iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






EPoX 5NVA SLI — a Motherboard Based on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI (Intel Edition)

Motherboards from EPoX haven't been reviewed on our web site for a long time already. And finally it has happened! The EPoX 5NVA SLI motherboard is based on the top nForce4 SLI (IE) chipset and possesses a standard, but sufficient set of functions to qualify for a top motherboard. It's the second motherboard on nForce4 (IE) that we are going to test (the first one was MSI P4N Diamond).

So, what do we have here? Quite a nice box, a rich (without excesses, though) bundle, and a set of LEDs, which are not harsh to your eyes, but still provide necessary information whether the motherboard operates correctly — these are all exterior peculiarities of the product under review.

The EPoX 5NVA SLI cannot boast of rich functionality, but it still possesses the set of functions, which will be used by nearly all users to the full extent. Here lies one positive point: the new model from EPoX is not oversaturated with useless bells and whistles, which functions can be only guessed about in everyday life. Good quality (for an AC’97 codec) of the integrated audio solution, 1 GB/s network PHY, and a FireWire controller with two IEEE 1394a ports — these are all the 5NVA SLI can boast of. The only disappointment is the lack of "non-chipset" HDD controllers. But in fact, the main advantage of this motherboard, obtained together with the chipset, is SLI - note two PCIE x16 ports (one of them operates in x16/x8 modes, the other - x8/x1). A special board is used to switch between the regular mode and the SLI mode, which is not very convenient (for example, the MSI P4N Diamond allows to do it on the software level, i.e. in BIOS).  


Expert PCB layout produces a nice impression. The only gripe we have is a bad layout of connectors for brackets with additional USB and WiFi ports — they are right behind the last PCI slot, which may cause inconveniences, if a large expansion card is installed into it. The motherboard is equipped with the following elements: POST code display in the form of two seven-segment LEDs and a set of LEDs that indicate chipset, memory, and processor operations (they are blue, if everything is OK; if not, they are not lit at all =)). A fan on the northbridge heatsink is installed vertically. EPoX probably starts implementing some of its BTX ideas to manage air flows inside a PC case.

The 4-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates ten 560 uF capacitors and four 330 uF capacitors. The board also contains a memory voltage regulator (two 3300 uF capacitors and four 1000 uF ones.) The motherboard has no empty seats for unsoldered elements. Motherboard dimensions 305x245 mm ("wide" ATX, ten-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed).

System monitoring (Fintek F71872F LPC):

  • CPU, chipset, memory, and battery voltage, +3.3 V, +5 V and +12 V
  • 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 4 Extreme Edition (3.73 GHz) (except for the latest dual core Pentium EE and Pentium D processors))
  • 4 x DDR 2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 8 GB DDR 2-400/533/667 Supports dual channel mode, the total memory capacity in both channels must be the same — for example, 256/256 or 256+256/512)
  • PCIE x16 slot (it can operate in the x16/x8 mode)
  • PCIE x16 slot (it can operate in x1/x8 mode)
  • 2 x PCIE x1
  • 2 x PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins, you can connect a regular 20-pin connector, but in this case it's not recommended to use powerful up-to-date componentry like top PCIE video cards as well as to run the motherboard in SLI mode) and 4-pin ATX12V for a processor
  • 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
  • 4 x SATA-II (Serial ATA II) — all of them are in the chipset, connected drives can form RAID 0, 1, 0+1, or 5 with "chipset" PATA drives
  • Three connectors for brackets with additional USB ports
  • Two connectors for brackets with 2 additional FireWire ports
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connector for a SLI switch
  • 3 x fan headers (all with 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, 2 x S/PDIF-Out (Coaxial and Toslink), 1 x COM
  • 2 x USB
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 6 x analog audio jacks (Line-In, Front, Mic-In, Rear, Center/Sub, Side)

Package Contents

  • Package: a square box of a nice design
  • Documentation: user's manual in English
  • Cables: 2 x SATA (with power converters), 2 x "round" white ATA66 and 1 x FDD
  • SLI switch
  • Rear panel bracket with 2 x USB
  • Rear panel bracket with 2 x FireWire
  • A "pen" with a cross-head screwdriver at one end and a flat-bladed screwdriver at the other. Both ends are covered with tips
  • Rear I/O shield
  • CD with drivers and utilities.

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-In/Out jacks
  • Fire Wire, based on the VIA VT6307 chip, supports 2 x Fire Wire (FireWire-400, IEEE 1394a)
  • Network PHY controller, based on the VITESSE VSC8201RX (PHY) chip, for chipset-integrated MAC controller Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000 Mbit/s Gigabit Ethernet).

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:
+0.08, -0.62
Noise level, dB (A):
Dynamic range, dB (A):
THD, %:
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
Channel crosstalk, dB:
Very good
IMD at 10 kHz, %:

General performance: Good (Details).


Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper
Jumpers to enable system wake up on USB devices
PS/2 keyboard power jumper
The motherboard contains Power and Reset buttons
In Award BIOS v6.00PG Memory timings
CAS Latency Time, DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay, DRAM RAS# Precharge, Precharge Delay (tRAS)
Memory frequency selection
Auto, 400—900 MHz at 1 MHz steps
PCIE bus frequency control
100.0000 — 148.4375 MHz at 1.5625 MHz steps
PCI bus frequency control
PCI IRQ manual assignment
FSB frequency setup
1056-1300 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier
x12, x13
CPU voltage control
+0.025 V, +0.0125 V, +0.0000 V, -0.0125 V, -0.025 V, -0.0375 V, -0.050 V, -0.0625 V, -0.075 V, -0.0875 V, -0.100 V
Memory voltage control
+0.00 V — +0.35 V at 0.05 V steps
Chipset voltage control
+0.00 V, +0.10 V, +0.20 V, +0.30 V
FSB voltage control
PCIE bus voltage control

We used BIOS dated 05.22.2005, 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.


Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 3.46 (Extreme Edition) (Socket LGA775)
  • Memory: Corsair CM2X512A-4300C3PRO x2 (DDR2 533, 3-3-3-8)
  • HDD: Samsung SP1213C (SATA, 7200 rpm, 8 MB Cache)
  • Video card: ATI Radeon X800 XT, 256 MB DDR
  • Power supply unit: FSP AX500-A
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

As we have tested only two motherboards on nForce4 SLI (IE) so far, it's hard to draw an objective conclusion about the performance of motherboards on this core logic. The table below contains results of the Epox 5NVA SLI and the MSI P4N Diamond, mentioned in the beginning of the article. The motherboard under review is a tad faster than the MSI model on the same chipset, you can see it with the naked eye.

EPoX 5NVA SLI (DDR2 533)
MSI P4N Diamond (DDR2 533)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec
MPEG4 (DivX) encoding, min:sec
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Low@640x480x32), fps
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Medium@800x600x32), fps

That's all we can tell you about motherboards on the new core logic from nVidia so far. Well, our lab will be looking forward to new representatives of this chipset in order to determine the fastest, the most reliable, the most functional, and the best bundled model. Look forward to a large roundup!


This model on the manufacturer's web site

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer

Vladimir Senchihin (sench@ixbt.com)
August 29, 2005.

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