ASUS is responsible for making some of the best motherboards in the industry, although many of them can be the most expensive money you can buy. Fortunately, this is not the case with the P5N-E SLI that we are testing today, at least not with the expensive part.
When buying an ASUS motherboard, consumers don't just pay for a brand name. The build quality of ASUS is excellent and mostly the whole package and the bundled functions are very valuable. However, recently we were disappointed with an overvalued and overpriced ASUS product that did nothing but sell a brand name. This product is none other than ASUS & # 39; s flagship Striker Extreme. This member of the "Republic of Gamers" costs a staggering $ 400, making it almost untouchable for the real gaming and enthusiast audience.
Although ASUS likes to take your money for this overpriced board, they also seem to be aware of the importance of delivering an affordable, high-performance product for the rest of us. They developed the P5N-E SLI, which is based on the extremely affordable Nvidia nForce 650i SLI chipset.
Of all the new nForce 6 series chipsets, this is certainly the smartest option for those looking for SLI support on the Core 2 Duo platform without all the extravagant options. In terms of performance, the 650i SLI is just as good as the 680i SLI. Why does the P5N-E SLI only cost $ 140 when the competing ASUS 680i SLI board costs $ 270?
When it comes to features, the 650i SLI lacks quite a bit, although none seems to have any real impact on performance. Motherboards equipped with the nForce 650i SLI do not (at least for the time being) offer 1333 MHz FSB support, EPP memory support, 28 PCI Express bus lanes, two SATA ports, two USB ports and a Gigabit LAN Port. I would say that most users can ignore the missing ports, and at least some will ignore the lack of official 1333 MHz FSB and EPP memory support, but the 28 missing PCI Express bus lanes sound pretty serious.
This is a minor problem for the ASUS P5N-E SLI, as only one PCIe 1x slot is available and the other 1x track is assigned to the integrated gigabit LAN controller. In addition, the SLI graphics cards have to share 16 PCIe lanes. When SLI is enabled, the bus is effectively split, creating two PCIe 8x slots. Now the old AGP 8x bus reached a maximum of 2.1 GB / s and provided more than enough bandwidth for the latest graphics cards. Then we have PCI Express 8x that can simultaneously transfer up to 2 GB / s in a certain direction (which enables a potential bandwidth of 4 GB / s).
In this case, the question arises whether PCI Express 8x can offer enough bandwidth for PCIe 16x graphics cards to perform at their best. The short answer is simple: yes, it does! Full 16x SLI support does not offer any real performance advantages over an 8x SLI setup. This will certainly not escape the players either.
To prove this point, we connected SLI GeForce 8800 GTX graphics cards to the P5N-E SLI and compared them to the Striker Extreme and P5N32-E SLI (another more expensive 680i offering from ASUS) with the same hardware configuration. The results are very interesting, but before we continue, let's look at a few more P5N-E SLI features.
As expected, the design of the P5N-E SLI board is well laid out, although we have a problem. The southbridge was exposed without any cooling, and while this didn't turn out to be a problem even when overclocking, it can put off some enthusiasts. We appreciate the fanless board design and the very large heat sink of the north bridge, which makes it possible to collect a lot of airflow that circulates around the case. The PCI Express slots were also far enough apart to satisfy two 8800 GTX boards.
The Marvell 88E1116 controller controls the single integrated Gigabit LAN. In addition to the four internal SATA300 ports on the motherboard, there is also a single eSATA port for portable hard drives. The board's 6-channel audio support comes from a Realtek ALC883 CODEC with audio capture and enumeration technology. There are also two Firewire ports (IEEE1394a), one of which is on the I / O panel. In addition, the P5N-E SLI contains a long list of ASUS brand features such as Q-Connector, O.C. Profile, Q-Fan2 and many others. Now it's time to let go of the P5N-E SLI against the Striker Extreme and the P5N32-E SLI.