MSI have opted to use the superior Creative onboard PCI audio rather than the chipset's embedded AC’97 audio to give the board 7.1 channel High Definition audio support (24-bit/96KHz) with Dolby Digital EX as well as EAX 4 HD for gaming which perfectly complements the NForce 4 SLI ethos.
Uniquely to MSI the dual channel DDR2 sockets are not coloured alternatively like every other board, but are designed together so each colour represents a separate channel. DDR2 DIMMs still need to be installed one per channel though - one goes in green and one goes in orange for dual channel operation.
Importantly a digital SLI bridge is employed on this motherboard. Instead of the traditional piece of PCB that is normally switched between single graphics or SLI mode, MSI have designed an auto sensing feature to electrically determine when a second graphics card is installed and to reshuffle the PCI-Express lanes enabling SLI mode. This makes it easier for the end user to quickly change between modes if necessary, and offers no chance of losing the necessary extra PCB commonly employed elsewhere.
The northbridge is actively cooled with a 40mm fan on top of a reasonably large aluminium heatsink. The southbridge is passively cooled but uses a copper core for a higher heat capacity and better heat transmission. It’s our understanding that the southbridge is to be used in the nuclear fusion experiments in order to obtain the necessary sun-like temperatures. Sarcasm aside, what we’re trying to say is that it runs a finger melting hot even under stock operation.
The NForce SATA2 and IDE ports now support RAID 5 in order to compete with Intel’s ICH7(R) southbridge, but NVIDIA support two IDE channels versus Intel’s single allowing more ATAPI devices to be used.
The lack of colour coordination doesn’t stand out against the black PCB and colourful components. There are just enough to add contrast and ease of installation for new users where different colours depict different components and chipsets. Rather out of contrast to the rest of the expansion slots, MSI have included an orange PCI slot at the bottom of the selection of slots - this is MSI’s communications slot for their Bluetooth/WiFi combo card.