Introduction and Specifications

Both MSI and ECS have come out with motherboards based on the Radeon XPress 3200 chipset for the AM2 platform, but can either of them hold their own against the NVIDIA 590 chipset for the enthusiast?

Introduction

With AMD’s release of the AM2 processor socket in May of this year, all the motherboard and chipset vendors were forced to migrate to the new platform in order to cash in on the new processor upgrades that would inevitably come.  NVIDIA chose to do this with a new chipset series, the nForce 590 and 570, which we covered here.  ATI went the other route, simply moving their same chipset technology over with a new processor socket plugged into it. 

There is no disadvantage to ATI going about their AM2 product line up in this way; we have already reviewed and looked at the Radeon XPress 3200 chipset and found it to be a worthy enthusiast class product.  However, motherboard vendors have been apprehensive in making and marketing solutions based on this chipset as the nForce boards were just flat out selling better.  A few months now after the AM2 launch from AMD, we have two motherboards in house that use the XPress 3200 chipset that are readily available on the market.

But are either of them worthy of your money?  In this article we’ll look at both motherboards individually and then compare them side-by-side for performance and let you know which, if either, is the better deal.

ECS KA3-MVP Specifications (from ECSUSA.com)

CPU
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Socket AM2 with AMD Athlon 64 FX/ Athlon 64/ Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core/ Sempron processor
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Support for 64-bit extended operating systems
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Support transfer rate of 2000/1600/1200/800/400 mega-transfers per second.
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Highly overclockable and robust Hypertransport interface
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  5
CHIPSET
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 ATI® CrossFire Xpress 3200
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 North Bridge: ATI® RD580
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 South Bridge: ATI® SB600
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  5
MEMORY
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Dual-channel DDR2 memory architecture
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 4 x 240-pin DDR2 DIMM socket support up to 32GB
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Support DDR2 800/667/533/400 DDR2 SDRAM
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  5
EXPANSION SLOT
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 2 x PCI Express x16 slots
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x PCI Express x1 slot
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 2 x PCI slots
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  5
STORAGE
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Supported by SB600
2 x Ultra DMA133/100/66/33 device
4 x Serial ATA2 devices
RAID0, RAID1, RAID10 configuration
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Supported by JMB363
2 x Ultra DMA133/100/66 devices
2 x Serial ATA2 devices
RAID0, RAID1& RAID 0+1 configuration
Support NCQ&eSATA & Hot plug&Port Multiplier
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  5
AUDIO
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Realtek ALC883 8-channel audio CODEC
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  5
IEEE 1394a
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 VIA® VT6308P support 2 x IEEE1394a ports
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  5
DUAL LAN
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Agere E1310I Gigabit LAN controller
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Realtek 8100C 10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet controller
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  5
REAR PANEL I/O
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x PS/2 keyboard & PS/2 mouse connectors
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 4 x USB ports
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 2 x RJ45 LAN connectors
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x Serial port (COM1)
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x Audio port (Line-in,4x Line-out, Mic_in)
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 2 x Digital SPDIF (Optical & Coaxial) out
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  5
INTERNAL I/O CONNECTORS & HEADERS
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V connector
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x Auxiliary 4-pin +12V connector
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 2 x IDE connectors
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x FDD connector
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 6 x Serial ATA connectors
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x Speaker header
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x IrDA for SIR header
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 2 x 1394a headers
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 3 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 6 USB ports
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x Front panel switch/LED header
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x Front panel audio header
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 CD in header
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1 x 26-pin LPT header
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 CPU / Chassis FAN headers
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 1x CPUFAN/1x SYSFAN/3x CASFAN connectors
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  5
SYSTEM BIOS
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Award BIOS with 4Mb Flash ROM
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Supports Plug and Play 1.0A, APM 1.2, Multi Boot, DMI
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 Supports ACPI revision 1.0 specification
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  5
FORM FACTOR
ECS KA3 MVP and MSI K9A Platinum: XPress 3200 Chipset - Motherboards  1 ATX Size 305mm*244mm

MSI K9A Platinum Specifications (from MSIComputer.com)

CPU
 
• Supports 64-bit AMD® Athlon™ 64 / Athlon 64FX / Athlon 64 X2 processor (Socket AM2)
• Supports Athlon 64 CPU: 3500+, 3800+
• Supports Athlon 64FX CPU: FX-62
• Supports Athlon 64 X2 CPU: 3800+, 4000+, 4200, 4400+, 4600+, 4800+, 5000+, 5200+
   
Chipset
 
• ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 (RD580) Chipset
HyperTransport connection to AMD K8 Athlon 64 processor
HyperTransport supporting speed up to 1GHz (2000mt/s)
Supports 2 PCI-E x 16
   
• ATI SB600 Chipset
Supports SATAII controllers for four drives
Supports single channel Ultra DMA 66/100/133 master mode EIDE controller
ACPI & PC2001 compliant enhanced power managment
Supports Hi-Speed (USB2.0) controller 480 mbsec transfer rate up to 10 ports
   
Main Memory
 
•
Supports 4 240-pin DDR2 SDRAMs up to 8GB memory size
• Supports Dual Channel DDR2 533/667/800 DDR2 SDRAM
• Supports 1.8v DDR2 SDRAM DIMM
Due to the High Performance Memory design, motherboards or system configurations may or may not operate smoothly at the JEDEC (Joint Electron Device Engineering Council) standard settings (BIOS Default on the motherboard) such as DDR2 voltage, memory speeds and memory timing. Please confirm and adjust your memory setting in the BIOS accordingly for better system stability.
Example: Kingston HyperX DDR2-800 PC-6400 operates at 2.0V, 4-4-4-12.
For more information about specification of high performance memory modules, please check with your Memory Manufactures for more details.
   
Slots
 
• Two PCI Express X16 , support ATI CrossFire Technology (PCI Express Bus Specification v1.0a compliant)
• Two PCI Express X1 slot
• Supports two 32-bit Master 3.3v/5v PCI Bus slots
   
On-Board IDE/SATA
 
• An IDE controller on the ATI SB600 chipset provides IDE HDD/CD-ROM with PIO, Bus Master and Ultra DMA133/100/66 operation modes.
Can connect up to 2 IDE devices
• SB600 supports 4 SATA II ports (SATA1-4). Transfer rate is up to 300MB/s.
Supports up to 4 SATA
RAID 0 or 1, 0+1, JBOD is supported
RAID function work w/ SATA HDDs
   
BIOS
 
• The mainboard BIOS provides “Plug & Play” BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
• The mainboard provides a Desktop Management Interface (DMI) function which records your mainboard specifications.
• Supports boot from LAN, USB Device 1.1 & 2.0 and SATA HDD
   
Audio
 
• 8 Channel software audio codec Realtek ALC883
• Compliance with Azalia v1.0 spec.
• Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
   
LAN
 
• Realtek® 8110SC & 8111B LAN chip
Supports 10Mb/s, 100Mb/s and 1000Mb/s
Compliance with PCI v2.3
Supports ACPI Power Management
   
IEEE1394
 
• Support up to 2 IEEE 1394 ports (rear x 1 / front x 1)
• Transfer rate up to 400 mbps.
   
On-Board Peripherals
 
1 floppy port supports 1 FDD with 360K, 720K, 1.2M, 1.44M and 2.88Mbytes
1 serial port
1 parallel port supports SPP/EPP/ECP mode
1 audio jack (5-in-1), coaxial/fibre SPDIF out
10 USB 2.0 ports (Rear x 4 / Front x 6)
2 RJ45 LAN jack
1 D-Bracket 2 pinheader
2 IEEE 1394 a connectors (Rear x 1/ Front x 1)
1 CD-in pinheader
1 IrDA pinheader
   
Dimension
  12 in (L) x 9.64 in(W) ATX Form Factor

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