Asus P5N-E SLI Nvidia nForce 650i SLI
At a price near $150, the Asus P5N-E SLI is a pretty great value in our eyes. The board delivers superb overclocking, silent stock cooling, and a solid feature set, not to mention SLI support as well. The board definitely has a mid-range feel to it, as some of the high-end niceties are missing and one has to work a little harder to truly get the expected performance out of the board, but in the end, we like the P5N-E. It's cheap but can provide great performance levels, if you don't mind rolling up your sleeves and dedicating some time for tweaking.
We will certainly say that we feel Asus rushed this board out to market a little too quickly. Competing nForce 650i SLI solutions are just hitting the market now, and if Asus had given this board a little more time to bake in the oven, we think they could have worked out some of the early quirks we're seeing with today's boards. Some of the problems with the board are downright confusing, like why one set of memory slots are more stable than the other, and why sometimes plugging in USB devices will reboot the system - just strange stuff. Hopefully over the next few weeks we'll see Asus get a more finalized version of the BIOS out there for early adopters, as we're certain that there is a great board here in terms of hardware which has yet to be fully exposed due to these early quirks.
In terms of hardware, we approve of the design and implementation of the P5N-E SLI. There are some items we would have preferred, such as a copper heatpipe cooling system to provide better cooling for the chipset and VRM modules, true 8-channel audio support, and additional fan headers. However, as a whole the P5N-E SLI is a very simple, nicely designed board. The rumored overclockability of this board is certainly true, as we were able to achieve our highest front side bus speeds to date on this board, hitting close to 2000 MHz FSB with no voltage tweaks or high-end cooling. The 650i SLI is a great chipset for enthusiasts and overclockers, and we're excited to see how far people will take this board with additional cooling methods in place.
The nForce 650i SLI certainly isn't the best choice for all Socket-775 users. We wouldn't recommend this board for high-end gamers with 8800 GTX SLI configurations (go for the 680i SLI), nor would we recommend this board for high-end workstation users due to early stability issues (go for the 975x or P965). We do, however, feel that this board hits a nice spot for gamers who want an SLI-capable board at a relatively low price. These gamers want overclockability, but don't necessarily require flashy add-ons or gimmicky features. The P5N-E SLI hits this market perfectly, and as of now, we feel is a better mid-range chipset for these users in comparison to Intel's P965. However, P965 boards have been out for many months now, and have had time to mature, while it will take several more months for the nForce 650i to reach this level.