Last week, we took a close look at the Asus P5N32-SLI Deluxe, a new Intel motherboard based on NVIDIA's vision of the enthusiast chipset - the dual x16 SLI. With 8-phase power, passive heat-pipe cooling and two full x16 PCIe video slots, the Intel version had the goods to grab our attention. Perhaps even more important, we also found the performance among the best ever tested on the Intel Socket 775. Following that announcement, Asus has introduced an AMD version that should have even broader enthusiast interest - the Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe.

With essentially the same features on an AMD Socket 939 platform, Asus is targeting the majority of gamers with the A8N32-SLI Deluxe. With AMD in the clear lead in gaming performance, most gamers these days are running Athlon 64 processors. The question in many minds is whether this all-decked out A8N32-SLI Deluxe has what it takes to attract that market. Can this Asus effectively compete with the DFI LANParty nForce4 boards that seem to have a firm grip on the enthusiast-buying dollars? These are not trivial questions given the less-than stellar performance that we have recently seen in Athlon 64 motherboards from Asus.

We all know that Asus has historically done a wonderful job in bringing to market some of the most innovative and highest-performing Intel motherboards that the market has ever seen. However, the AMD side, and in particular the nForce 4 market, has been more a challenge to Asus. We found their original A8N-SLI Deluxe to be a very average performer in our nForce4 SLI roundup, a very atypical position for Asus. The good news recently is that the newest A8N-SLI Premium performed very well in our initial enthusiast testing, even with the potentially performance-robbing auto-switching SLI. This A8N32-SLI Premium uses many of the same features as the Premium, so we have reason to expect that this might be just the board to compete with the DFI LANParty nForce4 SLI.

We cannot go forward in reviewing the A8N32-SLI Deluxe without first addressing some of the completely incorrect hype that has developed about this board from early reviews by some review sites. We have seen a review that claimed the Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe to be 40% to 50% faster in some games than the current dual x8 SLI boards. Frankly, that information is based on an incorrect interpretation of performance data. Asus and NVIDIA strongly recommend that this board be tested with the latest released 81.85 video drivers and the 6.82 platform drivers. Using these recommended drivers, we also found dramatic increases in performance of the A8N32-SLI compared to past benchmarks on nForce4 SLI boards. However, we delayed the review to go back and retest the well-regarded DFI LANParty nF4 SLI-DR motherboard with the new video drivers. We found that the biggest part of the performance boost is not the dual x16 architecture, but the new video drivers.

So, is dual x16 SLI really better with current hardware and the latest games? Or is it all just smoke and mirrors? Join us as we take a closer look at the Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe in our standard motherboard tests, and new game tests with F.E.A.R., Splinter Cell-Chaos Theory, and Quake 4.

8-Phase Power and Dual x16 PCIe
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  • GliderPilot - Monday, January 09, 2006 - link

    Well i have finally gotten my replacement board, and again i have a major issue with it. It seems that in some fit of wisdom, one of asus's underpaid engineers placed a heatpipe right in the way of the x4 PCIe slot. You might not have a use for them, but i certainly do. I have a PowerColor Theatre 550Pro x1 TV Tuner that is right now occupying an x16 slot. While i dont intend to do SLI, i would dearly like to have dual tuners without having to have one on pci, the other on PCIe Reply
  • wbloon - Sunday, December 18, 2005 - link

    I'm not a big gamer. But I currently drive 2 monitors and with the new system want to drive at least 3 monitors and possibly a TV.

    So my question is can I drive two video boards but not in SLI mode, since it is my understanding that SLI will only drive one monitor.

    I understand that I could get away with a board like the DFI Ultra and have 16 lanes to one card and 4 lanes to another and that would probably meet my needs but I'd like stretch the envelope where ever possible because the future keeps coming despite my best efforts.

    Terry Clark
    Reply
  • GliderPilot - Monday, January 09, 2006 - link

    unless you are gaming on both cards (which probably wont) having 4 lanes is more than sufficient. The bandwidth would be comparable to AGP4 in the downstream. This solution is about as future proof as it gets. To answer your question, yes this board basically has 2 full bandwidth X16 slots, what you do with them is up to you. Buying this board soley for the extra 16 lanes is really a waste of money, unless there is some other reason you like it Reply
  • BibbidyBobidyBoo - Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - link

    I recently purchased this motherboard and an Antec NeoHe 550W PS and the combo worked great for about 5 to 10 min and then the computer spontaneously shuts down. The issue is with the PS not the MB. The Antec TruePowerII 550W PS works just fine. I believe the incompatibility is from the amount of current supplied on the 12V and 5V lines, it may match the ATX2.2 spec however it is not completely backwards compatible with this Asus MB.

    Beware this issue has also been noted on other Asus MB’s.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/CustratingReview.asp...">Newegg Customer Reviews">http://www.newegg.com/Product/CustratingReview.asp...

    Reply
  • JNo - Thursday, November 10, 2005 - link

    Can someone confirm to me that no single x16 video slot version of this Asus motherboard exists? I get the impression that none does. Also, anyone know if the latest zalman CPU coolers fit? Finally, I know most here wouldn't care for the Asus automatic overclocking results but for someone like me, can you please inform me, Wesley, as to how much of a boost does the inbuilt Asus overclocking facility provide please?
    Many thanks
    Reply
  • Capt Caveman - Monday, November 14, 2005 - link

    Umm, this new chipset is for SLI, thus the chipset name x16 SLI. The pci-e video slot is already x16 on every single video slot socket 939 pci-e motherboard. Up til now, SLI motherboards had to split the x16 into two x8 pci-e graphic slots. Thus, you will never see a single slot video care motherboard using this chipset.

    And yes, it has been confirmed by current users that the Zalman coolers fit.

    Due to the fact that Asus's Overclocking Utilities lack a number of settings that are available in the bios, ie. memory settings, you'll only be able to get a small overclock before the system becomes instable. Overclocking via the bios is the only way to go to ensure a stable overclock.
    Reply
  • qquizz - Sunday, November 06, 2005 - link

    Whatever happened to BF2 benchies? Reply
  • huges84 - Monday, November 07, 2005 - link

    quote:

    We will be adding Battlefield 2 and Call of Duty 2 benchmarks in future reviews. The benchmarks that we have been testing for these two games are not completely reliable for both single-video and SLI testing, so they were not usable in a review that compares SLI performance. As we find solutions to these issues, we will benchmark with these new games.


    Quoted from page 7
    Reply
  • DieLate - Sunday, November 06, 2005 - link

    Wesley, any chance of a measurement of northbridge & "stack cool" heatsinks? If you or someone else with one could measure how high off the motherboard they rise, that would be great.

    I'm hoping the Thermaltake Big Typhoon or Thermalright SI-120 would fit, as they have somewhere around 2" raised off the board (though the heatpipes might still hit the northbridge heatsink :( ).
    Reply
  • DieLate - Tuesday, November 08, 2005 - link

    Nevermind.
    I have confirmed elsewhere the TT BT fits without any issues.
    Reply

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