iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






ASUS M3N-HT Deluxe/Mempipe Motherboard

A decent gaming PC foundation for NVIDIA fans.

September 1, 2008

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Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
AwardBIOS Controlling specific functions of the platform + K8 Cool'n'Quiet
AMD Live!
AMD Virtualization
CPU Tweak (TLB fix)
Memory timings + 1T/2T Memory Timing, CAS Latency, RAS to CAS Delay, Row Precharge Time, Min RAS Active Time, AI Clock Skew, Row to Row Delay, Row Cycle Time, as well as a wide choice of additional timings
Memory frequency selection + 400, 533, 667, 800, 1066 (you actually specify a multiplier to the HTT frequency)
HT bus setup + Auto, 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1400, 1600, 1800, 2000, 2200, 2400, 2600 MHz
Peripheral bus frequency control + PCI-E = 100-200 MHz at 1 MHz steps
PCI IRQ manual assignment +  
FSB frequency setup + 200--600 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier + from x5 at x0.5 steps
CPU core voltage control + 0.8000-1.6625 V at 0.0125 V steps, you can also control CPU VDDA within 2.52-2.83 V at variable steps
Memory voltage control + 1.80-2.50 V at 0.02 V steps
Chipset voltage control + Northbridge:
1.10-1.40 V at 0.02 V steps
Southbridge: 1.20-1.56 V at 0.02 V steps
HT bus voltage control + 1.20-1.50 V at 0.02 V steps

We used BIOS 0901 dated 2008/05/29, the latest release 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.

The choice of options is sufficient for serious overclocking. However, maximum CPU and memory voltages are not very high compared to similar motherboards from competitors. But it's not a drawback from the practical point of view, because raising voltages to break new records has nothing to do with increasing voltage for everyday use. There is a semi-automatic overclocking mode (AI Overclock), which allows to raise frequencies by 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30%.


In order to evaluate motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock our testbed processor to a maximum stable level. We use all features of the motherboard in this test, including raising CPU voltage and adjusting multipliers and frequencies of system and peripheral buses, if necessary. But if, for example, reducing Hyper-Transport frequency does not improve overclocking, we leave the default multiplier. Memory is set to the standard frequency for a given memory module (multiplier correction), if a manufacturer does not publish any ways to improve memory overclocking. Otherwise, we analyze their efficiency as well. In order to evaluate stability of the overclocked system, we load Windows XP and run WinRAR performance test for 10 minutes (Tools -- Benchmark and hardware test). As overclocking potential is an individual property of a given motherboard sample to some degree, we don't set the task to determine overclocking potential to within a single MHz. In practice, we are to find out whether CPU overclocking will be limited by a motherboard as well as to evaluate its behavior in non-standard modes, including automatic restoration of a correct frequency after a failed overclocking attempt, etc.

  Clock, MHz FSB Clock, MHz Core voltage (according to system monitoring in BIOS), V HT bus frequency (multiplier), MHz
Athlon 64 X2 4000+ (2.0 GHz) 3100 310 1.54 1242 (x4)

In fact, the processor was overclocked to maximum. It was to be expected from a motherboard with such a powerful voltage regulator, designed for overclockers. However, it's not correct to compare these results with the ones obtained with ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe, because we've replaced a CPU since that time, and the new processor has a higher overclocking potential.

You can trust the motherboard to restore default BIOS settings after a failed overclocking attempt. The option to save good BIOS settings is now considered a must in a motherboard for overclockers (it's the first time that ASUS uses this feature, but the company still has come up with the most advanced option -- you can save settings not only to CMOS, but also to an external drive).


Testbed configurations

  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+
  • Memory: 2 x Kingston KHX7200D2K2/1G (DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15)
  • Discrete graphics: ATI Radeon X1900 XTX, 512 MB GDDR3; ATI Radeon HD 3870, 512 MB GDDR4
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200 rpm)
  • Power supply unit: Chieftec CFT-560-A12C
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

As this motherboard is actually the first of its kind -- an expensive model supporting top configurations of graphics cards (in case of NVIDIA cards), but it also contains an integrated graphics core, we decided to compare it with a motherboard based on the GeForce 8200 chipset, which graphics core is supposedly used in this case. However, all assumptions must be verified. Of course, in our tests with discrete graphics we also publish results of a similar motherboard -- ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe.

Test Integrated graphics Discrete graphics
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 2:39 2:33 2:39 2:31 2:32
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 6:07 6:01 6:03 5:58 6:00
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Medium@800x600), fps 45.1 45.8 57.2 57.9 57.6
Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1024x768), fps 35.7 36.2 57.3 57.8 57.3
FarCry (Medium@800x600), fps 61.0 61.6 131.0 127.0 128.2
FarCry (High@1024x768), fps 41.6 42.2 131.6 127.6 127.5
DOOM III (Medium@800x600), fps 40.0 40.6 136.8 137.6 137.1
DOOM III (High@1024x768), fps 26.2 27.4 135.5 136.7 136.0

Our assumptions were confirmed in the integrated graphics mode, the graphics core is identical to GeForce 8200, their frequencies are certainly the same as well. But when the integrated graphics core is used, we registered a smaller performance drop in computing tests, while results of the integrated core in games are of no practical value. This motherboard will hardly be chosen for a computer without graphics cards.

Our tests also revealed a small fly in the ointment. The motherboard supports our standard graphics card for tests (Radeon X1900XTX). But when we tried to install a Radeon HD 3870, it rebooted in the process of loading an operating system. We had some GeForces at hand, and they worked just fine. Formally, we can write it off to some incompatibilities on the chipset level (and add once again that such motherboards are usually used with GeForce cards). However, that seems to be a mistake made by ASUS engineers, not by NVIDIA, because we didn't notice any global incompatibility between nForce 780a and graphics cards based on AMD GPUs. Besides, as far as we've heard from users, ASUS already has a symmetric problem with the M3A motherboard on the AMD 770 chipset with some graphics cards from NVIDIA. We might have understood such a mistake made by a small company, which might test only the most likely combinations (graphics cards and chipsets from the same manufacturer), while other combinations are ignored for the lack of resources. But such a big company as ASUS is expected to test graphics cards at least on all currently manufactured GPUs. Especially as ASUS manufactures graphics cards based on processors from both manufacturers.


The market of SLI and CrossFire systems is growing. No matter what some analysts say, in some cases only pooling resources of two powerful graphics cards (or two GPUs on a single graphics card) can yield acceptable frame rates in complex games running in really high resolutions (1680x1050 and higher, which is presently the minimal resolution for a gaming computer, as wide 20" LCD monitors are getting cheap). Speaking of PCs with three or more graphics cards, they are for hardcore gamers. Percentage of such users is very low.

Nevertheless, ASUS does not complain about the lack of attention to this motherboard. Most users consider buying this model (and other similar products) for computers that can be upgraded in future. We are to thank the AMD platform here, because Socket AM2+ will also support processors for Socket AM3. And time will tell you whether to install three graphics cards or only two. On the contrary, it makes no sense to buy expensive motherboards for the Intel platform with a view to the future -- LGA775 will become obsolete in six or twelve months already.

Besides, we cannot ignore the fact that Phenoms perform better than Core 2 Quad processors in many games running in high resolutions (e.g. Crysis, World in Conflict, Call of Juarez, Company of Heroes). We don't even speak of comparing equally-priced models in a number of tests: an inexpensive Mid-End processor from AMD may outperform an Intel processor, which is five times as expensive, or more. It's not serious to refer to an outside article, so we are preparing our own review, traditionally full of details. Keep tabs on our new articles.

Motherboard provided by ASUS,
ATI Radeon HD 3870 provided by PowerColor.

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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, design

Page 2: Interfaces, package, controllers

Page 3: BIOS, overclocking, performance

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