The Board Continued
The server market for the AMD64 has been a very staggered one, with only AMD's 8131 chipset and the nForce 3 Pro supporting the aging AGP standards. It is now that nVidia has moved away from this setup and is looking towards the future, and that is PCI Express and which is why nVidia has introduced the nForce 4 Pro series of chipsets. These chipsets are based directly on the nForce 4 Ultra chipsets with a few minor changes made for the server market.
There are currently two chips in the nForce 4 Pro ranges, the 2050 and the 2200. The 2200 differs only slightly in that it supports IDE drives where the 2050 does not. The 2200 has 10 USB ports where the 2050 has none, the 2200 has audio codec installed where the 2050 has none and no LPC controller on the 2050. Now some might wonder what the point of this chip is; it's in fact a companion chip. First the CPU communicates with the 2200 chip through its HT link which is also connected to the 2050 through the second CPU. The two chips are then connected to each other through a second HT link running the same speed as the CPU to Bridge link, 2GHz. This then gives an nForce 4 Pro motherboard the ability to have two graphics cards in SLI mode both running at x16 mode as well as having four extra SATA ports. When setup in this manner, nVidia allows spanning RAID across the two controllers. This means you can have 8 SATA drives and 4 IDE drives in a single RAID 0, 1 or 5 array.
While all these features are available, the K8N-DL is the entry level server or high end workstation so only the nForce 2200 chip is used giving one graphics port and four SATA and four PATA on the one RAID array. Like all of the nForce 4 family, the 2200 needs to be actively cooled, as it tends to get quite warm.
Obviously ASUS thinks that four SATA ports isn't enough even in the server market. To this end the Silicon Image Sil3114 quad port SATA controller is added. This chip has proved itself in the past, but is now showing its age using the old PCI bus for connection to the system and only running at SATA150 speeds.
While not a requirement for server environments, digital workstations will appreciate the addition of a Firewire controller. Texas Instruments IEEE1394a PCI controller gives the board a total of two usable Firewire ports, one on the Rear 1/O and one by PCI riser bracket.
This becomes a mystery to me. While nVidia has its own perfectly good Gigabit Ethernet controller with a hardware Firewall built into the chipset itself, ASUS has decided to go with a Broadcom PCI-E x1 based Ethernet controller chip without Firewall functions.
Now this is where you can tell ASUS has gone down the Server and Workstation path. There are no overclocking features to speak of apart from some FSB settings and memory divider options. Apart from that this board is barebones for the overclocker.