Asus is one of the few board manufacturers that releases custom motherboards based on either of Intel or Nvidia chipsets. Nvidia's 680i SLI platform offers support for all currently sold Core2Duo processors with impressive features and according to the specifications, performance. This makes it ideal for a user wants a stable and at the same time futureproof motherboard for the Core2Duo platform. In this review we examine how Asus' P5N32-E SLI performs and compare it to Intel's 965Express and 975X chipsets. We will also take a look at how good an overclocker this board is.
- Asus P5N32-E SLI
The Asus P5W64WS Pro is based on Nvidia's 680i SLI chipset, which supports Intel®Core™2Extreme, Core™2Duo, Pentium®4EE, Pentium®D, Pentium®4, CeleronD processors for the LGA775 socket. It features 1333/1066/800/533MHz FSB, dual-channel un-buffered DDR2 800/667/533 x 4DIMMs with a maximum of 8GB.
- Main features
The P5N32-E SLI is the best Quad-SLI ready motherboard with excellent gaming performance. We are also looking for that something extra in performance that will draw us closer to a truly realistic experience. Extreme HD gaming at the highest resolution where it feels like the enemy is about to jump out of the screen. Supreme audio from the SupremeFX add-on card, with the best Signal-to-Noise Ratio and features like DTS surround sound so that you can almost feel the enemy breathing down your neck. And 3 PCIex16 slots, with the extra slot for the GPU Physics card when running Quad-SLI. The experience doesn't get any more realistic. This board also boasts AI Lifestyle, while a quiet thermal solution increases the stability and reliability when running resource demanding games or applications. EZ DIY features make setup seamless and easy.
The main features are:
- Intel® Quad-core CPU Ready
- Intel® Core™2 Extreme/Core™2 Duo Ready
- NVIDIA nForce® 680i SLI™
- NVIDIA Quad-SLI™ Ready
- Dual-channel DDR2 800/667/533
- SupremeFX/DTS connect
- Stack Cool2 and Heat-pipe Thermal Solution
- 8 Phase Power Design
LGA775 Intel® Quad-core Processor Ready
This motherboard supports the latest Intel® Quad-core and Intel® Core™2 processors in LGA775 package. It's excellent for multi-tasking, multi-media and enthusiastic gamers with 1066/800 MHz FSB. Intel® Quad-core is one of the most powerful CPU in the world.
NVIDIA nForce® 680i SLI
The NVIDIA® nForce® 680i SLI™ chipset supports the NVIDIA® Scalable Link Interface (SLI™) technology that allows two graphics processing units (GPUs) in a single system. It's designed for enthusiast gamers, extreme overclocking capability, ultimate gaming performance with SLI technology support.It's definitely one of the fastest platform in the world.
NVIDIA SLI™ Technology
NVIDIA SLI™ (Scalable Link Interface) takes advantage of the increased bandwidth of the PCI Express bus architecture and features intelligent hardware and software that allows two GPUs to efficiently work together to deliver earth-shattering, scalable performance. For some applications nearly 2X performance!
Dual-Channel DDR2 800
DDR2 is the next generation memory technology to replace the current DDR. With the highest speed up to 800MHz,DDR2 memory provides great performance for 3D graphics and other memory demanding applications.
AI Lifestyle Series
AI Lifestyle Series motherboards bring lifestyle and personal computing together. They provide you better system performance to enjoy graphic-intensive games and applications. The cutting-edge audio feature dramatically enhances the quality of voice signal. Thoughtful design allows you to set up your system easily. To create a peaceful environment, several new and improved innovations are included to reduce noise and temperature. Don't change your way of life for a computer. Instead let the ASUS Lifestyle Series improve the quality of your life.
Advanced Thermal Design
ASUS has devoted special efforts to address the thermal issues across the motherboard, and most notably the areas that reside the CPU, power, Northbridge and Southbridge.
Stack Cool 2
Stack Cool 2 is a fan-less and zero-noise cooling solution offered exclusively by ASUS. It effectively transfers heat generated by the critical components to the other side of the specially designed PCB (printed circuit board) for effective heat dissipation.
8 Phase Power Design
ASUS 8-Phase Power Design keeps CPU and power module away from suffering risk of high power stress, which makes CPU lifetime much longer and system more stable. Furthermore, It provides high efficiency operation to generate less heat than conventional power solutions and consequently achieve cool system environment. With this strong power pump, this motherboard is made for overclocking.
Fanless Design: Heat-pipe Thermal solution
Cooling fans, though a popular thermal solution, also come with noise and malfunction likelihood. ASUS Motherboard's fanless concept is specifically created to provide a cool environment without all the baggage.
The heat pipe, heat sinks and strategic board layout were tailor made to dissipate heat in the most efficient manner.
The ASUS Q-Connector allows you to connect or disconnect chassis front panel cables in one easy step with one complete module. This unique adapter eliminates the trouble of plugging in one cable at a time, making connection quick and accurate.
|ASUS CrashFree BIOS 2
The CrashFree BIOS2 feature now includes the BIOS auto-recovery function in a support DVD. Users can reboot their system through the support DVD when a bootable disk is not available, and go through the simple BIOS auto-recovery process. ASUS motherboards now enable users to enjoy this protection feature without the need to pay for an optional ROM.
|ASUS EZ Flash 2
EZ Flash 2 is a user-friendly BIOS update utility. Simply launch this tool and update BIOS from a USB flash disk before entering the OS. You can update your BIOS only in a few clicks without preparing an additional floppy diskette or using an OS-based flash utility.
The ASUS MyLogo2 is the new feature present in the motherboard that allows you to personalize and add style to your system with customizable and animated boot logos.
SupremeFX (ADI 1988b)
The SupremeFX audio card is designed to provide you the best game sound experience. With 24bit/192kHz full sampling in all surround channels, no matter if you're hearing your game through headphones or 7.1 surround speakers, we'll deliver the effects loud and clear!
This feature is consists of two elements: DTS interactive and DTS NEO:PC. DTS interactive re-encodes your stereo or multi-channel sound into a DTS audio signal and send it out from your PC to any DTS enabled system. While DTS NEO:PC turns your stereo audio such as MP3, WMA, CD, and other sound format into a convincing multi-channel audio experience.
Applications such as 3D games and video editing demand a huge chunk of system resource. Inject "nitrous oxide" into your CPU! The patented AI NOS™ (Non-delay Overclocking System) technology intelligently detects system load and automatically boosts performance for the most demanding tasks. Unlike other dynamic overclocking techniques, AI NOS™ reacts much faster to satisfy your unending need for speeds.
| ASUS O.C. Profile
The motherboard features the ASUS O.C. Profile that allows users to conveniently store or load multiple BIOS settings. The BIOS settings can be stored in the CMOS or a separate file, giving users freedom to share and distribute their favorite overclocking settings.
|C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
When the system hangs due to overclocking failure, there is no need to open the case to clear CMOS data. Just simply restart the system, the BIOS would show the previous setting and then users can amend the CPU setting again.
Dual Gigabit LAN
The integrated dual Gigabit LAN design allows a PC to serve as a network gateway for managing traffic between two separate networks. This capability ensures rapid transfer of data from WAN to LAN without any added arbitration or latency.
IEEE 1394a interface
IEEE 1394a interface provides high speed digital interface for audio/video appliances such as digital television, digital video camcorders, storage peripherals & other PC portable devices
- Full specifications
LGA775 socket for Intel® Core™2 Extreme/Core™2 Duo/Pentium® Extreme/Pentium® D/Pentium® 4/Celeron® D Processors
Intel® Quad-core CPU Ready
Compatible with Intel® 06/05B/05A processors
* Refer to www.asus.com
for Intel CPU support list
NVIDIA nForce® 680i SLI™
* Support SLI-Ready Memory Technology
Front Side Bus
(** available when CPUs are ready for 1333MHz FSB)
Dual channel memory architecture
4 x DIMM, max. 8GB, DDR2-800/667/533, non-ECC, unbuffered memory
* Refer to www.asus.com
or user manual for Memory QVL (Qualify Vendor List)
2 x PCI Express x16 slot, support NVIDIA® SLI™ technology, at full x16, x16 speed (blue)
1 x PCI Express x16, at x8 speed (white)
1 x PCI Express x1
2 x PCI 2.2
Scalable Link Interface (SLI™)
Support two identical NVIDIA SLI-Ready graphics cards (both at x16 mode)
South bridge supports:
* 1 x Ultra DMA 133/100/66/33
* 6 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s
* NVIDIA MediaShield™ RAID supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD span cross Serial ATA drives
NVIDIA nForce® 680i SLI™ built-in dual Gigabit MAC with external Marvell PHY
Support NVIDIA DualNet® technology
High Definition Audio
SupremeFX Audio Card
* ADI 1988B 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC
* Support Jack-Sensing, Multi-streaming and Jack-Retasking
Coaxial, Optical S/PDIF out
VIA6308P controller supports 2 x 1394a ports
Max. 10 USB2.0/1.1 ports(6 ports at mid-board, 4 ports at back panel)
Intelligent overclocking tools:
* AI NOS™ (Non-delay Overclocking System)
* AI Overclocking (intelligent CPU frequency tuner)
* ASUS AI Booster Utility
* O.C Profile
* ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
ASUS EZ DIY:
* ASUS CrashFree BIOS2
* ASUS EZ Flash2
ASUS Music Alarm
ASUS Q-Fan 2
Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 Keyboard port(purple)
1 x PS/2 Mouse port(green)
1 x Optical + 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Output
2 x LAN (RJ45) port
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
1 x IEEE1394a port
Internal I/O Connectors
3 x USB 2.0 connectors supports additional 6 USB 2.0 ports
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector for two devices
6 x SATA connectors
8 x Fan connector: 1 x CPU / 1 x Power Fan / 1 x Chassis / 5 x Optional
1 x Front Panel Audio connector (on SupremeFX audio card)
1 x IEEE1394a connector
1 x S/PDIF output connector
1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
24-pin ATX Power connector
8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
System panel connector
8Mb Award BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.3, Multi-Language BIOS
WOL by PME, WOR by PME, Chassis Intrusion, PXE
1 x SLI bridge
1 x ASUS Q-Connector Kit (USB, 1394, system panel; Retail version only)
1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
1 x Floppy disk drive cable
4 x SATA cables
2 x SATA power cable for 4 devices
1 x 2-port USB2.0 module
1 x IEEE1394a module
ASUS PC Probe II
ASUS AI Booster
NVIDIA MediaShield™ RAID
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
ATX Form Factor, 12"x 9.6" (30.5cm x 24.5cm)
2. What's in the box
The Asus P5N32-E SLI retail package costs around US$274.99 - $299.99 for the US market and around €240 for Europe, making it an affordable solution for power users:
The package includes all information on the board's design and special features. Below is a list of what's included in the retail package:
- 1x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
- 1x FDD cable
- 2x SATA cables
- 2x SATA power cables
- 1x I/O Shield
- 1x printed user's manual
- 1x USB2.0 port module
- 1x 3in1 Q-connector
- 1x SLI adaptor
- 1x Serial port module
- 1x CD-ROM with InterVideo® Media Launcher (WinDVD Creator 2, InterVideo PhotoAlbum, DiscMaster 2.5 Platinum, DVD Copy 2.5 Platinum)
- 1x CD-ROM with drivers
The sound card is based on the Soundmax chipset and is an add-on card which needs to be installed.
There are 6 ports offered for up to 8 channels of output along with microphone and line-in.
The installation slot is right next the first PCI-E slot.
The board is densely packed with components but connections and slots are colour coded for easy identification.
Let's zoom in on the CPU area.
We can clearly see the passive cooling solution. As Asus comments "...The Heat Pipe design effectively directs the heat generated by the chipsets to the heatsink near the back IO ports, where it can be carried away by existing airflow from CPU fan or bundled optional fan...". Any nearby capacitors are low profile so there shouldn't be any problem with 3rd party (larger) cooling solutions. However, we noticed that with the passive cooling, the northbridge chipset still gets quite hot. Perhaps a fan here would help reduce the heat (and possibly help boost overclocking) although it would add to the noise.
The Asus P5N32-E SLI provides four banks for memory modules:
Moving to the southbridge, we can see a passive heatsink in use here as well. There are six SATA 2 connections in this region but are well clear of any components:
The Asus P5N32-E SLI supports Nvidia's SLI. There are 3x PCI-E x16 slots, two for SLI and one for a physics card. Both the blue PCI-E lanes work at the full 16x, while the white at 8x. There is plenty of space between the three PCI-E slots so no problems should arise with extra large VGA cards:
There are also several extra connections for USB, Front Panel Audio, COM2 and Firewire. Asus has include all port modules in the retail package. The back I/O panel has the usual connections:
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard port(purple)
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse port(green)
- 1 x Optical + 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Output
- 2 x LAN (RJ45) port
- 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
- 1 x IEEE1394a port
The BIOS is the typical AWARD BIOS we have come to know with ASUS motherboards. The first tab includes the system time/date and storage devices:
The second tab has all the major functions for controlling our board. There are several sub-menus:
Let's start with the system clocks. You can simply leave them at the default settings:
For the FSB and Memory configuration, we can set the "connection" between FSB and memory. With the Nvidia 680i SLI, the FSB and Memory can be "linked" or "unlinked", allowing for more flexibility when overclocking. Note, that the FSB settings are displayed in QDR, so to get the real FSB frequency, you have to divide by four. In our case, we wanted to raise the FSB up to 425MHz, so we had to set the value to 1700:
If the FSB-Memory clock setting is unlinked, the FSB can be as high as we want, while the memory can operate at much lower (independent) frequencies, allowing us to set lower timings:
If the FSB and Memory are linked, there are 4 FSB:DRAM ratios:
CPU, Memory, NB, SB voltages can be set according to the following table.
CPU bus frequency
133 to 750MHz in 1MHz steps
0.83125V to 1.9000V in 0.0625V steps
1.85V to 3.425V in 0.25V steps
1.2V HT Voltage
1.20V to 1.95V in 0.05V steps
1.20V to 2.75V in 0.05V steps
1.50V to 1.85V in 0.05V steps
The ability to overclock memory up to 3.425V while impressive, is also pointless since the modules will be fried!
In the overclocking tab, we find the CPU multiplier,
and spread spectrum (leave all disabled)
The hardware monitor is always useful and provides information about our system's health.
Using Everest Ultimate Edition 2006, we can get more information about the board:
Both North/South Bridge chipsets are unveiled:
For our review, we had the latest available BIOS (0405 release).
The memory settings on this board are incredible. You can have the FSB and memory unlinked, and choose just about whatever you desire. The board didn't have any problems going up to 533MHz with 2x1GB Crucial PC2-8000 memory modules.
Let's now see how our CPU was identified with CPU-Z:
The board's main information can be found under the 3rd tab, "Mainboard", of CPU-Z:
For comparison, we post the test results from:
- Asus P5B Deluxe with memory running at 534@5-5-5-15
- Asus P5N32-E SLI with memory running at 534@5-5-5-15
- Asus P5W64 WS Pro with memory running at 445@5-5-5-15
5. Benchmarks - page 1
- Everest Ultimate Edition 2006
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiast PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking, it provides essential system and overclocking information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC. The software has several built-in tests for memory and CPU/FPU.
Both the Asus P5B Deluxe and P5N32-E SLI work at the same memory divider (FSB:DRAM 1:2). The Asus P5B Deluxe was found to be faster than the P5N32-E SLI in our memory copy test but slower in the individual memory write and read. The P5W64WS Pro with lower memory timings, was only fastest in the memory write test.
In the CPU tests, there's not a lot between the three motherboards except in the CPU Photoworxx benchmark, where the P5N32-E SLI was noticably slower.
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices. It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what's really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCIe, ODBC Connections, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc. Sisoft Sandra offers a variety of tests for Memory and CPU.
With Sisoft Sandra 2007 SP1, the P5W64WS Pro with its Intel 975X chipset was faster in all tests.
Again we see an unexpected difference in performance from the P5N32-E SLI, this time in the "Cache And Memory Index" test. The P5B Deluxe was clearly the best performer in this suite of tests.
6. Benchmarks - page 2
PCMark®05 is everything you need to reliably and easily measure the performance of your PC and determine its strengths and weaknesses. With PCMark05, you will be able to select the optimal upgrades for your existing PC, or choose the right new PC that fits your specific needs. This easy-to-use product gives you the same tools and knowledge that virtually every professional tester in the industry uses. Below you can see two available benchmark scores, memory & CPU.
In the CPU score, the Asus P5W64WS Pro and P5N32-E SLI were awarded exactly the same score.
3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests. 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.
3D Mark06 tests the CPU, RAM as well as the VGA card. The Asus P5W64WS Pro attained the highest score, followed by the P5B Deluxe and P5N32-E SLI.
7. Benchmarks - page 3
Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, SM2 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. Science Mark 2.0 is comprised of 7 benchmarks, each of which measures a different aspect of real world system performance.
Pov-Ray is a high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The source code is available for those wanting to do their own ports. We used Pov-Ray 3.7beta15 for all tests, since it supports Dual Core CPUs. We used the built-in benchmark as suggested by the developers.
The scores in both the POV Ray and ScienceMark benchmarks are very close between the three motherboards.
- Nero Digital
Nero Digital is one of the best known Digital formats, offering both ASP and AVC encoder profiles.
For our tests, we used the latest version of Nero Recode v220.127.116.11 as packaged in Nero Reloaded v18.104.22.168. As source, we used a VOB file of 5 mins duration. We encoded for each processor, in two modes (ASP, AVC) with exactly the same preferences (Same bitrate and Dual pass). The encoding time displayed below is what Nero Recode reported. The lower the time taken, the better. All results are displayed in seconds.
All three tested motherboards produced similar performance with Nero Recode. Both the Asus P5W64 WS Pro and P5N32-E SLI needed 615 seconds to complete the AVC encoding profile task.
8. Benchmarks - page 4
CINEBENCH is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using CINEBENCH 9.5 carry significant weight when analyzing a computer’s performance in everyday use.
Especially a system’s CPU and the OpenGL capabilities of its graphics card are put through their paces (even multiprocessor systems with up to 16 dedicated CPUs or processor cores). During the testing procedure, all relevant data is ascertained with which the performance of different computers can subsequently be compared, regardless of operating system. All tests were done with the latest available build (R9.5), and the sum of each subtest is displayed in the following chart, except OpenGL Software & Hardware Lighting tests, since both depend on the installed VGA card.
In CineBench, all three motherboards had nearly identical scores.
SuperPI has become a utility to benchmark modern systems. In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi and he collaborated with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center, the University of Tokyo. This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environment such as Windows NT and Windows 95 and called Super PI.
The software offers up to 32M calculations of PI numbers. For all three motherboards, we tested up to 8M calculations and summed the times for a total score.
The motherboard with the fastest SuperPI time remains the P5B Deluxe.
9. Benchmarks - page 5
The story begins as an unidentified paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. The government responds by sending in Special Forces, but loses contact as an eerie signal interrupts radio communications. When the interference subsides moments later, the team has been literally torn apart. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: Eliminate the intruders at any cost. Determine the origin of the signal. And contain this crisis before it spirals out of control.
The game offers up to 1280x960 resolution, which was used for all tests. We maxed all details for CPU and for VGA card, except for AA/AF and Soft Shadows which are enabled as indicted in each graph. Below are the results, after using the built-in benchmark test:
The fastest motherboard was the Asus P5W64WS Pro.
Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic stuck on a reservation going nowhere. His life changes when an otherworldly crisis forces him to awaken spiritual powers from his long-forgotten birthright. Abducted along with his people to a menacing mothership orbiting Earth, he sets out to save himself and his girlfriend and eventually his planet.
Prey is a serious, dark story, based on authentic Cherokee mythology. Themes of sacrifice, love and responsibility are explored and the story dives into emotional territory not yet explored by similar games. Prey is based on Quake 3 engine and for sure will keep you awake many nights...
For all tests, we used hocbench, which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We also used the built-in Guru3D timedemo and all results are posted below:
Prey is based on the Quake3 engine, making it CPU dependent. Here again, the Asus P5W64WS Pro was faster than both the P5B Deluxe and P5N32-E SLI.
10. Benchmarks - page 6
- Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
A Japanese Information Defense Force is formed to help face modern threats. Deemed a violation of international law and of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, Korea and China become outraged. Secretly, the head of the IDF begins launching information-warfare attacks against Japan and blaming the attacks on North Korea. When the U.S. intervenes, as they are obligated to under Article 9 of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, the U.S. is attacked as well, forcing North Korea to escalate the situation with a pre-emptive invasion of South Korea.
As war erupts on the Korean Peninsula, Sam Fisher must thwart the alliance between the Japanese Admiral, a neurotic computer hacker, and the head of an international paramilitary company in order to prevent the rekindling of a massive world war in the Pacific.
The graphics engine supports Pixel Shader 3 and HDR, along with other new effects. We used hocbench, which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We also used the built-in "Guru3D 2" timedemo and all results are posted below:
- Half Life 2 Episode 1
The world of Half-Life 2 has amazed everyone with its great story, graphics and Valve's great support. Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first in a series of new adventures created by Valve that extend the Half-Life 2 single player experience. It details the aftermath of Half Life 2 and launches a journey beyond City 17.
Stepping into the hazard suit of Dr. Gordon Freeman, you face the immediate repercussions of your actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Rejoin Alyx Vance and her robot, Dog, to once again aid the human resistance in their desperate battle against the totalitarian alien menace of the Combine.
Episode One exposes Alyx's combat skills and knowledge of City 17. Battle side-by-side with her through Valve's first episodic game, a four-to-six hour adventure of greater density and detail than non-episodic releases.
We recorded a timedemo and used the console to run each motherboard through the different visual quality settings. For all tests, we set the resolution to 1280x1024 and HDR shadows fully enabled.
The Asus P5N32-E SLI has all the potential to become an overclocking champion. Nvidia 680i SLI offers many options from within the BIOS to optimize voltages, CPU multiplier and FSB. You need to note the capability to set memory voltages up to 3.45V, which at such high voltages will "fry" your memory modules so take care, but it is a good option for experienced overclockers. The memory settings from within the BIOS offer the option of having the FSB and memory linked or unlinked, and don't forget you can run at 1T with this board. Great help for overclockers too. Finally, if something is not configured properly in the BIOS settings, the board will resume in 90% of cases. So there's no need to do a CMOS clear.
Let's now move on to our results. Keeping the CPU multiplier at 9x, we got a stable system at 355FSB, which is somewhat higher than with the P5B Deluxe (350FSB).
Lowering the CPU multiplier to 6x, we could manage a stable system at 425FSB. The system was able to reach as high as 480, but stability was an issue.
Having read other users reports, this board can definitely go up to 500+FSB (with the proper voltage tweaks and the selected CPU/RAM combination). Overall, we are very impressed with the overclocking capabilities of this board.
Below are our settings, that reached 425MHZ FSB
AI Tuning: Manual
Nvidia GPU Ex: Disabled
FSB - Memory Clock Mode: Unlinked
x FSB - Memory Ratio: N/A
FSB (QDR), Mhz: 1700 (means 425FSB)
Actual FSB (QDR), Mhz: 1700
MEM (DDR), Mhz: 800 (means 400mhz speeds)
Actual MEM (DDR), Mhz: 880.2
Vcore Voltage: AUTO
Memory Voltage: 2AUTO
1.2v HT Voltage: AUTO
NB Core Voltage: AUTO
SB Core Voltage: AUTO
CPU VTT Voltage: AUTO
DDRII Controller Ref Voltage: AUTO
DDRII Channel A Ref Voltage: AUTO
DDRII Channel B Ref Voltage: AUTO
tCL (CAS Latency): 4
Command Per Clock (CMD): 2 clock (2T)
Advance Memory Settings
Async Latency: AUTO
CPU Spread Spectrum: Disabled
PCIE Spread Spectrum: Disabled
MCP PCIE Spread Spectrum: Disabled
SATA Spread Spectrum: Disabled
LDT Spread Spectrum: Disabled
CPU Internal Thermal Control: Disabled
Limit CPUID MaxVal: Disabled
Enhanced C1 (C1E): Disabled
Execute Disable Bit: Disabled
Virtualization Technology: Disabled
Enhanced Intel Speedstep Tech: Disabled
LDT Frequency: 5x
PCIEX16_1 Frequency (Mhz): 100
PCIEX16_2 Frequency (Mhz): 100
PCIEX16_3 Frequency (Mhz): 100
SPP<->MCP Ref Clock, Mhz: 200
12. Final thoughts
The Asus P5N32-E SLI is the first motherboard we tested with Nvidia's 680i SLI chipset. The board supports all currently sold Intel processors for the 775 socket: Intel® Core™ 2 Duo/ Intel® Pentium® D/Intel® Pentium® 4/ Intel® Celeron® D processor.
We were curious to see how the Nvidia 680i SLI would perform, compared to Intel's 965Express and 975X chipsets, so we chose two other Asus boards, the P5B Deluxe and P5W64 WS Pro for our comparison. In most cases, the P5N32-E SLI was slower than the P5W64WS Pro and P5B Deluxe, especially in the CPU tests. It seems that Intel's 975X chipset is still the fastest for RAW CPU performance.
In the memory tests, we expected the P5N32-E SLI to perform better than the P5B Deluxe, but we found the opposite. With exactly the same memory timings/speed, the P5B Deluxe was a fraction faster.
The board itself has overall, a good design. There is free space around the CPU area, despite the big copper passive cooling system. Something we have to mention though regarding the passive cooling, is that the northbridge chipset ran very hot. Possibly, experienced overclockers can look at adding another fan to keep the chipset cool. There are six SATA II connections for HDD and optical storage devices, as well as the ATA133 and floppy connections. Don't forget that Asus has included all cables and connections in the retail package. along with 8 an channels audio add-on card (extra module).
In overclocking, the board proved to be an easy overclocker. There are many settings to play with. We liked the fact that FSB and memory can work in either "linked" or "unlinked" mode. The DRAM voltages can reach up to 3.425V (take care!) while the Vcore voltage proved to be a bit unstable (1.6V max in the BIOS yields 1.47V tops). The board can reach very high FSB frequencies (500MHz+) as we confirmed. Should your overclocking settings fail, the system will POST most of the time, with an "overclocking failed" message, and there isn't a need to go through the whole clear CMOS routine. We didn't notice any weird problems while testing the board, which is always a good sign.
Ending our presentation, we are very happy with the P5N32-E SLI. The retail price of course is high (US$274.99~$299.99), as is the case with all high-end Asus motherboards. This board can become a serious and stable base for overclockers and power users who like to push their systems to the limit. There are tons of options to play with and optimize overall performance. What is possibly a negative is that the Nvidia 680i SLI chipset did not prove as fast as Intel's 965Express/975X chipsets. The performance difference is not that great, but it is there. Also don't forget that this board officially supports Nvidia's SLI technology, while 3 PCI-E slots are offered, to accommodate for the next generation Physics card. Overall, a highly recommended product to all Core2Duo users.
Comparing the P5N32-E SLI with the Asus P5B Deluxe, we have to note that:
- Asus P5B Deluxe is significantly lower priced (US$172.03~$250.02) vs P5N32-E SLI (US$274.99~$299.99)
- Both motherboards can reach very high FSB (500+) frequencies
- P5N32-E SLI is better at memory handling (linked/unlinked status)
- P5B Deluxe and motherboards with JSMicro controller have boot issues with ATAPI CD-ROMS
- P5B Deluxe has slightly easier and friendlier overclocking features
- P5N32-E SLI supports Nvidia SLI, while P5B Deluxe ATI Crossfire
- P5N32-E SLI northbridge runs very hot...
- Both motherboards are very close in performance, possibly the P5B Deluxe is slightly faster