Issues and Conclusions
The overall performance of the new Asus A8N32-SLI motherboard is pretty much what we expected from an updated chipset launch. The board performs nearly identically when compared to the A8N-SLI Premium based on the standard NF4 SLI chipset in terms of storage, peripherals, productivity and gaming. Its kind of hard to squeeze more than that out of an AMD platform system as the on-processor memory controller pretty much determines what is going on for most performance issues.
In Asus’ defense they did have some BIOS features that could possibly improve performance beyond that of other motherboards; we just turned them off. The Auto overclocking and the PEG Link modes are both designed to safely overclock your computer without you having to do any work and without a whole lot of risk involved. The problem lies in that we haven’t really come to a point in the enthusiast community to decide if these are “cheats” and should be turned off or they are allowable “tweaks.” In most ways its similar to the issue that was going through the GPU world not too long ago.
SLI X16 Performance
Does the new NVIDIA nForce4 SLI X16 chipset outperform the previous SLI chipset for the AMD platform? Yes. Does it present the absolute best in gaming platforms? Yes. Does the performance gained actually make this new chipset appealing to users who are already using PCI Express platforms? Eh, probably not. Anyone who had already decided that the current SLI chipset wasn’t enough for them to switch over yet should not be any more convinced today. However, if you are looking to get a new motherboard and SLI already interested you, then looking for a X16 revision of a motherboard would be a good idea.
Where might more performance gains eventually show up? My best guess is that in those CPU-limited scenarios that NVIDIA is claiming they made SLI Anti Aliasing available for, there might actually be more tangible performance gains. The SLI AA feature uses more PCI Express bandwidth than standard SLI modes do and thus the additional 8 GB/s of bandwidth the new X16 chipset provides might come in handy. Once we get some games that show up very playable frame rates with SLI AA turned on and no other frame rate benefits from SLI, we’ll know for sure.
Features and Extras
The A8N32-SLI Deluxe offers pretty much what has become the standard mix of features for a high end motherboard on the market today. They have included USB 2.0, Firewire, two Gigabit networking connections, SATA 3.0 Gb/s support, SLI support and a good overclocking BIOS. There is also the external SATA connection that they have supplied on the rear panel as well as both optical and coaxial audio output, though only from an AC’97 audio solution.
The BIOS on the system was very clean and offered a lot of options for the tweaker and overclocker should they wish to delve into that science.
The extras in the box were enough to keep most users busy for a while and to prevent them from having to search around their room for more IDE cables, which is about all we can ask.
Current pricing at this time puts the A8N32-SLI motherboard at around $250 from a reputable dealer. In contrast the A8N-SLI Premium that we compared it to can be found for $175. While the A8N32-SLI will surely come down in price as its release becomes more wide spread, I would expect it to hover around the $200 mark through Christmas. Accordingly, I would expect the other Asus A8N boards to float along the same line as the A8N32.
With a $75 premium, does the new NF4 SLI X16 chipset add enough to the A8N32-SLI to justify buying it over last generation’s SLI? If you plan on gaming at resolutions of 16×12 and above only and have or will have 7-series GPUs to run in SLI mode, then yes, I think the NF4 SLI X16 chipset is going to be your best option. As we move forward in the world of scalable graphics, I think both NVIDIA and ATI will find more reasons to sell us two GPUs besides increasing the frame rate of our games — SLI AA being just the first of many. And those new reasons will no doubt require lots of PCIe bandwidth.
If you’re a casual gamer using a 6-series card that just likes the option of being able to use SLI in the future to say, couple a new 6800 GS with another after the new year, then no, I don’t think the $75 would be well spent here. Save that money, get the X8 version of the chipset, and get that second 6800 GS sooner rather than later.
Asus is once again on the front lines of the motherboard market with the first NF4 SLI X16 product to hit e-tailers shelves. Not only that, but they have built a rock-stable, overclocking friendly, gaming enthusiast’s dream motherboard. It has enough features to keep most anyone happy and though the price might be a little steep, it has the room to grow that older SLI chipset boards may be missing as faster GPUs hit the market. Because of this, the Asus A8N32-SLI is definitely one of the best AMD boards we have ever seen.
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