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We tested the K9N2 Diamond with a Phenom X4 9750 running at standard clock speeds and noted that MSI disables both the TLB fix and Cool ‘n' Quiet in the BIOS by default. Although the Phenom was reasonably cool we had to add a case fan to keep the extensive chipset cooling system at a reasonable temperature. Left to its own devices the temperature would shoot up to 60 degrees, which is a little toasty for our liking.
Performance was uninspiring and overclocking was non-existent as we couldn't even raise the reference clock from 200MHz to 210MHz. Instead we were limited to raising the RAM voltage so we could increase the memory speed from the default 800MHz to the maximum 1,066MHz. It's best not to leap to conclusions on the overclocking front as we know for a fact that the BIOS will be updated very soon so there is every chance that the Phenom will gain some performance.
The list of features on the K9N2 Diamond is comprehensive with four USB ports, one Firewire and two eSATA on the I/O panel along with dual Gigabit LAN (do people really use two Ethernet ports? - ed.). There are also two more USB ports and a second Firewire on a bracket as well as two eSATA ports on a pass through bracket.
MSI includes a Creative X-Fi PCI Express riser in the package that uses the only PCI Express x1 slot on the board and the two regular PCI slots would be blocked if you use substantial graphics cards, not that this is unusual. There's a single IDE connector next to the main power block and a second IDE connector at the foot of the board that is connected to the JMicron controller that runs the two eSATA ports. Add in micro buttons for Power, Reset and Clear CMOS and a handful of somewhat intense LEDs and you have a high-end gaming motherboard that delivers the sort of quality that you expect from MSI.
We'll have to wait a week or two to see HybridSLI in action. In the meantime the K9N2 Diamond looks promising but there's no hiding the fact that Phenom cannot match Core 2 Duo for performance.