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ASUS P5N32-SLI Deluxe – a Motherboard Based on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI (Intel Edition)

December 13, 2005



A couple of months ago we tested ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe. At that time, this model was a leader in the series of ASUS motherboards on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI (Intel Edition). But now another model pretends to this place - ASUS P5N32-SLI Deluxe. Let's see what it is capable of.

First we should make out the differences between P5N32-SLI and the motherboard, we already reviewed. Difference One: support for SLI x32 mode, that is both PCIE ports in SLI mode work as sterling PCIE x16 (they work as PCIE x8 in "regular" SLI mode). Difference Two: software (from BIOS Setup) SLI control. Difference Three: Fanless Design, which we already saw in ASUS A8N SLI Premium. What concerns the cooling system, even though it's called Fanless (passive cooling), it comes shipped with two special coolers, which are installed on heatsinks on transistors in the CPU power circuit. You will most likely not need them for normal operations. They will come in handy only for PC cases with insufficient air circulation or for overclockers. And finally, Difference Four: the model under review offers a wider overclocking potential than P5ND2. In other respects, their functionality is practically no different. P5N32-SLI has just two PCI slots instead of three, it has PCIE x4 and, unfortunately, there is one unsoldered FireWire connector at the rear panel, which was available in ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe.




We have no serious gripes with the PCB layout, but we can still find some drawbacks to cavil at. For example, the 24-pin power and IDE connectors are rather close to memory slots, which has a negative effect on convenience of manipulating them. Besides, having installed additional fans (included into the bundle), any manipulations with a CPU cooler are inconvenient. You'll understand why, when you have a look at the photo. Access to the only jumper is not hampered, when a motherboard is installed into a PC case. A brief description of its functionality is provided on the PCB. The board also houses a green LED that indicates Standby voltage.

The 4-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates four 1000 uF capacitors and eleven 821 uF capacitors. The board also contains a memory voltage regulator (five 820 uF capacitors and two 471 uF ones reinforced with L elements). In general, critical circuits incorporate electrolytic capacitors from Sanyo and United Chemi-Con (high quality and reliable components). All field-effect transistors in a power supply circuit of the processor are cooled by impressive heatsinks, which, in their turn, are connected to the chipset (each with its own bridge) with heat pipes. Motherboard dimensions — 305x245 mm (full-sized ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed).

System monitoring (ITE IT8712F-A, according to BIOS Setup):

  • CPU voltage, 3.3V, +5V, +12V
  • RPM of 3 fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors)

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket 775, it's claimed compatible with all existing top processors from Intel at the time of the announcement: Celeron D (345), Pentium 4 (570 and 670), Pentium D (840), Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (3.73 GHz), Pentium Extreme Edition (840))
  • 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 16 GB DDR2-533/667 without ECC Supports dual channel mode, the total memory capacity in both channels must be the same — for example, 256/256 or 256+256/512)
  • 2 x PCIE x16 (the second slot is for an additional video accelerator in SLI mode; like the main slot, it operates in x16 mode)
  • PCIE x4
  • 2 x PCIE x1
  • 2 x PCI (2.2)
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins, you can plug a regular 20-pin connector, but you had better avoid using such powerful modern components as top PCIE video cards. Otherwise, you should use an additional connector that will be described below), 8-pin EATX12V connector to power a processor (you can plug the standard 4-pin ATX12V connector (providing no less than 13 A for Pentium 4/EE and no less than 16 A for Pentium D/EE). PSU with an 8-pin connector may be required for future processors), 4-pin (peripheral) additional connector in case of a PSU with a 20-pin connector (mandatory for SLI mode)
  • 1 x FDD
  • 2 x IDE (Parallel ATA) for 4 ATA133 devices — they are based on the chipset, connected drives can form RAID 0, 1, 0+1, or 5 with "chipset" SATA disks
  • 5 x SATA II (Serial ATA II) for five SATA300 devices; hard drives, connected to the four "chipset-based" connectors can form RAID 0, 1, 10(0+1), 5, and JBOD with "chipset-based" PATA drives; another two connectors (one of them is on the rear panel of the motherboard) are based on an additional Silicon Image SiI3132CNU controller, connected hard drives can form RAID 0 and 1
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB (2.0) ports
  • 2 x for a bracket with two FireWire ports
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • AUX-In connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • Connector for Game/MIDI port on a bracket
  • Connector for a COM port on a bracket
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • 5 x fan headers (three of them have rpm control).

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)





Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x LPT, 1 x e-SATA (for SATA devices with internal power supply), S/PDIF-Out - Coaxial and Toslink
  • 6 x analog audio jacks (Center/Sub, Side, Rear, Line-In, Front, Mic-In)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)

Package Contents




  • Package: a nicely designed standard box (AI Life series) with a flip cover listing motherboard's features
  • Documentation:
    • User's Guide in English
    • colorful description of main motherboard features

  • Cables:
    • 2 x ATA 66/100/133 (black, with company logo)
    • FDD (black, with company logo)
    • 4 x Serial ATA
    • two SATA power converters for 4 devices

  • A rear panel bracket with two FireWire ports (6-pin and 4-pin)
  • A rear panel bracket with a GAME port and two USB ports
  • Rear panel bracket with a COM port
  • Two fans for cooling field-effect transistors in the CPU power circuit




  • A flexible SLI bridge
  • Rear I/O shield
  • Compact discs with drivers and proprietary utilities from ASUS, InterVideo WinDVD Suite (software bundle to watch and create DVD: PhotoAlbum 1.0, WinDVD Creator 2, DVD Copy 2.5, Disc Master 2.5).

Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on the AC'97 codec Realtek (Avance Logic) ALC850, supporting 7.1 surround sound audio with front line-in/out and S/PDIF-Out jacks
  • 2 network controllers: Marvell 88E1111-RCJ PHY controller for Gigabit Ethernet MAC controller integrated into the chipset (supporting Active Armor, see the details in the chipset description), and a separate Marvell 88E8053 chip supporting 10/100/1000 Mbit/sec (PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet)
  • An additional SATA-II RAID controller based on the Silicon Image SiI3132CNU chip, supporting two SATA300 devices that can form RAID 0 and 1
  • FireWire, based on the Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip, supporting 2 x FireWire.

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.5 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0,04, -0,43
Good
Noise level, dB (A):
-82,8
Good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
82.8
Good
THD, %:
0.044
Good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
0.061
Good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-80,0
Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.185
Average

General performance: Good.

Proprietary technologies

  • AI Quiet (including Q-Fan 2) — automatically changes the rotational speed of fans depending on a temperature
  • Stack Cool 2 - passive cooling of electronic components in the CPU voltage converter circuit
  • ASUS Multi-language BIOS - language selection for BIOS Setup
  • AI NOS (Non-Delay Overclocking System) — dynamically overclocks CPU clock (to be more exact, FSB) depending on the current load and returns to the initial state in idle mode
  • AI Net 2 — the network controller automatically detects a damaged cable even without booting into OS
  • CrashFree BIOS 2 - to restore BIOS automatically from a floppy or bootable CD even when the data in the flash-chip is damaged
  • EZ Flash and LiveUpdate — these utilities can flash a new BIOS version without booting a computer from a floppy
  • MyLogo 2 - to display your own logo at system startup.

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
In BIOS v2.58 from AMI Allows to disable specific CPU functions
+
Hyper-Threading, Internal Thermal Control
Memory timings
+
CAS# Latency, RAS# to CAS# Delay, Row Precharge Delay, Row Active Delay, Row Cycle Timing (all of them have an expanded range), Addressing Mode, Addressing Mode
Memory frequency selection
+
A large set of dividers, which allows to set a memory frequency close to the manual value within 400—2000 MHz (in terms of double effective DDR frequency) at 1 MHz steps
Peripheral bus frequency control
+
PCIE: 100.0000—148.4375 MHz at 1.5625 MHz steps
PCI IRQ manual assignment
-
 
HyperTransport frequency control
+
200—1000 MHz at 200 MHz steps
FSB frequency setup
+
from -10 MHz of the nominal to 2000 MHz (in terms of quadruple values of the effective QPB frequency) at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier
+
x12, x13
CPU core voltage control
+
Auto, 1.1000—1.7000 V at 0.0125 V steps
FSB voltage control
+
Auto, 1.215—1.425 V at 0.100 V steps
Memory voltage control
+
Auto, 1.80—2.40 V at 0.10 V steps
Chipset voltage control
+
Auto, 1.40—1.60 V at 0.10 V steps
SATA voltage control (Southbridge)
+
Auto, 1.50 V, 1.60 V

We used BIOS v.0120, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested.

Temperature conditions

We have recently reviewed ASUS A8N SLI Premium motherboard. This motherboard differed from similar models on the market in Fanless Design, implemented by ASUS engineers. After the article was announced, our readers got interested in the efficiency of this cooling method (quite reasonably). Unfortunately, it's currently impossible to measure A8N operating temperatures. But from now on, we'll try to measure it in every review and publish operating temperatures of a motherboard when idle and under load. We'll be also able to compare motherboards' temperatures. We'll basically measure temperatures on a processor and a chipset (south and north bridges). A pyrometer will be used for these measurements. It should be noted right away that we are not into overclocking of motherboards under review, so temperatures will be measured only at standard frequencies and voltages.

And now we pass from words to deeds and publish a table of temperatures demonstrated by the motherboard under review as well as by A8N SLI Premium, passive cooling system. Unlike A8N, ASUS P5N32 Deluxe comes shipped with two special coolers, already mentioned above, hinting that they may come in handy =). The table also contains temperatures demonstrated by a motherboard with installed coolers and without them.

Temperature (°C)
ASUS P5N32 SLI Deluxe (passive cooling)
ASUS P5N32 SLI Deluxe (with additional coolers)
processor
Northbridge
Southbridge
processor
Northbridge
Southbridge
Idle
45.6
48.9
49.3
42.3
46.5
49.2
Under load
60.9
58.3
59.6
57.8
55.3
57.5

Well, the results are expectable. The motherboard is a tad less hot with installed coolers, but the temperature conditions without coolers are also normal. The table above shows well the difference between the two cooling types, represented by this motherboard. It's about 2.5°C, thus Fanless Design (AI Cool-Pipe) from ASUS copes well with its functions. So, if you are not going to raise system performance by overclocking, you can get rid of the two noise sources with a light heart (but you still must not forget about good ventilation in your PC case).

Performance

Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46 GHz
  • Memory: 2 x Corsair XMS2-4300 CM2X512A-4300C3PRO (DDR2-533, 3-3-3-8)
  • HDD: Samsung SP1213C (SATA, 7200 rpm, 8 MB Cache)
  • Video card: ATI Radeon X800 XT, 256 MB DDR
  • AC power adapter: FSP Blue Storm 500
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

What concerns the performance, the motherboard under review fairs rather well among the other chipset representatives, but its results are still far from ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe. As you can see in the table below, P5N32-SLI Deluxe is slower than its competitor almost in every test. As for now (before a large shootout), we can just establish a fact that ASUS P5N 32-SLI Deluxe ranks somewhere between the fastest and the slowest representatives of NVIDIA nForce 4 SLI chipset, closer to the fastest.

Test
ASUS P5N32-SLI Deluxe (DDR2-533)
ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe (DDR2-533)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
6:59
6:55
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec
5:11
5:03
MPEG4 (DivX) encoding, min:sec
3:50
3:43
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec
30:46
31:26
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480x32), fps
73.1
76.5
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Medium@800x600x32), fps
68.1
71.3

We should also note that performance of this motherboard in SLI mode and the advantage of SLI x32 over SLI x16 will be reviewed in detail in a separate article.

Conclusion

ASUS P5N32-SLI Deluxe definitely deserves attention. It's called rightfully a top product, as it offers excellent functionality and bundle. Interestingly, this model supports SLI x32. The motherboard under review does not demonstrate the best results, to be more exact it ranks somewhere in the middle. But then the quality of the integrated audio solution in P5N32 (evaluated in RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.5) is a tad higher than in ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe, though both motherboards are equipped with identical codecs.

This model on the manufacturer's web site

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer





Vladimir Senchihin (sench@ixbt.com)
December 13, 2005.



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