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Onboard Devices

NFORCE 780a SLI Motherboard Comparison
By

MSI K9N2 Diamond (Revision 1.1)
Chipset nForce 780a SLI
PCIe 2.0 Bridge nForce 200
Voltage Regulator Six Phases
BIOS VP.0B4 (04/072008)
200 MHz HT Clock 200.0MHz (+0.0%)
Clock Generator ICS 9DB403DGLF
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard 3x PCIe x16 (Modes: x16/x16/ or x16/x8/x8)
1x PCIe x1
2x PCI
3x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)
1x IEEE-1394 FireWire
1x Serial Port header
1x Floppy
2x Ultra ATA (2 drives each)
6x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s
1x Fan 4 pins (CPU)
4x Fan 3 pins (System/Power)
1x Power Button
1x Reset Button
1x CLR_CMOS Button
IO panel 2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse)
2x RJ-45 Network
4x USB 2.0
1x IEEE-1394 FireWire
2x Extrernal SATA (eSATA) 3.0Gb/s
1x DVI Video
Mass Storage Controllers
nForce 780a SLI 6x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 capable)
1x Ultra ATA 133 (2-drives)
JMicron JMB363 PCI-E 1x Ultra ATA-100 (2-drives)
2x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0,1, JBOD)
Network
Realtek RTL8111C PHY 1x Gigabit LAN Connection
Realtek RTL8211BL PCI-E 1x Gigabit LAN Connection
FireWire
VIA VT6308P 2x IEEE-1394a (400 Mbit/s)

The components list looks a little shorter than the typical high-end motherboard, but that’s only because MSI forwent any onboard audio solution to instead provide a discrete sound card.

msi k9n2-diamond ports

MSI added another heat pipe sink to the space normally consumed by analog audio ports. Two eSATA ports bring the board into the modern era, while to PS/2 ports help those who prefer legacy peripherals.

Missing are any analog video outputs for the onboard graphics controller, as DVI to VGA adapters require a DVI-I connector (and associated hardware) rather than the provided DVI-D. MSI does include an HDMI adapter, and the chipset provides HDMI audio support.

msi k9n2-diamond jmb363

Located along the motherboard’s lower rear edge, the JMicron JMB363 is responsible for the additional Ultra ATA connector, along with eSATA connection on the port panel. Its location provides an excuse for that of the extra Ultra ATA connector, since this particular interface is easily affected by electromagnetic interference when longer trace lengths are used.

msi k9n2-diamond vt6308p

Two IEEE1394 FireWire ports are connected through a VIA VT6308P controller. Because this ancient interface is far slower than internal busses, the controller’s use of one of the chipset’s five PCI interfaces isn’t a problem.

msi k9n2-diamond rtl8111c

NVidia’s latest chipsets have an onboard networking controller, so MSI addresses one of its two Gigabit Ethernet ports with a simple PHY. Realtek’s RTL8111C does the job.

msi k9n2-diamond rtl8211bl

The second network port is controlled by Realtek’s RTL8211BL, which uses PCI-Express to provide full bi-directional bandwidth.

msi k9a2-platinum son

High-end users typically prefer a discrete audio solution rather than integrated codec, so MSI includes a Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio card with all of its recent Diamond series motherboards. MSI updated this version with an aluminum RFI shield.

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  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , May 12, 2008 4:57 PM
    K10N780SLIX3-WiFi, thats Asrock naming all the way.
  • 0 Hide
    a 6pack in , May 12, 2008 6:16 PM
    so after reading all this.. i think im stickin with my 790FX. i was waiting for a quite a while for nvidia to pull something here with the 780a chipset. In my eyes its a fail.

    AMD's 790FX chipset provides significantly more lanes than nvidia. 3-way SLI is a novel idea but at x8 lanes for 3 slots.. not so much. while amd is providing full x16 support.

    good info tho. if anything i would recommend the ASRock board also for nvidia's SLI path.
  • 0 Hide
    johnbilicki , May 12, 2008 7:17 PM
    I wan to see boards with two 16x slots and one 4x slot. Honestly I'm not interested in 100+ FPS at 1024x768 or 1280x1024 which is what you'll get in most games with triple SLI. The MSI board looks like they could have fit a couple more USB ports next to the useless firewire port. It's 2008 and I have yet to even see a product require a firewire port on products I'm only browsing on sales sites like Newegg or even just review sites. I liked Gigabyte's new quad gigabit port motherboard, finally 8 USB ports on the back! Also if no one shows up with a router at your LAN party three of your buddies can merely connect to your system any way (and who doesn't have dual LAN ports these days besides your cheap who cheaps out by five bucks on a north bridge).

    What is with the waste of brackets? Give us four USB ports on a bracket. If you upgrade even only once every four or five years you probably still have about five or six brackets laying around somewhere with all the firewire ports you could ever want...and if not your buddies do.

    The dual-slot coolers on single slot cards, what a waste! If you're going to use a second slot don't waste the opportunity to move that hot air the heck out of the case!

    My last criticism is the i-ram...DDR-1?! I love Gigabyte when it actually bothers to make boards using chipsets I'd want (they skipped the true 16X SLI and jumped on the then useless AM2 bandwagon however). So why aren't we seeing DDR2 RAM-drives? 4x4GB/32GB would be far out of most people's budgets but a 4x2GB/16GB RAM drive at $40/$160 dimm/total would *own* a raptor raid 0 any day in price/performance.

    The manufacturers need to seriously start bringing some people in to the design rooms to question WTF they're thinking with their product designs because I see no reason to bother spending any money right now.

    ...and to clarify I enjoyed the article itself, it's just the products I hold disappointment in. The new chipset is great overall though.
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , May 13, 2008 7:16 AM
    DDR is still faster then any hard drive interface anyway(DDR 266 @ 2128MB/s), so why not? its actually limited by its sata 150 interface not the ram(it would also max sata 300).

    I agree DDR2 is the way to go, but only because the price is much lower and better capacities. When gigabyte designed the I-ram ddr was cheaper and ddr2 was new and expensive.

    I think there is a DDR2 I-ram in the making
  • 0 Hide
    geralt , May 13, 2008 1:10 PM
    I would like to see how 780a compares to boards with 780G chipset.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 13, 2008 1:44 PM
    I own an evga 780i and I am plagued with the video corruption problem like many other nvidia 7 series owners. BEWARE before you invest on these boards. Nvidia hasn't released a fix in 3 months. Many people can't watch video or play games without encountering a hard lock-up.
    Video of problem: http: //www. youtube. com/watch?v=TYHuzJSpORw


    http: //www.evga. com/forums/tm.asp?m=253891&mpage=1&key=
    http: //nvidia.custhelp. com/cgi-bin/nvidia.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=2190
    http: //vip.asus. com/forum/view.aspx?id=20080407161030625&board_id=1&model=Striker+II+Formula&page=1&SLanguage=en-us
    http: //forums.anandtech.com/messageview.aspx?catid=31&threadid=2178960&FTVAR_STKEYWORDFRM=&STARTPAGE=1&FTVAR_FORUMVIEWTMP=Linear
    http: //digg. com/hardware/780i_nvidia_motherboard_graphics_corruption
  • 0 Hide
    jabliese , May 13, 2008 2:27 PM
    No comparison of just the integrated graphics? One of the selling points for the 790 is it's DX10 support, would like to see some kind of comparison between just the integrated graphics, say, maybe on HDTV playback.
  • 0 Hide
    ComputerCustomizer , May 13, 2008 3:37 PM
    When's an ASUS variant coming out?
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , May 13, 2008 3:42 PM
    An Asus variant is floating around the review sites, this site had a couple.
  • 0 Hide
    unifiedonboarddecoder , May 13, 2008 8:38 PM
    They should also do the test using an ATi video card. I would like to see those benchmarks as well.
  • 0 Hide
    Brunnen-G , May 14, 2008 7:05 AM
    Hmm, Good 'ol Nvida releasing stuff that dosen't work because of bios and driver issues.... gee and I started to read this review thinking that maybe something would be different! NOT
  • 0 Hide
    Vpr , May 14, 2008 1:22 PM
    Too bad you didn't check the EVGA 790i Ultra. over 70% of the users are having Lock-Up problems with it.Check out EVGA's forums to see. It's full of lockup issues.
  • 0 Hide
    silverfrog , May 23, 2008 12:52 PM
    Sure, SSD HDDs have a slow SATA-150 interface, but what about the PCI/PCIe interface? That interface is more than capable of speeds necessary for ultra fast drive throughputs. I personally like the idea of modular SSD disk drives that you can add your own SDRAM/DDR/RDRAM sticks to. Hell, I still have like 10 sticks of old RAM laying around that I would love to re-use again. That, and I would also love to have instant-on Windows XP.
  • 0 Hide
    rgsaunders , May 25, 2008 7:23 AM
    johnbilicki

    Obviously your experience is limited, there are a number of different uses for firewire ports, including external drives, DSLR and videocamera interface, DVR interface, etc. Firewire may not be as fast as e-sata however it does provide a common interface between pc and mac, and is much better than usb for large file transfer.
  • 0 Hide
    roofus , July 5, 2008 8:16 PM
    VprToo bad you didn't check the EVGA 790i Ultra. over 70% of the users are having Lock-Up problems with it.Check out EVGA's forums to see. It's full of lockup issues.

    You are making the assumption that every user that bought one is posting on their forums. The forums are specifically for support so of course you will see issues lol. Go check any other manufacturer forums and the same argument can be made. The difference you see there is actual interaction from their support team.
  • 0 Hide
    supremelaw , July 23, 2008 11:09 PM
    Dear Serious Investors & Enthusiasts,

    We tried to order 2 x Gigabyte i-RAM Box units from PC Club,
    their USA distributor, but after 2 months of waiting,
    Gigabyte decided NOT to distribute same in the USA.

    So ...

    We have filed a Provisional Application with the U.S. Patent Office
    to patent an enhancement to both versions of Gigabyte's i-RAM,
    -- the i-RAM for PCI slots and the i-RAM Box --
    which we are calling the LapTopRAMDrive(tm):

    2 x 2GB or 2 x 4GB DDR2 SO-DIMMs in a 2.5" HDD form factor
    SATA/3G power and signal connectors, backplane compatible
    factory default of 300 MB/second
    jumper block switches to 600 MB/second (future)
    no on-board battery, to keep ASIC simple and costs down
    second AT-style PSU + external UPS recommended
    designed for 4 x LapTopRAMDrives(tm) in QuadraPack Q14
    (or similar 4-in-1 5.25" bay enclosure)

    We have a follow-up Provisional Patent Application
    in the works, to add further refinements, such as
    DDR3, 8GB per SO-DIMM, flashable firmware, etc.


    Potential investors and serious enthusiasts ONLY
    are encouraged to contact us:

    http://www.supremelaw.org/patents/correspondence.2008-01-22.1/

    RSVP to: supremelawfirm@gmail.com


    Sincerely yours,
    /s/ Paul Andrew Mitchell, Inventor and
    Webmaster, Supreme Law Library
    http://www.supremelaw.org/
  • 0 Hide
    UGISTEALTH , October 17, 2008 7:40 AM
    i just bought the ASRock 780a Wifi 3 Way SLI Mobo and hooked it up and it works flawlessy with latest bios update on a 9600 Phenom 500 gb hdd 2.5 gb ram and soon to be 2 evga 8800GTS 512's 700w psu every port works and all only thing to do now and that will be today is run sli and see if it pulls off and holds its turf on 2 feet and not fail me. but as of now its running smooth without any lockups in halo 2 cod 4 gears of war etc.
  • 0 Hide
    gilt1234 , October 26, 2008 12:54 AM
    I have one of these and coupled with a 9950be and a 9800gx2 and 4gig pc2-8000 it gets a 5.9 vista score and 11800 3dmark and runs all of my games full specs and has no issues of any kind, after I upgraded the bios and video drivers but that is a given for any new BYO system. My only complaint is the spacing of the PCI-E slots I am going to be putting a second 9800gx2 on this and that would make the two cards right on top of each other, to cool them I am going to have to use liquid and I do not know if there will be space. Though all in all I love this board and it is a steal for 159.99 at newegg