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ASUS P5N32-SLI Premium

The ASUS P5N32-SLI Premium is a compelling and feature-rich product. As with all ASUS high-end products you get a lot for your money.

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INTRODUCTION

NVIDIA has long been the main choice when it comes to AMD based motherboards. It was not until the nForce4 chipsets that you could even get any NVIDIA based Intel motherboards. With the nForce 5 chipset NVIDIA however has gone all out and are supporting the Intel platform with a multitude of motherboard chipsets. Since AMD now has bought ATI I think we can also expect NVIDIA to continue its support for the INTEL CPU’s.

After playing the second fiddle to AMD, at least from an enthusiast’s point of view, for a long time Intel finally has come up with CPU’s that, to put it mildly, kick some serious AMD butt. The new Core 2 Duo’s has an excellent performance to price ratio and are bound to be the new favorites among many computer users.

We have earlier reviewed an ASUS nForce 570 motherboard, the ASUS P5NSLI, and today it is time to review the big brother, the ASUS P5N32-SLI Premium which uses the nForce 590 chipset.

FEATURES AND SPECIFICATIONS

Just like the latest nForce 590 based AMD motherboards, the ASUS P5N32-SLI Premium is a very feature packed motherboard.

NVIDIA SLI™ Technology
Ultimate Gaming Performance with NVIDIA SLI™ X16 Technology
NVIDIA® SLI™-Scalable Link Interface- takes advantage of the increased bandwidth of the PCI Express bus architecture and features intelligent hardware and software that allows two GPUs to efficiently work together to deliver earth-shattering, scalable performance. Two full-bandwidth 16-lane PCI Express links ensure maximum graphics performance for next-generation GPUs and games. Offers twice the PCI Express bandwidth of X8 SLI solutions! (From www.NVIDIA.com)

NVIDIA nForce® 590 SLI™ Intel Edition
*Engineered for Enthusiasts
The NVIDIA nForce® 590 SLI™ chipset supports the NVIDIA Scalable Link Interface(SLI™) technology that allows two graphics processing units(GPUs) in a single system. This technology takes advantage of the PCI Express™ bus architecture and features intelligent hardware and software solutions that allow multiple GPUs to work together and achieve exceptional graphics performance.

LGA775 Intel® Core™2 Processor Ready
This motherboard supports the latest Intel® Core™2 processors in LGA775 package. With new Intel® Core™ microarchitecture technology and 1066 / 800 MHz FSB, Intel® Core™2 processor is one of the most powerful and energy efficient CPU in the world.

Dual-Channel DDR2 800(OC)
DDR2 is the next generation memory technology to replace the current DDR. With the highest speed up to 800MHz(OC), DDR2 memory provides great performance for 3D graphics and other memory demanding applications. 

SupremeFX
* Supreme audio entertainment with realistic sound
The unique audio solution is designed as a stand alone module which induces the better audio input & output quality. With 24bit/192kHz full sampling in all 7.1 surround channel, no more sorry for your picky ear. Bundle with the Array Mic, no more noise or buzz bother your conversation. Just enjoy the supreme audio entertainment.

Array Mic
* Eliminate interferences in the reception cone
* Enhance speech-centric applications
The bundled Superbeam Array Microphone receives only the sound coming from the reception cone and ignores the sound coming from other directions. This mechanism eliminates a large number of interferences including neighboring speakers and reverberations. It also uses advanced de-reverberation techniques to reduce echo and minimize its effect on the speech engine. This feature can enhance speech-centric application like Skype, online game, video conference and recording.

Noise Filter
* Eliminate background noise while recording
This feature detects repetitive and stationary noises like computer fans, air conditioners, and other background noises then eliminates it in the incoming audio stream while recording.

DTS® Connect
This feature is consists of two elements: DTS interactive and DTS NEO:PC . DTS interactive re-encodes your stereo or multi-channel sound into a DTS audio signal and send it out from your PC to any DTS enabled system. While DTS NEO:PC turns your stereo audio such as MP3, WMA, CD, and other sound format into a convincing multi-channel audio experience.

AI Gear
* Optimize performance and quietness as you wish!
To balance both system performance and quietness, AI Gear allows users to choose from profiles to adjust CPU frequency and vCore voltage, minimizing system noise and power consumption. Users can real-time change the mode under operating system to suit their needs.

AI Nap
* Minimize noise and power consumption when temporarily away With AI Nap, users can instantly snooze your PC without terminating the tasks. System will continue operating at minimum power and noise when user is temporarily away. It keeps downloading files or running applications in quietest state while you’re sleeping. Simply click keyboard or mouse, you can swiftly wake up the system in few seconds.

8-Phase Power Design
* Cooler and quieter system
* Longer components lifespan
* More stable and reliable under heavy-loading and overclocking
The ASUS 8-Phase Power Design provides highly efficient operation to generate less heat (at least 15°C (59°F)) than other conventional power solutions. It reduces input ripple current and output ripple voltage, which keeps CPU and power module from suffering the risk of high power stress. It has the advantages of quick transient response and stability, especially beneficial when CPU requires more current immediately under heavy loading or overclocking mode.

Stack Cool2
* Effective and zero-noise heat dissipation
Stack Cool 2 is a fan-less and zero-noise cooling solution offered exclusively by ASUS. It effectively transfers heat generated by the critical components to the other side of the specially designed PCB (printed circuit board) for effective heat dissipation.

Heat-pipe
* Zero failure
* Support side-flow fan or passive cooler
Cooling fans, though a popular thermal solution, also come with noise and malfunction likelyhood. ASUS Motherboard’s fansless concept is specifically created to provide a cool environment without all the baggage.
The heat pipe, heat sinks and strategic board layout were tailor made to dissipate heat in the most efficient manner.

Q-Fan2
* Adjusts both CPU fan and chassis fan speeds according to system loading
ASUS Q-Fan2 technology intelligently adjusts both CPU fan and chassis fan speeds according to system loading to ensure quiet, cool and efficient operation.

Optional Fan (for Water-Cooling or Passive-Cooling only)
* Maximize Water-Cooling or Passive-Cooling performance!
The optional fan is specifically designed to provide sufficient airflow over the CPU power modules and chipset area when water-cooling or passive-cooling is utilized, ensuring effective heat dissipation for the entire system.

Q-Connector
* Make connection quick and accurate!
The ASUS Q-Connector allows you to connect or disconnect chassis front panel cables in one easy step with one complete module. This unique adapter eliminates the trouble of plugging in one cable at a time, making connection quick and accurate.

O.C. Profile
* Conveniently store or load multiple BIOS settings
* Freely share and distribute favorite overclocking settings
The motherboard features the ASUS O.C. Profile that allows users to conveniently store or load multiple BIOS settings. The BIOS settings can be stored in the CMOS or a separate file, giving users freedom to share and distribute their favorite overclocking settings.

Music Alarm
*Wake up by your favorite music
Wake up to the music of your choice instead of the irritating sound of an alarm clock. The ASUS Music Alarm gives you a personal wake-up call with your favorite CD music when system is off.

EZ Flash2
* Simply update BIOS from a USB flash disk before entering the OS
EZ Flash 2 is a user-friendly BIOS update utility. Simply launch this tool and update BIOS from a USB flash disk before entering the OS. You can update your BIOS only in a few clicks without preparing an additional floppy diskette or using an OS-based flash utility.

Precision Tweaker
* Achieve system maximum performance!
It offers ways to raise system performance inch-by-inch and step-by-step to achieve maximum performance! This is about getting the most out of your machine and taking pride in your customized computer.

AI NOS™
Applications such as 3D games and video editing demand a huge chunk of system resource.
Inject “nitrous oxide” into your CPU! The patented AI NOS™ (Non-delay Overclocking System) technology intelligently detects system load and automatically boosts performance for the most demanding tasks. Unlike other dynamic overclocking techniques, AI NOS™ reacts much faster to satisfy your unending need for speeds .

PEG Link
* Boost graphics card performance for superior video quality
This latest technology, PEG (PCI Express Graphics) Link Mode, is a unique feature that enables users to boost graphics card performance for superior video quality. PEG Link allows users to raise GPU and VGA memory throughput via the motherboard BIOS the same way system bus and memory bus are tweaked. PEG Link Mode enables powerful video performance on DX8 and DX9 applications. ASUS engineers carefully fine-tuned the parameters for every single PCI-Express card to provide system stability during high-speed graphics operation.

Dual Gigabit LAN
The integrated dual Gigabit LAN design allows a PC to serve as a network gateway for managing traffic between two separate networks. This capability ensures rapid transfer of data from WAN to LAN without any added arbitration or latency.

SATA on the Go
The motherboard supports the next-generation hard drives based on the Serial ATA (SATA) 3Gb/s storage specification, delivering enhanced scalability and doubling the bus bandwidth for high-speed data retrieval and saves. The external SATA port located at the back I/O provides smart setup and hot-plug functions. Easily backup photos, videos and other entertainment contents on external devices.

Dual RAID
The NVIDIA nForce® 590 SLI™ chipsets incorporate six Serial ATA connectors with high performance RAID functions in RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD. The Silicon Image controller provides another two Serial ATA connectors for RAID 0, 1, and JBOD functions. This motherboard is the ideal solution to enhance hard disk performance and data back up protection without the cost of add-on cards.

IEEE 1394a interface
IEEE 1394a interface provides high speed digital interface for audio/video appliances such as digital television, digital video camcorders, storage peripherals & other PC portable devices.

S/PDIF-out on Back I/O Port
This motherboard provides convenient connectivity to external home theater audio systems via an coaxial S/PDIF-out (SONY-PHILIPS Digital Interface) jack. It allows to transfer digital audio without converting to analog format and keeps the best signal quality.

WiFi-AP Solo™
*Why buy wireless AP off the store when you can have it on board? WiFi AP Solo™ allows a new level of versatility for your PC, enabling it to create a complete wireless home network in either AP or wireless client mode. Users will be able to play LAN games, connect to the Internet, access and share printers, and use Skype from anywhere within range. WiFi-AP Solo™ can provide these functions even when the PC is in sleep mode, so users can use Skype as a true replacement for tradition long distance telephone service. WiFi-AP Solo™ is an on-board feature, which means that user will save the extra WiFi AP cost.

InterVideo® Media Launcher (OEM version)
ASUS motherboards, intensifying leadership in the IT industry, now bundle the versatile InterVideo Media Launcher. This multifaceted software set includes the latest multimedia software, bringing forth the multimedia features of ASUS motherboards to the best! (OEM version).

GreenASUS
The motherboard and its packaging comply with the European Union’s Restriction on the use of Hazardous Substances (RoHS). This is in line with the ASUS vision of creating environment-friendly and recyclable products and packaging to safeguard consumers’ health while minimizing the impact on the environment.

For a list of the full specifications check out ASUS webpage.

THE PACKAGE AND THE BUNDLE

The box the motherboard comes in is in a nice shade of grey with the AI logo in the top right corner. 

The Box

Inside the box we find a lot of things.

  • The motherboard
  • Thick manual for the motherboard
  • Manual for the WIFI AP Solo
  • CD with drivers and utilities
  • InterVideo MediaLauncher OEM (WinDVD suite)
  • 6 SATA-cables
  • 3 SATA power cables
  • 1 ATA-133 cable
  • 1 Floppy cable
  • 1 game port and USB rear panel combo bracket
  • 1 IEEE1394 rear bracket
  • 1 optional chipset fan for use with passive and water cooling solutions
  • WIFI antenna
  • ASUS Array Mic
  • Q-Connector (for making front panel wiring easier)
  • SLI-bridge

In fact, it is exactly the same that you get with the ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe Wireless Edition.

QConnector

The Q-Connector is simple yet invaluable help in wiring up the front panel. I don’t know how many times I have had to dig up a manual or try to make out the tiny text beneath the front panel connector on the motherboard when hooking up a motherboard to the case. The Q-connector takes away all that pain.

The Mike

The ASUS array mic is intended to be placed on top of the monitor. It looks a bit spacey but at least fit well on both the LCD-screens I tried it on (Fujitsu W19-1 and a Dell 24”).

Bridge
The longer one comes from the P5N32-SLI Premium

The SLI-bridge is flexible meaning it will actually work on any motherboard regardless the distance between the two video cards. This again is a sign that ASUS engineers have taken some time and thought about what is best for the consumer. The bridge is very long since the space between the two PCI-E slots that are used for SLI is quite long.

Passive Cooling
The chipset fan included can be hooked up to the heatsinks.

Fan

The chipset fan included is only intended to be used if you use passive or water cooling on the CPU. The reason is that the chipset cooling solution on the motherboard needs the CPU fan to take away heat. If you do not have a fan there you need to add the included chipset fan so you still take away the heat.

 

The WIFI-antenna hooks up the WIFI card that sits in a special slot on the motherboard.

THE LAYOUT OF THE MOTHERBOARD

Just as on the ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe/Wireless Edition, the main feature of this motherboard is its passive cooling solution for the chipset. There is not a single fan on the motherboard making it completely silent.

Passive Cooling 

All the chips are connected to a single heat pipe solution and the CPU fan is used to push away the heat from the top of the heat pipe. One complaint I had with the ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe/Wireless Edition was that one of the PCI-E slots were very close to the heat sinks. This is not the case on this motherboard.

Memory

The memory slots sit below the CPU and there is enough distance between them so even a larger CPU cooler should not be affected by the memory slots.

The EIDE and floppy connector can be found at the edge of the motherboard together with the 24-pin ATX power connector.

The 6 SATA-connectors now sit in a 90 degree angle from the motherboard. Placing them in this way does make sure a long video card won’t interfere with them, something that isn’t such a bad idea considering how long the newest video cards are. In addition to the 6 SATA ports on the motherboard you also get 2 e-SATA connectors in the back of the motherboard.

SATA

This motherboard does not have the convenient on/off and reset button directly on the motherboard. Having tested a wide range of ASUS motherboards I am a bit surprised that such a simple, yet useful, feature cannot be found on every board.

There are 4 fan-headers on the motherboard plus one 4-pin CPU fan header. 3 of the fan headers are placed in the front of the motherboard and one at the back.

PCI-E slots
Video cards go into the black and the blue slot.

As you might have noticed from the pictures, this motherboard does not just have two PCI-E x16 slots, it has three. The black and the blue outermost slots can be used for SLI and will then work at full x16 speed. The middle slot however runs any add-on card at 8x speed. There isn’t really any use of the middle PCI-E slot except maybe for a physics card. The WIFI-card actually sits in a USB-connector and if you remove it you can hook up two more USB-ports. The card is screwed to the motherboard though so it takes some effort to take it out.

In the back you find a whole bunch of connectors including two e-SATA connectors, 4 USB connectors and 2 Gigabit ethernet ports.

Back of the motherboard

Sound is handled through a small riser card and you get the full barrage of analog connectors of the card. The S/PDIF connectors can be found on the rear of the motherboard. The codec uses is Analog Devices ADI 1988B which is an 8-channel HD Audio CODEC supporting DTS Connect.

THE BIOS

As expected ASUS has filled the bios with lots of tuning options. Here are some of the more important ones.

FSB
The FSB can be set between 1056 MHz to 2100 Mhz QDR mode (264 to 525 MHz)

DDR
The memory can be set between 400 Mhz to 1600 Mhz

SB and NB PCI-E
These can be set between 100 MHz and 150 MHz

CPU Voltage
The voltage can be set between 1.22500V to 1.60000V in 0.00625V steps

Memory Voltage
The voltage can be set between 1.80V to 2.55V in 0.05V steps

I still feel that the bios can be made simpler to use. I felt I had to jump around way to much to change the various settings. An example: you set the FSB for the CPU on one place and the voltage on another place. Same with the memory. You also set the speed of the memory under one menu and the timings under a completely different menu. I personally think it would be better to group the settings making it easier to understand how everything is connected.

The bios does have some extra nice features like support for SLI memory, EZ Flash which flashes your bios without the use of an floppy disk and bios protection which means that it reverts to safe settings if an overclock fails. I used the last feature several times and it was nice not having to clear the cmos just because the machine wouldn’t boot.

TESTING

The test system consisted of the following hardware.


Test System 1
CPU  Intel Core 2 Duo [email protected]
Motherboards
ASUS P5N32-SLI Premium (nForce 590)
ASUS P5B-E (Intel 965)
Memory
Corsair XMS2 Xtreme 2048MB DDR2 XMS-1066
HDD
1×80 GB EIDE, 4×320 GB SATA
Video cards
BFG 7900GTX OC

I choose to benchmark the motherboard in the following programs.


Software
PCMark05  Default, CPU, Mem, GFX, HDD
3Dmark06
Default
SiSoft Sandra 2007 SP1 Lite
CPU, Mem BW 
Pi Mod 1.5XS
2MB, 8MB, 32MB 
HD Tach RW
SATA, SATA RAID

 

TESTING – PCMARK06, 3DMARK06

 PCMark05

3Dmark06

The difference between the two motherboards (p5N32-SLi using nForce590 and P5B-E using Intel i965) is not that big in these two benchmarks.

TESTING – SISOFT SANDRA 2007

 SiSoft Sandra

SiSoft Sandra

SiSoft Sandra

 

TESTING – PI MOD 1.5XS AND HD TACH RW

Pi Mod 1.5XS

HD Tach RW SINGLE

HD Tach RW RAID

The performance of a single SATAII-drive is similar on both motherboards. However when putting the two 320 GB SATAII drives in a RAID0 configuration we see some big differences. The P5N32-SLI uses the NVIDIA supplied RAID controller while the P5B-E uses the Intel RAId controller. Both the burst speed and the average write speed is much better on the P5B-E than on the P5N32-SLI.

OVERCLOCKING

I had some mixed expectations for this motherboard when it comes to overclocking. The Core 2 Duo’s are known for being very overclockable. At the same time the Intel nForce590 chipset is known for having problems with memory overclocking. In fact, at a NVIDIA press event recently the NVIDIA PR person basically said that the Intel 590 chipset was great at standard speeds but not good for overclocking, something they changed with the nForce 680.

I was able to increase the speed of the CPu from 2.13 GHz up to 2.8 Ghz (350×8) which is a nice 30% overclock. I’m sure that with a better fan (I was using the stock cooler) it could have gone higher.  The memory however turned out to be the problem. The Corsair memory can run up to 1066 Mhz at 2.2V but I couldn’t get it to run stable at faster speeds than 900 Mhz.

PCMark05 Overclocked

Pi Mod 1.5XS Overclocked

You get the expected performance increases when overclocking.

 

CONCLUSION

As always ASUS has created a compelling and feature-rich product. The bundle is excellent with lots of cool stuff that are quite useful (array mike, WIFI) and the nForce590 chipset provides you with a lot of nice features like dual Gigabit Ethernet and SLI support.

Unfortunately the timing for the ASUS P5N32-SLI Premium is a bit off. Even though it came out not long ago there already is new motherboards arriving using the new and improved nForce680 chipset. Unless you cannot wait for them I’m not sure there is a reason to get a nForce590-based motherboard now.

Pros
+ Excellent bundle
+ Feature rich
+ No fans on the motherboard
+ Good SATA-placement

Cons
– Expensive
– The nForce680 motherboards are already coming out
– Couldn’t run the memory at the fastest rated speed

Summary: The ASUS P5N32-SLI Premium is a very good motherboard that has come out at the wrong time. With new nForce680 based motherboards coming out there really isn’t any reason to get this motherboard right now unless you really can’t wait .

I give the ASUS P5N32-SLI Premium a score of 7 out of 10.

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