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  • DAPUNISHER - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    Off to peruse your Intel articles. Reply
  • DAPUNISHER - Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - link

    I enjoyed your review, your 1st for AT? but for a moment, I though I was reading a retro review from AT. I liked it better when AT eschewed 3D synthetics, and chose to bench the latest, greatest titles. Even D3 and FarCry seem long in the tooth IMHO. Many do still play FarCry, but most use all the new tweaks.

    Perhaps there is logic to the methodolgy that I'm missing? TIA for any illuminating reply, and I look forward to your future reviews here :-)
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - link

    Hi,
    Actually, I have been covering the Intel reviews for the past few months. We are in the process of a transition over to the newer benchmarks. The last Intel article with those benchmarks can be found here-
    http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2631&am...">http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2631&am...

    The ability to go back and test all of the boards shown with the new benchmarks and driver sets was not possible. However, the next roundup should include newer benchmarks along with results from these three boards. Also, while FarCry and SC3 are "getting" long in the tooth they are both based on engines that can still stress a system by increasing the settings. They both offer a fairly good mix of cpu and gpu limited testing. The difference between D3 and Q4 is minimal except for SMP support now. We are also looking at providing repeatable and meaningful benchmarks for the RTS/SIM crowd without resorting to FRAPs. We plan on increasing the audio, power consumption, and disk RAID subject matter within the review process. You should see this process evolve over the next couple of months.
    Reply
  • da2ce7 - Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - link

    I got the original ASUS A8N-SLI Premium with a AMD X2 3800+ and found the stability very less than satisfactory with any bios less than 1007. However over clocking has been mediocre, at the standard multiplier (10X) I can raise the FSB to 254, from 200, providing a reasonable over clock, anything higher than this I seem to be hitting the wall. The voltage options are a real disappointment only letting me raze them to 1.45v. However I get no difference when overlooking when my voltage is 1.4 to 1.45, (except for my core temp), with the old bios I could raze the v-core to 1.5 and run the FSB at 260 very happily (the system did sometimes crash every 32 hours or so), I did not test it any further then before upgrading to 1007.

    When upgrading from the bios 1005 to 1007 I found that it would not post after the update, after much delay and many tests and try's I found that my very low timings T1-2-2-2-5-2 for the ram stopped it from booting. I gained control of it from putting in a stick of very old pc2100 ram and re-set the bios timings to automatic.

    With your review I found it disappointing that you did not test the Silicone Ice raid controller, I have been wondering witch one I should run my hard drive on.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - link

    quote:

    With your review I found it disappointing that you did not test the Silicone Ice raid controller, I have been wondering witch one I should run my hard drive on.


    We will be including RAID results in future articles. There have been some issues with repeatable results utilizing a variety of benchmarks and of course drive configurations.

    I would run the native nF4 RAID setup over the SI3114 in this case (assuming RAID0). However, if it were the SI3132 chipset on the board I would probably call it a toss up at this time.
    Reply
  • LX - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    Why would you bother to include a bunch of performance charts where the difference between the leading and the trailing boards is less than 5%?

    Don't you have enough important info to put in your articles instead of fillers?
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Why would you bother to include a bunch of performance charts where the difference between the leading and the trailing boards is less than 5%?


    Thank you for the comments. I think the purpose of the article was to show that performance between a $100 board and that of boards costing up to $250 (A8N32) is basically the same at stock speeds. The differences in pricing will usually (not all of the time) buy additional features and greater performance via stable overclocking.

    What would you like to see in our articles that we are not providing?
    Reply
  • JustAnAverageGuy - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    It may be worth noting that in the 1011.001 BIOS, the maximum vcore drops to 1.500V with dual core processors. :) Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - link

    We did not have an opportunity to finalize testing with the dual cores for the articles but this issue has been brought to Asus's attention. Thanks! Reply
  • yacoub - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    Wtf is up with the BlueGears card?? Is that simply a driver issue or not? It's such an excellent audio solution it's beyond shocking to see it perform even WORSE than onboard sound solutions when it comes to cpu usage. wtf indeed! Generally simply being a peripheral PCI device sound solution means it should be well BELOW the usage of onboard sound. Now I'm worried about purchasing their new card coming out this month (X-Plosion - onboard DTS in addition to onboard DDL like the X-Mystique has).

    Please update us when you receive the new drivers and figure out why the cpu usage of this card during gaming is so atrocious. Thanks.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    Hi,

    I have been informed by Blue Gears that the significant differences we are seeing is due to the current beta driver set. They recently released a 64-bit driver set that improved performance up 18% in some applications. The general C-Media driver that was provided last fall was in worse shape than the June beta for the 32-bit operating systems so they went back to the drawing board. If you go back and read some of our recent Intel reviews you will see that Realtek has improved their HD codec performance by up to 40% in some instances over the last three driver releases. The A380 release we utilized for the ALC850/655 was around 9% better in Serious Sam II and BF2 (not shown yet) over the A379.

    I would not be concerned with their next card at this point. They are very customer focused and are doing everything possible to improve the performance of the C-Media driver sets.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - link

    Thanks for the replies, Gary. Looking forward to seeing better numbers. I totally understand what you mean about scenes breaking up. I experience that as I'm waiting for the new BlueGears card to come out later this month so I'm running the onboard ALC-8xx series audio on the A8N-SLI Premium I have. It's pretty crappy and sometimes heavy action scenes with lots of sound sources seem to chug the computer and now I see that's typical of the onboard solutions. Reply
  • yacoub - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Obviously, if you are a serious gamer, then a dedicated sound card is still a requirement to ensure consistent frame rate averages across a wide variety of games.


    Considering the surprisingly poor results of the BlueGears and CLabs X-Fi cards in the actual gaming tests, why do you state that like it's an "obvious" conclusion when the numbers state exactly the inverse - that the onboard audio solutions, as cpu-grubbing as they are, actually provide the better framerates in most of the games tested?

    Unless your results are anomalic, I'll have to start my soundcard research all over again. I was sold on the upcoming X-Plosion but now that it doesn't really gain me much if anything in the way of cpu usage improvement during gaming (half the purpose of getting a peripheral soundcard to begin with), I only end up with better audio quality (the other half of the purpose) and for that, yes, the BlueGears card should be better than the X-Fi series, but I really want to get better cpu usage as well. Hmmmm...
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Considering the surprisingly poor results of the BlueGears and CLabs X-Fi cards in the actual gaming tests, why do you state that like it's an "obvious" conclusion when the numbers state exactly the inverse - that the onboard audio solutions, as cpu-grubbing as they are, actually provide the better framerates in most of the games tested?


    The audio quality of those two sound cards are significantly better than the Realtek ALC850/655 codecs across the spectrum. Their performance at times is worse in absolute numbers but the difference in consistent frame rates while playing on-line and within the game was significant from a subjective viewpoint. We are finishing our benchmark suite for showing (consistently) the low/average/high frame rates with sound enabled. I did not publish the BF2/F.E.A.R./HL2 numbers yet as we needed time to verify the benchmarks were repeatable with the latest patch updates. However, the two add-in cards scored better and have more consistent frame rates than the on-board sound solutions. In a couple of scenes in the BF2 benchmark the on-solutions would stutter and the scence would break up, this never happened with the add in cards.

    The lastest SSII patch and Creative drivers should improved the scores even further in that game. In Serious Sam II we were quite surprised by the results and they shadowed the same results from the last Intel article. Although I can make out the near/far audio effects being played with a set of high end headphones on the ALC850 codec, it in no way compares to the sounds being played back by the XFI and Mystique. The sound on the ALC850/655 is tinny and muffled while you can hear exacting details in the same scenes with the other two cards. It is even more obvious in F.E.A.R and BF2, almost to the point of wondering if you were listening to the same audio playback.

    Also, the on-board ALC850/655 solutions only support up to 26 buffers in the drivers.

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    quote:

    In a couple of scenes in the BF2 benchmark the on-board solutions would stutter and the scene would break up, this never happened with the add-in cards.


    Really need an edit function, hit the button before I finished proof reading.
    Reply
  • Spacecomber - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    Shouldn't the game benchmarks, at least, have focused on performance running two video cards in SLI? There was some mention in the Final Words section of using two video cards on these boards; so, I got the impression that this might have at least been tried. Still, it comes across as an after-thought, which seems to miss the point of a thorough testing of what is the main feature of these boards.

    Just a bit puzzled.

    Space
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    Good Day,

    We will have SLI benchmarks up once we complete the SLI roundup that consists of several more boards between the $80~$140 range. I might modify the article to include our initial results between the three boards tested. The issue is previous boards were tested with the 78.x drivers while these boards were tested with the 81.85 driver set. There is a significant performance difference in several benchmarks between the two driver sets that would have been confusing. We have not gone back and tested all of the boards in SLI with the 81.85 up to 81.98 drivers yet.
    Reply
  • deathwalker - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    Odd that the Albatron and Foxxcon come out very satisfactory in the testing and the don't make the Motherboard roundup that came out only 2 days ago. Great review though and it nice to see that you can save a couple $ on off-brand mobos and still get a decent product. Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Odd that the Albatron and Foxxcon come out very satisfactory in the testing and the don't make the Motherboard roundup that came out only 2 days ago. Great review though and it nice to see that you can save a couple $ on off-brand mobos and still get a decent product.


    We still have several more value to mid-range SLI products to review and as such any final recommendations will be done at the completion of the testing cycle.
    Reply
  • Calin - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    On the second page, in the table, all the boards have slots for DDR2 memory. It should be DDR, I think Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    quote:

    On the second page, in the table, all the boards have slots for DDR2 memory. It should be DDR, I think


    Corrected. I apologize for that error and the previous mention of DDR2 in the Asus memory section. My right side brain was thinking DDR but the Intel side of the brain was typing DDR2. ;->
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    Nah, these are M2! Seriously, though, thanks - busted Gary on the copy/paste, eh? Although he did get the memory speeds right, so you can't go too hard on him. :) Reply
  • Martrox - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    I've got a K8SLi that I picked up for $80. I'm currently running a 3000+ Venice at 2610(9x290) memory set to 166fsb(TCCD 2x512)2.5,3,3,7. Running 7800GT's SLi'ed with absolutely no problems.......Wish the voltage options were better, but it does work pretty well. Reply
  • lopri - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    The title says, and the article begins with "Premium performance at bargain price" then it ended up praising (and recommending) ASUS board. The ASUS board doesn't belong to same ground as that of the other two boards, and the price of the board certainly proves it. In the first page how affordable NF4-SLI boards have become is mentioned ($70), then compare 2 value boards with a premium board($170)? What's the point of this review? Did ASUS ask to boost the "A8N-SLI Premium" board since they can't meet the demand of "A8N32-SLI"?

    I'm sorry but as an avid AT reader/forumer, I should say this review is totally off. It's nothing but an ASUS PR presentation. Also, it's been pointed out many times lately, but according to AT reviews, every single board on the market is a "great overclocker," "dark-horse," "keeper," "enthusiast-targeted". Everytime AT reviews a motherboard they miraculously find something to compliment and that becomes the main point of the article.

    It's almost up to the point that I no longer completely trust AT motherboard reviews. I'm sorry to say this, especially the author of this specific article, but my comment is more general towards the whole AT motherboard team. (Wesley, Jared, et. al)

    Is this going to continue? (Sigh..)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    Just curious, Lopri, but you did notice that the Foxconn and Albatron received a recommendation based on price, right? There are people that want all the features of something like the ASUS Premium, and they're willing to pay for it. All three motherboards here are pretty decent, though, and while I didn't write the article I'm a little confused as to how this is seen as a PR piece.

    To a certain extent, all reviews are a form of PR. Companies send us a product and we review it. We review other products sometimes, but generally speaking we review the products that we get sent. The only things that really separates these boards from each other are features and overclocking capability. In most of the benchmarks, scores are close enough that you needn't lose sleep over the difference.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    We've complained plenty about the ATI SB450 southbrudge (poor USB 2.0 performance) even though we like the ATI chipset in general. We've also complained loudly about nVidia's mediocre AC'97 audio on their top boards when ATI and ULi are delivering hooks for HD Azalia in their AMD chipsets.

    Frankly, until very recently Asus had not had a really great AMD board since the Socket A days - they hadn't won a single AMD roundup in quite a while. Asus rested on really great Intel boards. Recently Asus got very serious about the AMD market and the A8N32-SLI Deluxe is a great board. So is the A8R-MVP at the price point of around $100. However, as another recent review clearly showed, the Asus 6150 is pretty pedestrian and not a great choice for a multimedia PC with all the important multimedia stuff an extra cost option.

    A lot of the real crap boards we see get pulled from the market before release and our review never sees the light of day. An example is the original Asus Premium reviewed here, which was a terrible overclocker due to the switches that replaced the paddle for SLI switching. When we complained to Asus they decided to hold off release of the board and rework the switching. The result is the board reviewed here which is a huge improvement. Oddly, it overclocks FSB very well but really does not do a great job in overclocking memory. The A8N32-SLI Deluxe is still the better board for the Enthusiast.

    The motherboard team really cares about the products, and they aren't looking for a sensational story like some other sites. We could write Inquirer-like exposes on plenty of the early BIOS' we receive, but we prefer to work with the manufacturer to try to resolve the issues on production boards. If we can't get things to work we ask lots of questions before we assume we are Gods and the board is junk. But if it's junk or just all hype in the end, we'll tell you that.

    We began testing features more in-depth because the memory controller on the AMD CPU greatly reduced the performance variations we used to see in motherboards. Also most manufacturers have gotten more serious about going after the Enthusiast who is our basic reader. That's the reason you're seeing so many really good overclockers these days. Just when we think it can't get any better another board sets some new record. However there are lots of boards out there below these standards, and we do tell you that when we review them.




    Reply
  • mindless1 - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    I see nothing wrong with this concept, makes plenty of sense.

    I would not however consider this to be "Premium Performance at a Bargain Price". Back in the socket A days an AMD platform at a bargin price was $50-70 for your basic nForce2, of course a little higher when first deputed. It's very hard to make an argument that any board over $100 is bargain in this age with so many of the features chipset-integral.

    If anything, the typical trends of motherboard features and performance are still holding true but at a far worse bargain than ever before. SLI should not cost much more except for the smaller market segment.

    On a side note- Cooling the Asus board by moving the heat from the southbridge to the hottest zone on the board just to save a fan is a really bad idea. Almost seems like an afterthought for marketing purposes. Given the space that thing takes up they should've just use a giant low-profile passive 'sink if they really needed to stay fanless.

    Reply
  • mindless1 - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    "... by moving the heat from the southbridge"

    I too would like an edit function. ;-)
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    ...Mobo for the vast majority of PC users as the article states. Most people have no need or use for SLI and have no interest in paying a premium price for SLI when they will never use it. SLI is a gimmick for gamers and nothing more. If you want it, buy it, but I highly doubt mainstream PC users will cough up $170 bucks or more for SLI when you can have Asus's A8R-MVP Crossfire Mobo for $101. from Mwave.

    The $70. you save could go toward a nice Vid card and the A8R-MVP overclocks every bit as good as the SLI boards and performs better than all of the SLI Mobos per Wesley Finks recent review.

    http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2617">http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2617

    At $101. mainstream PC users can have the best performance, overclocking and not even worry about paying a premium for Crossfire or dual graphics cards. If in the future they really desire to blow more dough on a second video card, they could, but there would not be a price penalty for purchasing the superior A8R-MVP Mobo like there is with any of the SLI rigs.
    Reply
  • Some1ne - Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - link

    I agree, I feel that the article makes some unfounded and moreover highly irresponsible statements, such as "in fact, the current price structure almost ensures that your nForce4 purchase should be an SLI-capable motherboard." SLI is not worth it in any way, shape, or form from any cost/performance standpoint, unless you happen to be the enthusiast user who wants the highest possible performance available today no matter the cost. For everyone else SLI is worthess...and yet how many new users are going to go out and waste their cash on an SLI board because of statements made in the article like the one above?

    Irresponsible, and not backed up by any solid evidence. It's like the author started off with the assumption that SLI = good, so therefore any affordable SLI board is also good. It doesn't work like that though.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - link

    quote:

    I agree, I feel that the article makes some unfounded and moreover highly irresponsible statements, such as "in fact, the current price structure almost ensures that your nForce4 purchase should be an SLI-capable motherboard." SLI is not worth it in any way, shape, or form from any cost/performance standpoint, unless you happen to be the enthusiast user who wants the highest possible performance available today no matter the cost. For everyone else SLI is worthess...and yet how many new users are going to go out and waste their cash on an SLI board because of statements made in the article like the one above?


    As stated in the article the current pricing structure lends itself to the purchase of an SLI capable motherboard if the nForce4 is your chipset of choice. Even if you do not utilize SLI you at least have the option of doing so, if not for gaming, then for multiple monitor support and excellent performance utilizing two x8 lanes. If you look at the current support from the motherboard suppliers and product plans it is very obvious that SLI/CrossFire capable motherboards are becoming the standard across all price points. Our statements were based on these facts regarding the motherboard choices available. If you consider the potential cost/performance benefits then why pay the same amount of money for a board that is not capable of SLI or CrossFire and will probably not receive the same level of support over the lifespan of the product.
    Reply
  • bob661 - Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - link

    quote:

    SLI is not worth it in any way, shape, or form from any cost/performance standpoint, unless you happen to be the enthusiast user who wants the highest possible performance available today no matter the cost.


    Isn't this a contradiction?
    Reply
  • Capt Caveman - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    What are you talking about? You can get a SLI board for $70. Reply
  • andlcool - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    for the asus one, it should be ddr and not ddr2. Reply
  • ElFenix - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    still, should be a good price for stock speed boards Reply
  • ElFenix - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    looking at the first chart i mean. doesn't seem to fall off much eh?

    <--- wants an edit function
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - link

    The Foxconn board offered excellent stability throughout testing although it certainly is not targeted at the overclocking crowd. The performance was certainly acceptable and without the benchmarks you probably would not be able to tell the difference between it and the other boards. The layout is really nice unless you plan on utilizing two video cards with two slot cooling solutions as the space becomes very tight between the two x16 slots.

    I would like an edit function also. ;->
    Reply

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