MSI P6N Diamond

Review - MSI P6N Diamond Motherboard, Nvidia nforce 680i SLI chipset
Date  - 30/01/07
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Summery -
A slightly delayed entry to the 680i group of motherboards is the P6N diamond from MSI. Due for release in December, this motherboard is hitting the shelves in Q2 of 2007. The MSI offering gives outstanding features for a great price. Just take a look at 4 PCI express 16x slots that can be set in 16x/16x/8x or 16x/8x/8x/8x modes and onboard sound using creative's SoundBlaster X-FI audio chips.
 


Today we are looking at MSI's top offering for Nvidia's nforce 680i SLI chipset. The P6N Diamond looks to offer the consumer a lot more than some of the other motherboards available with the 680i chipset. While a little late in coming from its original release date of mid December, the delays may have allowed MSI to produce a motherboard that offers everything the consumer may want from a top end board. The P6N Diamond motherboard is for use with the Intel Core 2 line of products as well as the Pentium D, Pentium 4 and Celeron D CPU's.

A quick run down of some of the most attractive features gives us firstly four, yes 4! PCI Express 16x graphics card slots. The P6N diamond is fully capable of supporting 4 graphics cards. While the latest graphics cards such as the Geforce 8800 series are currently struggling with Nvidia drivers for this setup, I'm sure this will change. In the mean time, other cards such as the Geforce 7900GS and the Geforce 6600GT has been tested successfully in this setup. Next thing of note is the integrated sound system. Most motherboards these days come with integrated sound, but the P6N Diamond comes with a creative X-FI audio chip onboard. This could well mean that the P6N diamond motherboard has the best integrated sound system of any motherboard on the market.

Using a four Graphics card setup

The reality of using four graphics cards at once is very real. While at this stage we don't know off hand which combinations work the best and what is required in the future in order to get 4 graphics cards to work together in a quad SLI system, we do know that this is exactly what the P6N diamond motherboards 4 PCI express slots were created for. What we are seeing is a prediction that Nvidia will develop a system and drivers for a quad system. And why not, after all a quad SLI system means people buying 4 Nvidia graphics cards. Fantastic if your the one selling them.

Quad SLI has been here before though, taking a look at the Geforce 7950 GX2 which essentially was two graphics cards fused into one, and only taking up 1 PCI express slot. By placing these graphics cards into an SLI configuration you are effectively getting a quad GPU system. from this we know that the possibility is there and development for 4 individual graphics cards quad SLI is likely.

Backplate and Outputs

The outputs at the rear of the MSI P6N Diamond at first glance look a little thin on the ground at first glance until you look and see what is actually missing. Removed are the ancient serial and parallel ports which were quite bulky and rarely used on high end PC's since the USB bus came into use. So the outputs on the P6N Diamond are :

  • PS2 Keyboard and Mouse
  • External S-ATA (eSATA)
  • FireWire
  • Digital Optical Audio Connector
  • 2 Gigabit LAN connectors
  • 4 USB Ports
  • Creative X-Fi Audio Outputs.

Chipset Features

So what can we expect to get from the Nvidia nforce 680i SLI chipset? Well firstly this chipset is designed to handle all the latest Intel CPU's. The Core 2 line of CPU's including the Quad, Duo and the extreme are supported, also supported are the Pentium 4, Pentium D and the Celeron D with the Socket 775 format.

The FSB tops out at 1066Mhz which is not dissimilar from the previous few releases of chipsets for this era. The memory controller supports up to DDR2-800 memory as well as the lower varieties. While this is the modern speed of memory, some of the previous chipsets like the nforce 590 SLI only went as far as DDR-667.

The PCI express system has been greatly expanded with the north bridge having 18 PCI express lanes and the South bridge having a further 28. This of course is needed if you are thinking of using 4 graphics cards in the same system. Multi GPU support is obviously for SLI (by the name of the chipset) and not for crossfire multi GPU graphics setups.

Motherboard Features

dual core center

Dual Core Center is a multi function utility that controls key parts of your system. With Dual Core Center you can monitor the health of your system, set auto setting to speed up your system under heavy load and monitor the status of dual core CPU's

live update 3

Live update 3 is a single desktop utility that automatically checks for updates for the BIOS, drivers and utilities for your MSI P6N Diamond

core cell 2

Core Cell 2 is made up of 4 key utilities, Speedster, used for the Overclocking features of the motherboard, PowerPro for power saving features, Life Pro for temperature control and fan speed management and finally Buzz Free for Noise management

DOT Express

DOT Express or Dynamic Overclocking Technology Express, lets you dynamically overclock your Graphics card and memory subsystem with a 6 level setting.

Overclocking

Overclocking as you might expect from a high end board is made available to you with the ability to overclock in very fine increments to get the very best balance in speed and stability. The CPU speed can be increased in 1Mhz increments and the CPU core voltage can also be altered in tiny amount in order to keep the CPU stable.

The FSB can be set anywhere from 100Mhz to 625Mhz in 1Mhz increments which gives you massive scope for experimenting. Memory speed can be changed in the region of 400Mhz to 1400Mhz again giving you enough scope to cope with even the best overclockable components. The PCIe clock can also be changed as well as voltages for the CPU, North and South bridges and the DRAM voltage. I doubt you will run out of options to get the most out of your system. And finally the Speed of the Hyperlink between the North and South Bridges can also be changed to anything between 200Mhz and 500Mhz in 1Mhz increments.

Always remember that overclocking can permanently damage your system and will more than likely void any warranty you will have on the components that you choose to push past the rated speeds. Always overclock in small increments and if the system becomes unstable do not push it any further, an unstable system is the first sign that the components are at the breaking point. Also only overclock one component at a time so you know when a certain component has reached its limit.

Page 2 for Full MSI P6N Diamond Specifications

Useful Links For the MSI P6N Diamond Motherboard

 

Drivers and utilities Related Articles Purchase the P6N Diamond
Drivers, BIOS Updates, Motherboard Manual and Utility updates What is a chipset Buy with Micro Direct
SLI Buy with Misco
PCI Express Compare prices With Kelkoo
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