the asus a8n-sli deluxe is a great mobo support for sli
great for oc'ing and its good value
heres a review for a uk mag custom pc
Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe
PRICE: £129 inc VAT
Verdict: The (n)Force is strong with this one
As the world's leading motherboard manufacturer, you always expect Asus to come up with something special, and the A8N-SLI Deluxe is very special indeed. Not only is it one of the first nForce4-based boards to hit the UK, it's the first to sport the top-of-the-range nForce4 SLI chipset.
The nForce4 SLI chipset differs from the basic nForce4 and nForce4 Ultra chipsets by supporting two high-speed PCI-E slots. As standard you can fit one graphics card into the first slot and it will run at 16x. Alternatively, two graphics cards can be run together in SLI mode. For SLI you need two identical graphics cards (same model, same BIOS) and a bridge connector, which is supplied with the motherboard. Unlike other SLI boards we've seen, such as the Supermicro X6DAE-G2 used in the Scan 3XS-SLI Cobra (see Issue 15, p32), Asus has positioned the two high-speed PCI-E graphics slots further apart, which is an intelligent design that will help keep two 3D cards cool. To enable both high-speed PCI-E slots you have to flip the position of an SO-DIMM card, located between the two slots, which forces the slots to run in 8x mode. All that's left is to install the graphics driver twice (once for each card) and you're off.
In addition to the two high-speed PCI-E slots, the A8N-SLI Deluxe also has two 1x PCI-E slots and three PCI slots for legacy cards. With four DIMM sockets supporting standard DDR, there's no need to buy expensive DDR2 modules. There are eight S-ATA ports in all, consisting of four RAID-capable S-ATA ports on the Southbridge and four more on a Silicon Image SiL3114 chip - also RAID capable. There are also two EIDE ports and a single FDD port. The four S-ATA ports on the Southbridge are S-ATA 300 ready, though it's unlikely to be any faster than standard S-ATA, unless you're using a large (4+) RAID array. There are also two Gigabit LAN ports, plus ActiveArmor hardware firewalling and hacker protection (see boxout for more details).
Nvidia hasn't bothered incorporating its Soundstorm technology in nForce4, but there is a Realtek ALC850 PHY, which supports eight-channel surround sound. Asus gives you the choice of four analog surround audio jacks, plus both coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs. The expected I/O ports are present too, including four USB 2 ports and a FireWire port on the board, plus a PCI bracket with a further two USB 2 ports and another FireWire port.
But it's not all about hardware, because the nForce4 also supports an enhanced version of nTune. This not only allows you to adjust the bus speeds and voltages on the motherboard, but it can also dynamically overclock the CPU on the fly. Application profiles can be set up to overclock different parts of your system. So if you're playing Dawn of War it could overclock your CPU, or if you're playing Doom 3 it could overclock your GPU.
The nTune utility also includes a small synthetic benchmark that gives a very basic indication of how each change has affected your PC's performance, although running the Custom PC Media Benchmarks will give you a better indication. NTune is great for inexperienced overclockers, but hardcore tweakers will probably still want to use the BIOS to overclock and tune.
As you can install two high-end 3D cards into the Asus, power is also a crucial consideration. In addition to the standard 20-pin ATX and 4-pin ATX 12V sockets, you also need
to plug in an extra Molex socket, if you're using two graphics cards. We first tried the board with a Vantec Stealth 420W PSU (see Issue 15, p75) but it wouldn't boot. After some experimentation we discovered it would only boot with the Labs award-winning Tagan TG480-U01, so clearly you'll need a powerful and stable PSU for any SLI system you build.
Three different Nvidia GPUs support SLI (GeForce 6800 Ultra, 6800 GT and 6600 GT). Using our Athlon 64 3800+ CPU a single 6600 GT ran Doom 3 at 1,280 x 1,024 with 2x AA and 2x AF at 48.7fps, while two cards using SLI gave a massive 77.9fps. That's a 62 per cent performance increase, and just 1fps slower than a single 6800 Ultra. With Doom 3 running at 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x AA and 8x AF, a single 6600 GT jerked along at just 18.4fps, rising to a playable 29.7fps with two cards. However, because of their lower memory bandwidth two 6600 GTs can't compete with a single 6800 Ultra at high resolutions, as demonstrated by the average frame rate of 42.7fps at the same settings. SLI also provided a big performance increase in Far Cry, boosting the frame rate at 1,280 x 1,024 with 2x AA and 2x AF from 39.9fps to 50fps and from 22fps to 34.3fps at 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x AA and 8x AF.
For those with more money than sense, we also tested the A8N-SLI Deluxe with a pair of 6800 Ultras. At 1,280 x 1,024 with 2x AA and 2x AF SLI boosted the frame rate from 78.9fps on a single card to 99.7fps. But at the more demanding settings of 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x AA and 8x AF the frame rate jumped from 42.7fps to a silky smooth 72.3fps. Other than the £828 you'll have to spend to buy a pair of 6800 Ultras, you'll also have to invest in some ear protectors or a water-cooling system - it's that noisy.
Just in case you're wondering, the A8N-SLI Deluxe performs admirably in 2D applications too. In the Custom PC Media Benchmarks it achieved an overall score of 1.39, which is similar to the nForce4 Ultra-powered Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-9 (see p39). As always for an Athlon 64 the video encoding performance was slower than a similarly specified Pentium 4, but image editing was far superior.
Although the early BIOS did have a full set of bus speed and voltage adjustments we were unable to overclock the A8N-SLI Deluxe stably. This is most likely due to the fact that our pre-release BIOS didn't have a working PCI/PCI-E lock. The final retail boards will have a working lock, so hopefully they'll overclock reliably.
Cheaper: If you're trying to trim your PC spending but don't want to try Socket 754, VIA's new K8T890 chipset offers Socket 939 and PCI-E for a good price. Early bugs have gone and Abit's AX8 is as fast as its nForce4 rivals. It's a no-frills (and no SLI) product, but at £70, is cheaper than most Nvidia-based boards.
Until VIA launches its SLI-compatible K8T890 chipset with DualGFX Express, the only competition for nForce4 SLI is the Intel E7525 chipset. But as this is only available in uber-expensive dual Xeon motherboards such as the £385 SuperMicro X6DAE-G2, and the A8N-SLI costs just £129, nForce4 is clearly the way to go if you want to build a cost-effective SLI rig.
As we speculated in our review of the Scan 3XS-SLI Cobra, nForce4 does allow you to build a much more fiscally attractive SLI PC, and extra features, such as the hardware firewall, only add to its value. Whether you buy two graphics cards at the same time, or buy one now and add a second card later, SLI is a cost-effective way of boosting gaming performance. For example, it's possible to build a system with a pair of 6600 GTs that will run games at 1,280 x 1,024 with 2x AA and 2x AF at the same speed as a single 6800 Ultra, yet costs £126 less. This combination will also be slightly faster than a single 6800 GT, and also £15 cheaper.
But whether you want an SLI system now or in the future, there's little question that the Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe is the best motherboard for the job.
By James Gorbold
Chipset: Nvidia nForce4 SLI CPU support: Socket 939 AMD Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX processors Memory: Support 4 slots: max 4GB DDR (PC3200) Expansion slots: Two 8x PCI-E slots, two 1x PCI-E slots, 3 x PCI slots Sound: Realtek ALC850 with 8-channel support Networking: Nvidia Gigabit Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet Overclocking: BETA BIOS - subject to change Ports: 8 x S-ATA, 2 x EIDE, floppy, 2 x PS/2, parallel, 4 x USB 2, FireWire, 2 x LAN, 4 x surround audio out, coaxial and optical S/PDIF out Dimensions (mm): 245 x 305 Test kit: Athlon 64 3800+, Western Digital WD1200JB hard disk, Samsung SM-348 DVD/CD-RW, 1GB of Corsair XMS 4400, 2 x GeForce 6600 GT, Windows XP
Edited by chopyaedoff, 20 June 2005 - 11:00 AM.