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Onboard Devices

790i Ultra SLI Motherboards Compared

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
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)
2x Realtek RTL8211BL PHY 2x Gigabit LAN Connection
Creative X-Fi Xtreme Audio Card 7.1 channel digital/analog output
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Outdated PS/2 ports supplement the otherwise modern port selection, allowing gamers to keep their favorite keyboard or mouse regardless of age.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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