MSI K9AGM2-FIH also known as MS-7327, is a socket AM2 motherboard with on-board video based on the latest chipset from AMD/ATI, AMD 690G. What is different on this motherboard compared to other AMD 690G-based boards is that it brings an on-board HDMI connector, being a great option for those willing to build a cheap digital home PC with HDMI support. Let’s take a look at the performance and features of MSI K9AGM2-FIH.
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Figure 1: MSI K9AGM2-FIH motherboard.
Two chipsets were released based on the RS690 core, AMD 690G and AMD 690V. The first is based on Radeon X1250 graphics engine supporting HDMI, while the second is based on Radeon X1200 graphics engine with no HDMI support. Even though the name of these engines are in the ”1000“ range, they are still Shader 2.0 engines (DirectX 9.0), not Shader 3.0 (DirectX 9.0c).
MSI has four motherboard models based on AMD 690G and two based on AMD 690V, all with names starting with ”K9AG“, so be careful. There is another K9AGM2 model available, called K9AGM2-F/L, which is based on AMD 690V and not on AMD 690G. From here on we will call K9AGM2-FIH simply as K9AGM2 in the name of simplicity, but be aware that there is another model with a similar name.
The differences between these six models are the following:
- K9AG Neo2: AMD 690G, ATX size, two PCI Express x1 slots, three PCI slots, four DDR2-DIMM sockets and DVI-D.
- K9AG Neo2-Digital: AMD 690G, ATX size, two PCI Express x1 slots, three PCI slots, four DDR2-DIMM sockets, DVI-D and with HDMI card.
- K9AGM2-FIH: AMD 690G, microATX size, one PCI Express x1 slot, two PCI slots, two DDR2-DIMM sockets and HDMI.
- K9AGM3: AMD 690G, microATX size, one PCI Express x1 slot, two PCI slots, four DDR2-DIMM sockets and HDMI.
- K9AG Neo-F: AMD 690V, ATX size, two PCI Express x1 slots, three PCI slots and two DDR2-DIMM sockets.
- K9AGM2-F/L: AMD 690V, microATX size, one PCI Express x1 slot, two PCI slots and two DDR2-DIMM sockets.
AMD 690G graphics core runs at 400 MHz and has four pixel shader processors and four vertex shader processors. Competing products from NVIDIA (i.e., GeForce 6100 and GeForce 7025/7050 families) have only two shader processors and two vertex shader processors, but they run at a higher clock rate (425 MHz on GeForce 6100, 7025 and 7050 and 475 MHz on GeForce 6150 – except LE and SE models) and are Shader 3.0 (DirectX 9.0c). The previous integrated graphics solution from ATI, Radeon X1100, runs at 300 MHz.
AMD 690G brings HDMI support (HDMI is a new digital audio and video connection type used by HDTV sets, click here to learn more about it), but the vast majority of motherboards based on AMD 690G chipset don’t come with an HDMI connector, needing an add-on card to be plugged on the PCI Express x16 slot to provide HDMI. What is great about K9AGM2-FIH is that it comes with an on-board HDMI connector, which is great if you are looking for a motherboard for building a digital home PC that can be connected to a HDTV set or videoprojector with the best digital connection available today.
S-Video and component video are available through an I/O bracket that doesn’t come with the product.
The good thing about AMD 690G is that it has two independent video controllers inside, providing two video outputs on-board. This means that the HDMI connector of MSI K9AGM2-FIH works independently from its VGA connector, allowing you to have one image on your video monitor and a different image on the display connected to the motherboard HDMI connector. This motherboard also provides digital audio on its HDMI connector, what is simply great, especially if you think that the primary target of this motherboard is digital home PCs.
Of Figure 2 you can see the connectors present on the motherboard rear panel: PS/2 mouse, PS/2 keyboard, HDMI, VGA, parallel port, four USB 2.0 ports, FireWire port, Gigabit Ethernet port and analog audio inputs and outputs. There is no serial port on this motherboard, not even through an I/O bracket.
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Figure 2: Rear panel connectors, notice the HDMI connector.
Also, AMD 690G is the first chipset with on-board video from AMD/ATI to support Avivo, which is the name given by ATI to their set of 2D-enhancement technologies, like de-interlacing. Click here for a detailed explanation about Avivo. The equivalent technology on NVIDIA world, PureVideo, is available on all current NVIDIA chipsets with integrated graphics but on GeForce 7025.
As you can see in Figure 1, this motherboard provides one x16 PCI Express slot for you to install a ”real“ video card in the future. It also has one x1 PCI Express slot and two regular PCI slots.
This motherboard has four SATA-300 ports and one ATA-133 port, all controlled by the chipset. The SATA ports support RAID 0, 1 and 10.
It has 10 USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the motherboard) and two FireWire ports, one available at the motherboard rear panel (see Figure 2) and another through an I/O bracket, which doesn’t come with the board.
It also has Gigabit Ethernet, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111B chip. This chip is a complete controller, so this motherboard does not use the chipset south bridge chip to control its network interface. This chip is connected to the PCI Express bus, what is great, because a PCI Express x1 connection can provide a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 1.5 Gbps, 50% more bandwidth than necessary. On some motherboards based on AMD 690G we've seen lately, like ECS AMD690GM-M2 and Foxconn A690GM2MA, the Gigabit Ethernet port was controlled by a PCI (and not PCI Express) chip. Since PCI has a maximum transfer rate of 132 MB/s – which translates to 1 Gbps – achieving 1 Gbps on the Gigabit Ethernet port on motherboards using this architecture is very unlikely, as it would be working at the PCI maximum transfer rate.
On the audio section, this motherboard has eight channels provided by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC888 codec. After the on-board HDMI connector this is the best advantage of this motherboard over competing products also based on AMD 690G. All other motherboards based on AMD 690G we've seen to date – ASUS M2A-VM, ECS AMD690GM-M2 and Foxconn A690GM2MA – are based on a low-end codec, Realtek ALC883, which provides a lousy 85 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its inputs. ALC888, on the other hand, provides fair specs for the average user, with a 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its inputs and a 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its outputs. The maximum sampling rate of its inputs is of 96 kHz, while its outputs supports up to 192 kHz. While these specs are enough for the average user someone thinking of working professionally with analog audio editing and capturing should look for a motherboard with at least 95 dB SNR and 192 kHz sampling rate for its inputs.
This motherboard also provides full 7.1 analog audio jacks on the rear panel, feature not found on all AMD 690G motherboards around. So you can easily hook an analog 5.1 or 7.1 set of speakers to this motherboard. But this motherboard does not have any on-board SPDIF connector, which may or may not be a problem. Since this motherboard has a HDMI connector, which provides both digital video and digital audio, users into high-def video may get the digital audio through HDMI, thus not needing a SPDIF connection. On the other hand, some users may find SPDIF quite handy to connect the motherboard directly to a home theater receiver, especially if they don't have a HDMI display or receiver with HDMI input yet.
This motherboard has two DDR2-DIMM sockets, accepting up to 4 GB of DDR2-400/667/800 memory. This is probably the only flaw with this motherboard. First, in order to achieve the maximum performance possible you need to install two memory modules. Secondly, if in the future you need to add more memory, you will need to remove your old modules and install new ones, as adding more memory keeping the old modules isn’t possible. MSI has another model, called K9AGM3, which is identical to K9AGM2 but has four memory sockets instead of two. This other model may be a better pick if you are thinking of adding more memory modules to your computer at a later date.
The majority of electrolytic capacitors used on this motherboard are from a Japanese vendor, Chemi-Con. Some other capacitors are also from Japanese manufacturers, like Sanyo and Rubycon. The capacitors used on the audio section are, however, from a Taiwanese company, G-Luxon, and there is a single capacitor from OST on the voltage regulator circuit. Another good thing about this motherboard is that MSI is using ferrite coils instead of iron coils on the voltage regulator circuit, which have 25% lower power loss compared to iron coils.
In Figure 3, you can see everything that comes with the motherboard.
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Figure 3: Motherboard accessories.
Before going to our performance tests, let’s recap the main features of the reviewed board.