K8N Diamond Plus is the latest model in the high-end Diamond series from MSI, based on NVIDIA nForce 4 SLI X16 chipset and supporting all socket 939 processors released to date (Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 X2 and Opteron), having an excellent audio system using a vacuum tube-based pre-amplifier. In this review we will deeply analyze this new MSI release.
The main difference between nForce 4 SLI X16 and nForce 4 SLI is the x16 PCI Express slots bandwidth when running the system under SLI mode. On nForce 4 SLI when we enable SLI mode, each x16 slot runs at x8 (2 GB/s), i.e., each video card will have available only half of the original bandwidth. Theoretically this can limit the performance of very high-end video cards. On nForce 4 SLI X16 both x16 slots work at x16 rate when SLI mode is enabled, thus solving this problem.
In fact only very high-end video cards (GeForce 7800 and above) working at very high resolutions and at their maximum image quality settings will benefit from the increased bandwidth available on nForce 4 SLI X16.
As you can see in Figure 1, nForce 2 SLI X16 now uses two chips: C51D north bridge and CK804 south bridge. The connection between the two is made by a HyperTransport bus, so on socket 939 motherboards based on nForce 4 SLI X16 there are two HyperTransport busses, one between the CPU and the north bridge and another between the north bridge and the south bridge. As you will read in our overclocking section, the presence of two HyperTransport busses will make overclocking trickier.
K8N Diamond Plus comes in a great package with holographic effect, with a cover that when opened shows all the features of the motherboard.
Its look is very sophisticated and follows the trend used by all motherboard manufacturers on their high-end products. Using a black printed circuit board, what immediately catches the eye is its chipset cooler, which uses heat-pipe technology.
This cooler works by removing heat from CK804 south bridge and transferring it to a bigger heatsink on top of the C51D north bridge, through a heat-pipe. The north bridge heatsink is all copper and has a fan to improve its efficiency.
The position of the fan helps removing hot air from around the CPU and also helps cooling the back of the video card.
Our only criticism to K8N Diamond Plus layout is that this heatsink is too close to the CPU, what can prevent the installation of bigger CPU coolers.
The manufacturing quality of this motherboard is very good, however we expected MSI to install heatsinks on the MOSFET transistors from the voltage regulator of this motherboard. A motherboard this level should have these heatsinks.