Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe Motherboard Review – SLI Part 1

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Introduction

With the recent launch of the nForce4 chipset, motherboard manufacturers have been scrambling to take the newest AMD powerhouse chipset from paper to production and get products on store shelves. The nForce4 brings many new features, such as onboard hardware firewall, a new SATA controller and the much anticipated ability to use two graphics cards through a Scaleable Link Interface (from now on referred to as “SLI”). Asustek is one of the first motherboard manufacturers to get a product to market that takes advantage of all of the nForce4’s features.

Asus was kind enough to send us their brand new AMD flagship, the nForce4 A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard and two EN6600GT’s so we could review a full-blown Asus SLI setup. We are going to take a look at this hardware in a three part article suite. With this article, Part 1, we will be looking at the motherboard. Then in Part 2 we will look at the the SLI compatible EN6600GT’s, and finally in Part 3 take a closer look at the performance and issues of a current SLI hardware setup, and maybe give some insight to those looking at 6600GT SLI hardware.

Part1 – Motherboard – Asus A8N SLI Deluxe
The A8N SLI Deluxe is Asus’ latest and greatest offering for the AMD64 socket-939 platform, utilizing the nForce4 chipset. The nForce4 is the most recent chipset from nVidia for the AMD64 and it will be available in three flavors: nForce4 SLI, nForce4 Ultra and the nForce4. The nForce4 Ultra is the performance model, touting some extra features from the base nForce4. The A8N SLI Deluxe motherboard utilizes the nForce4 SLI chipset, and as the name implies it enables the use of SLI graphics hardware.

The motherboard feature list is packed full of the usual and some brand new features such as the new SATA 3Gb/s standard, PCI-Express and even an onboard hardware firewall. Here is the full list of specifications pulled from the Asus website:

– Socket 939 for AMD Athlon 64FX / Athlon 64
– AMD64 architecture enables simultaneous 32- and 64-bit computing
– Supports AMD Cool ‘n’ Quiet Technology
Chipset
NVIDIA nForce®4 SLI™
Front Side Bus
2000 MT/s, 1600MT/s
Memory
– 4 x 184-pin DIMM Sockets support max. 4GB DDR400/DDR333/DDR266 ECC/ non-ECC un-buffered DDR SDRAM memory
– Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Expansion Slots
– 2 x PCI Express x16 slot
*SLI mode : x8 , x8
*Default(Single VGA) mode : x16, x1
– 2 x PCI Express x1
– 3 x PCI
SLI
– Under SLI mode : support two identical SLI-ready graphics cards
– Under Default(Single VGA) mode: supports all PCI Express graphics cards
– ASUS EZ Plug
– ASUS SLI Warning LED
– ASUS EZ Selector
– ASUS two-slot thermal design
– ASUS PEG Link for dual PCIe graphic cards – ASUS PEG Link for dual PCIe graphic cards
Storage/ RAID
nForce4 Storage:
– 4 x SATA 3Gb/s
– 2 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33
– NVRAID : RAID0, RAID1, RAID 0+1 and JBOD span cross SATA and PATA Silicon Image 3114R RAID controller:
– 4 x Serial ATA with RAID0, 1, 0+1, and RAID5
LAN
nForce4 built-in Gbit MAC with external Marvell PHY :
– NV ActiveArmor
– NV Firewall
– AI NET2
MARVELL PCI Gbit LAN controller :
– AI NET2
Audio
Realtek ALC850, 8-channel CODEC
Audio Sensing and Enumeration Technology
Coaxial/Optical S/PDIF out ports on back I/O
TI 1394 controller supports 2 x 1394 ports
USB
Max. 10 USB2.0 ports
ASUS AI Proactive Features
AI NOS(Non-delay Overclocking System)
AI NET2 network diagnosis before entering OS
BIOS
4 Mb Flash ROM, AWARD BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.3
Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x Optical + 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Output
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x Parallel
2 x RJ45
1 x 1394
4 x USB 2.0/1.1
8-Channel Audio I/O
Internal I/O Connectors
– 1 x SLI selector card connector
– 3 x USB 2.0 connector supports additional 6 USB 2.0 ports
– 1 x IEEE1394 connectors
– 1 x Paraller connector
– 1 x COM connector
– 1 x GAME/MIDI connector – CPU Fan / 2x Chassis Fan/ Power Fan/ Chipset Fan connectors
– Front panel audio connector
– Chassis Intrusion connector
– CD audio-in connector
– 24-pin ATX Power connector
– 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor, 12″x 9.6″(30.5cm x 24.5cm)