Last week, we took a close look at the Asus P5N32-SLI Deluxe, a new Intel motherboard based on NVIDIA's vision of the enthusiast chipset - the dual x16 SLI. With 8-phase power, passive heat-pipe cooling and two full x16 PCIe video slots, the Intel version had the goods to grab our attention. Perhaps even more important, we also found the performance among the best ever tested on the Intel Socket 775. Following that announcement, Asus has introduced an AMD version that should have even broader enthusiast interest - the Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe.

With essentially the same features on an AMD Socket 939 platform, Asus is targeting the majority of gamers with the A8N32-SLI Deluxe. With AMD in the clear lead in gaming performance, most gamers these days are running Athlon 64 processors. The question in many minds is whether this all-decked out A8N32-SLI Deluxe has what it takes to attract that market. Can this Asus effectively compete with the DFI LANParty nForce4 boards that seem to have a firm grip on the enthusiast-buying dollars? These are not trivial questions given the less-than stellar performance that we have recently seen in Athlon 64 motherboards from Asus.

We all know that Asus has historically done a wonderful job in bringing to market some of the most innovative and highest-performing Intel motherboards that the market has ever seen. However, the AMD side, and in particular the nForce 4 market, has been more a challenge to Asus. We found their original A8N-SLI Deluxe to be a very average performer in our nForce4 SLI roundup, a very atypical position for Asus. The good news recently is that the newest A8N-SLI Premium performed very well in our initial enthusiast testing, even with the potentially performance-robbing auto-switching SLI. This A8N32-SLI Premium uses many of the same features as the Premium, so we have reason to expect that this might be just the board to compete with the DFI LANParty nForce4 SLI.

We cannot go forward in reviewing the A8N32-SLI Deluxe without first addressing some of the completely incorrect hype that has developed about this board from early reviews by some review sites. We have seen a review that claimed the Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe to be 40% to 50% faster in some games than the current dual x8 SLI boards. Frankly, that information is based on an incorrect interpretation of performance data. Asus and NVIDIA strongly recommend that this board be tested with the latest released 81.85 video drivers and the 6.82 platform drivers. Using these recommended drivers, we also found dramatic increases in performance of the A8N32-SLI compared to past benchmarks on nForce4 SLI boards. However, we delayed the review to go back and retest the well-regarded DFI LANParty nF4 SLI-DR motherboard with the new video drivers. We found that the biggest part of the performance boost is not the dual x16 architecture, but the new video drivers.

So, is dual x16 SLI really better with current hardware and the latest games? Or is it all just smoke and mirrors? Join us as we take a closer look at the Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe in our standard motherboard tests, and new game tests with F.E.A.R., Splinter Cell-Chaos Theory, and Quake 4.

8-Phase Power and Dual x16 PCIe
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  • Per Hansson - Sunday, November 06, 2005 - link

    Hi, what type of capacitors did Asus choose to use on this mainboard?

    It looks like all caps are of the same type, (bar the CPU filter caps) is it Chemicon perhaps?
    Reply
  • Klaasman - Sunday, November 06, 2005 - link

    You guys at Anandtech should try cleaning the dust out of your HSF once in a while. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Sunday, November 06, 2005 - link

    We have received a number of emails questioning our results since some other sites who found twice the performance with Dual x16 tested with the nVidia SLI-AA option enabled with Coolbits in very recent nVidia drivers.

    We have complete results of SLI-AA testing with Far Cry - Regulator, the same game tested by sites claiming the 50% performance gain for Dual x16, but we no increase at all in SLI-AA performance.

    ALL components except the motherboard are the same. We even moved the hard drive between the systems to make SURE everything but the motherboard remained the same. Results were the Average of two runs with the very latest 81.87 videodrivers. Memory was 2x512MB of our standard OCZ PC3200 Platinum Rev. 2 at 2-2-2-7. Memory and CPU were exactly the same in both systems, and the same MSI 7800GTX cards were used for benchmarking.


    nVidia SLI-AA Mode - Far Cry - Regulator Demo - 1600x1200

    8X SLI-AA 16X SLI-AA

    Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe 37.22 20.59

    DFI LANParty nF4 37.89 22.19

    As you clearly see, there is NO difference with nVidia SLI-AA between Dual x8 and Dual x16. In fact the Dual x8 scores are slightly faster, but they are well within error margin and I would call them equivalent - the same.

    Reply
  • Live - Sunday, November 06, 2005 - link

    Nice to see this one cleard up. To bad you where right and they where wrong, performance wise that is. Reply
  • mctmcpoop - Saturday, November 05, 2005 - link

    Cound you re-test and compare the result from different X16 bus in A8N32 ? If the X16 slot result from the NF4 chipset is lower compare to X16 from C51D , we can be sure that the C51D X16 is much faster than NF4 chipset Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, November 05, 2005 - link

    This is a really good idea. The only problem is the Micro ATX boards that have this North Bridge do not normally have the memory timing options and other tweaks to allow a direct comparison. Also with an enabled integrated video on the C51 north bridge we are introducing a new variable. We will probably have to wait for other Dual x16 boards to see if we can duplicate these results on the newest, most demanding games. Reply
  • mctmcpoop - Saturday, November 05, 2005 - link

    What I mean is test both of the X16 slot on A8N32 , one X16 bus should be from C51D pci express tunnel chip , the other X16 slot bus should be from the NF4 chip as other normal SLI board ... So if the right X16 slot get good score compare to left X16 slot , that means C51D chip has better design of the pci express x16 bus ... Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Sunday, November 06, 2005 - link

    I ran some quick tests comparing the North x16 slot (nearest to CPU) and the South x16 slot on the Asus in the 3 new games that showed the big single-video increases. The South x16 slot was consistently slower than the one nearest the CPU by 2% to 6.7% in our single video performance tests. Perhaps there are difference in performance of the MCP51 and nF4 SLI which each drive one of these slots. We will look at these results again in future Dual x16 board reviews. Reply
  • lopri - Saturday, November 05, 2005 - link

    Another question for Wesley:

    When you say OC isn't as good with SLI as with a single video card setup, is it in general? Or this particular board? Also, what's the reason for it? CPU? Chipset? Power regulation on the board?

    Thanks again for a great review! I'm eagerly waiting for this board!
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, November 05, 2005 - link

    We have noticed that SLI will not overclock as high on other nForce4 boards as well, but I can't tell you the max on each one for SLI. I made this comment because I couldn't duplicate an overclock I had run earlier on this board, realized I had SLI set-up, removed the 2nd card and ran a few quick tests to see the impact of SLI on maximum overclock. Reply

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