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MSI P4N Diamond Review - Page 3 of 10

On-board USB 2.0 Pin Headers

The motherboard provides 3 USB 2.0 pin headers (JUSB1, JUSB2, and JUSB3). This is ideal for connecting high-speed interface peripherals such as external hard-disk drives, digital cameras, MP3 players, printers, modems, gaming devices, and flash drives. The photo above displays two of the USB pinouts occupied, effectively allowing for 4 USB ports. The wires connected to USB1, on the left, are from the front panel USB ports on my case.

Front Panel Connectors

Two front panel connectors (JFP1 and FJP2) are located to the right of the USB connectors and provide for electrically connecting front panel switches and LED connections.

Southbridge, Sata Connectors and CMOS components

The CMOS chip is located above the front panel connectors. Above the CMOS we find the passively cooled southbridge with an aluminum heatsink which encapsulates a copper cooling core. The red button just to the right of the southbridge is a handy CMOS clear button (labeled SW1) that when pressed clears the CMOS. This is a nice change from trying to manipulate a jumper or using a screwdriver to close the circuit to clear the CMOS when the need arises.

MSI Core Cell and nForce4 Southbridge

The six SATA ports are located along the right edge of the motherboard arranged in a column. The top 4 lilac-colored ports are supported by NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI Intel Edition MCP04 chipset. The remaining two are supported by Silicon Image's SATARAID. All are high-speed interface ports supporting data rates of 300MB/s and fully comply with SATA 2.0 specifications.

Just above the SATA connections is MSI's Core Cell chip which plays an important role in system monitoring as it is responsible for displaying temperatures, fan RPMs; CPU, memory, and other settings. But more importantly for the tweaker, the Core Cell allows the user to control overclocking, so this chip represents handy tool for the tweaker.

To the left of the Core Cell chip is the on-board CMOS battery.

The copper core of the aluminum Southbridge heatsink is visible from this angle. External measurements of the temperature of the copper core at idle was 52.4C, while temperature of the aluminum fins averaged about 6C less. The nForce4 chipset does generate some heat, so be forewarned when adjusting the voltages within the BIOS.

Memory DIMMs

The MSI P4N Diamond's DIMM coloring scheme is different from most dual channel boards as the dual channel DDR2 DIMM slots are colored by channel so each color (green or orange) represents a separate channel. The compatible memory modules still need to be installed one per channel, one in the green and one in the orange for dual channel operation. That simply means that the memory needs to be installed in either DIMM slots 1 & 2 or 3 & 4 for dual channel operation.

To the right of the DIMM slots are located two yellow IDE slots representing IDE1 and IDE2 for your IDE HDDs and optical drives. Just above these are the 24-pin main board power connector compliant with either a 24-pin or 20-pin power connector (plug) from the power supply unit (PSU). Although users are successfully using a 20-pin, ATX 12V, v1.2, PSU on another 24-pin system I would recommend the use of a 24-pin equipped PSU meeting Intel ATX 12V, v2.0, specifications.

To the right of the power connection is a black FDD slot connector for the floppy drive.

Note the fan guard on the Northbridge chipset heatsink. Although it does not appear to be bent in the pictures, it most definitly is. I noticed that the temperature of the chipset was increasing at a steady rate, surpassing 45 degreees. The fan blades were turning but the Bios reported '0' RPMs. The 40mm fan was replaced with a similarly-designed Akasa fan. The Temperature immediately dropped below 40C. Upon closer inspection, it was found the fan guard was slightly bent. The stock fan was reinstalled without the guard. This time around the BIOS was reporting the fan was spinning at 4600 RPMs and the temperature temps were within normal range. I will be able to straighten the guard but did not have the occasion to do so before the completion of the pictures of the motherboard. Therefore there may be other photos of the Northbridge HSF with the fan guard missing.

Next Page: BIOS Specifications

Last Updated on September 23, 2005


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