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The layout of the Destroyer is dominated by the graphics slots while the I/O panel has to give up a certain amount of space to the VGA and DVI-D ports that are connected to the integrated 780a graphics. We don't want to sound like we have a downer on Nvidia but the inclusion of integrated graphics on a high end motherboard to enable HybridPower feature seems like a complicated way to save power. The way it works with a limited range of graphics chips from GeForce 9800 onwards is annoying.
The inclusion of the two graphics ports means that the I/O panel is completely filled by six USB 2.0 pots, two eSATA, one Firewire, one PS/2, six audio mini jacks and dual Gigabit LAN. In fairness that's not a bad selection of ports but Foxconn has included optical and coaxial S/PDIF ports on one bracket and two USB and a mini Firewire on a second bracket, just in case.
We can't complain about the list of features but the performance of the Destroyer left us cold. We used a Phenom X4 9750 in testing which is a locked, quad-core processor and found that the maximum change we could make to the base clock was an increase from 200MHz to 210MHz. That is no reflection on Foxconn as the Quantum BIOS is very well specified for overclocking. The problem is that - in our experience - Phenom doesn't respond to overclocking unless you link it to the latest AMD chipset with an SB750 Southbridge so by definition that excludes the Nvidia 780a. An unlocked Phenom X4 9850 would undoubtedly have delivered more performance but the extra heat that this processor generates is unwelcome.
When we reviewed the MSI we had to consider Core 2 as the main competition to Phenom even though Core i7 was on the roadmap. We have to confess that we've had the Destroyer on the test bench for some time but it was put on hold by the arrival of Core i7. That's important because it changes the context of the Destroyer, in particular because Core i7 can work with SLI.
The other problem is that the Destroyer is horribly expensive as it sells for more than £200 which is a premium of £40 over the MSI K9N2 Diamond. Chuck in a £125 Phenom X4 9750 or £145 X4 9850 and you have a processor and motherboard package that costs about £340.
Lined up against that you have the Asus P6T Deluxe with X58 chipset for £270 and a Core i7 920 for £270 totalling £540. That's £200 more than the Destroyer/Phenom but if you're considering two or three GeForce GTX 260 graphics cards at £250 a pop it doesn't seem like a ridiculous step up.
If you're determined to build a Phenom gaming rig we recommend the Asus M3A79-T Deluxe as the AMD chipset gives some scope for overclocking, it supports a more sensible but still plentiful number of graphics cards and the price is right. If, however, you want SLI graphics it's Core i7 all the way.
On paper the idea of combining Phenom with SLI may look promising but it doesn't work well in the real world. The cost is high while performance is low and that's a horrible combination.
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