Package and Contents
MSI has never disappointed us with their high-end motherboards in the past, which is why we love getting them to test; always a good product. We start off as usual with the package and contents. The box that the board comes shipped in is slightly oversized, but not as large as the ones ASUS ships the ROG in or GIGABYTE ships the DQ6 boards in, but it's enough to know you're going to be getting something good here.
On the back of the box there is quite a bit of marketing information on the board as well as some specs, however MSI has not given us a photo of the board, which we are not too happy about. Today's marketing is a visual one, and a colour photo of the board helps for end users to see what they are getting.
MSI provides a healthy software and document bundle; the user manual is quite long and detailed on the layout of the board and its BIOS setup. The software on the DVD provided contains XP and Vista drivers for both 32-bit and 6-bit; there are no Linux drivers or any Linux support for this board, so alternate OS users will need to go hunting for drivers.
First on our accessories list is the data cables for the mass storage system. Six Serial ATA data cables with locking tabs are included; the 790MCP only supports six SATA ports so you have a full cable set here with this board. The parallel cables included are a single IDE cable with two drive support and a FDD cable with single drive support.
Included for power conversion are three Molex to SATA power adapters; unless you have a high end PSU and want to run six SATA drives, you're going to run out of power connectors. MSI come to the rescue here.
While the board contains two eSATA ports on the rear I/O port towers, MSI hasn't stopped there; if you want extra eSATA ports, a PCI cover bracket with two eSATA ports and a power port are included. The last bracket that comes in the package is a two port USB and single 6-pin FireWire port. For the eSATA ports, you get two eSATA to eSATA data cables measuring 1 meter each.
For the SLI users there are three SLI connectors included; two short and one long. These are used when you want dual, Tri or Quad SLI setups depending on where each card goes.
MSI has followed ASUS when it comes to case connectors. M-Connector is MSI's version with headers that you can plug your case connectors onto without having to put them on the board directly; you can setup the LED and switches as well as the front USB ports and FireWire ports before the board goes in, then you simply plug the headers onto the board and away you go.
Lastly on the list of accessories is the rear I/O shield for the board; since MSI hasn't followed any industry standard port placements (and who does these days), you need the rear I/O shield.
MSI has gone the extra mile when it comes to the sound system. While the onboard HD audio is ok, it doesn't hold a candle to a discrete audio card, and Creative's X-Fi is definitely a card to have. MSI has included a PCI based X-Fi basic audio card with 7.1 channel support as well as a single Toslink S/PDIF out connector. This gives you Creative sound on the board, and if you upgrade later on to a different board that doesn't have a good sound system, being PCI-E based, you can take this card across to the new board.