ATI's CrossFire Xpress 3200 had a bit of a revamp when the Canadian graphics and chipset manufacturer was acquired by AMD in the second half of last year. AMD decided to rebrand the chipset to AMD 580X CrossFire, with the lower end CrossFire Xpress 1600 chipset being renamed to AMD 480X CrossFire. Worry not though, because that's about all that AMD has changed with the chipset, as the underlying core logic is the same.

MSI's K9A Platinum has AMD's 580X CrossFire chipset at its heart and is combined with socket AM2 to create a motherboard with an adequate set of features at a respectable asking price. This is despite the Platinum moniker and CrossFire gaming breed that are so often associated with needing a fat wallet - you'll be able to pick this board up for much less than £100.

With companies like Asus touting a large premium and a host of arguably unneeded features on its Republic of Gamers motherboards, MSI has gone for simplicity on this particular board. Do you need a slew of heatpipes crawling across the board in addition to a bunch of bright flashing LEDs? MSI doesn't seem to think so, but does this approach actually pay off? We find out.

Overview

  • Support for all Socket AM2 AMD Athlon 64/FX/X2 and Sempron processors with Cool 'n' Quiet technology;
  • Four DDR2 memory slots supporting up to 8GB of DDR2-800 memory;
  • ATI RD580 Northbridge;
  • ATI SB600 Southbridge;
  • Realtek 8110SC & 8111B LAN PCI and PCI-Express Gigabit LAN;
  • Two PCI-Express x16 slots with CrossFire support (both slots run with a full x16 lanes), two PCI-Express x1 slots and two PCI expansion slots;
  • 7.1 channel Realtek ALC883 High-Definition audio with jack sensing and digital optical and coaxial S/PDIF out, six 3.5mm jacks;
  • Four native SATA 3Gbps ports, supporting RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD;
  • Support for ten USB 2.0 ports (four on back I/O panel and six via on-board pins/expansion brackets);
  • VIA VT6308P providing two IEEE1394a Firewire ports with one on the rear I/O and one from an internal header;
  • One ATA133 connector;
  • One floppy connector.
MSI K9A Platinum Introduction MSI K9A Platinum Introduction

Box Contents

  • Four red SATA cables;
  • One red IDE cable;
  • One red floppy cable;
  • One PCI backplate containing one 6-pin Firewire port;
  • One PCI backplate containing two USB 2.0 ports and D-LED? array for POST debugging;
  • Metal I/O Shield;
  • "Two molex to SATA" power cables;
  • Manuals and driver CD;
MSI K9A Platinum Introduction MSI K9A Platinum Introduction

What’s given is a solid set of extras, considering the motherboard itself isn't packed out to the gills. There is a full complement of SATA cables, as well as IDE and floppy cables for connectivity, and also PCI extenders for all the on-board USB 2.0 and Firewire ports available. MSI do include the Firewire and USB on separate PCI backplates, which is annoying when they could have easily fitted them both on a just one, saving space.

Unfortunately, MSI has also insisted on adding an array of four LEDs for debugging POST problems onto the USB 2.0 PCI bracket. In all honesty, this implementation is inferior to other alternatives on the market. For starters it’s inevitably right at the bottom at the back of your case, making it hard to see and diagnose problems from easily.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it uses light “codes” to tell you what’s wrong. Now if your case is on the floor, it’s easy to look at this upside down and misinterpret it. Why couldn’t MSI just implement a HEX LED readout on the PCB like most other manufacturers that are using LED POST debuggers? To make matters worse the LED array uses up two USB ports

Despite this MSI has everything covered which is great for a more budget-orientated motherboard, considering quite a few of the more expensive boards we’ve previously looked at don’t even stretch that far.
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