Apart from the high priced motherboards for enthusiasts, ASUS also offer very affordable solutions for entry level users. The Asus P5N-E SLI is one of those solutions and comes at a retail price of around €150, making it very appealing indeed. This board is based on nVidia's 650i chipset and while it was slightly slower overall compared with the nVidia's 680i LT based motherboard, we were quite happy with its performance. It costs much less and the performance differences with the higher priced EVGA 680i LT will not be noticed by entry level users.
The board design is quite good, however, the big NorthBridge aluminium heatsink could pose a problem with the larger 3rd party CPU coolers and the SouthBridge chipset doesn't have any kind of cooling.
There are four SATA II connectors for HDD and optical storage devices, along with ATA133 and floppy connectors. While the motherboard may support Nvidia's SLI technology, there is a catch. When two identical VGA cards are installed, the VGA lanes are working at x8 and not at x16, as happens with the Nvidia 680i chipsets. That will produce reduced performance and you have to manually set the corresponding SLI bridge motherboard connector.
Passing to the overclocking area, the board proved to be easily overclockable. The BIOS options are fewer than with Nvidia 680i based products, but even with Auto settings, overclocking is possible and with good results. With an Intel E6600 processor, we got a maximum of 450FSB. Perhaps with better cooling system for north/southbridge, performance could be improved.
Is there anything else? Well yes. The BIOS needs some more work to properly support 1067MHz (dual channel) memory operation, while USB2.0 performance was very slow, at least it was when we tested it with the Corsair Voyager GT module. On the bright side, the retail price of €150 is very good.
The Asus P5N-E SLI gives good performance and will keep you company for a long time. There are some drawbacks, that may trouble enthusiast users, but at that price we really couldn't ask for more.