This review contains the technical specifics
for the MSI K9N Diamond
(MS 7226) mainboard. If you believe any of the information
posted below is inaccurate please contact
MSI K9N Diamond was
released by Micro Star International in June 2006. The first
bios release (v1.0) is dated August 18, 2006. The
MSI K9N Diamond is the
current AMD AM2 high-end mainboard from Micro Star International's K9N line
of mainboards. It
is currently priced at about $170 USD, making it one of the cheapest nForce 590 SLI motherboards available.
What's in the Box.
Here is what I found in the box:
- A clear plastic tray
covering the top of the mainboard
- MSI K9N Diamond (MS
7226) v1.1 mainboard
- A black foam sheet
on the bottom of the mainboard
- Quick User's Manual,
Quick Guide, G52-72262X1-L03
- Drivers & Utilities
Sound Blaster Live 24-bit Installation
Rounded Ultra/133 IDE
Rounded Floppy Cable (red)
6x Serial ATA Cables (red, 4 straight,
3x Molex to
Serial ATA Power Cables
IEEE 1394 Bracket
SLI Bridge Secure Bracket
I/O Back Shield
Diamond is a full-ATX
mainboard utilizing the standard 305 x 245mm size.
This mainboard does not offer a cooling
solution on its voltage regulator transistors as other top-end
On the mainboard you will find:
- CPU Socket AM2
- ATX 24-pin Power Connector
- 2 ATX 4-pin 12V Power Connectors
- NB Fan Power Connector
- SYS Fan Power Connector
- CPU Fan Power Connector
- PWR Fan Power Connector
- 2 PCI Express x16 Slots
- 2 PCI Express x1 Slots
- 2 PCI Slots
- CD-in Connector
- 2 Front Panel Audio Connector2
- 2 IEEE 1394 Connectors
- 3 USB 2.0 Connectors
- D-Bracket2 Connector
- Front Panel Connectors
- 6 SATA Connectors
- Clear CMOS button
- 1 ATA 133 Connector
- 1 Floppy Disk Drive Connector
- 4 DIMM Memory Slots
- Chassis Intrusion Switch Connector
- IrDA Infrared Module Header
On the rear panel
you will find:
2 Gigabit Ethernet ports
- 1 Firewire
- 4 USB 2.0 ports
- Analog audio input/outputs (7.1 format)
SPDIF coaxial and optical outputs
- 1 serial port
PS/2 mouse connector
PS/2 keyboard connector
Main power comes from a
v2.x (24-pin) connector. The CPU is powered by its own 12V
This motherboard also has an extra 12V power connector
(JPWR2) using a
regular peripheral power plug, although I am unsure what this is
specifically used for.
The motherboard is compatible with older ATX 1.4 (20 pin) power
supplies, just make sure you have enough power on the 12V line to
support the mainboard.
Nvidia nForce 590
SLI chipset. The
MSI K9N Diamond
uses the Nvidia nForce 590 SLI chipset which supports a total of 48 PCI Express bus lanes along
with Quad SLI support.
The nVidia 590 SLI
chipset introduces a memory feature called the
Performance Profiles or EPP. This is an open memory
standard put forth by Corsair and nVIDIA which takes over where
JEDEC's SPD left off. As the Enhanced Performance Profiles
description implies, it adds performance profiles to the memory SPD
in addition to the conservative compatibility settings already
programmed in. EPP compliant memory is dubbed "SLI Ready"
memory on nVidia platforms and allows the system to dynamically
tighten up memory timings and increase voltages for better
performance with no fuss. Whether you're a novice or
experienced computer user, the benefits of EPP are immediate.
When the nVIDIA
nForce 590 SLI chipset is equipped with GeForce 7900GTX class or
higher video cards, the chipset will automatically activate the
LinkBoost increases the PCI Express x16 buses to the video card by
25%, and it also does the same for the HyperTransport link between
the NorthBridge and SouthBridge chipsets. While increasing the
PCI Express bandwidth to a GeForce 7900GTX might be a bit
redundant, future generation video cards will benefit from this
available setting. The 590
SLI is the only model that offers dual x16. PCI_E1 is a full x16
when used in single card mode.
has greatly upgraded its
which allow users more control over their systems. Realistically
with nTune, there is no longer a need to go into the BIOS to adjust
settings, now you can do everything within
AMI Bios. American
Megatrends, Inc. offers their great bios on the
MSI K9N Diamond. Main menu
- Standard CMOS Features
- Advanced BIOS Features
- Advanced Chipset Features
- Integrated Peripherals
- Power Management Features
- PNP/PCI Configurations
- H/W Monitor
- Cell Menu
- Load Fail-Safe Defaults
- Load Optimized Defaults
- BIOS Settings Password
- Save & Exit Setup
- Exit Without Saving
See my Bios page for
specific bios settings.
(0/1/0+1/5/JBOD) comes standard on the
MSI K9N Diamond
with the nForce 590 SLI chipset. There are the two usual RAID
configurations available: Non-bootable and Bootable RAID
Array. The available RAID modes are:
- Stripe Mirroring
The RAID drivers are
included on the enclosed Drivers & Utilities
The CPU bracket is very well placed and
supports all Socket AM2
processors from the AMD Athlon 64/FX/X2/Sempron series. The
AMD processor connects to the C51XE NorthBridge via a 1 GHz HyperTransport connection.
SouthBridge. The SouthBridge
chipset carries most of the load on the MSI
K9N Diamond mainboard. In pure form, the SouthBridge
is able to handle up to
5 bus mastering PCI slots, the
MSI K9N Diamond
has one such slot, PCI 2, which is orange.
The MCP55PXE also supports one
PCI Express x16 link, which means users get full video card bandwidth when running
video cards in SLI.
MCP SouthBridge is able to support a PCI Express x8 link and six PCI Express x1
MSI K9N Diamond
comes with the following PCI slots:
- 2 PCI Express x16
- 2 PCI Express x1
- 2 PCI Slots,
supporting 3.3V/5V PCI Bus Interface
There is a direct link to the SouthBridge for the two Gigabit Ethernet connections, which include nVIDIA's DualNet technology.
SouthBridge's heatsink has a short copper heatpipe connecting it to the large
heatsink on the C51XE NorthBridge chipset. The size and low
profile of the SouthBridge chipset does not interfere with the video
The NorthBridge chipset is built on TSMC's 90nm
manufacturing. The nVIDIA nForce 590 SLI chipsets have a total
lanes available divided into 9 links. The C51XE SPP
NorthBridge supplies one PCI Express x16 link while the
MCP55PXE SouthBridge handles the remainder of the PCI Express lanes.
The NorthBridge heatsink is made up of 26 aluminum fins and is
cooled by a 40mm fan.
Dual CoreCell chip allows
for a number of performance options that is custom to MSI
mainboards. "Core Cell" is MSI's
line of features and software that
decreases overall system noise and reduces power consumption,
prolonging the life of system components. For those who like
to push their PCs, it enables quick and easy
Depending on what you're
doing, Dual Core Cell can slow down the CPU and other system fans by
up to 50% to reduce overall system noise. Unfortunately MSI's
is not very specific about how Dual
Core Cell technology saves power or prolongs the life of your
The most significant feature
Cell are its overclocking functions. It permits users to not just
overclock their system within Windows (FSB and voltage adjustments
available), it also allows the system itself to
dynamically overclock your
computer by default (up to 15%) when under load. To enable
this feature you just enter the Bios Cell Menu and select CPU
Dynamic OverClocking. There you will have the choice of
selecting one of the six levels:
It's a nice option
for users like me who don't know much about overclocking, as it allows them
to get their feet wet without diving into all the tools and options
of the BIOS, which can be overwhelming and very dangerous.
WARNING FROM MSI
Even though the Dynamic OverClocking
Technology is more stable than manual
overclocking, basically, it is still risky.
We suggest the user to make sure that your CPU
can afford to overclock regularly first.
If you find the PC appears to be unstable or
reboot incidentally, it's better to disable the
Dynamic OverClocking or to lower the level of
overclocking options. By the way, if you
need to conduct overclocking manually, you also
need to disable the Dynamic OverClocking first.
MSI K9N Diamond
Quick User's Guide
The MSI K9N Diamond supports up to 8GB of dual-channel
DDR2-800 memory. The placement of the DIMM slots on the
mainboard do not conflict with any other slots
or ports, making this mainboard itself very nicely laid out.
DDR2 DIMM memory slots can handle 8GB of DDR2-800 unbuffered non-ECC RAM.
For dual channel mode you will have to used match
memory pairs in each channel bank (DIMM 1+3 or DIMM 2+4). DIMM
sockets 1 and 2 are green and sockets 3 and 4 are orange.
Dual Gigabit LAN.
The MSI K9N Diamond comes
equipped with two Vitesse VSC8601 Ethernet controllers.
Gigabit network cards each have their own special connections to the
SouthBridge so bandwidth with the PCI bus isn't affected.
combine the two connections for more bandwidth, and there is
hardware TCP/IP Acceleration which lowers CPU utilization. nVIDIA's FirstPacket Technology allows
you to prioritize network traffic. So for example, if you are a
gamer that tends to do multiple things while you're online, you can
prioritize your game traffic so that ping times are not affected by
the other processes going on in the background. Dual Gigabit
LAN really is a great feature!
Blaster. The integrated Sound
Blaster CA0106-WATLF audio
with Cirrus Logic CS4382 codec
is one of the top highlights of the MSI K9N
Diamond. It offers 24-bit/96 KHz audio quality, 100db
signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) – which is a professional level
and up to 7.1 channel audio with SPDIF-out. It
EAX Advanced HD 3.0
and Dolby Digital EX.
Onboard audio connectors include the yellow
SPDIF output next to the IEEE 1394 connector. On the audio jacks,
there's line in, line out, microphone, RS (rear surround) out, and CS
(center, subwoofer) out connector.
The MSI K9N Diamond features six SATA II ports
which are connected to the nForce 590 SLI
These are all
SATA II ports.
The six SATA II ports are all neatly
grouped together at the bottom right hand corner of the mainboard
and they are color coded blue to help make the installation process
The mainboard supports a single IDE
Ultra 133 channel
enabling a Master and Slave device to be installed.
Supports up to two standard floppy drives.
four USB 2.0 jacks at the back of the
MSI K9N Diamond.
On the mainboard proper there are three USB 2.0 headers
for six additional jacks. The included D-Bracket 2
acts as a Port 80 card to help diagnose problems during
boot-up and may be very useful in case installation problems arise.
IEEE 1394 Firewire.
The MSI K9N Diamond nForce 590 SLI mainboard
utilizes the VIA VT6306
chip to offer three IEEE1394 ports. These have a transfer rate
up to 400Mbps. One port is located on the back panel and two
pin headers are located on the mainboard.
CMOS button. On additional feature included on the
Diamond is the
Clear CMOS button (SW1). If you ever have the need to clear
CMOS all you have to do is power down the system and push the Clear
CMOS button to clear the system configuration data.
The MSI K9N Diamond mainboard
is laid out nearly perfectly making this a very easy system to
build. Most of the connectors on the mainboard have been
color coded to assist assembly and prevent errors. The Nvidia nForce 590
SLI chipset is the top of the 500 Series line and makes this
mainboard a top gaming machine. The Socket AM2 is the current
top-of-the-line AMD mainboard and is capable of holding several
different CPUs. What makes this board so strong is the
SouthBridge and NorthBridge chipsets and their support for x16 PCI
Express Link. MSI really did a great job with their styling on
the mainboard. The Creative Sound Blaster audio controller is
also a high selling point, not found very often on other mainboards.
This is a significant cost savings for those who want professional
grade sound without having to pay for an additional sound card.
Another gamers dream is the dual-gigabit LAN which allows the user
prioritize network traffic.
As DIMM becomes so important in today's
PCs the ability to add 8GB of DDR2 800 should surpass everybody's
needs. USB 2.0 and Firewire round out a great mainboard that
should mark the MSI K9N Diamond
as cutting-edge for a long time to come. At its current
selling price, it's a real steal that should be within reach of many
buyers. All-in-all a very impressive package from Micro Star