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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  • deeltje - Saturday, November 05, 2005 - link

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    I've been waiting for this board for over 2 weeks now and it still isn't available anywhere in europe.

    So i would love to get this board shipped from USA to The Netherlands (where i live).

    Does anyone know a good USA Computershop that has these boards in stock and accept Mastercard payments!?!?!?!?

    I don't care about the shippingcosts, as long as they can ship FAST :)
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    Reply
  • Tanclearas - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    If we're supposed to upgrade to new drivers to take advantage of improvements, Nvidia needs to seriously work on their driver upgrades, especially the platform drivers. To avoid problems, we have to use a third-party driver cleaner. The only users that seem to get NAM working are those that do a fresh install of Windows. Any attempt to upgrade drivers and enable NAM results in BSOD.

    This has been brought up before, with AT staff saying that it would be looked into if we could point to information about the problems. Users posted links to forum threads of users experiencing the problem, and there have been more threads since Nvidia released new drivers, but still we wait to hear any follow-up from AT or Nvidia.
    Reply
  • Brian23 - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    seriously.

    I'm running 6.66 forceware drivers right now. I'm thinking about formatting so I can get that 17% increase from 6.82. However, I have an ATI card. Is the performance increase due to the forceware drivers, or the graphics drivers? Or is it from the combination of the two?

    Either way, we need a way to upgrade the drivers safely without all the crap of reformatting.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, November 05, 2005 - link

    The 6.82 platform drivers are officially just for Dual X16. The latest platform driver for the regular nForce4/SLI chipset is 6.70. The video drivers that boost performance are the 8x.xx series. The released version on the nVidia website is 81.85 which can be used to improve performance of all recent nVidia video cards. There is also a Beta 81.87 floating around. Reply
  • bob661 - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    Aren't the 6.82's for the x16 motherboards only? Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the review.

    This is a really nice looking motherboard. The passive cooling is very much welcomed, and the 8-phase power is interesting, and if it saves power that's good.

    I hope that nVidia sort out their audio woes soon however. I look at my >30 month old nForce2 system and that's got way better integrated audio. On a $200 motherboard, is the dolby fee really an issue?

    I could only see one SATA connector for the SI SATA.

    3 PCI slots is nice for backwards compatibility, but in the long run things will emerge for PCIe, and the x4 slot is great and all (esp. for a decent SATA RAID card, then again, there's 6 fricking SATA ports already on the motherboard), but would it have done much harm to have another PCIe slot in place of one of the PCI slots? As long as the middle PCI slot was left for a decent audio card anyway.

    How are the Firewire, SATA and Gigabit controllers connected? Via PCI or PCIe?

    How does the power draw at the socket compare with other solutions?
    Reply
  • cyberfrog4646 - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    I've read a bunch of complaints on the recent Asus boards that the chipset fans are quite loud and have been breaking down. Is that a potential problem on this board?

    Perfomance to cost wise, is their any reason to choose the Asus over the DFI board?
    Reply
  • Zebo - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    BTW all you got to do is replace chipset fan with a passive chipset heat sink on any asus' budget boards... like $5.. I do anyway on any board ( I cut stock heat sinks in quarters on my table saw). Can't stand those 6000+ rpm whinners.. that particular high pitched tone is really ear pierceing to me. Reply
  • Capt Caveman - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    Umm, this motherboard doesn't have any chipset fans but uses passive heatpipes for cooling. Did you read the review or look at the pics? Reply
  • cyberfrog4646 - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    HAHAHAH, whoops, i just looked at the benchmarks and conclusion. I thought the the pipe was for the cpu based on the opening picture. Ah well, thanks for the info. Reply

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