Abit AN8 32X - nForce 4 SLI X16
Abit's A8N 32X nForce4 SLI X16 motherboard is a very good implementation of nVidia's top of the line gaming chipset. Unlike Asus's first try at this chipset, which was beset with months of issues and angry customers, Abit's board is much more solid out of the box. That isn't to say it doesn't have a quirk or too, but in comparison, Abit is getting off on a much better foot compared to their competitors.
Performance is solid, but isn't greater compared to other high-end nForce4 SLI platforms. This isn't particularly Abit's fault though, as nForce4 SLI / X16 motherboards typically tend to perform between 1-2% of each other in every situation. The A8N 32X performs up to par with other platforms, and that's about all we could ask. Our pair of GeForce 7800 GTX 256 MB cards in SLI didn't stress the PCI Express slots enough to show a difference between the PCIx 8 x 8 configurations of the nForce4 SLI and the 16 x 16 configurations of the nForce4 SLI X16.
For the vast majority of systems, there will be zero difference between the cheaper nForce4 SLI and the nForce4 SLI x16. However, if you're dropping the cash for a top of the line GeForce 7900 GTX SLI setup, throwing a few extra dollars towards a motherboard which can run them without any potential bottlenecks will be worth it. Also, if you have dedicated 16 x 16 slots, you can also run high-end PCI Express RAID cards in the secondary slot without affecting the bandwidth of the primary PCIe graphics slot, a good selling point for workstation customers.
Abit's fanless chipset cooling system (OTES) works better than expected, in comparison to the beefy all copper unit which Asus utilizes for their platform. The lighter and smaller Abit heatpipe cooling system is equally effective, keeping the hot nForce4 SLI X16 chipset cool with zero noise. At the same time, the board is quite overclockable, although lacks the hardcore tweaking options we would expect from an Abit board. The board has great thermal monitoring and fan speed controls through the dedicated uGuru chip, however. The design of the board is good as well, but could be improved. The placement of two of the three power connectors are in less than optimal positions, and we would like to see more room between PCI Express graphics slots, but as a whole, there are no major design flaws.
As a whole the Abit A8N 32X is a great high-end gaming motherboard which we would not hesitate to recommend. It's a bit cheaper than the Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard, although we still feel Asus has a better overall platform at this point (now that they have their BIOS issues worked out). Nevertheless, solid boards like this from Abit will help them re-claim their stake in the high-end enthusiast market if they can keep up their new found momentum.