ASUS PC Probe:
PC Probe is a
great utility for monitoring the overall
status of the system.
The software provides instant information on system
voltages, CPU temperature and Fan speeds, which proves to be
invaluable when overclocking. The software can be
configured to trigger an alarm if any one of a dozen
different functions are running out of acceptable ranges.
The software can monitor the
voltages of key components such as CPU, AGP and memory and
also monitors the RPM of CPU, case and power supply fans.
We found this to be a substantial piece of software that
gave us clear insight into the inner functions of the system.
We often find that "free" utilities fall short on
delivering anything truly useful, however, ASUS proved
that they are a rare exception to the rule. We found
the ASUS PC Probe to be very useful and deliver where
Quality and Setup of the
Asus A7N8X Deluxe
The A7N8X Deluxe is a well versed motherboard that offers a great balance between
design and features. Aside from new and improved
features enabled by the nForce2 SPP Northbridge and the nForce2 MCP-T
Southbridge, some uncommon design practices were put into
effect as well. One of the most obvious of these
practices is the position of the Northbridge. Note how
it is positioned in such a manner that the traces have the
shortest path to adjoining components. This layout
helps to eliminate instabilities in the system and add
higher tolerances under load. This also helps reduce
temperature by minimizing the amount of resistance to the
electrical current going to and from the Northbridge.
ASUS added a hefty heat sink to the Northbridge to help keep
temperatures under control. We were disappointed to
see that, when we removed the heat sink, a low quality
thermal pad was used instead of higher quality thermal paste
The most significant improvement to the Northbridge, versus the
original nForce, is the introduction of official support for DualDDR
333 or 400 Memory speeds. DualDDR utilizes 2 separate memory
controllers to boost the memory bus from 64-Bit to
128-Bit. This increase in bandwidth is enabled
by separating the controller between the first two
memory banks and the 3rd. With one module installed
into DIMM slot 1 or 2 and the other into slot 3, DualDDR
is enabled. With two PC3200 modules installed, bandwidth
peaks at 6.4GB/s. Unlike other features we've
seen in the past, this is an automatic process that is
enabled by simply installing the memory into the proper DIMM
slots. We liked the fact that no changes were needed
as far as jumpers on the board or BIOS settings, making the
process simple to implement. ASUS placed the third DIMM slightly further apart from
the second to make it clear which would be needed to enable DualDDR. Later on
we'll run some tests at both 64-Bit and 128-Bit to see what
kind of performance increase we can expect.
The board comes with 5 PCI slots and an AGP
Pro slot for ample expandability.
Normally we prefer to see a total of 6 PCI slots, however,
when you factor in all of the integrated components, we doubt anyone would miss the 6th PCI
slot. This is the first chipset by nVidia to offer
AGP 3.0 support, providing a full 2.1GB per second of
bandwidth across the AGP bus. Although
this bandwidth will be under utilized by most of today's
software, the system is equipped to grow as new products are
introduced. We were pleased
that the CPU socket was given ample room to support even the
largest of heat sink packages. 4 holes were also
available for use with such coolers as the Alpha PAL8045,
which require added structural support when mounting.
The floppy and IDE connectors were placed neatly behind the DIMM area to insure the cabling does not
airflow. The same was true for the ATX power connector whose placement was not only friendly to
the CPU's airflow, but also ideal for powering the DIMMS and
CPU by reducing the distance the current needs to travel.
When we look at the rear of the
system, we see something that is not a common sight, 2
integrated Ethernet ports. The
nForce2 is the only chipset that can offer two independent
Ethernet controllers integrated into a single system.
This is an excellent feature for the workstation, server, or
home computer. The added functionality of two Ethernet
ports includes configuring a system as a gateway by installing
a broadband connection to one port and the rest of the LAN to the
other. To be honest, this adds a lot of networking
flexibility to the system that could end up being an article
by itself. nVidia even offers its own controller for
one port and a 3Com controller for the other to help
differentiate between the two. We were a bit
disappointed, however, to see that the two were rated at 10/100Mbit.
There are quite a few motherboards on the market
that offer 1000Mbit Ethernet without affecting the
overall cost of the system. It would have been nice to
see ASUS follow suit and give the user the most speed
available. Obviously, as the current trend shows, it's
just a matter of time before this becomes the norm.
In the end, this is a very minor strike against an otherwise
The system provides a total of 4
USB 2.0 connectors on the rear of the system which can be
increased to 6 with the included hardware.
The unit also comes with NVIDIA's Soundstorm Dolby Digital
Audio which offers performance previously reserved for more
expensive add-on cards. With an integrated Dolby
Digital 5.1 encoder, true cinematic sound quality can be
achieved. This reviewer is quite fond of the Hercules
Game Theater 7.1 and the Soundstorm seemed to perform on the
same level, if not better.
BIOS and the HH Test Rig