My confidence in the nVidia nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition chipset was not exactly at its peak after the past couple of reviews. The MSI P4N Diamond didn’t inspire me with a lot of confidence either initially, but this turned out to be due to a faulty board. But once I received a replacement board things improved considerably and it seems like nVidia’s Intel platform is far more stable than I first thought.
So, let’s put my initial concerns behind us and move on to what the P4N Diamond has to offer. As with the K8N Diamond this board has a black PCB, but more importantly it has also inherited the Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live! 7.1-channel sound with optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs. It might not be as good as some of the latest sound cards from Creative, but it is far superior to any other current onboard solution - it has built in audio possessing which no AC97 or even the new HD audio controllers can compete with.
However, my absolute favourite feature on the P4N Diamond is the new digital SLI switch. Instead of the small piece of PCB that most other SLI boards use, MSI has incorporated a row of components that automatically detects if there is one or two cards installed. This is then reported to the BIOS, which sets the correct mode. Hopefully this is something that other manufacturers will adopt, to save users the trouble of opening up their case when they realise they’ve forgotten to flick the switch.
Although the P4N Diamond doesn’t ship with the combined WiFi/Bluetooth card that some of the K8N Diamond boards have, the orange slot is still present, so you can buy one as an optional upgrade.
There are still plenty of features on the P4N Diamond and MSI has even improved upon the design of the K8N Diamond by adding a x1 PCI Express slot. However, this means that there are only two PCI slots and if you purchase the optional WiFi/Bluetooth card you’re only left with one. That said, I doubt that you’d need to add much to this board to make it a good setup.