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

  • Staples - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    I bought a 3200+ system a week ago and this Soltek board. I am glad to see that incomparison, this board's performance fairs really well. There is a big thread here and it seems quite a few people are experiencing various problems with it. Myself included. I think any potential buyer who is inticed by the cheap price might want to check it out before deciding on this one. Reply
  • Illissius - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    Excellent review, and excellent boards. The only nitpick I have is that you say the three boards are constantly trading performance leads in the stock benchmarks; in reality, the Asus K8N-E and Soltek K8FNAEDKJL:DSGKJ3 trade wins and the DFI is usually behind them, where by a larger, where by a smaller margin, except for the Far Cry test where it manages to squeak a win by a fraction of a FPS.
    The DFI board is damn near perfect. There are only three minor problems with it: (1) The various stuff on the board that is glaring yellow is not blue instead; (2) It is not Abit; (3) It's slightly slower at stock speeds than the Asus and Soltek. Otherwise it's completely perfect, if I were buying a board right now it would absolutely be the one I'd choose.
    One topic I'd like to see touched upon is support for mobile/DTR processors; mobiles AXPs were hugely succesful overclockers, but the mobile A64s are held back by almost universally substandard motherboard support for them. A 35W (1.2V) Mobile 2800+ coupled with the Lanparty UT would be pretty amazing, if it worked.
  • DoobieOnline - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    Hey Wesley, that's weird that you couldn't get to 9x250 with a SATA drive on the Soltek. I'm using that board and running 10x250 with a 74GB Raptor on NVIDIA SATA 1. It's a great board for under $100! - doobie Reply
  • devonz - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    Just a thought. When you review memory modules you untimately produce comparison charts of the top overclocked performance of the modules. Why not have a set of graphs showing the top overclocked performance of motherboards so we can judge them based on that information too? Reply
  • icarus4586 - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    It would have been interesting, just as a side-note, to see some tests on the DFI running at CAS 1.5, whether they were here or in the article on that board specifically. I've never seen any board/RAM that can run at 1.5-2-2 Reply
  • LocutusX - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    Regarding the Asus board:

    Wesley, is your A64 a Newcastle/CG revision or Clawhammer/C0? I have absolutely no issues running my Newcastle 3000+ @ 255FSB - it's like a rock. But yeah, I am using PATA.

    Also, note that there is a new BIOS (1005) for the K8N-E which allows usage of 2.8v V_dimm on the 1.05 revision mobos.
  • jensend - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    I think it would be interesting to see tests of how well different s754 chipsets and boards do with the Paris core Sempron. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    The information in the Soltek Features table has been updated to reflect the latest BIOS values. Reply
  • Gundamit - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    Price performance ratio is so much stonger for the 754. Thats why I decided to go for the DFI right now. In 6-8 months I'll take another look at the 939.

    The only dissapointment in the article was the fact you ran the 1.5 CAS setting but didn't post any results. Maybe it would have been out of place in a "roundup". BTW- Is still a round-up with only three mobos or cows? Maybe you could run some benchmarks and update the original LanpartyUT review?

  • ceefka - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - link

    If you haven't bought anything yet: The 754's only real disadvantage I can think of is its upgrade path or non existence thereof. It is still a very good platform. So what if it is limited to 2/3GB of RAM support. There are not many home users with 2GB+ of RAM. Reply

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