ASUS come to the party by supplying us with their new A 8 N - S L I Deluxe motherboard and with those three letters S L I you should be able to tell we are using the latest nForce 4 chipset from the folks at nVidia. The reason we are using the ASUS motherboard here today is due to it being one of the only SLI boards that are readily available on the market at the moment and the fact that it's a down right bloody good motherboard (and ASUS were the first to send us their SLI product - ed). With this said though there are a few little issues with the board due to it hitting the market so early but we can see the little faults be fixed as ASUS release updated BIOS releases constantly.
Last time we found ourselves not only using an ABIT motherboard but also a VIA chipset and while VIA do have some good quality chipsets coming out in the near future they are not here yet. nVidia has done an excellent job with their latest chipset (namely the nForce4) which we covered here in an article called "AMD64 PCI Express Chipsets - nVidia nForce 4 vs. ATI 200 Series" and anyone wanting to get a PC for gaming won't look past it if they go for SLI or not.
We can see the four memory slots that support DDR400 memory running in Dual Channel and our new 939 socket with a slightly different CPU bracket around it is for good reason. Towards the top left we can see the heatsink that covers the mosfets and helps keep them cool when it comes to overclocking.
Here we have the MCP cooler which as you can see is an active version which helps keep the main part of the motherboard cool. The cooler sits on top of the MCP which has a small cover around the main part of the core. There have been some problems with the cover sitting just on top of the core which is causing the fan not to sit straight and not cool the MCP properly. If you're having some trouble with overclocking we do recommend that you pull the fansink off and have a quick look at it and if the mat is covering the core slightly simply remove it and re-sit it as we did.
This motherboard is packed full of SATA ports as you can see for yourself, with a total of 8 SATA ports you shouldn't be running out of room for your hard drives any time soon. We still have three PCI slots so if you do run out of room you won't have any problems expanding to another 4 or 8 if that need ever arises.
You can see here that we have plenty of expansion with the old PCI slot as well as two PCI-E 1X slots. What makes this chipset stand out so much when compared to other chipsets is the inclusion of two PCI E 16X slots. Although when utilizing both slots, bandwidth is cut down to 8X for each but anyone who has tested the difference between AGP 4X and AGP 8X will notice just what little impact that has on system performance and the same applies with PCI Express graphics.
These two slots are for our dual PCI Express graphics cards that we have with us today which we will have a closer look at in just a moment but if you read our SLI article recently here called "nVidia SLI Technology - Introduction and 6800 Ultra Performance" you would already know what we are talking about.
The ASUS motherboard is great - loads of SATA ports, good expandability, the extra gap between the two 16X slots for dual slot cooling configurations and just an overall good design and feel. While there are a few issues with the motherboard it's nothing that ASUS aren't trying to fix with new BIOS releases.
Editor Note - Next week we'll be taking a much closer look at the ASUS A8N SLI Deluxe motherboard compared to the MSI nForce4 Ultra in its own full review - stayed tuned for that
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