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MSI K9N2 Diamond

NFORCE 780a SLI Motherboard Comparison

The Diamond label designates MSI’s best-featured parts, and the K9N2 Diamond leads its newest product line.

msi k9n2-diamond profil

Layout and Features

The K9N2 Diamond features a somewhat similar layout to the previously detailed ASRock motherboard, in that the nForce 780a SLI Northbridge and nFoce 200 PCI-Express bridge are adjacent and covered by a single sink. MSI’s heatpipe is a little more elaborate, but like ASRock its uppermost PCI-Express x16 slot is located in the uppermost slot position.

msi k9n2-diamond dessus

The uppermost slot does crowd DIMM latches slightly, but careful technicians should still be able to replace the RAM without removing the graphics card. Two additional x16 slots share a total of sixteen pathways, but MSI electronically switches the middle slot between x16 and x8 mode depending on whether or not the third slot is used. MSI also spaces the first and second x16 slots further apart to make room for a PCI-Express x1 audio card, and leaves the second-from-top slot position empty since it will probably be taken up by a graphics cooler anyway. All three x16 slots provide PCI-Express 2.0 transfer modes, thanks to the use of the nForce 200 bridge.

The nForce 780a SLI supports six SATA 3.0Gb/s drives, and five of the K9N2 Diamond’s six SATA ports have no clearance problems with oversized cards such as the 9800GX2. The top outward-facing port is blocked by super-long graphics coolers however, and the four forward-facing ports could be blocked by the lower drive cage of some cases.

The nForce 780a SLI chipset’s ATA-133 interface is almost perfectly located at the “upper half” of the motherboard’s front edge, for easy reach to upper-bay optical drives. Only the 24-pin ATX/EPS power connector stands in the way of “perfect” Ultra ATA cable management, but this header is also located for optimal cable routing to top-mounted power supplies.

One feature the K9N2 Diamond provides that we haven’t seen for a while is a second Ultra ATA connector, for total support of four legacy drives. Unfortunately, the second Ultra ATA and the floppy header are both located at the motherboard’s bottom edge, which creates a cable routing nightmare whenever these interfaces are needed.

Another unusual choice is the front panel switch/LED connector at the middle of the board’s lower edge, rather than the traditional lower front-edge placement. Though the wire leads of most cases should reach, we’ve seen a few that wouldn’t.

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Power, reset, and CLR_CMOS buttons above the front panel switch connectors are handy for bench testing, but won’t be of much use in a finished system.

Because the K9N2 Diamond relies on either an included PCI-Express audio card or the chipset’s integrated HDMI audio, there are no front-panel audio connector “problems”. The included card provides the front panel connector, and the appropriate slot is adequately placed for good cable reach on most cases.

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