The last few weeks have been extremely frustrating as we put together the nForce4 SLI roundup and prepared to launch our new motherboard test suite. It was so bad, in fact, that about 10 days ago, we were ready to post an SLI roundup titled "nForce4 SLI Roundup: On a Wing and a Prayer". However, nVidia is selling a huge number of SLI chipsets and we decided that SLI was potentially important enough to persevere. With extraordinary efforts and support by nVidia, Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, and DFI, we are now comfortable in sharing our results with you. This journey has been quite a learning experience for us, and we hope in this review that we can share information which will make your own road to SLI, should you choose it, a lot smoother than what our journey has been.

Some web sites would have called SLI boards garbage and gone on their merry way, blasting all the manufacturers who are riding in this carriage. We know that you expect more from AnandTech, and we also realized along the way that SLI demands everything that your system can give. Little flaws become magnified when you are pumping two synchronized GPUs with more transistors each than the most complicated CPU on the market. So the question becomes, was the journey a success and is SLI worth it? We will answer that as we look indepth at the four motherboards that currently support SLI.

Even if you don't care at all about SLI, you should look carefully at these motherboard features and test results because the only real difference in nForce4 SLI and Ultra boards is in some of the most recent games and a few synthetic benchmarks. Running one video card, the SLI and Ultra boards from the same manufacturer should provide the same results - and we have posted single video card results in all benchmarks for comparison. So, consider this a review of both Ultra and SLI boards (where they exist) from Asus, DFI, Gigabyte, and MSI.

This is also the first time that we have run our new tests of Features performance, so many of you will also be interested in performance of USB 2.0, Firewire 400 and 800, and the additional SATA controllers on these four boards. We also benchmarked actual Ethernet performance on all the boards - and compared PCIe and PCI gigabit Ethernet performance - in both throughput and CPU overhead. Those interested in on-board audio performance will also find CPU overhead measurements for the various audio codecs in this roundup.

The New Motherboard Test Suite
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  • Heinrich - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Hi, this is a great article. I'm really disappointed that the issues with the new Winchesters and the MSI board were not uncovered. The new CPUs will not post past FSB of 219, which is far below the 250 many get with other boards. Someone with the depth of knowledge, experience, and understanding of all these little options in the BIOS could help us uncover the real problem. Here's the best thread devoted specifically to the problem on Rebel HQ:

    http://www.rhcf.com/sisubb/ultimatebb.php/topic/21...
    Reply
  • ajmiles - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Hey,

    I enjoyed the round up of the SLI boards very much and thought it was very thorough.

    I own an A8N SLI Deluxe board, and too have been thoroughly disappointed with it's overclocking performance.

    On behalf of tens of users on the Anandtech - Motherboards forums, would it be beyond Anandtech's power to get a statement from Asus about the issue???

    At a 2T Command Rate the board will overclock to 316, 1T however just 249. The sudden BSODing as you approach 250 smacks of something that could be fixed with a BIOS update.

    Please Anandtech, A8N users are begging for this to be fixed, or at least be told it can't be.

    Many thanks, and again, a great article.
    Adam Miles
    Reply
  • Viper4185 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    is it true that the MSI board doesnt have a PCI Express x1 slot so that when the new Creative PCI express sound cards come out it wont fit? Reply
  • Viper4185 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the review guys, just what I wanted! Although I am interested in the Ultra versions its still very similar...

    I was wondring if you could comment on the stability/stress testing of the DFI board as Hardocp seems to have had some issues...
    http://www.hardocp.com/article.html?art=NzE3LDc=

    Also would have been good if you included the Abit Fatal1ty board to make the review 100% conclusive for me.
    Reply
  • nzimmers - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    dang, I wasn't first, oh well.

    one more thing....I no longer chase the FPS demon, and I am better for it (mentally and emotionally). To be honest I don't expect SLI to become a standard in MB design.....even for high end gamers. Isn't the price just too high?
    Reply
  • nzimmers - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    First post!

    I was actually really (plesantly) surprised that DFI did so well. I know that they have been improving lately but isn't it great to see another MB manufacturer improving for once?
    Reply
  • arfan - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    finally...., thx 4 your review Reply

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