Much of my time over the past month has been spent testing the new AM2 Athlon64 and Sempron processors from AMD. During this time I have not only tested these new processors, but also the supporting motherboards and chipsets. Initial testing was done on an nForce 570 Ultra motherboard using DDR2-800 memory and the results were somewhat disappointing. Although the processor performance did seem quite good, the gaming results were far from impressive as all the tests favored the older 939-pin platform.
It was not until I tested the much more expensive nForce 590 SLI chipset that I began to see the AM2 platform shine. The nForce 590 SLI delivered everything the nForce 570 Ultra was lacking and that was mostly performance! The nForce 570 Ultra feature set was most impressive and thankfully the nForce 590 SLI only gets better. Through testing I also discovered that the nForce 590 SLI seems to be a much better overclocker than the nForce 570 Ultra which is surprising.
Clearly the differences between the nForce 590 SLI and nForce 570 Ultra are not like that of the nForce4 SLI and Ultra. Rather there is actually quite a difference in performance and this comes from the improved memory performance of the nForce 590 SLI. The NVIDIA LinkBoost technology raises the PCI Express and MCP HyperTransport buses by 25%, which in turn boosts the interconnect bandwidth from 8GB/s to 10GB/s. The nForce 590 SLI also includes a total of 46 PCI Express lanes, meaning SLI mode can operate at full speed. By this I mean both PCI Express x16 slots will operate at full speed when using two graphics cards. In contrast, this is not a feature found in the nForce 570 SLI chipset which only operates each SLI card at PCI Express x8.
NVIDIA plans to offer total support to AM2 users with a range of four different chipsets, the nForce 590 SLI, 570 SLI, 570 Ultra and 550. Today we will be reviewing the ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe mainboard that features the nForce 590 SLI chipset, which is designed for the "enthusiast" segment. As you would expect from the world's most recognized motherboard manufacturer, the M2N32-SLI Deluxe is already making a name for itself as the best AM2 motherboard available thus far, and yes, it features many of the successful design elements of the widely regarded ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe.
Unique features found on the M2N32-SLI Deluxe include the awesome 8-phase power design, WiFi-AP supporting IEEE802.11b/g, and of course, the oh so impressive heat-pipe thermal solution. As most of you will be well aware, cooling has really become an issue for motherboards as the power consumption of CPUs, Graphics cards and even chipsets continues to rise. However, ASUS has done their best to avoid the heat, using things like an 8-phase power design, Stack Cool 2 and heat-pipe technology.
Heat-pipe technology has to be one of the coolest design elements to make its way into computers over the past few years. Just think of all the technological advancements computers have made in the past few years and to think that without something as simple as heat-pipes, most of it would not have been possible. The heat-pipe elements on the M2N32-SLI Deluxe cool the 8-phase power design as well as the North and South bridge chips, and I'm glad to say it works perfectly. During testing the motherboard and all its components remained very cool, even under extreme conditions.
The WiFi-AP Solo feature is also impressive as it offers users much greater flexibility. This wireless access point can also be used in client mode and will allow users to play games, connect to the internet, access shared printers and use Skype. The best part is the Skype feature can be used when in sleep mode, so users could effortlessly use Skype as a true replacement for traditional long distance telephone services. The M2N32-SLI Deluxe feature list is massive, with so many ASUS' own branded features included you could spend all day talking about them. Rather than do that, let’s just let the board performance do all the talking, shall we...