Asus A7N8X Deluxe nForce2 Motherboard Review
Layout and Features
This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective's website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.The Asus A7N8X motherboard layout is a mixed bag for sure. One of the first things you can see when looking at the image below is that the processor socket does not have a lot of room. The capacitors on the bottom of the socket (or to the left in the image) are too close for the installation of larger heatsinks, and even the Vantec CopperX heatsinks required the slight adjustment of one of the capacitors to get it installed. What’s interesting, is that Asus continued to implement the four mounting holes around the processor socket, which are used for even larger heatsinks – most of which wouldn’t fit on the board with its current setup.
The memory slots are placed well in that they will not interfere with the installation of any heatsinks and that the retentions clips on the DIMM slots will not contact your AGP video card as we have seen occur on many of the KT400 boards available on the market.
In a related layout note, the ATX power connector on the nForce2 motherboards can no longer be placed between the north bridge (or SPP as NVIDIA calls it) and the DIMM slots. The delicacy of the DualDDR technology and the desire to offer support for DDR400 speeds requires that the traces between the chipset and the memory be as flawless as possible to prevent any kind of interference. Asus chose then to place it beyond the memory slots and around the IDE connectors and floppy connector. This kind of causes the removal of the ATX power connector to be a hassle when you have the IDE and/or floppy cables installed already – just a minor issue here.
The Asus A7N8X is one of the few motherboards, be it nForce2 chipset or KT400 chipset, to continue to offer an AGP Pro interface that supports 8X AGP for workstation class graphics cards. Most end users will never be able to take advantage of the extra bandwidth that this offers, those with high-end Quadro cards and beyond will find the Asus A7N8X to be one of your best AMD-solutions for a workstation. There are also five PCI slots on the motherboard as well, and when you see the remainder of the feature set the Deluxe model offers, you might even wonder why they have that many.
The Deluxe model takes advantage of much of the MCP2 chipset to bring a list of features to the A7N8X that should satisfy all. First, the A7N8X Deluxe uses the integrated APU of the nForce2 chipset for the SoundStorm Dolby-Digital audio setup. It supports 6-channel audio and is the only 5.1 Dolby Digital Decoder on a sound chipset available today. This sound solution is way beyond any AC’97 audio that you have heard before and I can’t imagine any users except the most serious of audio professionals needing more than this can offer you.
You can see that the Asus A7N8X Deluxe puts all the audio connections right on the back plate panel including a SPDIF output.
Also from that image above, you can see that the A7N8X Deluxe offers the optional dual network interfaces from the NVIDIA nForce2 chipset. There is one network interface powered by the 3Com controller (built into the MCP2) and the other by the NVIDIA controller. This is another feature that many home users can use (in order to setup home firewalls or routers on one PC) and a feature that high-end systems and workstations can utilize.
The Deluxe model of the A7N8X brings Serial ATA to the easy use of home users by integrating the Silicon Image chipset, SataLink 3112. When it becomes widely available, Serial ATA will offer speeds of up to 150 MB/s. And, as it seems now, a select few retailers are already carrying the first SATA hard drives available the Seagate 80GB SATA drives. Asus has included two connectors on the motherboard for installation of two SATA drives.
Between the second and third PCI slots you will find these two connectors that bring Firewire support to the A7N8X Deluxe. These headers are used in conjunction with a supplied cable and back panel to add four Firewire ports to your machine. Firewire is a popular format of media for DTV, camcorders and more.
Other features on the Asus motherboard include 6 USB 2.0 ports, provided both on the back panel and via a separate dongle included with the motherboard. Asus implements a processor overheating protection feature and if enabled can prevent a processor from being friend due to a dead heatsink or fan.
That about sums up the layout and features. Now lets move into the software side of things: into the bios of the motherboard.