Asus A7N8X Deluxe Motherboard Review

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The Asus A7N8X Deluxe Motherboard Review
May the 'nForce2' be with you

By, Jeff Bouton
January 9, 2003


Back when NVIDIA first announced they were entering the chipset market, one couldn?t help but wonder if companies like Via, Intel and SiS were looking over their shoulders.  At the time, NVIDIA shared control of the high end 3D Graphics market with no one, although ATi was poised for a long overdue resurgence.  The question was whether or not the company, who was extremely successful in the graphics card industry, would be able to carry that success over to the chipset market.  Certainly on-line media was eager to see if they were going to be able to inject new energy into an otherwise bland industry that was often full of hype.  Anyone who is familiar with VIA?s history, most particularly with the evolutionary process from the KT266A to the KT400, will understand what we mean.  When the KT333 became reality, soon the lack of any real performance gains over the KT266A became apparent.  A similar pattern followed with the KT400 where it offered minimal differences in performance compared to the KT333, or KT266A for that matter.  Could NVIDIA offer something that the others couldn?t?  Were they going to simply present us with their interpretation of technologies already available or were they willing to think outside the box?  With the introduction of the nForce chipset, we soon found the latter to be true.  NVIDIA made a serious effort to offer a product that was full of new technology and features, as well as performance that was competitive with anything else available at the time.

Recently, NVIDIA added a new chapter to their chipset story for the Athlon platform, with the introduction of the aptly named nForce2.    We were eager to see if they were going to ride on the success of the original nForce or if they were going to approach the next generation chipset with the same vigor and creativity they demonstrated with their original offering.  Back in June, Marco and I met with NVIDIA in New York City and were introduced to a prototype board built around the new chipset.  In the end, we walked away with a good feeling about what we saw.  Now we have an opportunity to review the Asus A7N8X Deluxe motherboard, one of the first motherboards available to adopt NVIDIA's new design.  Needless to say, we?ve been anxious to get our hands on one of these since then, and today that wait is finally over. 

Let?s take a look and see what the Asus A7N8X Deluxe motherboard has to offer.
 

Specifications of the Asus A7N8X Deluxe Motherboard
A Complete Package

Processor Support:
Socket A for AMD Athlon and Duron Processors

Chipsets
NVIDIA nForce2 SPP North Bridge
4Mbit Programmable Flash EPROM
NVIDIA nForce2 MCP-T/MCP South Bridge
Multi-I/O controller
Serial ATA Controller
1394 PHY Realtek 8801B

Main Memory
Maximum 3GB support
3 DDR DIMM Sockets

Expansion Slots
5 PCI Slots
1 Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) Pro Slot

System I/O
1 Floppy Disk Drive Connector
2 IDE Connectors (UltraDMA133/100/66 Support)
1 COM2 Header
1 Game port Connector
1 Infrared Connector
1 Panel Connector
1 SM Bus Connector
USB Headers (Ports 5/6)
Serial ATA Headers
Modem Connector
IEEE 1394 Headers
S/PDIF Connector
1 PS/2 Mouse Connector (green)
1 PS/2 Keyboard Connector (purple)
RJ45 Connector (3COM LAN Controller)

RJ45 Connector (NVIDIA LAN Controller)
1 Parallel Port
USB Connectors (Ports 3/4)
USB Connectors (Ports 1/2)
1 Serial Ports (COM1)

Hardware Monitoring
System Voltage Monitor (integrated in ASUS ASIC)

Special Feature
Onboard LED (Green)
On board AGP Warning LED (Red)

Network Feature
Realtek 8201 BL PHY
BroadCom PHY
3Com LAN
NVIDIA LAN

Audio Features
Audio Codec
CD I AUX Audio Connectors
Front Panel Audio Connectors
1 Line In Connector (light blue)
1 Line Out Connector (lime)
1 Microphone Connector ..: (pink)
1 S/PDIF out Connector (yellow)
1 Surround UR audio Connector (violet)
1 CNTR I LFE Connector (orange)

Power
ATX Power Supply Connector

Form Factor
ATX


Below are the items that were included with the sample we received for review:
 

ASUS A7N8X support CD
ASUS 2-port USB/Game port module
40-pin 80 conductor Ultra DMA 133/100/66/33 IDE ribbon cable
Ribbon cable for a 3.5-inch floppy drive
COM 2 bracket
I/O shield
Bag of extra jumper caps
User Guide
2 Serial ATA Cables (optional)
2 ASUS IEEE 1394 2-port brackets (optional)
2 ASUS IEEE 1394 cable (optional)


The A7N8X Deluxe comes with a nice compliment of hardware to take full advantage of this motherboard's capabilities.  Detailed documentation is provided covering the board's features and set up.  A User?s Manual is provided which covers all of the system?s details from its BIOS settings to each component's functions, while a Quick Setup Guide is included to cover the physical installation of the board.  Just incase the manual gets misplaced, Asus includes a Quick Reference Guide to help identify the physical components of the system, and a smaller, more detailed, sticker version is provided to adhere to the inner part of the case. 
One floppy cable, a 40-conductor IDE, and an 80-conductor IDE cable were included.  2 serial ATA cables were also provided to use with the integrated SATA RAID controller.  An IEEE 1394 2-port bracket and cables can be connected to the FireWire headers of the system board.  A 2-port USB/Game port module is included to support older joysticks or MIDI inputs and it also adds two more USB ports to the system.  Asus also provides a Serial Port bracket for users who may need an additional serial connection.  The Setup CD contained everything needed to get the board up and running.  The disk also comes with a decent selection of complimentary software such as ASUS PC Probe, ASUS update, WinBond Voice Editor and PC-Cillin 2002 to name a few.
 

More Software, Quality and Setup

 

Tags:  Asus, Motherboard, N8, review, board, UX, view, IE, A7, AR

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