NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI for AMD Round Up: GIGABYTE, MSI and ASUS
Performance Analysis & Final Thoughts
Retail Package Evaluation: Looking at each product's retail complement, we have to give the nod to ASUS. Not only did they provide the most complete collection of data cables and power connectors, they also threw in dash of innovation with their Q-Connector Kit. Coming in second would be the GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5 which was a bit light on cables but did offer the external SATA bracket. The MSI K9N Diamond was the lightest of the three packages, lacking anything unique as well as only one straight molex to SATA power adapter. Data cabling was adequate as was the expansion USB and FireWire brackets, but there were no extras to add any wow factor.
Our Choice: ASUS M2N32 WS Pro
Design, Features and Layout: From an overall design, features and layout perspective, the lines are blurred as each has its strengths and weaknesses. From an overall standpoint, the GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5 was a tough act to follow. The third PCI Express x8 slot was a nice touch as was its support for 16GB of memory. The GIGABYTE Silent Pipe heat pipe was an added touch that should add to overall stability and life of the components. The ASUS M2N32 WS Pro gains points with its own passive heat pipe that was very similar to GIGABYTE's. While the ASUS M2N32 WS Pro was lacking a third graphics slot, it was the only one of the three to offer a second IDE port and two PCI-X slots, plus it has the most SATA II ports. The MSI K9N Diamond boasted a nifty BIOS button for easy resetting, but aside from that, lacked in features and amenities overall. MSI does have an advantage when it comes to name recognition of the Audigy integrated audio, but the K9N Diamond had a heat pipe design that required active cooling and ignored the power array around the CPU altogether.
Our Choice: Tie - ASUS M2N32 WS Pro or GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5
BIOS: Each of the three models tested came equipped with adequate BIOS functionality for overclocking and fine tuning overall performance. The most inconvenient of the three was the GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5, which required the pressing of Ctrl+F1 to access Advanced Chipset options. The MSI K9N Diamond BIOS was OK, although its menu structure could use better organization in this our opinion. A major boon to the K9N Diamond is the ability to directly enter certain values. The ASUS M2N32 WS Pro offered the most organized BIOS with the most options available. Even with an overabundance of options, the menu was intuitive, making it easy to locate exactly what we were looking for.
Our Choice: ASUS M2N32 WS Pro
Overclocking: When it came to overclocking, all three motherboards were quite capable. In the end, the GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5 was the lowest performer, weighing in at 280MHz with the HT Link set at 5X and 294MHz with the HT Link set at 4X. Yet when the HT Link was set to Auto and the CPU Multiplier set to Default, the GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5 was the top performer at a CPU clock of 234MHz. The ASUS M2N32 WS Pro topped out at 310MHz with a 5x HT Link setting and 390MHz with the HT Link set at 4x, but was the lowest performer of the three with the HT Link at Auto and the CPU Multiplier set to Default, hitting a top CPU clock of 230MHz. The MSI K9N Diamond, on the other hand, weighed in at 298MHz and 390MHz respectively and was the only board to accept an increased CPU multiplier setting during the HT Link x4 test.
The GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5 was the only board that did not require a BIOS reset, always intelligently bailing out of a bad overclock. The ASUS M2N32 WS Pro was not as graceful, but could often be recovered after a cold boot, and never needed to have the BIOS cleared. The MSI K9N Diamond was the most finicky, insisting on slow baby steps and requiring a BIOS reset on several occasions, yet offered the most flexibility at the highest achievable CPU clock.
Our Choice: MSI K9N Diamond
Performance Analysis: Since all three boards are based on the same Chipset and utilized all of the same testing components, we expected a tight race between the three models. In every test, we saw no real loser in the bunch, with all three tracking closely to each other. However, if we were to tally up which board had the lead most consistently, the MSI K9N Diamond would get the choice on a technicality.
Our Choice: Three-way Tie
Value: Before declaring any one board better than the other, we need to take cost into consideration. To help bring it into perspective, we did a search using our PriceGrabber engine to see each model's price point. The GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5 price ranged from $184.89 to $243.00. The ASUS M2N32 WS Pro was the priciest of the three, ranging from $274.52 to $327.75. The most economical of the collection was the MSI K9N Diamond which came in around $161.06 to $225.00. While the MSI K9N Diamond is the cheapest, it is only slightly less than the GIGABYTE GA-M59SLI-S5, which comes with a better retail package, more storage and a PCI Express x8 slot. Surely the MSI K9N Diamond comes with an Audigy SE, but the retail bundle and lower storage capability make the K9N Diamond seem slightly less cost-efficient in the long run. The ASUS M2N32 WS Pro weighs in with the heftiest of price tags, but you do get what you pay for. The board offered the most BIOS options, the most complete retail package, best overall experience and don't forget those two PCI-X slots for things like hardware RAID card.
Final Thoughts and Individual Ratings: So, as we bring this showcase to a close, the question remains, which of these three boards would you choose? Naturally, the answer depends on what is most important to the potential buyer. To help paint a clearer picture, we broke it down by product along with our Heat Meter rating.
Gigabyte GA-M59SLI-S5: If you are looking for a balance between price and features, it's hard not to like the Gigabyte GA-M59SLI-S5. Default overclocking was a strong point for this board and multi-monitor users should appreciate the third graphics port, especially when in SLI mode. Further complementing the GIGABYTE GA-M59SL-S5, the external SATA solution and decent retail package all makes for a solid product for the price range. We give the GIGABYTE GA-M59SL-S5 a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of a 9.
. Retail Bundle
. PCI Express x8 Slot
. Lite on SATA Cables
ASUS M2N32 WS Pro: If price is not a concern, and a third graphics slot is not necessary, the ASUS M2N32 WS Professional is a strong contender. The M2N32 WS Professional offers the best retail package of the three boards reviewed, gobs of storage options, competitive performance and strong overclocking potential. In summary, we feel the ASUS M2N32 WS Professional is a quality product, but comes at a premium price. We give the ASUS M2N32 WS Pro a Hot Hardware Heat Meter rating of 8.5.
. Complete Retail Bundle
. Tons of SATA Storage
. PCI-X slots for Hardware RAID
. Second IDE Port
MSI K9N Diamond: If you are on a limited budget and want good features at a lower cost, the MSI K9N Diamond is a good consideration from price standpoint. However, for just a few dollars more, the GIGABYTE GA-M59SL-S5 offers more value for a small increase in your budget. The K9N Diamond delivered a solid collection of features, overclocked similarly to the ASUS M2N32 WS Pro and often delivered the best performance of the three boards reviewed. Nonetheless, the performance margins were generally tight and the price point of this product still seemed a bit high when assessing its overall value. For a mere $15-20 more, the Gigabyte GA-M59SLI-S5 delivers better bang for the buck. We give the MSI K9N Diamond a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of 7.5
. Best Performance
. BIOS Reset Button
. Lite Retail Bundle
. Least Value for Price
. BIOS Menu Organization