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The ASUS K8N-E Deluxe Socket 754 Motherboard
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Date: Oct 12, 2004
Section:Motherboards
Author: Jeff Bouton
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Introduction

 

Although AMD's socket 939 platform has moved into the mainstream with the recent release of 939-pin Athlon 64 3000+ and 3200+ CPUs, products based on the older socket 754 platform are still in demand.  While the new socket 939 processors have been met with much fanfare (and relatively high price tags), the older socket 754 Athlon 64s have proven to be a solid processor.  And now that lower-speed socket 939 processors have begun to arrive, the older design has started to drop in price, and socket 754 processors have become much more affordable.

While socket 754 will eventually fade away at some point in the future, there is currently no sign that demand has waned.  OEMs are still producing a wide range of boards to accommodate the chip.  The latest of these boards to hit the HotHardware test labs is the ASUS K8N-E Deluxe based on the NFORCE 3 250Gb chipset.  The K8N-E is a culmination of everything good that ASUS has to offer for the Athlon 64.  The K8N-E Deluxe offers a broad range of features delivered by a proven chipset and ASUS has sweetened the deal with some custom options of their own.  Let's take a look.

ASUS K8N-E Deluxe Socket 754
Loaded to the Brim

 

CPU
- Socket 754 for AMD Athlon 64
- AMD64 architecture enables simultaneous 32- and 64-bit computing
- Supports AMD Cool 'n' Quiet Technology


Chipset
- NVIDIA nForce3 250Gb

System Bus
- 800 MHz

Memory
- 3 x 184-pin DIMM Sockets support max. 3GB DDR400/DDR333/DDR266 ECC/non-ECC un-buffered DDR SDRAM memory

Expansion Slots
- 1 x AGP8X (1.5V only)
- 5 x PCI


Storage
Chipset
- 2 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33
- 2 x Serial ATA, support RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1, JBOD


Silicon Image Sil 3114 SATA controller:
- 4 x Serial ATA
- RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10, RAID 5, JBOD


AI Audio
- Realtek ALC850
- 8-channel CODEC
- Audio Sensing and Enumeration Technology
- Coaxial/Optical S/PDIF out ports on back I/O


Gigabit LAN
- Chipset built-in Gigabit MAC with external Marvell PHY supporting
- 10/100/1000 BASE-T Ethernet


IEEE 1394
- VIA VT6307 controller supports 2 x 1394 ports

USB 2.0
8 USB2.0 ports

AI BIOS
CrashFree BIOS 2
Q-Fan 2
Post Reporter


AI Overclocking
- ASUS JumperFree
- CPU, Memory, and AGP voltage adjustable
- SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection) from 200MHz up to 250MHz at 1MHz increment
- Adjustable FSB/DDR ratio. Fixed AGP/PCI frequencies.
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)


Special Features
- ASUS MyLogo2
- ASUS Multi-language BIOS
- ASUS Instant Music
- ASUS EZ Flash

Back Panel I/O Ports
- 1 x Parallel
- 1 x Serial
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse
- 1 x 8-channel Audio I/O
- 1 x RJ45
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF Output
- 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Output
- 4 x USB 2.0/1.1
- 1 x IEEE1394


Internal I/O Connectors
- 2 x USB 2.0 connector supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports
- CPU / Chassis / Power FAN connectors
- 20-pin ATX Power connector
- 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector
- Chassis Intrusion
- CD / AUX audio in
- IEEE1394 port
- GAME/MIDI connector
- COM connector
- Front panel audio connector


BIOS Feature
- 4 Mb Flash ROM, AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.3

Industry Standard
- PCI 2.2 , USB 2.0

Manageability
- WfM 2.0,DMI 2.0,WOL by PME,WOR by PME, Chassis Intrusion

Support CD
- Drivers
- ASUS PC Probe
- Trend Micro PC-cillin 2002 anti-virus software (OEM version)
- ASUS LiveUpdate Utility


Accessories
- InterVideo WinDVD Suite Platinum
- User's manual
- 2 x UltraDMA cables
- IDE cable
- FDD cable
- 4 x Serial ATA cables
- 2 x 2-port SATA power cables
- 2-port USB2.0 / Game module
- I/O shield
- IEEE1394 cable


Form Factor
-ATX Form Factor
-12"x 9.6"(30.5cm x 24.5cm)

The K8N-E deluxe comes in a sharp looking box that focuses on ASUS' AI technology.  When we opened up the package, we found a complete retail bundle that gives the user everything needed to successfully install and enjoy their new system.  With multiple IDE and SATA cables, SATA power adapters, USB brackets, I/O Shield and Setup CD with bonus software bundle, the K8N-E Deluxe delivers.

    

The Setup CD comes with all of the necessary drivers for all of the board's on-board components.  The Utilities tab houses a complete collection of software, most of which is designed to work with the ASUS-specific features of the K8N-E Deluxe.  ASUS includes their Cool'n'Quiet Software for throttling system fans based on temperature.  ASUS PC Probe and Update tools are used for collecting system information as well as updating system drivers and BIOS from within Windows.  ASUS also covered the basics with a free, although dated, copy of Trend Micro's PC-Cillin and NVIDIA's System Utility for overclocking the board from within Windows.  The crown jewel of the software bundle is InterVideo's WinDVD Suite Platinum, a full version suite that provides DVD authoring and playback capability.

    

The K8N-E's retail bundle covers all aspects of installation and setup nicely.  As a whole, ASUS includes one of the most complete hardware complements you're apt to find with a motherboard.

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Quality and Setup of the ASUS K8N-E Deluxe

 

Quality and Setup of the ASUS K8N-E Deluxe
What's Under the Hood?

The Board:

From a physical standpoint, the K8N-E Deluxe is fairly impressive.  The board comes with a solid collection of features that left us wanting very little.  Sporting 5 PCI slots and 1 AGP slot, the K8N-E is built with expansion in mind.  Some may argue a 6th PCI is always a plus, but in this case we think it won't be missed.  With the NFORCE 3 supporting SATA natively, this board comes with a total of 6 SATA RAID connections.  The chipset drives the two mounted near the AGP slot and a Silicon Image SATALink chip drives the other 4 near the case connections.  Additionally, the 2 native SATA ports support RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and JBOD, while the SIL3114 controllers offers the same plus RAID 5.  The board also comes with 2 common IDE ports and a floppy connection for legacy support. 

    

The K8N-E comes with a total of 3 DIMM slots capable of 3GB at speeds up to PC3200 (400MHz).  The board also comes with a total of 2 USB headers, expanding the board's USB 2.0 support by an additional 4 ports.  These complement the 4 ports provided off the back of the mainboard, leaving no shortage of USB ports on this board.  The rear of the board also provides standard PS/2 connections for Keyboard and Mouse, a FireWire port, SPIDF Optical and Coaxial outputs as well as Serial and LPT1 connections.  There is one Ethernet port, providing Gigabit capabilities.  For those interested in traditional 15-Pin game/joystick port, ASUS includes a header that marries up with the case bracket included in the bundle, which includes the game port as well as 2 USB ports.

    

When it comes to connecting the board to a computer case, ASUS made it as simple as possible.  With individual color codes and clear labelling, connecting the case's LEDs and Power/Reset Switches is a no brainer.  The only real shortcoming of this board was the limited amount of fan headers.  With a total of three, one is used by the CPU and one connects to the PSU to provide fan speed readings in the Hardware Monitor, leaving one remaining for a chassis fan.  Ideally, we would like to see at least one more header on the board, if not two.  And let us not forget to mention the on-board audio powered by a RealTek ALC850 chip, providing 8.1 Surround Sound.  The rear audio header provides a total of 6 connections coupled with the aforementioned SPIDF connections totalling 8 ports.

The BIOS:

The K8N-E Deluxe comes equipped with a potent BIOS that has an excellent selection of options.  The main focus is on ASUS' AI Overclocking utility, which offers overclocking profiles of 1, 3, 5 and 10% as well as manual adjustments.  When set manually, The Processor Frequency setting becomes available and allows the multiplier to be reduced in .5X increments down to 4X on Cool'n'Quiet enabled CPUs.

    

    

There are also several voltage options which are useful for reaching a stable overclock.  The CPU voltage options were broad, ranging from 1.375v through 1.75V in .025v increments.  This gives the user a very fine adjustment range when tweaking processor performance.  The DDR and AGP Voltages were standard fare, ranging from 2.5, 2.6, 2.7v DDR and 1.5, 1.6, 1.7v AGP. 

    

The DDR memory can also be locked to run at 400, 333, 266 and 200MHz DDR, most handy when running slower memory or attempting overlocked bus speeds that far exceed your memory's capabilities.  A decent range of latency settings are also available, such as CAS settings of 2, 2.5 and 3 as well as RAS Precharge from 2-6 in increments of 1.  Lastly, we have the Hardware Monitor which reports system status pertaining to temperature, voltages and fan speeds.

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Test Setup and Synthetic Testing With SANDRA

 

The HotHardware Test Bed
Athlon 64 Power

Hardware

ASUS K8N-E DELUXE
(NFORCE3 250Gb)
ABIT KV8 Pro (K8T800Pro)
AMD Athlon 64 - 3200+
NVIDIA GeForce 6800
512MB Kingston HyperX PC3500 CAS 2
Integrated Audio
Western Digital ATA100
30GB - 7200RPM
Artec DVD+/-R/RW

Software

Windows XP Professional SP-2
DirectX 9.0c
VIA 4-in-1 v4.53
NVIDIA Forceware - Graphics v61.77
NVIDIA Forceware - NFORCE v5.10
SiSoft SANDRA 2004 Pro
Content Creation Winstone 2004
Business Winstone 2004
Unreal Tournament 2004
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
XMPEG
Windows Media Encoder 9


Overclocking
Squeezing it for Everything We Can Get

Before we get started with the benchmarking segment, let's take a moment to see how the K8N-E overclocked.  With a working multiplier register and memory divider, we had high hopes for this board.  Typically, we've only teetered on getting our Athlon 3200+ up to 2.2GHz at most, with a bus set for 220.  In the end, our experience was pretty good, although we still ended up running the processor at 2.2GHz.  By adjusting the multiplier setting to 9.5X, we reached a peak bus of 232MHz, which resulted on the processor running at 2.2GHz.  Our DDR memory had to be configured to run at 333MHz which resulted in it running at 400MHz DDR when running the bus at 232MHz.  So the biggest gain was the CPU at 2.2GHz, a modest increase of 10%.  We then ran a quick round of our custom UT2004 Demo and managed to increase the performance from 107FPS to 116FPS. This resulted in a real world boost of 8.5% overall.

SiSoftware's SANDRA 2004
Let's Start with the Synthetics

To get a quick assessment of expected system performance, we like to run three common modules included in SANDRA 2004: CPU, Multimedia and Memory.  Below we ran each test twice, once at stock speeds and then while overclocked.

    

    

Our test bed compared nicely to the reference systems in SANDRA's internal database, only falling to the 3.2GHz P4.  Memory performance was where the board really shined, taking the top spot.  Once we overclocked the system, the picture changed a bit.  The CPU and Multimedia tests excelled, but the memory scores were slower simply by the process of overclocking as we covered earlier.  Overall, though, the system boost was respectable.

Next, we'll shift our focus to our collection of benchmarks to assess the K8N-E's performance in a wide variety of tasks.  We've also included results from a VIA K8T800 Pro board to give a frame of reference for the results.

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More Synthetics with FutureMark

 

FutureMark's 3DMark03 - CPU Test
Focusing on CPU Performance

3DMark03's CPU module is an excellent tool for focusing on CPU performance, with any given chipset.  Let's see how the ASUS K8N-E compared to our K8T800 Pro reference board.

The CPU scores were close with both systems, but the Abit KV8 Pro eked out a lead of 19 additional points over the ASUS K8N-E.  Regardless, these scores are very close and users will likely not see any difference in performance under normal conditions.  Next, we'll look to cover a broader picture with PCMark04.

FutureMark's PCMark04
A Great All-In-One Test

PCMark04 is a good tool for assessing the four subsystems of a computer system: CPU, Memory, Graphics and Hard Drive.  This gives us a wider scope of system performance, issuing a total score as well as a breakdown of each subsystem. 

On average, each system was virtually tied in performance, except when it came to graphics performance.  Here, the scales were tipped in favor of the ASUS K8N-E Deluxe, giving the NFORCE3 250Gb board a commanding lead over the K8T800 Pro, at least in this synthetic test.  Nonetheless, the K8T800's winning CPU and Memory scores balanced out the Total score, letting it pull ahead of the K8N-E by 14 points.

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Wolfenstein: ET and UT2004

 

 

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory & UT2004
Tried a

Another proven method for assessing a motherboard's performance is to run several gaming benchmarks with reduced image quality and resolution.  This allows us to minimize the effects of the graphics card on the test, focusing more on CPU and Memory performance.  For this we used Wolfenstein: ET and UT2004.

 

With Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, the results were a dead heat, with the ASUS K8N-E taking a half frame.  The UT2004 scores leaned more in favor of the K8T800 Pro, topping the NFORCE3 by 3FPS.  Either way you look at it, these are very close scores that are do not strongly favor one board over the other.  What it does show is the ASUS K8N-E Deluxe is a powerful motherboard that is more than capable of competing with its peers.

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XMPEG and Windows Media Encoder 9

 

 

XMPEG 5.03 & Windows Media Encoder 9
Digital Video Encoding

Testing CPU and Memory performance are some of the most critical tests of a motherboard review.  Aside from Synthetic test and scaled down gaming benchmarks, video encoding is an excellent method for assessing performance since it is extremely reliant on the CPU.  We like to use both XMPEG and Windows Media Encoder to time the conversion of AVI and WMV files to see how efficient one motherboard is over another.

 

While one might expect one system to excel in both tests, this wasn't the case.  When we ran the XMPEG test, the program converted our test MPEG to and AVI, and the Abit comparison board completed the process slightly quicker than the ASUS K8N-E at 1:20 minutes.  When we switched to WME9, the scales shifted, with the ASUS K8N-E topping the K8T800 Pro board by :26 seconds.

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Winstone Test Suite 2004 and Conclusion

 

Business & Content Creation Winstones
Real-World Application Performance

PC Magazine's Winstone Test Suite is an excellent benchmarking tool for testing the CPU, memory, and overall system performance.  Content Creation Winstone focuses on common media intensive tasks, while Business Winstone assesses general workstation application performance.  Below is a breakdown of each package's software complement that is used to issue an overall score when complete.

       Content Creation 2004 v1.0.1        Business Winstone 2004 v1.0.1
  • Adobe Photoshop 7.0.1
  • Adobe Premiere 6.50
  • Macromedia Director MX 9.0
  • Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 6.1
  • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9 Version 9.00.00.2980
  • NewTek's LightWave 3D 7.5b
  • Steinberg WaveLab 4.0f
  • Microsoft Access 2002
  • Microsoft Excel 2002
  • Microsoft FrontPage 2002
  • Microsoft Outlook 2002
  • Microsoft PowerPoint 2002
  • Microsoft Project 2002
  • Microsoft Word 2002
  • Norton Antivirus Professional Edition 2003
  • WinZip 8.1

With the two Winstone tests, we saw a similar pattern as we did with the encoding tests.  Content Creation 2004, which utilizes Windows Media Encoder 9, was a strong test for the ASUS K8N-E, topping the K8T800 Pro by 1.1 points.  Conversely, Business Winstone 2004 leaned in favor of the K8T800 Pro, albeit by a mere half point.  As we stated earlier, these results do not show one board having a commanding lead over the other, but merely that each is competitive as a top Athlon 64 based motherboard option.

 

As we bring this review to a close, we find it difficult to find many negatives with regard to the ASUS K8N-E Deluxe motherboard. The product delivered on all fronts, offering exceptional features, a premium retail bundle, and performance that is to be expected in its class.  Our overclocking experience was decent, but could have been stronger, perhaps with different hardware, but general performance and stability was excellent.  We had absolutely no issues installing this board and experienced no crashes during normal testing. 

With a packed retail bundle and excellent feature set, the ASUS K8N-E weighs in at a respectable $138.  All we can say is that if you are in the market for a premium class Socket 754 motherboard, the ASUS K8N-E fits the bill.

We Give the ASUS K8N-E Motherboard a HotHardware Heat Meter Rating of 8.5...

 

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