The last few weeks have been extremely frustrating as we put together the nForce4 SLI roundup and prepared to launch our new motherboard test suite. It was so bad, in fact, that about 10 days ago, we were ready to post an SLI roundup titled "nForce4 SLI Roundup: On a Wing and a Prayer". However, nVidia is selling a huge number of SLI chipsets and we decided that SLI was potentially important enough to persevere. With extraordinary efforts and support by nVidia, Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, and DFI, we are now comfortable in sharing our results with you. This journey has been quite a learning experience for us, and we hope in this review that we can share information which will make your own road to SLI, should you choose it, a lot smoother than what our journey has been.

Some web sites would have called SLI boards garbage and gone on their merry way, blasting all the manufacturers who are riding in this carriage. We know that you expect more from AnandTech, and we also realized along the way that SLI demands everything that your system can give. Little flaws become magnified when you are pumping two synchronized GPUs with more transistors each than the most complicated CPU on the market. So the question becomes, was the journey a success and is SLI worth it? We will answer that as we look indepth at the four motherboards that currently support SLI.

Even if you don't care at all about SLI, you should look carefully at these motherboard features and test results because the only real difference in nForce4 SLI and Ultra boards is in some of the most recent games and a few synthetic benchmarks. Running one video card, the SLI and Ultra boards from the same manufacturer should provide the same results - and we have posted single video card results in all benchmarks for comparison. So, consider this a review of both Ultra and SLI boards (where they exist) from Asus, DFI, Gigabyte, and MSI.

This is also the first time that we have run our new tests of Features performance, so many of you will also be interested in performance of USB 2.0, Firewire 400 and 800, and the additional SATA controllers on these four boards. We also benchmarked actual Ethernet performance on all the boards - and compared PCIe and PCI gigabit Ethernet performance - in both throughput and CPU overhead. Those interested in on-board audio performance will also find CPU overhead measurements for the various audio codecs in this roundup.

The New Motherboard Test Suite
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  • eva2000 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    whoops no mention of psu was used in system config listing but didn't read till page 20 of the review it mentions OCZ 520W PS psu heh Reply
  • Slaimus - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    They used a OCZ 520W. Reply
  • neologan - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    I think the test results for 3dmark2003 single and SLI are the wrong way around?

    http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2358&am...
    Reply
  • F4810 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Why did they show no benchmarks with the mobo's overclocked? It doesnt make sense to say these boards are better becuase you can clock the memory higher if the overall CPU clock is roughly the same. The reason they dont show you is that due to the onchip memory controller on the AMD chips, the high memory frequency doesnt make much of a difference at all in real world terms. As long as you can clock the CPU high that is all that really matters. Also they dont take into account cost as some boards cost 50% more that the others. Reply
  • dornick - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    I was considering jumping on the SLI bandwagon until I had some sense knocked into me.

    I'd like to see a comparison of the Ultra chipset MBs, including the Chaintech, Epox, etc... since that's where I think the nForce 4 market will go.
    Reply
  • eva2000 - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    missing one vital piece of info, what PSU you used hehe Reply
  • Spacecomber - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    Thanks for doing the indepth analysis of this new chipset and how it is being implemented by some major motherboard manufacturers.

    There was one detail that I was hoping to see some reference to. I understand, from a friend, who has the MSI SLI motherboard, that the Creative Live sound chip only works if your power supply has a -5 volt connector on it. It looks to me like the OCZ power supply that you used has this, but many of the new power supplies, such as the Enermax v2.0 power supplies, no longer have a -5 volt connection. He was using a Enermax 535 watt Whisper II (SLI ready) when he ran into this issue. This kind of compatability problem slipping through QA seems like another indication that the everyone was in a big hurry to get these motherboards to market, maybe before they were thoroughly tested.

    Space
    Reply
  • Regs - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    I liked the subtle hints Wes.

    In your final words you stated, "If you want the best performance possible then the answer would likely be yes". Then how would this apply for users getting two 6600GTs?
    Reply
  • xsilver - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    great article
    minor gripe -- the overclocking "graphs" are useless -- what would be better is the resulting fps of overclocking to show people if its worth it to get that extra xxx fps
    Reply
  • arfan - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    now i am waiting ultra mobo benchmark. What about the price of all this mobo ? i fell disappointed with msi doesn't have PCI 1x. (Sorry my english language is very bad) Reply

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