Asus M3N-HT Deluxe Review (Page 3 of 13)

Page 3 - A Closer Look, Board Layout

Asus' M3N-HT Deluxe motherboard is built upon the trademark Asus chestnut/black colored printed circuit board. Everything should be quite familiar in terms of color combination if you're familiar with Asus motherboards -- whether it'd be the PCI Express slots or SATA connectors.

An L-shaped copper heatpipe system reaches as far as the Southbridge to bring heat away; while a small block is built over the Northbridge on the Asus M3N-HT Deluxe to cool the NVIDIA 780a chip. Two heatpipes lead away from the Northbridge to a block array of copper fins at the back for rear heat exhaust. Meanwhile, the included dual memory heatpipe cooler can be attached via four screws on top of the Northbridge cooling block to make it look like it's part of the heatpipe system -- we have to admit that it actually looks pretty cool (The heatpipes leading to the metal piece over the Northbridge doesn't do any real heat dissipation at that specific point).

Like majority of motherboards manufactured today, the Asus M3N-HT Deluxe uses 100% solid aluminum capacitors.

A shot at the back of the motherboard. With Asus' Stack Cool 2, where a layer of metal is integrated into the motherboard to spread heat generated by components around more evenly. Through this, it lowers the amount of concentrated heat spots in one area but instead distributes it over a larger surface area for better heat dissipation.

By the way, see the CPU backplate? Yeah, I haven't used AMD for a while... haha.

The standard AMD retention bracket surrounds the 940-pin socket for AM2 CPUs. Heatpipes run around the CPU socket in reasonable proximity and height; along with capacitors and voltage regulators that should not have any problems in terms of compatibility with aftermarket CPU coolers. Along the left of the AM2 socket are ten voltage regulators in a row -- for what Asus calls the "8+2 phase power design". The idea behind it is that it has an 8-phase power regulation for the CPU and 2 additional ones for the integrated memory controller on AMD processors.

The 4-pin/8-pin EPS power connector is placed on the left side of the CPU socket vertically instead of the standard horizontal configuration. This is quite similar to what Gigabyte used in their X48T-DQ6 motherboard we reviewed last month, except that the clip faces towards the right rather than left to the I/O backplate -- making it a lot more convenient to use. You may still run into problems with large aftermarket CPU coolers, but so will a standard plug facing up in regards to the power supply.

Asus M3N-HT Deluxe's memory sockets are placed fairly close to the CPU socket -- so large coolers may have clearance issues with memory that utilizes tall heatsinks. On the positive side, the memory sockets are placed high and near the top of the board for a large clearing between the bottom clips and the main PCI Express slot. I can see this from a design perspective that the M3N-HT Deluxe doesn't incorporate fancy multiphase power designs like other Asus high end boards, therefore this implementation is possible -- but hey, most AM2 boards are not astoundingly expensive anyways -- so we don't expect a lot of high end features at this point anyways.

The 24-pin power connector is placed as in standard configuration along the right of the motherboard.

Placed along the bottom right of the motherboard edge are six SATA2 and one PATA connector. All these are provided by the NVIDIA 780a SLI MCP; the nForce 200 Southbridge is only responsible for the PCI Express slots. The battery is placed between the nForce 200 chip and the storage ports, making it an ideal location because other components will not inhibit access in case you need to clear the CMOS sometime down the road. The ITE IT8716 chip can be seen at an angle as well in the photo above.

Placed along the bottom are what you'd normally see -- the bottom right corner has the case I/O pins; Asus' excellent Q-Connector block is included out of the box as well. Three sets of internal USB connectors for a total of six USB ports are supported. Two internal Firewire ports, in red, can be seen next to the internal USB connectors. These are supplied by an LSI FW322 chip on the Asus M3N-HT Deluxe.

The Asus M3N-HT Deluxe offers a generous array of expansion slots as well. From the top is a PCI Express x16 slot, followed by a PCI slot, another PCIe slot, then a PCI slot, a third PCIe slot, and finally a PCIe x1 slot. A total of three PEG slots are placed because this motherboard supports 3-way SLI in 16-8-8 configuration.

Between the first PCI slot and the second PEG slot is the flash memory chip used to store Asus' Express Gate onboard Linux OS.

One of the biggest complaints is that -- if you look closely at the bottom of the board, you'll see a floppy drive connector. To be truly honest, most people don't even need a floppy nowadays -- but if you are going to use one with the M3N-HT Deluxe, all I can say is, good luck and have fun with the cabling.

The backplate connectors on the Asus M3N-HT Deluxe. It's quite a simple design -- there's really not a lot to see here. There's only four USB ports, one PS/2 port (If you still need it), and the standard array of digital and analog audio connectors powered by the popular ADI 1988B audio codec. A single NVIDIA powered Gigabit ethernet port can also be seen above the Marvell 6111 supplied eSATA port. In terms of video, the M3N-HT Deluxe has both VGA and HDMI (And DVI with the included HDMI to DVI converter) outputs -- whether you want to use it for just casual computing or NVIDIA HybridPower, there's a load of flexibility in this regard. The only thing I would like to highlight is that the NVIDIA 780a only has a single-link DVI; and are able to drive flat-panel displays supporting single-link TMDS at 162 MHz pixel clock. When connected to the motherboard GPU, the maximum resolution will be 1920x1440 -- or mainly if you are concerned about 1920x1200; the standard for 24" widescreen monitors.

I can't say I am exactly disappointed in this area, but it would be excellent if there's just more USB ports at the back. Four at the back of the motherboard in 2008 just won't cut it haha. On the positive side, the Asus Q-Shield is a pretty sweet EMI shielded and padded I/O shield. Yes, it's awkward to say 'shield' so many times in one sentence, by the way.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Features, and Specifications
2. Bundle, Chipset, BIOS
3. A Closer Look, Board Layout
4. Test System; Benchmark: 3DMark06
5. Benchmark: PCMark05
6. Benchmark: Cinebench R10, SuperPI 1M
7. Benchmark: EVEREST CPU
8. Benchmark: EVEREST FPU
9. Benchmark: EVEREST Memory
10. Benchmark: EVEREST Memory Latency, HDTach
11. Onboard Sound (RMAA 6.06) Analyzation
12. Asus Express Gate Onboard Linux
13. Overclocking and Conclusion