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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  • Wesley Fink - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    I can't help on the Lian-Li question as I don't have a similar setup, but I am familiar with the upside-down mounting some top-end cases are providing. Our test setup runs the board flat, without the advantage of "heat-rising" and we had no issues. It's a good question for Asus engineering or the Forums.

    As for the slots, check my comments above. With 2 single slot 7800GTX we could still mount 3 PCI and an x4 PCIe - though 2 of the PCI will block video fan exhaust if they are too tall. With double-slot (and worst case) one PCI is usable and one x4 PCIe.
    Reply
  • lopri - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    Wesley,

    Could you please comment on the heatpipe's efficiency for this board? This is a real concern for people with Lian-Li V1000, or any case that houses the motherboard upside-down. I had a problem with A8N-SLI Premium board's heatpipe in my case, and I really, really want to know.

    Thank you very much. This review is fantastic.

    lop
    Reply
  • dunce - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    What about using this board in a reverse ATX case? Like that Antec P180 or Silverstone TJ06? This a new trend in ATX cases to improve video card and CPU cooling by flipping the ATX mother board upside down. From what I know about heatpipe cooling the water boils, heat rises with the gases and cools at the “radiator fins” . Right? On this Asus board in a “normal” ATX case this would work great but in a reverse ATX the radiator fins will be at the bottom of the heat pipe exchange and rendered ineffective. Correct?

    Paul
    Reply
  • Live - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    Antec P180 does not flip the Motherboard. It places the PSU in a separate chamber below the board. The orientation of the board is still standard tough.

    For cases that does put the motherboard upside down the effectiveness of the heat pipes are decreased.
    Reply
  • Aquila76 - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    That's what happened with the A8N-SLI Premium in 'BTX mount' cases like the Lian-Li, etc., I'm sure it happens on this board as well. Reply
  • deeltje - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    In the new cases it won't work, well, it works but the chipsets get insainly HOT!

    I ordered the V1000 but changed to the PC6070B Plus very quick :)

    BTW, any USA shops that has this board in stock and ship abroad???? Anyone???
    Reply
  • trooper11 - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    One thing that has been bugging me about this board is the pci-e/pci layout. I was suprised you guys didnt cover that when you talked about the layout of the board.

    I do want to use SLI on this, but I have to be able to use all 3 pci slots and the single pci-e x4 slot all at the same. now the video card i was going to start with is the EVGA 7800GTX KO with the sheathed cooler. now the way the layout looks to me, that would be impossible.

    Did anyone check if the other slots are still useable when using SLI?
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    Our test rig uses two MSI 7800GTX in SLI mode. They are single slot cards. I was able to install 3 PCI network cards and a PCIe network card in the x4 PCIe slot. They would all fit, but the cards closest to the 7800GTX cards do mostly block the fans on the video cards. With double-slot video cards one PCI and the x4 PCIe would be all that are usable for expansion.

    Asus will be introducing a single-slot dual-GPU 7800 card in the near future, but that might mean SLI in a single x16 slot which is bakc to dual x8. We do know the Gigabyte 3D1 dual-GPU cards work on the Asus, DFI, and Gigabyte SLI boards - all 3 have the BIOS hooks to drive a single-slot dual-GPU.
    Reply
  • deeltje - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    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 :)
    Reply
  • Zebo - Friday, November 04, 2005 - link

    with single card - your chart says DFI is 8x1 - and performance seems to bear that out. OTOH, in narrative below that chart, you say both are running 16x1 and DFI still takes a whoopin. Reply

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