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ASUS SK8N NVIDIA nForce3 Pro 150 Mainboard

February 17, 2004



This board was first to come onto the retail market among boards designed for AMD Athlon FX. Most likely it doesn't belong to the new ASUS line as it doesn't contain most of the new technologies that the other boards have. The board was created in collaboration with NVIDIA an AMD and meant for running in new processors, and it was at the beginning of 2003. 




The layout looks a bit strange: the only nForce3 Pro 150 chip is located behind the PCI slots and the CPU socket and memory slots are turned at 90°; besides, a part of the PCB in front of the PCI slots is free of any components. But it doesn't make any problems in assembling the system. Only the audio-in and IDE RAID cables can make it difficult to insert expansion cards. Moreover, the FDD connector is located near the left edge, and in big PC cases its cable may not reach the floppy drive. It can be difficult to reach some jumpers when the board is already installed. Their functions are not indicated on the PCB. +5 V StandBy is indicated with the green LED. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator incorporates 6 capacitors of 3300 uF and 3 of 1200 uF. There are also voltage regulators of the AGP bus (2 1000 uF and several less capacious ones) and of the memory (3 of 3300 uF, reinforced with L elements). 

No wasted space for components that didn't get included in the final design - this is the only model in its family. The board measures 305x245 mm ("wide ATX", 9 fastening screws, all edges are fixed). System monitoring is supported by ITE IT8712F-A chip which controls:

  • processor voltages, +3.3, +5 and +12 V;
  • rotation speed of 3 fans; 
  • temperatures of the processor (built-in sensor) and the board (built-in sensor). 

Ports & connectors onboard:

  • CPU socket (Socket 940); 
  • 4 slots for DDR SDRAM DIMM (up to 8 GB of Registered DDR200/266/333/400 with/without ECC); 
  • AGP slot (with a retention clip);
  • 5 PCI slots; 
  • Standard power supply connectors (ATX and 4pin for 12V);
  • FDD; 
  • 2 IDE (Parallel ATA) - on chipset; 
  • 2 SATA (Serial ATA) RAID - on chipset, RAID JBOD, 0 and 1; 
  • 1 IDE and 2 SATA slots - at the expense of an additional controller; connected device can be arranged in RAID JBOD, 0, 1 or 0+1; 
  • Connectors for a bracket for 2 USB (2.0) ports; 
  • Connector for a bracket with a FireWire port; 
  • Connector for a bracket with a second COM port; 
  • Connector for audio-out from CD/DVD drive; 
  • Connector for AUX-In; 
  • Connectors for brackets with auxiliary audio-outs and S/PDIF-Out; 
  • 3 connectors for fans (with rotation control). 

Rear panel (left to right, in units)




  • PS/2 ports for keyboard & mouse; 
  • 1 LPT and 1 COM; 
  • 2 USB (2.0) and 1 FireWire; 
  • 2 USB (2.0) and 1 RJ-45 (Fast Ethernet); 
  • 3 audio ports  (Mic-In, Line-In, Front). 

Accessories




  • Package of the standard design of the AI series boards; 
  • Documentation: user manual in English; 
  • Cables: 2 Serial ATA (with a power supply adapter), 2 ATA66/100/133, 1 ATA33 and FDD; 
  • Bracket with 2 USB ports; 
  • Bracket with 1 FireWire port; 
  • Bracket with S/PDIF-Out connectors (Coaxial and TosLink); 
  • I/O Shield;
  • 2 software CDs: 
    • drivers; 
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader; 
    • PC-cillin 2002; 
    • ASUS Live Update; 
    • ASUS PCProbe; 
    • ASUS Screensaver; 
    • Winbond Voice Editor; 
    • Intervideo WinDVD Suite; 
    • DirectX 8.1. 

Integrated controllers

  • audio controller based on the Avance Logic ALC650 AC'97 codec; 5.1 audio system supported, front audio in/outs and S/PDIF-Out connector provided; 
  • network controller based on the chipset and Realtek RTL8201BL PHY controller, 10/100 Mbit/s (Fast Ethernet); 
  • SATA/IDE RAID based on Promise PDC20378 chip, RAID JBOD, 0, 1 and 0+1, 2 SATA and 1 ATA133 connectors; 
  • FireWire based on Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip, 2 ports supported. 

The integrated audio quality was estimated at 16bits/44kHz with RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.2 and Terratec DMX 6fire: 
 

Frequency response (40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB: +0.14, -0.15 Very good
Noise level, dB (A): -86.9 Good
Dynamic range, dB (A): 86.5 Good
THD, %: 0.0041 Very good
Intermodulation distortions, %: 0.016 Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB: -85.7 Excellent

General performance: Very good (see details). The scores are not record-breaking (for the integrated graphics) but they look very good. 

Technologies

  • ASUS CrashFree BIOS 2 (auto BIOS recovery from diskette or CD even if the flash chip data are corrupted); 
  • ASUS Q-Fan Technology (auto fan speed control); 
  • ASUS EZ Flash (flashing new BIOS versions without OS booting); 
  • ASUS MyLogo2 (displays your own screensavers while the system is booting). 

Settings

jumpers and switches Jumper to clear the CMOS  
Jumpers for starting up PC from USB keyboard  
Jumper to prevent flashing in BIOS boot block  
BIOS based on AMI v2.51 Setup of memory timings + CAS Latency, TRCD, TRAS, TRP, Bank Interleaving
Setup of memory frequency + 100, 133, 150, 166, 200 MHz
HT bus setup + HT Tristate Enable, CRC Flood Enable, HT Frequency (LDT to MCP2)
Setup of AGP bus +  
Setup of PCI bus -  
AGP/PCI frequency setup + AGP(PCIx2) = 66-75 MHz in 1MHz steps
PCI IRQ manual assignment -  
FSB frequency setup + 200-300 MHz in 1MHz steps
CPU clock ratio -  
CPU voltage control + Auto, 1.55, 1.65, 1.75 V
DIMM voltage control + 2.6, 2.7, 2.8 V
HT bus voltage control -  
NB voltage control -  
AGP voltage control + 1.5, 1.6, 1.7 V

We used the BIOS 1004 as the latest available version. The BIOS features listed above are available in this firmware version, nonstandard functions weren't tested. 

Performance

Actually we tested few boards with the Socket 940, and taking into account that a chipset used doesn't make a great effect on performance of a given model we also took boards designed for other chipsets for comparison. If the memory timings are the same for all boards compared the performance is very similar, that is why all the boards which allow changing their memory parameters can be considered equal in speed. 
 

Benchmark ASUS SK8N (nForce3) ASUS SK8V (K8T800) Gigabyte K8NNXP-940 (nForce3)
Memory read latency (CacheBurst32), clocks 113 115 114
Photoshop image processing, min:sec 9:25 9:32 9:31
MPEG4 encoding (DivX), min:sec 8:38 8:43 8:42
MPEG4 encoding (XviD), min:sec 17:56 18:02 18:00
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Fast@800x600x32), fps 254 251 253
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Normal@1024x768x32), fps 234 232 232

 
 


Dmitry Mayorov (destrax@ixbt.com)


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