MSI’s K9A2 Platinum presents us with a couple of firsts: it’s the first motherboard that we’ve seen that supports AMD’s latest AM2+ processors (i.e. the Phenoms) and it’s also the first we have seen that uses AMD’s latest 790FX chipset. Oh yes, and it also supports Quad CrossFire, should your wallet be up to buying four graphics cards.
If you don’t have a Phenom, don’t worry, as the AM2+ socket is compatible with all of AMD’s AM2-socketed processors, so you can use any of the AM2 Athlons or Semprons. AMD’s 790FX chipset supports 1,066/800/667/533MHz, dual channel, DDR2 memory, the K9A2 Platinum providing four DIMM slots to allow up to a maximum of 8GB of memory.
As with most high-end motherboards these days, both bridges and the MOSFETS are cooled passively by heat-pipe technology, which MSI is labelling Circu-Pipe. This cooling technology, together with the dual-phase power design, is claimed to give the board up to 95 percent power transfer efficiency.
Despite the feature-laden aspect of the board, it’s well laid out, with the only problem being the locking latches of the memory slots; they’ll be obstructed by any large graphics card you put in the primary PCI-E x16 slot.
Talking of graphics card slots, MSI has equipped the K9A2 Platinum with four. The two primary x16 slots (coloured dark blue) run at full speed if you use the standard dual-card CrossFire set-up. The two other PCI-E graphics slots (coloured light blue) run at x8 speed and, should you want to go down the Quadfire route and fit four cards, all the slots run at x8 speed. All four slots support the latest PCI-E 2.0 specifications but are fully backwards compatible for PCI-E 1.0 cards.
In addition to these four graphics slots, there’s a single x1 PCI slot and two standard PCI slots. This may not seem enough for expansion, but there isn’t any room on the board for any more, and besides, with integrated Gigabit Ethernet and 8-channel audio, this should be enough for most users.
Sitting next to the SB600 Southbridge are six SATA II (3.0Gbps) ports. Four are coloured purple and support RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5 arrays. The two remaining ports are coloured red and use a Promise T3 chip to provide SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) support, the first time this has been seen on a desktop motherboard. The same chip provides support for two e-SATA (external SATA) ports on the rear I/O panel.
Also on the rear of the board are seven audio ports including an optical S/PDIF out port, four USB 2.0 ports, two PS/2 ports and a FireWire port.
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