Asus K8N-E: Features and Layout

 Asus K8N-E Motherboard Specifications
CPU Interface Socket 754 Athlon 64
Chipset nVidia nForce3-250Gb
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 stock speeds.

Index Asus K8N-E: Overclocking and Stress Testing


View All Comments

  • thebluesgnr - Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - link


    have you tested any SiS board from ASRock? They claim their K8S8X locks AGP/PCI. I've seen good OC results with that board - including this one:

    Also, OCWorkBench has a review of the ASRock K8-Upgrade-760GX. They overclocked the FSB to 252MHz on this mATX board, so I can only assume it locks the AGP/PCI buses.
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - link

    #24 - justly
    There is actually another complaint about Sis. None of the Sis A64 cipsets I have tested, including the 939 Reference Board, have a working PCI/AGP lock. We sincerely hope this is fixed on the upcoming 939 chipset.

    We liked the Sis chipset very much, but major manufacturers just wouldn't support it. If you recall we awarded the Refernece Board our Editors Choice - as did other web sites - then we all waited for the boards that never came.

    I think Sis is an innovative chipset and we have reviewed all the Sis 754 boards we could find, including DFI and Foxconn. The people at Sis are also great to work with and we would personally love to see a significant win by Sis. Unfortunately, Sis is mainly seen in bargain boards. We agree it's a shame, but we also have to deal with reality in our testing.
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - link

    #24 and #26 - Justly -
    Thanks for the benefit of the doubt here. I always compare new drivers to earlier scores to see if there are substantive differences. Frankly if there are I normally stick with the old drivers for consistency.

    That is the reason you have not seen us using Divx 5.2, for instance, in place of 5.1.1. When we tested 5.2 the performance differences from 5.1.1 were significant. Eventually we will replace 5.1.1 with the latest Divx when it fits the schedule to do retesting.

    The performance differences I found cannot be explained with 4.8 vs. 4.5 ATI drivers. I suspect BIOS tweaks DO have something to do with it however, which, as you are suggesting, probably means the earlier boards with later BIOS' are probably also faster.

    There is always the trade off between changing driver versions for testing and keeping drivers up-to-date. I can only say AnandTech is very cautious about driver versions - particularly in ongoing test/database areas like motherboards.

    You will soon be seeing a new General Performance Benchmark at AnandTech, since Veritest and PC Magazine have discontinued support for Winstones (and they don't work well with SP2). We will be talking more about this in an upcoming review.
  • justly - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    #25 – I understand the delay involved in retesting. I am not trying to say that retesting is required for comparison, but if the scores where just copied then it would be nice to see it pointed out on the test configuration or in the final words that more than one video driver was used.

    Actually a while back (around the time of “the real slim shady” article) I noticed identical systems being retested (using identical software/drivers) where the scores fluctuated more than the difference I suspect this article might have. So I am really giving Wesley a lot of credit (although it may not sound like it) for being able to set up systems months apart with such consistency.

    Really the only complaint I have (other than leaving out SiS) is that if he did what I suspect, then it should have been mentioned in the article. Then again if what I suspect is true it might have been better to leave out the whole first paragraph on the final word page.
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    #24 - I understand the desire to see comparable scores, but retesting on old hardware with new drivers would probably add a week or two of work. I certainly wouldn't want to do it! Then there are BIOS revisions that need to be updated as well. Yuck. :p

    I think it's relatively safe to say that performance with most of the other Nforce3-250 boards is going to be about the same as these, and the only remaining factor tends to be overclocking and features. I'm perfectly happy with my MSI K8N Neo Platinum. Were I buying a new S754 board today, it would still be a tough call between the DFI and the MSI board. I don't like the Asus look (or lack of certain features), and the same goes for the Soltek.

    Really, I think I would still stick with my MSI board. It would probably end up coming down to what else was included with the motherboard - nice rounded IDE cables would be great, as would a rounded floppy cable (because I still use a floppy drive on occasion). Just one man's opinion, of course.
  • justly - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    Wesley, first off I would like to say that I think your articles are some of the best on Anandtech. The thing is I still see a few things in your articles that “ever so slightly” annoy me.
    One is this quote “If overclocking is not particularly important to you, then one of the first generation boards based on the VIA chipset might also meet your needs at a lower price.” WELL WHAT ABOUT SiS. It seems that Anandtech has amnesia when it comes to SiS chipsets. Other than the very first SiS based socket 754 motherboard (the ECS 755-A) all Anandtech reviews seem to have only one main complaint about the SiS chipset, it overclocking abilities. So why don’t you mention it?

    The other thing is that by looking through the Generation 2 Socket 754 Roundup it appears that the Generation 2 motherboard results where copied not retested. I think it would be fine to do (for comparison sake) if everything was the same but in the Generation 2 Socket 754 Roundup it shows a different video driver than what is listed for the Socket 754 Roundup, Part 3. So I have to ask is there absolutely no performance difference between the cat 4.5 and cat 4.8 drivers, or could the reason that the 3rd generation boards seem slightly faster have something to do with the video driver being used?

    I realize that my concerns are very trivial and probably have no effect on the outcome of the article, but to be fair to the other chipset and motherboard manufactures I still think they are valid questions, trivial yes but still valid.
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    #21 and #22 - The full implementation of nF3-250Gb is 4 SATA ports that can be combined in any way in RAID with the IDE ports. Asus implemented 2 nVidia SATA ports plus 4 Silicon Image SATA ports.

    The problem is ports 1 and 2 on nVidia are coupled with the PHY Gigabit LAN and generally will not overclock very well. Ports 3 and 4 generally perform as well as regular IDE on the nF3-250Gb chipset.
  • jediknight - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    OK... I'm confused here. I thought Asus added an *extra* RAID controller in addition to the one provided in the stock 250gb implementation. Am I wrong here? Reply
  • Zebo - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    "The decision by Asus to use Silicon Image SATA instead is really a drawback in overclocking."

    Instead of what?
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    #18 -
    Quite a few users are reporting success using the Mobile Athlon 64 chips with the DFI LANParty UT. Many are stating the DFI recognizes the mobiles just fine and sets the correct settings for the mobile chips. In fact you will see this combination as an alternate in an upcoming OC Guide.

    The biggest issue with the 754 mobiles on a desktop, once the board compatability is fine, is the HSF. Most won't make good contact with the mobile that does not use a heatshield. I am hearing decent things about the Thermalright XP-90 sink with mobiles on a K8.

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