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The ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe

The ASUS AM2 ATX motherboard lineup
ASUS casts the first stone in the race for AM2 dominance

With the AM2 and MCP55 launches just around the corner (May 23, 2006), motherboards are already starting to trickle into the retail channel.  DailyTech recently obtained the complete ASUS AM2 launch roadmap, including ATI, NVIDIA and VIA offerings.

The spearhead of ASUS's AM2 offerings will be the nForce 590 SLI and Xpress 3200 motherboards, labeled as the M2N32-SLI Deluxe and M2R32-MVP Deluxe respectively.  The M2N32-SLI Deluxe features everything you'd expect to find on nForce 590, including dual gigabit LAN ports from the nForce MCP, eight SATA 3.0Gbps (of which one is external SATA) and dual full x16 PCIe graphics interfaces.  NVIDIA's LinkBoost technology will also make an appearance on the M2N32-SLI Deluxe, which ASUS's box art claims will automatically overclock the PCIe and MCP HyperTransport link by 25% when a GeForce 7900 or 7950 GPU is inserted into both PCIe x16 interfaces. The M2N32-SLI Deluxe will also come in a workstation version dubbed the M2N32-WS.

The high end M2R32-MVP Deluxe features similar specifications and uses the fabled ATI SB600.  The motherboard features dual full x16 PCIe graphics interfaces, dual gigabit LAN and six SATA 3.0Gbps interfaces. 

Continuing to work down the line, ASUS will also offer an M2N4-SLI motherboard based on the nForce 4 SLI chipset.  Aside from the obvious PCIe lane configuration differences between nForce 4 and nForce 5xx, the M2N4-SLI uses a bog standard AC'97 5.1 channel codec with four SATA 3.0Gbps interfaces.  ASUS's M2V will be the only VIA offering from the company at AM2 launch.  The M2V, based off the K8T890 Northbridge and 8237A Southbridge, will only feature a single x16 PCIe interface and one SATA 3.0Gbps devices.  To round off the low end, ASUS will also offer an nForce 430 motherboard with all the GeForce 6150 trimmings.

ASUS also has plans for a few MicroATX AM2 motherboards on its roadmap, including the M2NPV-VM (GeForce 6150, nForce 430 with dual video outputs), the M2NPV-MX (a slightly cheaper version of the M2NPV-VM) and the M2N-MX which will be the first ASUS MCP61S motherboard.  Expect to see this motherboard begin to sample near the end of June, with the other MATX offerings showing up just after the AM2 launch.

ASUS's high end boards feature a new player in the integrated motherboard audio market for the company: Analog Devices.  ASUS first experimented with the ADI's SoundMax digital processor on a few Intel 965 prototypes, but it appears SoundMax will have a permanent home on new high end ASUS offerings going forward.  The ADI SoundMax 1988B features 7.1 high definition audio and special optimizations for voice recording.  The ASUS M2N SLI offerings come with an array microphone that uses multiple mic heads for a slightly less distorted sound.

Once again, the majority of ASUS's high end offerings will offer 8-phase power in the form of dual 4-phase serial circuits.  Some offerings, like the M2N32-SLI Deluxe pictured, will also come with an 802.11b/g WiFi card with an omni-directional antenna. All high end motherboards also come with a fanless heatpipe design.

We don't have prices on these motherboards yet, but expect to see them at your local Fry's or Newegg within the next few weeks!


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RE: First to market woes
By Stele on 5/14/2006 10:33:01 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
You're not one of those people that thinks if the board can't run 1GHz over stock stably then it's POS, are you?

lol heavens, no, I'm not one of those people. I'm not an overclocker (anymore, anyway) so I don't really mind if a board doesn't overclock well - it's not an important criteria for me in deciding if a board's good. In fact, I've run a variety of brands since the PII days and found Asus boards to be consistently at the top with respect to quality and stability - dramatically highlighted when my Abit KA7 burst its caps all over while my K7V-based system, built at the same time, continued to run - to this day as my backup server! However, over the last year or so Asus have raised an eyebrow or two over occasional initial stumbling blocks and/or design decisions.

Take for example ASUS' latest S939 board, the A8R32-MVP. To quote Anandtech, it had several problems when first reviewed, including:

quote:
...ASUS applications and Creative drivers not playing nice together, a humming turning to whining noise when utilizing certain memory modules, game play lag while online, stuttering in graphic intensive games, random benchmark scores, RAID 5 issues with the ULi SATA controller...

and, if you read the full review at http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2743 you'll find that I specifically left out the overclocking-related problems - which actually constituted just 2 points in that list.

As for design decisions, a good example is probably the fact that Asus stayed with PCI gigabit LAN far longer than they should have. Even when Intel introduced CSA LAN controllers, Asus doggedly stuck to the older interface (even on then-high-end boards like the P4C800) until pressured into releasing a newer version using a newer controller (the P4C800-E).

Even now, after PCIe showed up, Asus lagged behind and went back to PCI GbE controllers again while the competition quickly deployed PCIe-based ones in their products. Of course it can be argued that

1) many if not most users would not even fully saturate a 100Mbps connection (along with the fact that not many users have full GbE networks) so a GbE is generally a marketing plus anyway

2) by using the 3Com 3c920 and Marvell PCI controllers they've been using all along, they are keeping to a tried and tested solution for maximum stability and reliability while letting the lab (and the competition) test the newer stuff until they're sufficiently mature to make the switch.

After searching for and reading up several recent Asus board reviews, it seems that generally the initial problems are teething ones related to early BIOSes that updates later corrected (or should correct). Some problems, like the whine on the A8R32 and audio EMI interference on some other models, seem like design and engineering problems with signal and/or power - a rather more serious issue which required replacement boards to fix if at all possible.

As far as BIOS is concerned, it's a small issue, no doubt, and doesn't affect every single product line (as your own board has shown). It may be present in other brands as well, but it does go back to my comment about how companies may try to rush products out the door just to be first to the market, and how all these may give many the impression that Asus seems like an overpriced, technological laggard that can't even ensure flawless performance out of the box, for its price.

Impressions aside, however, Asus boards remain a force to be reckoned with - and a potent one at that. I eagerly await their AM2 products and the reviews thereof.


"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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