ASUS A7N8X Review
 




Written by: David "David" Coker
Editor/Graphics: Allan "Zardon"Campbell
Benchie Graphs: John "Digitalwanderer" Hayden

Introduction
Asus, Headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, in the heart of the world's high-tech manufacturing center, ASUS leverages world-class R&D, highly skilled workers, and cost-effective material sourcing to design technology leading solutions. With manufacturing facilities in Taiwan: Taipei, Luchu, Nankan, and Kweishan, as well as in Suzhou, China, ASUS delivers premium quality products.Currently, ASUS manufacturing facilities have a monthly production capacity of two million motherboards and 150,000 notebook computers. At ASUS, manufacturing success combines unparalleled quality with first-to-market competitiveness

The A7N8X is ASUS's entry into the nForce2 chipset market. It supports a Dual Channel DDR400 memory bus, 8x AGP, 6-channel Dolby Sound (SoundStorm), and the only onboard 5.1 Dolby Digital encoder available in a chipset. The MCP-T also provides 10/100 NIC functionality, six USB 2.0 ports, IEEE-1394 (Firewire), and an ATA133 controller. ASUS has added an integrated 3Com 10/100 NIC, support for vocal POST error reporting, intelligent fan speed adjustment, and an automatic shutdown system for protection against thermal CPU damage, making this a fairly feature-packed board.

Specifications:

Processor
Socket A for AMD® Athlon™XP/ Athlon™/ Duron™ 600MHz ~ 2800+
Thoroughbred core CPU ready

Chipset
North Bridge: NVIDIA® nForce2 SPP
South Bridge: NVIDIA® nForce2 MCP
FSB 333 / 266 / 200 MHz

Memory
Dual-Channel DDR 400
3 x 184-pin DIMM Sockets
Max. 3 GB unbuffered PC3200/PC2700/PC2100/PC1600 non-ECC DDR RAM Memory (Twinbank)
Expansion Slots

1 x AGP Pro/8X (1.5V only)
5 x PCI
IDE Ports

2 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33
Audio Realtek® ALC650 6CH w/built in HP amplifier
LAN

1 Ports
MCP integrated NVIDIA® MAC + Realtek® 8201BL PHY
Special Features

Power Loss Restart
Q-Fan Technology
STR (Suspend-to-RAM)
C.O.P. (CPU Overheating Protection)
CPU Throttle
Back Panel

I/O Ports 1 x Parallel
1 x Serial
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x Audio I/O
4 x USB 2.0
Internal I/O Connectors

1 x USB 2.0 connector support additional 2 USB 2.0 ports
CPU/Power/Chassis FAN connectors
Game Connector
20 pin ATX power connector
IDE LED connector, power LED connector
WOR, WOL, Chassis Intrusion, SM Bus, SIR
Headphone (optional)
Front MIC
CD/AUX/Modem audio in
Front Panel Audio connector (optional)
BIOS Feature

2Mb Flash ROM, Award BIOS, TCAV, PnP, DMI2.0, DMI, Green
Industrial Standard

PCI 2.2, USB 2.0
Manageability

DMI 2.0, WOR, WOL, Chassis Intrusion, SM Bus
Support CD

Drivers
ASUS® PC Probe
Trend Micro™PC-cillin 2002 anti-virus software with Windows® XP support
ASUS LiveUpdate Utility
Accessories

I/O Shield
Game port bracket
User's Manual
UltraDMA 133 cable
FDD cable
UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
9-pin COM cable
Form Factor

ATX Form Factor
12" x 9.6" (30.5cm x 24.5cm)


Extras:
ASUS packed this box with accessories, giving us two manuals, a driver disc, two serial ATA cables, Two 80-conductor ATA133 cable, a 40-conductor ATA cable, a floppy cable, an ATX DMI shield, a quick reference card, and a reference sticker for the inside of your case. Also included are three brackets: a 9 pin serial bracket, a 2 port USB and joystick bracket, and a Firewire bracket.



Layout and Features:

If there is one thing about this board that bothered me, it was the physical layout that Asus chose to go with. The CPU socket is in perhaps the worst location and has the closest capacitors that I have seen on a motherboard to date. This will make it extremely hard to install a heatshink that requires mounting with a zif socket. Lucky for me I’ll be using the Alpha 8045, which uses the 4 mounting holes around the zif socket. Asus did keep the four holes for the larger heatsinks which I noticed many Nforce 2 motherboard makes opted not to have.

Another layout placement that I did not like was the ATX power connector. It is placed directly next to the floppy and IDE connectors and makes it annoying to get any of those four devices connected or disconnected when they are all filled. The moving of the ATX power connector from between the memory slots and North Bridge was a necessary step, but there are many other places that I would have preferred this to go.

The memory slots are much closer to the chipset than other motherboards in order to facilitate having a higher memory speed and timing option. The less distance that the signals have to carry with the least noise is what allows the NVIDIA nForce2 platform to reach DDR400 specifications and allow their DDR333 memory to run at the fastest possible memory settings. The memory is once again in a 2x1 configuration for a total of 3 memory slots, slots 1 and 2 for DDR channel 1 and slot 3 for DDR channel 2. In order to get the best performance, having identical sticks of RAM in slots 1 and 3 is required.



The Asus A7N8X motherboard has to offer including 6-channel audio, dual network cards and 4 USB 2.0 ports built right onto the board. There is an 8x AGP Pro slot as well as five PCI slots and a single ACR slot for a riser card. Throughout the rest of the board you will find the hints of the remaining features that Asus has included on this motherboard: two channel IEEE 1394 (Fire Wire), serial ATA support, Smart card reader, two additional USB headers and Wake on LAN connector. Only thing being left out is IDE RAID – which I personally would like to have seen or at least ASUS should have included a IDE to SATA adapter.


System Setup

The bios on A7N8X board offered a lot of features and options for overclocking. There were adjustments for FSB and memory speeds. Oddly, you could increase the memory speed asynchronously from the front side bus only by percentages. While you could get the same results, the math was just a little out of place for figuring out your actual memory speed compared to the FSB.

The MCP-T
The heart of the Digital Media Gateway role for the nForce2 is the MCP-T which features a few improvements such as Soundstorm APU, dual-net Ethernet support with integrated nVidia and 3Com controllers, USB2.0 and Firewire support. A stripped down version of this chip sans APU (only standard AC97) and further lacking the extra 3Com Ethernet controller and firewire is the MCP without "-T". The ASUS A7N8X features the MCP-T version in the "Deluxe" edition, the standard version only sports the MCP meaning that one should check which version is being bought, especially online.

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