Advantages Excellent all rounder with too many features to list
Disadvantages Not great for overclocking
|Ease of Installation|
|Value For Money|
I have recently become a big fan of Asus products. The first contact i had with them was when i purchased an A8v deluxe motherboard for my pc. At the time, it was the best motherboard available on the market, but this was mainly due to the small number of manufacturers catering for this format.Last month my younger brother pleaded with me to build him a computer which he can use for games, music, internet and all manner of things pc related. As Microsoft are slowly integrating 64 bit capability into almost all of their upcoming software, and 32 bit is being slowly phased out, I decided on starting with a 64 bit system. There are currently 3 formats of 64 bit system available, namely socket 754, socket 940 and socket 939. These 3 formats differ in their chip types and also in their compatability with other components used in the pc. The socket 939s have dual on-chip memory controllers and dont require ecc registered ram (the more expensive memory) as is the case with the socket 940 format. Socket 754 is now being phased out and parts available for a system incorporating this format are either very hard to come by or are outdated. This led me to the conclusion that building a socket 939 system was the most viable option.
The base of any system is the motherboard and this more often than not determines the speed at which all other components communicate with eachother. After having read many reviews and countless (riveting) pc magazines, the Asus A8N-SLi board seemed to be the best option in terms of features and price.
Consequently, an order was placed with Scan computers (www.scan.co.uk) as they tend to be the most competitive retailer around. The board cost approximately 92 GBPs but can also be found slightly cheaper if purchased as a bundle.
The A8N-SLi is crammed with features, most of which do not require the purchasing of extra pci cards. For example, you wouldnt need a separate sound card as the board has on-board 8 channel surround sound capabilities with both optical and digital spdif outputs. The board also has onboard networking capabilities with the inclusion of dual Gigabit Lan capabilities. This is now a pretty common feature on most up-to-date motherboards, but this one also has an on-board hardware firewall which they call "NV Firewall". This not only stops unwelcome intruders from accessing your pc but also protects the components from unwelcome changes to system settings and the Bios. This feature can however be a bit of a pain when trying to setup a wireless network and i found that i had to initially disable it in order to access the internet.The main point of this motherboard though has to be the SLi part. SLi or scalable link interface is not a new idea, however the technology used now is far more advanced than the original format used in 3dfx and voodoo cards. SLi allows the pc to have 2 graphics cards which are linked either by a bridge or a chip, with each card rendering different parts of the screen. The main advantage of this feature is of use to hardcore gamers who require high frame rates in the latest games with all of the options turned on (such as anisotropic filtering, etc). At the moment however the cost of 2 graphics cards which are SLi enabled is the main hurdle. The cost of these graphics cards will undoubtedly drop, so the SLi capability of this motherboard seems to be futureproof for the moment until a newer faster format is produced.
The motherboard also does away with a few pci slots and replaces them with the (up to 4 times) faster pci express slots, which will undoubtedly be the new format adopted by all future motherboards. It still incorporates 3 ordinary pci slots, so that if you are simply upgrading, you wont have to begin entirely from scratch.If you have a digital camera aswell as an mp3 player and a host of other accessories which require USB or Firewire (IE1394), then you will no longer have to be searching around the back of your case for a spare dock or changing the cables around for each one. The A8N-SLi has the capability to have up to 10 USB slots (although a couple of these have to be configured using the cable from the pc case and the headers on the board), and 2 Firewire slots.
As far as storage capabilities go, the A8N-SLi has SATA (Serial ATA) and Raid capabilities which in a nutshell means that 2 identical drives can be placed in an array for faster read and write times. The SATA interface is also faster than the existing ide interface but a power supply with a SATA power cable is needed or an adapter to cater for the change, as not all SATA enabled products have typical molex connectors.Aswell as these, the board hosts a myriad of patented Asus special features such as Asus EZFlash, which enables easy flashing and updating of the Bios, Asus Crashfree Bios which does exactly what it implies,Asus Qfan which automatically adjusts the fans according to temperatures and load of the pc and Asus Instant Music which allows cds to be played from the pc without entering into windows or whichever operating system you have (what good is this you may ask? it consumes less power and is quicker would be the simple answer).
Along with the board you are also supplied with every conceivable cable needed, a backplate for the case, a sticker, manual, a few external modules (com ports, firewire, usb, etc), win dvd suite cd and the drivers cd (which also has some useful software on it, such as an antivirus, cool ´n´quiet drivers, etc).All in all, Asus have put together a first class motherboard which does just about everything you would ever need it to do, and its not as expensive as some of the other boards available (Gigabyte for example). So far, the board has performed exceptionally well with no crashes, and the Asus website caters for any updates required to either the software or Bios.
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