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ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe (NVIDIA nForce4 SLI)
By Zachary Chan
Category : Mainboard
Published by Vijay Anand on Thursday, 16th June, 2005
Rating : 4 out of 5 stars  

A8N-SLI Deluxe Examined

As expected, the A8N-SLI Deluxe was an impeccably crafted board as ASUS continues to do itself proud time and time again for exceptional board design and layout. What we liked about the A8N-SLI Deluxe was not only the fact that ASUS managed to put everything in the ideal locations, but left enough room between components for good airflow. The only complaint we can see anyone having may be the clustering of all eight SATA connectors at the bottom. While we believe that the thin SATA cables would have no problems in this configuration, it would have been preferable to have better connector heads and cables. A system that is able to lock the cable in place, like those used in Gigabyte's GA-8N-SLI Royal comes to mind and would certainly help in manageability.

Excellent locations for primary connectors. Notice that the DIMM slots are well spaced out too and grouped by channels.

Clean area with no obstructions on both sides of the socket for easy cooler installation. On the upper corner, a heatsink unit cools power components.

The A8N-SLI Deluxe is by all means a fully featured board based on the nForce4 SLI chipset. While technically having the same specifications as the nForce4 Ultra, it adds the all-important SLI functionality to run dual graphics cards. Lately, an increasing number of manufacturers including ASUS themselves have derived SLI GPU configurations within a single graphics card. However, users will still require a motherboard that supports SLI mode, regardless of whether SLI graphics configuration comes in one card or two.

What ASUS refers to as a 'two-slot thermal design' is actually just smart layout placement allowing ample room between both PCIe x16 slots for good airflow. It also means that ASUS can use the space in the middle without fear of interfering with the graphic card.

ASUS EZ-Plug, an additional 4-pin power molex to provide a stable power supply to the motherboard during SLI operation with a warning LED indicator too.

Besides the obvious reason to purchase an SLI board, the primary features to look out for in the A8N-SLI Deluxe are its storage and networking functionality. Its primary storage controller not only has support for SATA II, but allows the setup of RAID 0/1/0+1 arrays, RAID morphing and cross controller RAID between the SATA and PATA channels. An additional Silicon Image SATA controller (Sil3114) is thrown into the mix for an extra 4 SATA ports and software RAID 5 capabilities. All this adds up to a maximum of twelve installable mass storage devices with RAID speed, security and redundancy to boot. The A8N-SLI Deluxe features two Gigabit Ethernet ports powered by Marvell networking technology and ASUS has incorporated Marvell's Virtual Cable Tester into the BIOS itself. This allows users to test for cable faults down to a one-meter accuracy on both ports at boot-up without the need to load an OS. The only thing that the board lacks is support for wireless networking, a feature only available with the Premium edition.

Headers applenty with a total of eight SATA channels on board. The black ones are native SATA II while the red connectors belong to the Silicon Image SATA controller.

The following overclocking functions can be found within the BIOS:
  • FSB Settings: 200MHz to 400MHz
  • PCIe Frequency: 100MHz to 145MHz
  • PCI Frequency: 33.33MHz, CPU
  • RAM Frequency: DDR200, DDR266, DDR333, DDR400, DDR433, DDR466, DDR500, DDR533, DDR566, DDR600
  • CPU Voltage Settings: 0.800V to 1.650V (in 0.0125V steps)
  • Memory Voltage Settings: 2.60V to 3.00V (in 0.05V steps)
  • AI NOS Settings: 3%, 5%, 8%, 10%
  • PEG Link Mode Settings: Normal, Fast, Faster
  • Multiplier Selection: Yes (unlocked CPUs only)

    The A8N-SLI Deluxe was not a shabby overclocker, though not the best we've tested. In terms of available options, the board had a decent voltage options for both CPU and memory, although chipset voltage settings were sadly not available. Considering that we are testing the overclockability of the motherboard, this was the one setting we needed.

    In any case, we were initially quite happy that the A8N-SLI Deluxe could POST all the way up to 290MHz, but Windows did not co-operate and begun throwing us random errors. In the end, the maximum achievable and stable overclock was 255MHz with a HT multiplier at 4x. No doubt, the ability to increase voltage to the chipset would have probably helped. While performing motherboard overclocking, CPU and memory parameters were lowered and kept within their respective specifications to ensure that they are not the limiting factor.

    The Bad

    To many people, ASUS has established themselves as a top-quality motherboard manufacturer and the ASUS branding surely must mean that one is buying into quality. This has held true in the past, but the A8N-SLI Deluxe seemed to have a slight chink in its armor. The board managed to perform well throughout all our benchmarks except PCMark04 where it failed to complete memory write tests. This was a surprising outcome considering that other memory intensive benchmarks like SPECviewperf did not exhibit any stability problems. In fact, the board proved to be extremely robust in all other applications and this little issue with PCMark04 might possibly be an application incompatibility with the Athlon 64 processor and the motherboard used.

    The A8N-SLI Deluxe is one of the first few nForce4 SLI boards available and thus, still makes use of a physical SLI switch module. The newer A8N-SLI Premium edition comes with a digital SLI switch feature.
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