch, just like Asus.

Unlike Asus, we didn’t find any way to disable the CLR_CMOS switch to prevent accidental use. Instead, MSI simply made its button smaller and more difficult to reach. Perhaps a flip-top cover would be a perfect compromise?

MSI is the first company we’ve seen to use a PCI Express IEEE-1394 FireWire controller: the tiny JMB381 seen in the top corner of the photo below. PCI Express isn’t needed for medium-bandwidth devices, but its simpler wiring and reduced mounting space makes sense. The JMB381 FireWire controller is also the same size as the JMB362 SATA controller used by two competing motherboards for eSATA.

The giant JMB363 provides one additional Ultra ATA connection and two eSATA 3.0 Gb/s ports.

Two Realtek RTL8211BL PHYs directly interface to Nvidia’s integrated dual-network controller.

MSI’s X-Fi Xtreme Audio card has a slightly different port design than Creative’s branded models, but uses the same controller. The card’s top provides the front-panel audio header and internal digital audio output typically found on motherboards.

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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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