Asus P5N-E SLI Review (Page 3 of 11)

Page 3 - A Closer Look, Board Layout

Using a chestnut colored PCB, you can't say that the P5N-E SLI did not incorporate traits of a typical Asus motherboard. Although it certainly does not have the classy looks of the Asus P5W64-WS Professional, one must take into account that the products are in completely different price ranges -- and this motherboard definitely has the positive aesthetics side of its own (I personally like the physical looks of this motherboard). Besides the large aluminum heatsink over the NVIDIA 650i Northbridge, there's no heatpipes or additional heatsinks anywhere -- much to our surprise.

The 24 pin power connector is nicely placed at the right side of the P5N-E SLI. An additional 4-pin Molex is not required to supply extra power to the motherboard. Anyway, let's take a look at individual aspects of this motherboard.

The CPU socket. There's quite a few things around it that may or may not get in the way of low clearing CPU coolers (Especially the Northbridge heatsink). Surprisingly, there are no heatsinks over the voltage regulator modules.

The Asus P5N-E SLI uses a 3-phase power design; unlike high end Asus motherboards which utilizes an 8-phase power design. In general, the more phases the better; as it theoretically reduces input ripple currents. Lower ripple currents will enhance CPU stability by supplying more stable voltages -- stable voltages means opportunity for higher overclocks.

In addition to that, power consumption is directly related to input ripple currents. There will be a slight difference in power consumption (Probably insignificant by today's standards), but less power consumption means less heat generation.

At the bottom lower corner are IDE connectors, SATA connectors, and miscellaneous case connectors such as power and HDD LEDs. Shown in the above photo is Asus' Q-Connector, which in my opinion is very useful as it converts random wires into an actual block -- and the block is labeled clearly of what is to connect to which.

I would really like to praise the NVIDIA 650i's native support for PATA devices. Because Intel dropped PATA support on P965 (ICH8R) so quickly, manufacturers have had to implement third party controllers in order to retain support for PATA drives (Primarily optical drives). This results in odd placements of IDE connectors, but native support of PATA devices on the NVIDIA 650i allowed Asus to put the IDE connectors at a very optimal location -- at the right side of the board -- angled to the edge. 4 SATA connectors are nicely placed right next to them as well.

A manual switch is required to configure between full 16 lanes to one PCIe x16 slot, or to split them into 8 lanes per PEG slots in SLI mode. The module unclips and removes at an approximate 45 degree angle similar to RAM modules in a Dell laptop.

Located at the left of the PCIe x1 slot is the ITE IT8718F-S monitoring chip. Below the bottom PCIe slot includes a FDD IDE connector; oddly placed there which may be a limitation to a nicely cabled computer. You'll need long floppy cables as well for this purpose.

Right below the black PEG slot is the VIA VT6308 IEEE 1394 controller chip. Much to our surprise, the NF430 MCP is not cooled by anything -- and may run hot during overclocking. Great case airflow is very important for this regard.

The heatsink covering the Northbridge runs extremely hot during overclocking. High FSB and voltage increases to the CPU will cause the heatsink to become so hot to the point that it is literally burning to touch -- similar to how you touch the side of a metal pot when water is being boiled. Our system occasionally locks up, so I decided to put a Noctua NF-R8 1800rpm 80mm fan over the Northbridge heatsink temporarily to blow heat away from the heatsink. Immediately our system stopped the random freezes. Asus should really consider implementing a heatpipe here; this heatsink is simply insufficient for cooling and an overheating Northbridge is completely unacceptable in my opinion.

In general, if you are planning to buy this board for overclocking, please make sure your case has very good airflow (We did not test ours in a case), and preferably, buy an aftermarket Northbridge heatsink as this will hinder stability -- especially during overclocks.

As many users mentioned, the yellow RAM slots are unstable. I tried to see if this problem still exists with the latest BIOS -- well, I was still experiencing many problems (Including to the event that nothing shows up on my screen when I tried to boot it up) with my RAM in the yellow slots with the latest BIOS at the time of review. Moving my memory to the black slots solved all the problems affected by this.

Personally, I would not use the yellow RAM slots at this stage, but it would be excellent if it was fixed in the future!

The back I/O ports. The standard PS/2 ports are located at the top; with a S/PDIF (Coaxial) out, parallel port, eSATA port, 4 USB ports, a PCIe based Marvell 88E1116 powered Gigabit Ethernet port, and three Realtek ALC883 powered multipurpose 3.5mm audio jacks. What this means to you is that, if you want 6 channel sound over the analog jacks, you can't use a microphone.

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 9.5, SuperPI 1M
7. Benchmark: EVEREST CPU
8. Benchmark: EVEREST FPU
9. Benchmark: EVEREST Memory
10. Benchmark: EVEREST Memory Latency, HDTach
11. Onboard Sound, Overclocking, Conclusion