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3-way nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition Boards Shootout

If you glance through the specifications and photos above, you
can observe that the P5ND2-SLI Deluxe board host an abundance of features which
will prove useful for any power user. This board comes with two PCI Express x16
slots for graphics cards running in SLI mode, two PCI Express x1 slots for new
add-in cards for Network and Audio as well as three legacy PCI slots for your
old and reliable cards. It has also Firewire (IEEE
built-in (2 ports) powered by Texas Instrument TSB43AB22A
controller for your Firewire devices such as external hard drives, CD/DVD-RW
etc. ASUS can considered shifting to Firewire B (IEEE
support now as the data transfer is doubled to
800Mbits/s. Not forgetting, this board can have up
to 10 USB ports supporting USB 1.1 and 2.0 interface which is more than enough
all your USB devices.

A cool feature is the support for Serial ATA-II hard drive (4
ports) through the MCP-04 Southbridge boosting a data transfer rate of 3Gbps,
double the bandwidth of the current SATA hard drive. It makes things attractive
for users to get when the SATA-II hard drives become more prevalent. If you have
two hard disk drive, you may consider setting up the RAID functions such as RAID
0 Striping for performance and RAID 1 mirroring for data protection, RAID 0+1
for both performance and protection and even RAID 5 for striping with
distributed parity if you have more than two hard drives. This board comes with
additional Silicon Image Sil3132 controller offering two additional SATA
interfaces where one is located at the rear panel for connection to external
SATA hard drive. ASUS called this "SATA On-the-Go". Of course, the PATA
interfaces are still available providing two channels of up to 4 IDE devices.
The cross controller RAID can support both SATA and PATA disk drives within a
single array.

ASUS has always placed emphasis on their LAN controllers where
some of their high end boards even have wireless built-in. Though P5ND2-SLI
Deluxe doesn’t come with wireless but it features Dual Gigabit LAN through
Marvell 88E8053 PHY and Intel RC8254 controllers for high bandwidth and fast
network speed between computers reside in a network. Through  nForce 4
technology, NV ActiveArmor and NV Firewall provide a secure and fast network
connection. P5ND2-SLI Deluxe too has ASUS AI NET 2 diagnostic feature that
detects and reports Ethernet cable faults and shorts during boot up. One notable
feature but nothing really impressive is the AC ’97 v2.3 8-Channel surround
audio powered by Realtek ALC850 for decent sound experience but of course a
better Creative SB Live! sound chip will be even preferred since MCP-04 is not
HDA capable. 

The fanless design on P4ND2-SLI Deluxe is pretty cool as ASUS
believes in no noise, no moving parts concept. There are 3 aluminum heatsinks
placed on three hottest spots on the motherboard; MOSFETs (Metal Oxide
Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor), Northbridge and the MCP-04 Southbridge
to lower the overall system temperature. I especially like the idea of a huge
northbridge heatsink on the nForce 4 SPP (System Platform Processor) chip since
it will get really hot when the system is running and even more so during
overclocking. The MOSFETs also get real hot during operation and ASUS engineers
design it in such a way that the MOSFETs are placed together and cooled by the
heatsink. The Southbridge is getting hotter these days due to many more
functions that it has to handle than before and a heatsink is now needed to cool
it down effective.

This is quite an impressive line-up of all the ports at the rear
panel. We have the standard PS/2 ports, good old parallel port, 4 USB 2.0 ports,
two RJ-45 LAN ports, 8-channel audio ports (Line-in, Front, Rear, Side,
Center/Subwoofer, Mic-in), Coaxial and Optical S/PDIF out port, external SATA
port and lastly Firewire port.

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