K9N Diamond (a.k.a. MS-7226) is the most high-end socket AM2 motherboard from MSI based on NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI chipset and targeted to Athlon 64 CPUs supporting DDR2 memory. Its main feature is its on-board audio, controlled by a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy SE chip – feature not available on competing products. It also features a copper cooler on its north bridge chip and a copper heatsink on its south bridge chip, and they are connected through a copper heat-pipe. Let’s see how this motherboard from MSI performs.
Even though this motherboard features a cooper heatsink and a copper cooler connected by a heat-pipe, they are not as fancy as the solutions used by ASUS M2N32 SLI De Luxe and Gigabyte GA-M59SLI-S5. As a matter of fact, the solution used by these two boards is fanless, while the north bridge cooler from K9N Diamond uses a fan.
This motherboard does not have any cooling solution on its voltage regulator transistors, which is quite strange for a company like MSI.
This motherboard provides two x16 PCI Express slots that truly run at x16 when two video cards are installed. It also features two x1 PCI Express slots and two standard PCI slots. One of the PCI slots is orange and MSI says that this slot is special for communication devices, but no further info is given. On motherboards from ECS with a “special” PCI slot with a different color there is really something different on the hardware: better electrolytic capacitors are used on that particular slot. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with this motherboard from MSI.
On the memory side, K9N Diamond has four DDR2-DIMM sockets, supporting up to 8 GB up to DDR2-800. On this motherboard sockets 1 and 2 are green and sockets 3 and 4 are orange. To use DDR2 dual channel on this motherboard, you will have to install one module on a green socket and the other module on an orange socket. Pay attention because on the other two motherboard based on nForce 590 SLI we’ve seen, you had to install the modules on sockets with the same color, not on sockets with different colors.
This motherboard has 10 USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the motherboard) and three FireWire (IEEE1394) ports (one soldered on the motherboard), controlled by VIA VT6306 chip. What is unique about this motherboard is that its USB headers are colored, helping a lot installing the USB ports from the case – once you learned the color code, you don’t need to read the manual anymore; in fact not even this, as there is a big plus and a big minus signals printed on the header, meaning D+ and D-, so you can install the frontal USB ports from the case without reading the manual. We hope other manufacturers start to adopt this same idea soon.
Following MSI tradition, the USB I/O bracket containing two USB ports have a LED diagnostics device (“D-Bracket 2”).
On the storage side, this motherboard has six SATA-300 ports supporting NCQ, RAID0, RAID1, RAID0+1, RAID5 and JBOD, provided by nForce 590 SLI chipset. It also has one ATA/133 port. You can see the SATA-300 ports in Figure 3.