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Friday, February 24, 2006

2. A Closer Look

The P5N32-SLI Deluxe, as with most of the ASUS Deluxe motherboards, is manufactured on a black PCB. The positioning of the interface connections, is done in such a way so as to make them easily accessible and the colour coding helps in identifying them.

As the STACK COOL 2 indicates on the back of the board, the P5N32-SLI Deluxe has a fan-less and zero-noise cooling solution. 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.

With the P5ND2-SLI Deluxe, Asus has adopted its fanless design, well known from previous latest model motherboards. There are 4 aluminium fanless heatsinks, which are connected in pairs with heat pipes.

Below is the 775 socket for the Intel CPU.

The memory module slots, are colour coded black and yellow. You put two memory modules of the same memory size in the same coloured slots, to enable Dual Channel's symmetry mode support, or use two memory modules of different memory sizes for asymmetric mode.

On the back panel, you will find the keyboard and mouse (PS2) ports, audio port (digital, analog and coaxial), one parallel port, 4 USB2.0 ports, and two RJ-45 Jacks. There's also a slot for external Serial ATA. This port, according to Asus, connects to an external SATA box or a Serial ATA multiplier that supports up to 16 devices and enables smart setup and hot-plug functionality. As for IEEE1394a port, you'll have to install the appropriate component, included in the package.

There are two more connections for extra USB, as well as two for firewire and four SATA connectors.

Below you can see the standard IDE channel connectors.

The P5N32-SLI Deluxe, offers two PCI Express slots used for graphics cards and two PCI Express x1 slots. The two PCI Express x16 slots are colour coded. In SLI mode, the user should always remember that the graphics card installed in the blue PCI slot should be considered as the primary VGA card that will handle all signal transfers to the monitors. The secondary card (black slot), is used only for graphics acceleration. Both slots however are 16X even in SLI mode. The monitor connected to the secondary VGA card will go blank in SLI mode. There are also three PCI slots.

In order to switch from single VGA mode to SLI mode, no interface card is necessary anymore, this is automatic. A power cable is required for the VGA cards. If this is not connected, the red LED next to the connector, will light up.

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 can also support a SmartCard reader, Two 16C550 UARTs, one Game port, one parallel and one serial port, floppy disk controller, keyboard controller and one ITE innovative automatic power-failure resume & power button debounce.

The Marvell Yukon 32-bit 88E1111 offers an additional network connectivity solution. It is Yukon's Gigabit Ethernet controller with Integrated PHY. It also provides advanced cable diagnostics functions, (Virtual Cable Tester technology) that will enable IT managers to more easily pinpoint the location of cable problems.

Marvell Yukon 88E8053 is a PCI-E Gb LAN controller.

For audio, Asus has equipped the board with Realtek's ALC850 chipset, providing four 16-bit two-channel DACs and a stereo 16-bit ADC. The ALC850 is an AC'97 Rev 2.3 compatible multi-channel audio CODEC designed for PC multimedia systems. The ALC850 incorporates proprietary converter technology and fully meets performance requirements for PC99/2001 systems.

The ALC850 supports host/soft audio from Intel ICHx chipsets, as well as audio controller-based VIA/SiS/ALi/AMD/nVIDIA/ATI chipsets. Bundled Windows series (98/ME/NT/2000/XP) and Linux drivers, EAX/Direct Sound 3D/I3DL2/A3D compatible sound effect utilities (supporting Karaoke, 26 types of environment sound emulations, 10-band equalizer), HRTF 3D positional audio, and Sensaura™ 3D (optional), providing an excellent entertainment package and game experience for PC users. In addition, the ALC850 is embedded with an impedance sensing capability to detect when a device has been connected to input or output jacks.

- The package

The retail package for the P4ND2-SLI Deluxe includes a large list of accessories :

Accessories InterVideo WinDVD Suite (OEM version)
1 x SLI connector
1 x IEEE1394 port module
4 x SATA cables
SATA power cables for 4 devices
1 x 2-port USB2.0 / Game module
1 x COM Port module
1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
1 x IDE cable
1 x FDD cable
2 x Option Fan
1 x I/O Shield
User' s manual
Support CD Drivers
ASUS PC Probe 2
ASUS Update
ASUS AI Booster
Anti-virus software (OEM version)

For SLI, you'll need the following bridge:

We liked the manual a lot. Very detailed, very helpful...

For this review, we populated the ASUS P5N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard with two ASUS Extreme N6600GT graphics cards and compared it to the ASUS P5ND32-SLI Deluxe. We also compared it to the P5WD2 PREMIUM with a graphics card from AOpen, the Aeolus 6800Ultra. The comparison is rather interesting in order to find out the differences from a dual 16X VGA and see in single mode, which is better, the 955X chipset or the NForce4?

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