Remember the days
when AMD's Athlon64 was THE breakthrough in processor technology, and Intel's Pentium 4 couldn't
keep up? The tables have certainly turned in the other direction now, but AMD still
makes very affordable processors which are ideal for mainstream PC and
gaming demands. We'll leave the Core 2 Duo vs. Phenom argument for another
article (like this). Suffice it to say,
if you're running an AMD socket AM2 Athlon64/Phenom chip right now, you're
going to like what the AMD 790FX chipset and MSI's K9A2 Platinum motherboard
have to offer.
Retailing for about $170 CDN ($170 USD, £90 GBP), the MSI K9A2 Platinum
motherboard features four PCI Express x16 slots for multiple videocards, some
nice overclocker friendly BIOS options and the regular host of integrated
goodies. The MSI
is built on AMDs venerable 790FX and SB600 chipsets, which incorporate Hypertransport 3.0 and
bus speeds of up to 2600MHz. The board accomodates all socket AM2/AM2+ AMD Athlon64/Sempron/Phenom CPUs
and inexpensive DDR2 RAM.
The K9A2 Platinum can be installed
with up to 8GB of 533/667/800/1066 DDR2 memory, and of course it's compatible
with the AMD64 architecture, enabling simultaneous 32-bit and 64-bit computing. Expansion options are
pretty diverse, starting with the four PCI Express x16 slots (two in
x16/x16 mode for Crossfire videocards, two in x8/x8 for other peripherals), the
K9A2 Platinum also offers up a PCI Express x1 and two PCI slots
for legacy devices.
Integrated goodies cover all the basics that any
motherboard released in the last year wil have;
two 300MB/s external SATA jacks round back, six SATAII headers (two of which
are SAS ready, all offer RAID 0,1,0+1 support), a Gigabit network card,
400Mbps IEEE 1394 Firewire (one rear, one internal header), jack-sensing 7.1 channel
High Definition Azalia audio, IDE and seven USB2.0 jacks. This motherboard has almost everything a
person needs, except perhaps a Port 80 card which would have been a
nice added touch.
Around back at the rear IO ports on the
K9A2 Platinum you'll discover four USB2.0 jacks along with a pair of eSATAII ports
and an IEEE 1394a Firewire jack. There is an additional Firewire
port available via the supplied bracket / motherboard header. The rear I/O is fairly legacy free,
no parallel printer or serial jacks, but it does have PS/2 mouse
and keyboard connectors. Additional outputs include a 6-channel audio out
and SP/DIF optical audio out.
We particularly like the fact that there are two
external SATAII jacks on the K9A2 Platinum; when it comes to adding in
additional storage there is nothing as convenient as eSATA for this
As a bonus, the MSI K9A2 Platinum supports RAID 0,1,0+1 across both eSATA ports, so you
can potentially RAID 0 a set of external drives and install your video
game software into the resulting array for a nice boost in load times.
MSI includes pretty much everything you'll need to take advantage
of the onboard peripherals in the box. There are plenty of Serial ATA
cables, two flexible Crossfire bridge connectors, a pair of Firewire/USB2.0 brackets among others.
Quad Videocard Support
K9A2 Platinum motherboard is equipped with no less than four PCI Express 2.0
x16 videocard slots!
In Crossfire mode the dark blue 'Mazarine' PCI
Express x16 slots run in full x16/x16 mode (receiving a full 16 PCI-e lanes
each), and the light blue slots will become unavailable for use.
The light blue PCI Express x16 slots themselves run in
x8/x8 mode if you aren't running Crossfire. If all four physical PCI Express x16
slots are used, they will each operate in x8/x8/x8/x8 mode. Unlike many other
boards, the lone PCI Express x1 slot remains usable regardless of how the PCI
Express x16 slots are populated.
MSI's K9A2 Platinum
motherboard is equipped with no less than four PCI Express 2.0 x16
Passive 790FX Chipset Thermal
The MSI K9A2 Platinum motherboard features a pair
of copper heatpipe-based thin fin heatsinks covering the AMD 790FX and AMD SB600 southbridge chipsets.
The two AMD chipsets generate a moderate
amount of heat, but this totally silent thermal solution is better than using a
bunch of little noisy fans. Chipset fans have a bad habit of failing over time,
or becoming hopelessly clogged with dust.
AMD's 790FX chipset is
capped with distinctive round finned heatsink wrapped with heatpipes. A pair of heatpipes snake their
way through the components on the K9A2 Platinum, connecting the
Northbridge heatsink to a large thin fin copper heatsink mounted to the
processor power supply MOSFETs.
The thin copper fin heatsink on the CPU power supply MOSFETs to
the left of the AMD AM2 socket harnesses the exhaust airflow from
the processor heatsink fan for its cooling. A clever solution for sure,
and one that most motherboard manufacturers have embraced as a quiet way of managing the heat
As always, it's important to
remember that if water cooling is used here, you have to point a fan in the
direction of these passive heatsinks or the chipsets will not be adequately
cooled. In our experience with the MSI K9A2 Platinum
we found it's passive chipset solution quite effective at keeping temperatures
Solid Capacitors for motherboard longevity
MSI have assembled the K9A2 Platinum motherboard with
entirely conductive polymer aluminum solid capacitors. These are the same
type of capacitors mostly found on videocards, and being a solid device they don't
leak or burst years down the road. There's an interesting back story behind
the wide adoption of polymer capacitors on higher end motherboards, if you
have time read this PCSTATS article It's actually a rather complicated story revolving
around industry espionage...
Next up, PCSTATS takes you in for a closer look at the MSI K9A2 Platinum
motherboard, and then it's onto overclocking and a round of benchmarks as we
seek to find out if this board is worth your time and money.