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Home > Hardware Reviews > PC Parts

Wednesday, August 03, 2005
ASUS A8N-SLI Premium

2. The mainboard - Packaging

In the retail package, you will find all the necessary accessories needed to get the best out of this motherboard. However, as with the Deluxe version, an 80 conductor cable is only provided for hard disk connections, while a 40 conductor cable is provided for your CD/DVD burner/ROM needs. You will get an extra IEEE 1394 module, Serial ATA and IDE cables, USB2.0 modules and a very handy module to use SATA drives as external hard disks, out of the case.

Below you can see a full list of the accessories that are included in the retail package.

Accessories SLI connector
1 x 1-port IEEE1394 module
1 x SLI retention bracket
8 x Serial ATA cables
1 x SATA Extension module for external devices
4 x 2-port SATA power cable
1 x 2-port USB2.0 / Game module
1 x 2-port USB2.0 module
1 x COM Port module
1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
1 x IDE cable
1 x FDD cable
1 x I/O Shield
User's manual
Instant Music
Setting Sticker
WinDVD Suite

 

click to enlarge!

On the black PCB you'll find the various connections are colour coded, making it easier to identify where you should connect every component and cable with a quick look. You will also notice the two LED indicators, one ensures that the motherboard has properly powered up and the second informing you on the status of the SLI VGA cards, should you decide to use them.

There is a lot of space between the two VGA slots. ASUS claims that this design will ensure better air circulation, cooling the cards more efficiently. You can also see the PCIx4 and the PCIx1 slots, right between the two VGA connectors, which is not the best place to be, but since there are not many PCIx1 cards available, the harm done is not so great.

click to enlarge!

And now, ASUS presents AI Cool-Pipe technology. Completely fanless design with a nice looking heat pipe transferring all the heat away from the NVidia nForce4 MCP (Media and Communication Processor), to a small metal finned cooler, attached to a MOSFET array, very close to the CPU socket. As the liquid in the heat-pipe is heated by the MCP, it rises up to the MOSFET cooler and when it is cool enough, it returns to the MCP, cooling things down. It should be reminded that heat-pipe technology is already applied in several CPU coolers, enhancing cooling potential. Excellent idea for a noiseless motherboard.

However, we noticed strange readings from the CPU's temperature as the nForce4 MCP temperature fluctuates. It seems the heat is also transferred to the CPU or the nForce4 chipset temperature affects in some way, CPU temperature. With no CPU load, the CPU temperature and nForce4 chipset temperatures were near 38°C, while as the nForce4 temperature rose, the CPU temperature followed suit. When the nForce4 chipset temperature cooled down, so did the CPU temperature.

click to enlarge!

You might notice that there is no SLI PCB card selector. The small ICs (Integrated Circuits) that ASUS used with this motherboard (Pericom PCI Express compliant 2:1 mux/demux switches) can control the SLI functions (dual or single mode) from the BIOS or by using AI Selector software (included on the supplied CD).

The memory module slots are colour coded black and blue. Installing two memory modules of the same memory size on the same slot colour, enables Dual Channel's symmetry mode.

The back panel is exactly the same as the on Deluxe version. You will find the parallel port, keyboard and mouse (PS2) ports, audio port (digital, analog and coaxial), VGA out composite port, one IEEE1394a port, 4 USB2.0 ports and two RJ-45 (ethernet) Jacks.

You can see below the normal IDE channel connectors and the Serial ATA connectors.

click to enlarge!

The nForce4 storage capacity, combined with the Silicon Image controller, offers support for up to 8 SATA devices. NVRAID storage (nForce4) supports RAID0, RAID1, RAID 0+1 and JBOD which can span across SATA and PATA, while the Silicon Image 3114R RAID controller offers 4 x Serial ATA with RAID0, 1, 0+1, and RAID5.

click to enlarge!

The IT8712F is the newest member of ITE Tech's growing family of Low Pin Count Interface-based Super I/O devices with Environment Controller integration. It provides enhanced hardware monitoring, fan speed control, SmartGuardian control and it can also support a SmartCard reader, has two 16C550 UARTs, one Game port, one parallel port, floppy disk controller, keyboard controller and ITE innovative automatic power-failure resume & power button debounce.

click to enlarge!

The Marvell Yukon 32-bit 88E8001 offers an additional network connectivity solution. It is Yukon's Gigabit Ethernet controller with Integrated PHY. It also provides an advanced cable diagnostics function, (Virtual Cable Tester technology) that will enable IT managers to easily pinpoint the location of cable problems.

This small Winbond chip will give your system the ability to speak. It is a programmable speech synthesizer that will inform you if any error occurs in the BIOS self test scanning procedure. Users can edit and change these voices and even add their own voice for every error that might occur.

This Realtek ALC850 is the integrated sound card packed in this small chip. This will give your system 8-channel CODEC, Jack Sensing and Enumeration Technology and Coaxial/Optical S/PDIF out ports.

... and finally, this is the IEE1394 chipset, that offers one additional firewire port.




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