Board Layout (Continued)
Board Layout (Continued)
As an "SLI" enabled board, one can obviously put two Nvidia SLI-equipped graphics cards into this system for a multi-GPU rendering setup. The nForce 650i has far fewer PCI Express lanes to utilize compared to the 680i, which limits how many PCIe lanes can go to each graphics card slot. The 650i SLI can only support 8 x 8 SLI, whereas the more expensive (and hotter, and power hungry) 680i SLI chipset can support 16 x 16 SLI. In our tests, we have found that no modern graphics cards really push the need for more than PCI Express x8 speeds and an 8x8 SLI configuration will typically only run about 1-2% slower compared to full 16x 16 SLI configuration. Therefore, if you're looking to go for SLI on a budget, this is a good board to go with . Two GeForce 7950 GT 512 MB's in SLI would be a great match for this board. If you're going with a GeForce 8800 SLI configuration, we would recommend going all out and going for a nForce 680i motherboard.
The bare nForce 650i Southbridge handles the board's Serial ATA storage connectivity options, which are in line with what we would expect of a mid-range motherboard of late. The Southbridge supports 4 x Serial ATA-II/300 class ports in a flip-flop red-black layout, sitting next to two Ultra ATA/133 ports which hang off the side of the board. The Serial ATA-II/300 ports support RAID levels 0, 1, 0+1 and 5.
In addition to the 4 x SATA ports near the bottom of the board, there's also an eSATA port (or SATA-On-The-Go, as Asus likes to call it) on the board's I/O panel. The I/O panel also features legacy parallel and PS/2 ports, along with 5.1 digital (coaxial) audio, Firewire 400, 4 x USB 2.0 ports, and 6 channel analog audio. Compared to the Striker Extreme which we looked at a few weeks ago, the I/O panel of this particular board seems somewhat...well...boring, but it's an I/O panel. It's not really meant to be exciting, and as it is the P5N-E's I/O panel gets the job done.
The lack of 8-channel HD audio is surprising, given the fact that Azalia (HD) components are so readily available on the market and so inexpensive. Interestingly enough, the P5N-E SLI utilizes a Realtek ALC883 CODEC, which in itself is an HD ready CODEC. However, Asus only provides the outputs for six channel audio, perhaps in a move to distinguish between the high-end and mid-range boards. Kind of weak, we say. On the plus side, Asus does utilize a Marvell 88E1116 PHY for the onboard Gigabit Ethernet, a positive move as this chip is based on a PCI Express x1 connection to the chipset. The board does not support Nvidia's DualNet nor TCP acceleration technologies, however. It's just a good old fashioned Gigabit Ethernet port.
As for bundled extras, the board includes Serial ATA data and power cables, Ultra ATA / floppy cables, an SLI bridge, a USB port expander, and Asus's Q-Connector, which makes plugging in front panel power/reset/LED indicators easier. Asus kept the bundle to a bare minimum here in order to keep costs down. If you're buying this board, don't expect a lot of extras or niceties - simply buy it for the board alone.