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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  • JarredWalton - Monday, April 02, 2007 - link

    Sorry - just an errant typo correction. If you look at the image, you can see it's 1T. Gary had "TT" in there and I corrected that to 2T when it should have been 1T. Reply
  • yacoub - Monday, April 02, 2007 - link

    oh awesome :) Reply
  • mostlyprudent - Monday, April 02, 2007 - link

    I think it's time for a comprehensive article to pick the best boards for Intel CPUs (P965 vs. 680i vs. 650i vs. 680i LT vs. 975X vs. RD600, etc.). I know some of this has been done in pieces, but it would sure be nice to have it all in one article. Please :) Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, April 02, 2007 - link

    After I finally complete the opus known as uATX or "How to kill the reviewer", we will have a performance roundup that might even include a new spin of the P35. ;-) Reply
  • yacoub - Monday, April 02, 2007 - link

    It'd be awesome to see a round-up in time for the April 22nd Intel price drop and 6320/6420 release.

    I want to know simply: "The Best 650 SLI and 680 SLI NVidia-based Boards For 6320/6420 OverClocking" and NOT with any of that ridiculously over-priced Dominator or Flex XLC RAM. Just test with realistic RAM that actual people would buy like Corsair XMS2 or OCZ Platinum series and similar. High-end RAM but not retarded over-priced stuff with gigantic cooling mechanisms. Test RAM that's around $250 (or less) for 2GB matched pairs.

    That's what I'd like to see. An actual overclocker 650/680 board round-up for the 6320/6420 c2d chips with RAM people who are looking for the best bang-for-the-buck would actually buy.

    People who spend around $200-250 for the motherboard, $200-250 for quality, low-latency RAM, and $200 for the CPU.

    There's a lot of us and we'd love to know which board to buy and which RAM works best with it when oc'ing.
    Reply
  • sWORDs - Tuesday, April 03, 2007 - link

    The OCZ2N1066SR2GK only costs €208 here, that's SLI ready, 1066 MHz, 5-5-5-15, 2x 1GB.
    The OCZ2N900SR2GK only costs €192 here, that's SLI ready, 900 MHz, 4-4-3-15, 2x 1GB.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Monday, April 02, 2007 - link

    This image link on page4 is different than the actual image:

    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/motherboards/a...">http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/mot...sus/p5n3...
    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/motherboards/a...">http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/mot...sus/p5n3...

    (I think one of the sample images is duplicated.)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, April 02, 2007 - link

    Did someone fix this? They are definitely different images for me, although only minor differences. Reply
  • Marlowe - Monday, April 02, 2007 - link

    Very nice review - looks like a good board! After reading the article I have some questions:

    Isn't the 'Plus' moniker ment to mean some kind of functionality with Vista? I think I remember when some previous Asus board got a new revision and the got the Plus moniker, it also got a small PCB riser board attached below the IO area.. ReadyBoost or something? Does this board have that? It's not that copper square behind the LAN/USB connections? Or maby it's just a new name for their mid-range boards.

    Isn't that a 6-phase power circuit in the pics? I know the Asus site claims 8-phase, but they also have a wrong power circuit pic. The site also says "With the highest speed up to 800MHz," about the memory speed and doesn't mention support for EPP at all, so that must be wrong as well according to your article?

    In the expansion slot area you write "two PCI Express x1" but that's not so? Isn't the top slot for the "SupremeFX" audio riser board?

    In the Dual Core OC page, the E6300 has 2MB L2 not 4MB :)

    And a question: I have the Tuniq120 as well, and the fan is placed ~7 cm over the board and placed in an angle so I guess there aren't much airflow going to those heatpipe sinks. Did you have to use an additional fan over the cpu area while using the Tuniq120 heatsink and overclocking? So if overclocking you *have* to hang some fan with zip ties or something over that area? Thats a bit of a hassle isn't it :P

    Anyways very nice performing board :D Looks physically totally identical to the Asus P5N32-E SLI tho :D But
    Reply
  • sWORDs - Tuesday, April 03, 2007 - link

    The E Plus is ment as an upgrade to the E, it has all solid caps just as the Striker.

    The E, E Plus and Striker all use the same PCB (just look under the white sticker) and all have a 8 phase power design.

    All three have EPP and SLI Ready support up the 1200 (and the 1250 works as well).

    The top one can only be used for the riser.

    True.

    The Northbridge does get very hot, however using the heatpipes should be enough to reach 450. Any busspeed above 400 isn't recommended anyway because of the reduction of timing from the strap selection.

    True, they share the same PCB, this one has the same caps as the Striker.
    Reply

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