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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  • TigerFlash - Monday, July 04, 2005 - link

    I thought this link would be rather important to see:

    http://forum.msi.com.tw/index.php?topic=82427.0
    Reply
  • TigerFlash - Monday, July 04, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • NightCrawler - Thursday, May 05, 2005 - link

    You make a big deal out of the fact that the DFI can hit 318 but they both do the same 2.8 ghz, users won't see much difference, if any.

    Asus: Maximum OC:
    (Standard Ratio) 234x12 (Auto HT, 2-3-3-7, 1T, 2.8V)
    2808MHz (+17%)
    Maximum FSB:
    (Lower Ratio) 255x11 (2805MHz) (4X HT, 2.5-3-3-7, 2.7V)
    (1:1 Memory, 1T, 2 DIMMs in DC mode)
    (+28% Bus Overclock)

    DFI: Maximum OC:
    (Standard Ratio) 238x12 (Auto HT, 2-3-2-7, 1T, 2.9V)
    2856MHz (+19%)
    Maximum FSB:
    (Lower Ratio) 318x9 (2862MHz) (Auto HT, 2.5-4-3-7, 2.9V)
    (1:1 Memory, 1T, 2 DIMMs in DC mode)
    (+59% Bus Overclock)
    Reply
  • DeanO - Monday, April 18, 2005 - link

    Don't know if anyone's noticed yet, but I just took a trip over to MSI's website, and guess what? Only the SLI mobo has the Creative chip. The Neo4 (i.e. nF4 Ultra chipset) mobo uses the Realtek ALC850. I for one was disappointed...
    That makes for an interesting decision: the SLI board is still cheaper than the Ultra board plus a Creative 24-bit sound card. Hmmm...
    Reply
  • phusg - Friday, March 04, 2005 - link

    New PCI card with C-Media DDL chip: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?s=&a... ge=20&pagenumber=1

    Currently only available via ebay apparantly:
    http://search.ebay.com/HDA-Digital-X-Mystique-7-1-...

    If it has the same performance as Soundstorm remains to be seen. Reading the thread the EAX support is just as dodgy as it was on Soundstorm.
    Reply
  • ElFenix - Thursday, March 03, 2005 - link

    What chipsets did your USB and firewire drives have?

    thanks for the great review!
    Reply
  • bjorn44 - Thursday, March 03, 2005 - link

    Anyone know how they did the memory benchmark with memtest86 3.2? I can't find any option for testing bandwidth.

    Thanks,

    Bjorn
    Reply
  • giz02 - Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - link

    Well if it's any consolation, PCSTATS have updated thier site review of the MSI Neo4 Plat SLI (and will probably make two more updates to it)
    - now states 96Khz
    - will modify DICE statement
    - they are indicating that the sil3132 can do raid5, but I'm not sure that it can...

    Wow Roomraider, that's quite the system you have there.

    Reply
  • Roomraider - Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - link

    #82 u r absolutely correct sir. I have the top SB card available(Audigy 4 Pro)& the only way i get DTS or Dolby Digital of any form is SPDIF out Via Coax or Fiber optic cable with settings for (Passthrough) to my Yamaha 7.1 Amp.



    MOBO Gigabyte Ga-K8NXP-SLI
    CPU AMD Athlon 64 FX-55
    Cooler Gigabyte 3D CoolBlue Ultra Gt
    PSU Thermaltake Purepower 650 Watt
    MEMORY 4xCorsair 512Mb 3200XMS PRO Tracer Ram/Dual channel 2-2-2-5
    Video 2xBFG 6800GT OC PCIE W/Serials in order
    HDD 2xWD-74 GB Raptor HDD/Raid(0)configged
    2xMaxtor 300 GB SATA HDD
    OPTICAL 2xPlextor PX716SA-SATA 16xDual Layer+-DVDRW-48xCDR
    CASE Lian-Li P60 W/clear side panel
    MODS 4 Blu 80mm/1 Blu 92mm(roof/exh)& 4 Blu Cold Cathode Lite Strips
    MONITOR Sony SDM-P234 23" 1920x1200 native
    SOUND Creative Audigy-4 Pro,YamahaDSP-A3090 7.1ch amp/Boston Micro90 spks/Bose AM-5 W/Sub

    ADD-ON MSI TV@nywhere Personal Cinema FX5200 TV/FM tuner
    Reply
  • Tatunkhamon - Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - link

    I admit this is slightly OT, but as I first got excited about the possible DD-encoding feature on the MSI-mobo and then let down by the obvious lack of it, I was happy to find these news:

    http://news.designtechnica.com/article6709.html
    http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000683034067/

    I know many of us don't like the DRM/HDCP-features of HDMI, but HDMI certainly is the way to transmit high-definition, multichannel audio *without the need* to compress ie. encode to DD. And live content, such as games, would not probably have the copyprotection flags on, anyway. Of course, getting enough coverage for HDMI in both h/w and s/w will take time, but I bet this is the way it's ment to be played in the near future.

    For example, think about combining this with s/w generated mc-audio and Intel HDA. No need for badly implemented codec/DAC in this model. Of this combined with discreete graphics card and the audio generated with the help of vector processing on the card.. I just hope Intel/Nvidia/ATI/whoever would start a strong enough, open standard to compete with EAX. Then Creative would either have to run, fast, or join their forces.

    Meanwhile, because there is not much HDMI-support (except for the earlier, non- multichannel-high-def-audio-supported HDMI-standard, for mainly graphics) some solution providing DD-encoding to be sent over standard S/PDIF would still be very, very desired for many of us.

    I end this thread-hijacking attempt here and apologize if being OT. Now back to our regular programming... :)

    Wbr, Tatu
    Reply

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