Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe Wireless Edition
Performance Anywhere You Want It

By, Tom Laverriere
February 5, 2004

 

Ultra Connectivity
Ready to Connect

The Bundle

The Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe ships in an above average sized box.  The top cover flips open to reveal the 802.11b wireless card inside along with a picture that diagrams Asus' WiFi@Home features, which is meant to make wireless networking, sharing, and surfing extremely simple and convenient.

Opening up the box reveals all the extras Asus bundled with the A7N8X-E Deluxe.  The "Deluxe" moniker is used appropriately here, as Asus has included everything you need to take advantage of the motherboard's features. 

As the images show, the bundle included with this motherboard is complete.  Two SATA cables along with a SATA power connector take advantage of the motherboard's two SATA headers.  Asus also includes the EIDE and FDC ribbon cables for all those of us still using EIDE drives and floppy drives.  As you can see, the Wireless Edition also includes the 802.11b wireless card which is made to plug into Asus' proprietary onboard WiFi slot.  There are no shortage of manuals either.  Asus has included a Quick Install Guide along with the more detailed Owner's Manual. Also included is the WiFi@Home User Guide, which gives a quick guide to understanding wireless connections, as well as how to set one up using your new 802.11b wireless card.  There are two driver CD's, one for the wireless card and the other for the motherboard.  Asus includes two of its own utilities on the motherboard CD.  PCProbe is used for monitoring the motherboard's vitals and Asus Update which is used for updating the motherboard's BIOS.  Finally, InterVideo's WinDVD Suite is included for all those movie buffs out there.  That was a lot of ground to cover.  As you might expect we were very impressed with this bundle.

 

Under The Scope: Layout and Features

 

The PCB used for this motherboard is quite typical of Asus branded boards.  While this neither enhances nor thwarts performance in any way it certainly isn't an eye opener and the quality is obvious.  In any event, the feature set on this board is what really makes the difference when it comes to performance.  Let's have a look.

 

 

We didn't find much fault with the layout of the board except for two areas worth commenting on.  The Northbridge chip and the CPU socket sit rather close to each other.  While this is not a huge concern, those looking at aftermarket solutions to cool the processor may want to double check the heatsink's specifications before buying.  We used a Thermaltake Volcano 11+ during testing and that heatsink had no problems fitting on the motherboard, although space was s bit cramped.  Another concern for the close proximity of these chips, is that they could condense a fair amount of heat in a small area,  which could hinder any overclocking, but that remains to be seen.  The placement of the ATX power connector is a bit of a concern as well.  The bulk of these wires will have to be run by the CPU's heatsink and over the RAM.  Rerouting the wires is always possible, but depending on the case this motherboard resides in, some may run into complications with this.

Beside those two little blips on the layout radar, the board is easy to work with.  The placement of the EIDE connectors and FDC connector are preferable even for the larger cases, as they are near the top of the motherboard.  Expansion should never be a concern as the A7N8X-E Deluxe motherboard offers five PCI slots and an 8X compatible AGP slot.  Below the last PCI slot at the bottom of the motherboard you will see the WiFi slot for the Asus 802.11b wireless network card.  Also standard on nForce2 based boards, are the three DIMM slots capable of supporting up to 3GB of RAM.  The back panel shows off the dual LAN capabilities we spoke of earlier, as well as four USB 2.0 ports and the sound I/O connectors.

 

Above you will see the two LAN controllers providing the Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe with the 10/100 and Gigabit Ethernet LAN services.  The Realtek RTL8201BL controller offers the 10/100 capability while the Realtek RTL8801B serves up the Gigabit juice.  The NVIDIA Soundstorm on this board is provided by the ever popular ALC650 CODEC, providing up to six channels of sound along with the S/PDIF in/out interface.  Also pictured above are the two SATA RAID headers powered by Silicon Image's SATALink Sil3112A controller bestowing RAID 0 and RAID 1 for all those interested.  Also on the board are two more USB 2.0 headers which can either be used for the back panel USB 2.0 connectors provided in the bundle or front USB ports on applicable cases.  Additionally, IEEE-1394 headers are provided and can be used via the bracket in the bundle.  One nice feature we'd like to point out is the color coded system panel connector.  This is a much appreciated feature and one we'd like to see more of around the HotHardware labs.  Now that we've given the physical aspects of the motherboard a look, let's move on to the BIOS and see if it offers as robust of a feature set as the motherboard.

The BIOS
Asus style goodness

 

The Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe motherboard uses Phoenix's AWARD BIOS.  The first three screen shots are pretty standard BIOS screens we can find in most BIOS menus these days that deal with the basic options of the motherboard and its integrated peripherals.  The first screen shot in the second row is where it starts to get interesting.  The Advanced Chipset Features page offers all the goods when it comes to overclocking or manually setting the performance of the motherboard.  In here most settings can be altered starting with the CPU multiple.  For those of you with an unlocked AMD processor, the multiple of the CPU can be changed from a wide range of values.  The CPU voltage can also be adjusted up to 1.85V.  While 1.85V is usually enough to push a processor to its limits, those of us into extreme cooling systems would like to see voltages as high as 2.0V.  However for the average user 1.85V tends to be sufficient.

 

Continuing on with voltages, the DDR voltage can be changed to one of three values: 2.6V, 2.7V, or 2.8V.  These voltages are a bit disappointing for the extreme overclocker in us, especially since this is a "Deluxe" edition board and enthusiasts will be attracted to it.  In any event there is still some headroom there just not as much as we'd like to see.  The front side bus is adjustable in 1MHz increments all the way up to 300MHz!  That is impressive so why would Asus make the voltages seem like an afterthought on this board.  At this point we can hope for a newer BIOS revision possibly adding to our voltage options.  The memory frequency also has a wide assortment of selections including "By SPD" and "Auto", but more importantly we have a setting to keep the DDR synchronous with the FSB.  While we're on the subject of memory, the timings can also be manually configured to push the memory modules to their limits.  The last screen is the Hardware Monitor screen which keeps temperatures and fan speeds.  Also in here is Asus' Q-Fan control which allows the system to adjust fan speeds depending on factors such as system load to provide quiet, but also efficient cooling to the system.  Overall, this AWARD BIOS implementation offers a nice variety of changeable settings, but is a little lacking in voltage selection range just a bit. 

The Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe is quite a motherboard on paper, but let's see how it performs.  Up next, our test system and the performance metrics.

Setup and Benchmarking