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MSI P4N Diamond Review - Page 2 of 10

MOTHERBOARD LAYOUT

WOW! was my first impression. The P4N Diamond motherboard is loaded!

I wasn't as impressed with the "look" of the motherboard as the color palette used for the various components isn't to my taste. The jet-black PCB has potential but the DIMM, PCI/PCI-E, IDE, USB, IEEE Firewire, SATA, and on-board power connections coloring aren't working for me. A more subtle use of colors combined with the jet-black PCB could have really made for a much cooler-looking motherboard.

As previously stated, the P4N Diamond is packed with components, let's take a look:

I/O Panel

The rear I/O panel is representative of most high-end motherboard offerings. The panel contains the usual legacy PS/2, serial and parallel ports as well as 6-pin IEEE 1394 Firewire, RCA S/PDIF, and 4 of the 10 USB 2.0 ports available on the board. There are 2 RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet ports located above USB ports on the panel. To finish off the fully laden panel there are 5, 3.5mm audio jacks and an optical S/PDIF.

4-pin Power Connector

Moving onto the board, inside the I/O Panel we find the 4-pin power connection. The CPU this area is free of the clutter such as heatsinks on mosfets due in large part to the strict Intel layout requirements around the CPU. As such, this area provides an acceptable placement of the power connector. Even with relatively large hands you can easily install or remove the connector plug.

PCI and PCI-E Slots

The PCI and PCI-E slot are located in their typical location toward the bottom of the board but there are a couple items of note. The first is the lack of jumpers or switching cards between the PCI-E slots for activating SLI. MSI has employed a form of auto-sensing to detect an SLI configuration when a card is mounted in the bottom slot. This helps make for a simple solution when setting up SLI as the board senses the occupied bottom slot and directs you with on-screen instructions for activating the system for SLI.

The second note is the orange-colored PCI slot at the very bottom with a single white PCI slot above. This slot is for MSI's Bluetooth/WiFi combo card.

Marvell 88E1111 Gbe PHY Marvell 88E8053

Dual LAN jacks are powered by the Marvell 88E1111 PHY supporting 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet and Marvell 88E8053 (connected to the PCI Express x1 bus) supporting 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet.

Creative Sound Blaster Live! 24-bit

MSI's use of Creative onboard PCI audio is a positive step in upgrading on-board sound. This sound solution supplies the P4N with 7.1 channel high definition audio, 24-bit / 96KHz support with Dolby Digital EX and EAX 4 HD for gaming.

IEEE 1394 FireWire Connections

On the bottom of the board are located 2 additional IEEE 1394 Firewire connections with bright green plastic housings that connect to a provided external IEEE 1394 bracket. To the right are 3 USB 2.0 connections (JUSB1, JUSB2, and JUSB3).

D-BraketTM2 D-BraketTM2 LEDs
JDB1 Connection USB 2.0

The yellow USB headers are intended to be used with the supplied D-Bracket 2. Besides adding 2 externally accesible USB ports, this bracket provides a connection for JDB1 on the motherboard which integrates 4 LEDs on the D-BracketTM 2 allowing users to identify system problems through 16 various combinations of LED signals. As a diagnostic indicator it should aid the troubleshooting process for any user with the manual detailing casus and solutions for the 16 LED combinations.

Next Page: Motherboard Layout Continued

Last Updated on September 23, 2005


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