The one thing I don't understand about the
P4N Diamond is how the two dual channel DDR sockets are colour coordinated. On most other
motherboards, memory slots of the same colour indicate which DIMM slots need
to be occupied in order to enable dual channel memory operation. On MSI motherboards,
the colours indicate memory channels A and B. That means if you
put the memory in adjacent slots, the memory will operate in single channel mode. Confused?
So are we.
Another thing I'm not particularly impressed with are
the shoddy rounded cables that MSI includes with its motherboards. These cables are just regular IDE cables folded and
wrapped in plastic and are not like the true rounded cables you
might buy in the store. Other manufacturers like Epox and ABIT include high quality cables, if
MSI is making the effort to add value there's no sense in cheaping
The MSI P4N
Diamond motherboard sports two pretty large chipset heatsinks. The NF4 SLI is
cooled by a medium sized active heatsink while the nVidia MCP04 Southbridge is
cooled by a passive heatsink with copper core.
Both chipset heatsinks are removable and can be replaced by third party
chipset heatsinks such as the Thermaltake Crystal Orb, Vantec Iceberq or Zalman
Northbridge coolers if desired. The area around the MCP04 is a bit on the tight
side however so finding a cooler that fits may be difficult.
During testing the NF4 SLI Northbridge stayed relatively cool and was only moderately
warm to the touch. Not a surprise since it is actively cooled. On the
other hand, the MCP04 passive heatsink was very hot - I
think a fan is what is really needed on this chipset.
nVIDIA is not alone with chipset heat issues, Intel's 955X and ICH7 also
suffer from the same heat problems. In any case if you plan on getting a top of
the line motherboard, you better make sure you have adequate case cooling.
I am happy to see that MSI equips the P4N Diamond with a
Silicon Image SiI3132 PCI Express x1 based Serial ATA II controller instead of
the older SiI3114 Serial ATA I PCI controller. By default the SiI3132 comes with
two Serial ATA II ports, and thanks to its port multiplier capabilities, you
can actually hook up to 30 HDDs (fifteen on each port) to the
controller. You'll need the associated port multiplier hardware which can be difficult to find now,
but is certainly going to be a popular NAS solution in the coming months.
Most high end motherboards
come with dual Gigabit NICs, and the MSI P4N Diamond is no different. The
first nVIDIA Gigabit network card runs through a special bus that connects to
the nForce4 SLI chipset, but there is a bit of confusion about the
second onboard Gigabit NIC. According to the manual's motherboard specifications,
the second onboard network card should be the Marvell 88E8053. Yet what we
see on the motherboard is the Marvel 88E1111 Gigabit network card.... While that might not sound like a big deal, it is after you consider
the 88E8053 is a PCI Express x1 device while the 88E1111 found on the
motherboard runs through the PCI bus.