Socket 754 Roundup, Part 3: Asus, Soltek & DFIby Wesley Fink on September 14, 2004 12:03 AM EST
- Posted in
Asus K8N-E: Features and Layout
|Asus K8N-E Motherboard Specifications|
|CPU Interface||Socket 754 Athlon 64|
|CPU Ratios||4 to CPU Default in 0.5X increments|
|Bus Speeds||200MHz to 300MHz (in 1MHz increments)|
|PCI/AGP Speeds||Auto, 66MHz to 75MHz (in 1MHz increments)|
|HyperTransport||1x-4x (200MHz to 800MHz) in 1x|
|Core Voltage||0.85V-1.75V in .025V increments|
|DRAM Voltage||Auto, 2.5V to 2.7V in 0.1V increments|
|AGP Voltage||1.5V to 1.7V in 0.1V increments|
|Memory Slots||Three 184-pin DDR DIMM Slots
Unbuffered Memory to 3GB Total
|Expansion Slots||1 AGP 8X Slot
5 PCI Slots
|Onboard SATA/RAID||2-drive SATA by nVidia nF3-250GB
RAID 0, 1, JBOD plus
Silicon Image 3114 4-Drive SATA
RAID 0, 1, 10, 5, JBOD
|Onboard IDE/RAID||Two nVidia ATA133/100/66 by nF3-250Gb
(4 drives) RAID 0, 1, JBOD
|Onboard USB 2.0/IEEE-1394||8 USB 2.0 ports supported by nF3-250
2 FireWire ports by VIA VT6307
|Onboard LAN||Gigabit Ethernet by 88E1111 PHY|
|Onboard Audio||Realtek ALC850 8-Channel
With Coaxial and Optical SPDIF Out
|BIOS||1004 Release (8/13/2004)|
While Asus was quick to get Socket 754 boards to market based on the VIA chipset, it has taken them quite a while to bring an nForce3-250Gb board to market. This was more than a bit surprising, considering some of the excellent nForce 2 designs with an Asus name. We were more than a bit surprised, however, to find the uneven range of adjustment options on the K8N-E. Perhaps this is a concession to the K8N-E appearing late in the 754 cycle, but we were particularly dismayed by memory voltage adjustments that top out at 2.7V. This is not even adequate for some of the best-performing memory on the market when you use 2 or more DIMMs at DDR400. Some of the fastest current memory requires 2.8V with 2 DIMMs at DDR400.
The other surprise was the decision by Asus to use just 2 nVidia SATA channels, with 4 additional Silicon Image SATA connectors. While 6 SATA connections are nice, you will see in our overclocking tests that this arrangement makes serious overclocking with a SATA drive all but impossible. We have had much better success with boards that use the full nVidia "any-drive" RAID, since SATA channels 3 and 4 are usually great choices for unrestricted overclocking with SATA drives.
Fortunately, Asus did use a PHY chip to preserve fully the on-chip nVidia gigabit Ethernet. This means that your gigabit LAN is capable of running at full speed without the constraints of the PCI bus.
Asus is normally masterful in their board layouts, with careful attention to function and placement of board components. The K8N-E is typical Asus, which means that the layout is very good indeed.
IDE connectors are in our preferred upper right edge location, though Asus has placed the floppy connector on the bottom right edge of the board - a less desirable location in many case layouts. If you need to connect a floppy, make sure that you pay close attention to the location of the floppy in your case compared to the K8N-E. The 20-pin ATX connector and 4-pin 12V are almost ideal, since both are out of the way on board edges and do not need to be snaked over or around any components.
The CPU socket area is clear and can generally handle oversized HSF. Only the top edge between the CPU socket and the rear IO is a concern, with a row of capacitors and coils close to the socket. Fortunately, the capacitors are on the short side, making it likely that most big overhanging heatsinks will clear the caps.
Except for the inadequate memory voltages available, the overclocking controls are OK, if not noteworthy. The CPU voltage is wider than what we see on many competing boards, and the 200 to 300 CPU adjustments are average. Asus did not include any chipset voltage adjustments at all on the K8N-E, a feature that many will miss. Also, the HT range only extends to 4X in large 1X increments - a range to 5X like many competitors with finer 0.5X adjustments would have been useful. It was good to see Asus paying more attention to the FID/VID ratios, where finer 0.5X adjustments will be appreciated by any enthusiast.
All-in-all, the K8N-E is a really mixed bag, with some adjustments that are exemplary, and others, missing or downright crude. With the attention that Asus has lavished on their VIA-chipset Athlon 64 boards, you have to wonder what they were thinking when designing the K8N-E. As you will see in our benchmark results, this lack of consistent OC controls with broad ranges is really a shame, since the Asus K8N-E is a fast 754 board.at stock speeds.