When the first 680i SLI motherboards were launched back in November they offered an incredible array of features and impressive performance to boot. However, all of this came at a significant price of $250 or more during the first month of availability. We thought additional competition from the non-reference board suppliers such as ASUS, abit, and Gigabyte would drive prices down over time. The opposite happened to a certain extent with the non-reference board suppliers, as prices zoomed above the $400 mark for boards like the ASUS Striker Extreme. The reference board design from suppliers such as EVGA and BFG has dropped to near $200 recently but we are still seeing $300 plus prices for the upper end ASUS and Gigabyte 680i boards.

ASUS introduced the P5N32-E SLI board shortly after the Striker Extreme as a cost reduced version of that board in hopes of attracting additional customers. While this was a good decision, that board did not compete too well against the reference 680i boards in the areas of performance, features and cost. With necessity being the mother of all inventions, ASUS quickly went to work on a board design that would offer excellent quality and performance at a price point that was at least half that of the Striker Extreme.

They could not get there at the time with the 680i SLI chipset and the recently released 680i LT SLI cost reduced chipset was not available so ASUS engineered their own version that would meet a market demand for a sub-$200 motherboard that offered the features and performance of the 680i chipset. They took the recently introduced 650i SLI SPP (C55) and paired it with the 570 SLI MCP (MCP55) utilized in the AMD 570/590 SLI product lines. ASUS called this innovative melding of an Intel SPP and AMD MCP based chipsets their Dual x16 Chipset with HybridUp Technology. Whatever you want to call it, we know it just flat out works and does so for around $185 as you will see in our test results shortly.

Before we get to our initial performance results and discussion of the ASUS's P5N32-E SLI Plus hybrid board design we need to first explain the differences between it and the 680i/680i LT motherboards. In an interesting turn of events we find the recently introduced 680i LT SLI chipset also utilizing the nForce 570 SLI MCP with the new/revised 680i LT SPP while the 680i SLI chipset utilizes the nForce 590 SLI MCP and 680i SLI MCP.

With the chipset designations out of the way, let's get to the real differences. All three designs officially support front-side bus speeds up to 1333MHz, so the upcoming Intel processors are guaranteed to work and each design offers very good to excellent overclocking capabilities with the 680i SLI offering the best overclocking rates to date in testing. Each board design also offers true dual x16 PCI Express slots for multi-GPU setups with ASUS designing the dual x8 capability on the 650i SPP as a single x16 setup with the second x16 slot capability being provided off the MCP as in the other solutions. We are still not convinced of the performance advantages of the dual x16 designs over the dual x8 offerings in typical gaming or application programs. We only see measurable differences between the two solutions once you saturate the bus bandwidth at 2560x1600 resolutions with ultra-high quality settings, and even then the performance differences are usually less than 5%.

The 680i SLI and the ASUS hybrid 650i boards offer full support for Enhanced Performance Profile (SLI-Ready) memory at speeds up to 1200MHz with the 680i LT only offering official 800MHz support. However, this only means you will have to tweak the memory speed and timings yourself in the BIOS, something most enthusiasts do anyway. We had no issue running all three chipset designs at memory speeds up to 1275MHz when manually adjusting the timings.

Other minor differences have the 680i SLI and ASUS Plus boards offering LinkBoost technology that has shown zero to very minimal performance gains in testing. Both boards also offer a third x16 physical slot that operates at x8 electrical to provide "physics capability" - something else that has not been introduced yet. Fortunately this slot can be used for PCI Express devices up to x8 speeds so it is not wasted. Each design also offers dual Gigabit Ethernet connections with DualNet technology and support for 10 USB devices. The 680i LT SLI design offers a single Gigabit Ethernet, support for 8 USB devices, and does not support LinkBoost or a third x16 physical slot.

What we basically have is the ASUS hybrid design offering the same features as the 680i SLI chipset at a price point near that of the feature reduced 680i LT SLI setup. This leads us into today's performance review of the ASUS P5N32-E SLI Plus. In our article today we will go over the board layout and features, provide a few important performance results, and discuss our findings with the board. With that said, let's take a quick look at this hybrid solution and see how well it performs against the purebreds.

Specifications and Basic Features
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  • yacoub - Sunday, April 29, 2007 - link

    Just curious about the audio CPU usage test usually done on boards...
  • Leinad - Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - link

    In the FAQ for this board on the Asus website, the board is listed as a 680i board. Newegg lists it as a 650i board, and Anandtech likewise calls it a 650i board. Nice to finally see an explanation.

    Looking forward to the Motherboard roundup!
  • goinginstyle - Thursday, April 5, 2007 - link

    Any chance of testing some cheap memory?
  • sWORDs - Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - link

    I'm really disappointed by this review, it's not up to the usual Anandtrch quality. Let me explain why:

    You can not call this a 650, because there is no nForce 430 southbridge.
    Calling the southbridge a AMD570 is a bit misleading, because NB 570AMD = NB 590AMD = SB 590AMD = SB 590i = SB 680i.

    Further more there might not even be a difference in the northbridge even if it has 8 lanes disabled, those aren't connected with the "real" 680i's either. They appear as a hidden link, the links on the Hybrid also have a missing #1 port, so it's there, not sure if it's cut or disabled. The only bord that appears to use it isn't here yet, it's the MSI Diamond with 4 PEG ports.

    Besides this, you failed to notice that the pcb is actually a Striker Extreme (just peak under de Plus sticker). So any difference between this bord and a Striker Extreme are caused by difference of Bios, or between individual bords. You can't compare one Striker and one Plus and One Evga and make chipset conclussions, two Strikers might end up on different FSB speeds.

    "680i SLI chipset utilizes the nForce 590 SLI MCP and 680i SLI MCP." That should be 680i SPP.

    Memory timing differences should be caused by bios difference. THe Striker has a 1004 bios ready did you use that?
  • Dainas - Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - link

    Great, so theirs only one PCI slot(rendered useless if you SLI) and the only PCIe 1x is rendered useless if you put a decent videocard in this machine.

    Not that any friggin SLI/Crossfire LGA board on the market can be considered much better should you want to have more than a soundcard installed.

  • sWORDs - Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - link

    It has two PCI slots and only one would useless when using SLI with double sized cards. The only PCIe 1x is useless when using a double sized card.
  • yacoub - Tuesday, April 3, 2007 - link

    Btw this board gets some horrid reviews over on NewEgg. Sure, the user reviews there are known to be pretty tough because anytime someone has a bad experience they're ten times more likely to write about it than someone who has a good experience. But still, compare the reviews of this board with the reviews of the MSI board Anandtech reviewed last week.
    I wouldn't consider buying this Asus board seeing how many DOAs and other problems folks are reporting with it. The MSI, which doesn't overclock as well, seems much more likely to at least be a 100% functioning product.
    How sad that the motherboard market has become this unreliable. I remember when Asus was a board you'd pay just a little more for because it would be solid.
  • kilkennycat - Monday, April 2, 2007 - link

    .. 0501 has an extensive list of 23 fixes over 0402 !!
    The current latest is 0602 BETA.
    See the Asus website. Make sure that you search for the PLUS version of the P5N32E-SLI.
  • Tuffrabbit - Monday, April 2, 2007 - link

    It is interesting that the "budget" 650i board draws a whopping 47 more watts at idle than even the Flagship D975 Intel board ???
  • Tuffrabbit - Monday, April 2, 2007 - link

    Correction: Make that 57 watts...

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