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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  • chucky2 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Typo on Page 20: I don't think you hit F3, it's F6.

    Chuck
    Reply
  • ajmiles - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Wesley, would it be possible to get a reply to the comment #6 i wrote? ASUS worked closely with you to resolve the dual 6800 ultra issue, but they just stonewall me and everyone else regarding the overclocking at 1T issue.

    Perhaps if someone with some "muscle" in the hardware reviewing world were to push them for a response you could get one out of them?

    Thanks, Adam Miles
    Reply
  • teng029 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    #52 - i don't envy what you have to go through. i've had the misfortune of trying to get tech support from asus sometime ago and it was like pulling teeth.

    #29 - i agree. while i would love to have two 6800 ultras or GTs in SLI, the fact of the matter is i can't justify the cost. so instead i'm going with two 6600GTs. although this is apparently not a very popular choice, the fact remains that this configuration is still going to be substantially faster than my current setup using a 9700 pro and it costs about the same as my 9700 pro when i bought it.
    Reply
  • teng029 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • giz02 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    I just noticed that the MSI board lacks additional PCIe boards, where the DFI board has an additional 1x and 4x slot. Anyones opinion on the importance of this? Reply
  • roostercrows - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    I just have to mention to my fellow anandtech members that I have an ASUS A8N-SLI board and I have been trying to get through to their "tech support" Friday and all Monday morning with absolutely no luck whatsoever! You can't even get through to anyone. So, when considering a motherboard keep this in mind. My experience with their "tech support" has been the worst you can imagine. Well...at least they weren't rude or incompetent.... they just aren't there. Reply
  • drewski - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    too bad the non-sli from MSI doesn't use the SB audio
    http://www.msi.com.tw/program/products/mainboard/m...
    Reply
  • giz02 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Sorry page 5-11
    Reply
  • giz02 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Heinrich,
    Did you configure the settings as per page 5-12 in the manual to passthrough on the decoder?
    Reply
  • THILE - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    How did you make the Gigabyte run 4x dimms at 200mhz?
    I have this new motherboard GA-K8NXP-SLI and 4x of kingston hyperx pc3200 (KHX3200UlK2).
    And running a new AMD athlon64 3500+ 90nm

    I use SPD settings for the memmory. T2 is enabled.
    Do I then force 200 mhz it just frezes.
    Reply

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