ASUS’ A8N-SLI Deluxe

ASUS and NVIDIA have been working very closely with each other on the nForce4 SLI project.  NVIDIA took ASUS’ A8N-SLI Deluxe on tour with them, doing demonstrations to reviewers all over the world based on this one motherboard.  Obviously the partnership has irritated a few of ASUS’ competitors, and thus it looks like Gigabyte and MSI are doing their best to get their competing boards out as soon as possible.  But ASUS was the first to get us a final board and thus we have them in our review today.

The very first A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard we received was horribly unstable and we spent the majority of our time just trying to get the thing to work.  Our sample was one of 10 in the world and fortunately not a mass production sample.  ASUS managed to get us another board in time for the publication of this review, and the updated board fixed all of our issues.  We will be sure to do a full review on ASUS’ SLI motherboard featured here, but for now here’s some brief information about the board.

The A8N-SLI Deluxe is a very interesting solution from ASUS as it will be targeted at both the high end and mainstream Socket-939 markets.  With a price point of around $180, ASUS is hoping that all types of users, from casual to hardcore gamers will flock to the A8N-SLI Deluxe to either take advantage of SLI immediately or have the security of a SLI upgrade path. 

The board itself is as feature filled as you could possibly imagine.  Featuring 3 x 32-bit PCI, 2 PCI Express x1 and 2 PCI Express x8 slots, the board is pretty balanced when it comes to add-in card expansion. 

ASUS spread the two PCI Express x8 slots out a bit more than some manufacturers have planned to do, in order to improve cooling when running two cards in SLI mode.  ASUS also supplies a bridge PCB appropriately sized to accommodate the distance between the two PCI Express connectors.  The card that reconfigures the PCI Express lane arrangement from the chipset is wedged in between the two PCI Express x8 slots.  The card can be a little difficult to get to at times, but with a bit of patience it’s not too big of a deal.

The actual nForce4 SLI chipset is placed between the two PCI Express x8 slots, but shifted down to be as far away from the heat producing GPUs as possible.  The problem is that with 2-slot cards such as the GeForce 6800 Ultra there is not much clearance over the top of the chipset’s heatsink, which limited the size of the heatsink that ASUS could put on the motherboard.  The end result is that while the heatsink and fan do the best job they can, the heatsink gets extremely hot.  Just something to keep an eye out for.


The nForce4 SLI chipset on the A8N-SLI Deluxe

By using a separate Silicon Image SATA controller in conjunction with the nForce4 SLI’s built in SATA controller, the A8N-SLI supports a maximum of 8 SATA drives.  Impressively enough, ASUS provides 4-pin molex to SATA power adapters and SATA cables for all of the ports.  ASUS went one step further and also bundles a card that allows you to plug a SATA drive (and power) into your motherboard, externally without ever opening your case.  By running two SATA ports and one power connector to a slot cutout you can plug any SATA drive and use it externally.  Remember that since the nForce4 SLI chipset supports the SATA II specification, you can use this external port with hot pluggable SATA II drives. 

In order to aid in power delivery to a power hungry SLI setup, ASUS implemented what they are calling their “EZ-PLUG” connector on the board.  The EZ-PLUG is basically a 4-pin molex connector on the board itself that is designed to provide an additional 12V line to the graphics cards in SLI mode.  Using the plug isn’t necessary (we tested both with and without it and in both cases it worked fine), but ASUS insists you use it in SLI mode to guarantee stability.  If you don’t apply power to the EZ-PLUG and you are in SLI mode, a red LED lights up on the motherboard and a warning will appear at POST telling you that you forgot to supply power to the EZ-PLUG. 


ASUS' EZ-PLUG

ASUS is expecting mass production of the A8N-SLI Deluxe to commence in the coming weeks; this is an extremely important motherboard for ASUS and they have extended their promise to us that it will be widely available before the holidays, most likely starting the first week of December. 

We are pretty happy with what we’ve seen from ASUS with their A8N-SLI Deluxe, but we’ll save the full evaluation of the motherboard for our review of the board itself.  With a working sample of the board in hand it looks like ASUS has worked out any issues we had with the first sample of the board, and it should make for a nice gift (for someone special or yourself of course) for the holiday gamer. 

Index SLI – The Requirements
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  • bob661 - Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - link

    #33
    I found one here.
    http://www.sharbor.com/products/EVGN5300004.html
    I don't know if they actually have one in stock though.
    Reply
  • jshuck3 - Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - link

    Where are they getting the 6800GT PCI Express cards? I can't find them anywhere...are they even out yet or are these just review boards? Reply
  • L1FE - Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - link

    #28 If the nextgen video cards are also SLI capable, then SLI offers even more performance for a new GPU launch. If you don't want SLI that's your choice, but SLI offers consumers a wider range of choices just because cominations now make it that much more complicated. Whether that's a good or bad thing is yet to be seen, but I like how it makes things exciting between new GPU releases. Reply
  • T8000 - Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - link

    Altrough it is nice to see Nvidia take PC gaming quality one step further, these solutions are more expensive than ever before.

    But where does this money come from, you ask. Well, since CPU's are stuck at around 3 Ghz (or almost equal) for some time now, people look for other upgrades to buy.

    And SLI is an easy way to explain that a top-end GPU solution now costs $1000 instead of $500, because it now contains two $500 cards.

    But since SLI is much cheaper than pre-overclocked (Falcon/Alienware) solutions, it is currently worth its premium for a lot of users.

    It also creates an interesting problem for ATI, to sell technology that is way behind for lowewr prices or to copy the SLI concept, hoping that their users are willing to wait.
    Reply
  • miketheidiot - Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - link

    #28 the next gen of both nVidia and ATI will be only a tiny jump over the current generation. We won't see another big jump until DX10 has been out for a while. The next jump will be a 9700 to 9800 style jump, if that.

    http://www.anandtech.com/news/shownews.aspx?i=2340...
    Reply
  • VIAN - Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - link

    Yeah, where is 8xAA/16xAF. I want that tested. I mean with all that power, who wouldn't want to see the results of the fabulous 8xAA IQ. Reply
  • FICo - Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - link

    So does Nvidia now want everyone to buy 2 of their cards? I really hope its not popular. They should just design faster GPUs rather then relying on such a sledgehammer approach. Nvidia seem to bring out new GPUs once a year, and updates 6 months into a products life. So the new "Geforce 7" chip will be out end of spring time next year. Of course the performance of a single card "GeFroce 7 Ultra" will be a big jump as usual, and will most likely out perform todays PCs with dual 6800 Ultras. Nvidia's SLI technology is certainly interesting, shame its such poor value for money. Surely a dual core approach would be cheaper for the public to buy, yet still offering extra performance. Reply
  • Filibuster - Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - link

    Dual Voodoo2 cards is what, 200Mpixel/s? :) Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - link

    Thinking about it more, I think I'd rather just see some 32 pipeline GPU's with 512 MB of RAM and it's very own nuclear reactor to power it :) Reply
  • Souka - Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - link

    Anyone want SLI cheap? don't even have to upgrade your moherboard.....

    For sale.... two 8mb 3dFx Voodoo2 boards wih SLI cable...PCI interface of course..... it rocked in the 90's....why not now?

    :)

    Reply

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