iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






MSI K9AGM2-F and K9AGM2-FIH — Motherboards Based on AMD 690V and 690G (Socket AM2) Chipsets

March 19, 2007

  • AMD 690G chipset (AMD 690G Northbridge and SB600 Southbridge)

MSI is definitely inspired by chipsets with integrated video - AMD 690G and 690V. The company announced three motherboards. Two of them, intended for popular desktop PCs, have already made it to our lab. We'll review them without delay. The third one (MSI K9AG Neo2-Digital) is a solution for a digital home, as it's equipped with a radically digital video out (by default, DVI and HDMI are installed on the rear panel). Diversity of interfaces for monitors (and other devices to output video to small and large screens) promises to become the calling card of motherboards on the AMD 690G chipset. The recently reviewed ECS AMD690GM-M2 offers DVI and VGA (this combination is traditional for inexpensive discrete video cards). MSI's line of motherboards does not offer this combination, they are focused on HDMI.

Users will certainly benefit from such diversity - you can choose an ideal motherboard for you (and your monitors).

The motherboard has a good design. It resembles the model on the previous chipset MSI K9AGM. We'll use it for our comparisons. The rarely used "Chassis Intrusion" connector is moved away from the FDD port, that was the only minor problem in the above-mentioned MSI K9AGM. Theoretically, we can imagine a long video card, which can hamper access to the pair of SATA ports (to make it more convincing, you are recommended to imagine a DirectX 10 video card on the ATI R600 core). But this is evidently not a typical video card to be used together with a four-drive RAID in this motherboard.

What concerns chipset cooling, this time MSI has chosen even a more passive solution - Northbridge is cooled with a small heatsink (like in ECS AMD690GM-M2, its fins are parallel to the processor socket, this heatsink is not designed to be cooled by the CPU fan). The heatsink already bears a new logo of AMD chipsets.

What concerns Southbridge, to our photographer's surprise, it does not have any heatsink (although there are mounting holes in the motherboard). Despite the vicinity of a hot ATI Radeon X1900 XTX, Southbridge (as well as Northbridge) showed no signs of overheating in our tests. The tiny chip was hot to touch, but far from burning hot. Nevertheless, if you get the most out of Southbridge, build RAIDs, etc, you'd better install any fitting heatsink on your Southbridge. Just to improve reliability in critical situations (for example, summer weather and dusty vent holes in DC fans). Even if you fail to get a model to be secured through the standard holes, you can stick a small heatsink (for memory chips or power converters) right to the core with thermal glue. You should be careful - the chips is evidently not designed to bear a heavy device.

The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates two field-effect transistors per channel (PCB layout can accommodate three), one 3300 uF capacitor, four 1800 uF capacitors, and five 1000 uF ones. Capacitors come from United Chemi-Con, OST, and some unidentified manufacturer. Unfortunately, we should establish a fact that all elite capacitors were expended for the previous model (K9AGM), where they were used even in minor circuits. However, there are no reasons to be critical. The bundle is appropriate for an inexpensive microATX motherboard.

System monitoring (Fintek F71882FG, according to BIOS Setup)

  • CPU voltage, +3.3 V, +5 V, +12 V, +3.3 V Stand By
  • RPM of 2 fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)
  • SmartFan — automatic CPU fan speed control depending on CPU temperature. You can specify the target temperature (40°—55°) and derating (1°—5°), as well as minimal rotational speed (0—87.5%). Thus, a fan can be stopped completely. The control logic implies minimal speed until the target temperature is reached. After that the speed gradually grows until the temperature stabilizes. Temperature drops are also accompanied with gradually reduction of rotational speed. Both 3-pin and 4-pin fans are supported.

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket AM2, officially supports all existing processors AMD Athlon 64/X2/FX and Sempron)
  • 2 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 4 GB DDR2-400/533/667/800, dual-channel mode)
  • 1 x PCIEx16 for a video card (operates in x16 mode)
  • 1 x PCIEx1
  • 2 x PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins, you can use a usual 20-pin connector), 4-pin ATX12V connector
  • 1 x FDD
  • 1 x IDE (Parallel ATA) for two ATA133 devices — "chipset-based"
  • 4 x SATA-II (Serial ATA II) for 4 SATA300 devices — chipset-based, connected drives can form RAID 0, 1 and 0+1
  • 3 connectors for brackets with 6 additional USB ports
  • Connector for a bracket with a FireWire port (available in the K9AGM2-FIH)
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • Two connectors for an S/PDIF In/Out bracket
  • Connector for a bracket with a TV-out
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • Two fan headers. CPU fan header has three pins, supports rpm control and smart fan control, it's back compatible with 3-pin fans.

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)


Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x LPT, 1 x HDMI, 1 x VGA
  • 2 x USB, 1 x FireWire 400 (6-pin)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 6 x Analog Audio jacks (Line-In, Line-Out (Front), Mic-In, Surround, Center/Sub, Rear).


Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x LPT, 1 x VGA
  • 2 x USB
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 6 x Analog Audio jacks (Line-In, Line-Out (Front), Mic-In, Surround, Center/Sub, Rear).

Package Contents

  • Package: a small box of a special design for motherboards based on AMD 690G and 690V chipsets
  • Documentation: User's guide
  • 1 x Serial ATA cable
  • 1 x SATA power converter for a single device
  • 1 x ATA66 cable, 1 x FDD cable
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with drivers and proprietary MSI utilities, including:
    • MSI PC Alert 4 — system monitoring utility (temperature, voltage, CPU fan speed — parameters available in BIOS)
    • MSI Live Update 3 — update BIOS under Windows, it allows to search and download the latest version from the official web site (you can even flash a BIOS version stored on a local drive)
    • MSI Security — a set of utilities for storing passwords, managing user profiles, and encrypting HDD contents. It's supplemented with an antivirus and firewall - Norton Internet Security 2005.

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on the chipset support for High Definition Audio and Realtek ALC888 codec, 7.1+2 channel audio, front line-ins/outs supporting an additional stereo channel, CD-In, and S/PDIF-In/Out jacks
  • Gigabit Ethernet, based on PCIE controller Realtek RTL8111B, supporting 10/100/1000 Mbps.

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.5 test application and the ESI Juli@ sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.02, -0.04
Noise level, dB (A):
Dynamic range, dB (A):
THD, %:
Very good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
Very good

General performance: Very good (details). It's an excellent result even for a traditionally high-quality HDA codec.


Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
In BIOS v2.61 from AMI Allows to disable specific CPU functions + K8 Cool’n’Quiet
Memory timings + CAS Latency, RAS to CAS Delay, Row Precharge Time, Min RAS Active Time
Memory frequency selection -  
HT bus setup -  
Peripheral bus frequency control -  
PCI IRQ manual assignment +  
FSB frequency setup -  
CPU multiplier -  
CPU core voltage control -  
Memory voltage control -  

We used BIOS 1.0BF dated 30.01.07, the latest version available at the time of our tests (provided by the manufacturer). The situation is similar to MSI K9NGM, K9NGM2 and K9AGM. This BIOS version is unusually desolated in terms of frequency/voltage settings. MSI is evidently going to stick to this policy in all its microATX motherboards based on chipsets with integrated video.


Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+
  • Memory: 2 x Kingston KHX7200D2K2/1G (DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15)
  • Discrete video: ATI Radeon X1900 XTX, 512 MB GDDR3
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA-II, 7200 rpm)
  • Power supply unit: Chieftec CFT-560-A12C
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

As both models demonstrate identical performance test results, we publish the results of MSI K9AGM2-FIH. It was compared with MSI K9AGM.

Test integrated video discrete video
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 6:54 6:45 6:38 6:35
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 6:14 6:08 6:07 6:04
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640×480), fps 27.7 32.1 59.6 59.6
Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1024×768), fps 18.8 22.4 56.5 56.5
FarCry (Medium@800×600), fps 28.8 32.3 128.4 128.1
DOOM III (Medium@800×600), fps 13.7 14.1 133.4 133.3

Expectable advantage in tests with integrated video and parity in tests with an external video card. The motherboards perform just as they are expected to.

Bottom line

The appearance of HDMI video outs in motherboards (and integration of this support in the chipset) is an unexpected move for many users, considering that this connector appeared only in a few video cards. At the same time, there constantly appear new devices with such connectors. So there is nothing surprising that some owners want to connect their progressive displays to a computer. Now they have an inexpensive solution. What concerns the 690V-based model, it also offers higher chipset efficiency and good video performance for its class. So, in our opinion, MSI K9AGM2-F and K9AGM2-FIH will find their users.

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer

Dmitry Laptev (lpt@ixbt.com)
March 19, 2007

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