Any way you look at it, the two SLI boards from Asus and MSI occupy a special position, as their nForce4-SLI chipset gives them more inherent potential for performance and future-proofing. This comes at a "deluxe" price as well, of course, but if you got a lot of cash for Christmas, you may want to seriously consider getting hold of one of these boards. Thanks to PCI Express and SLI, you should be all set for at least the next 18 months - upgrading your CPU to a dual-core model and acquiring a second NVIDIA graphics card should allow system performance to remain at the cutting edge for a long time.
One important tradeoff between these two cards is that while the K8N Diamond from MSI supports Bluetooth and 54 MBit WLAN, the A8N-SLI Deluxe from Asus offers two x1 PCIe slots where MSI does not - although the second x16 slot can be outfitted with a x1 card in a pinch.
Abit's AV8 and Soltek's K8TPRO-939 stood out thanks to the rear panel of the VIA chipset-equipped boards. Abit offers extra goodies in the form of extensive overclocking options and a solid design, as well as its µGuruClock. This desktop model is a nice treat for enthusiasts who want to monitor the system and restore preprogrammed overclocking settings. The Soltek board is particularly suitable for users looking for a cost-efficient way to upgrade their present system, thanks to its four UltraATA/133 ports, AGP 8X and five PCI slots.
We definitely recommend PCI Express for anyone considering purchasing a new PC, and also for those users contemplating a complete system makeover. Most of the boards in stores are nForce4 based, and both the Gigabyte K8NXP and the K8N Neo2 from MSI performed well. If for some reason you have to go with PCI Express components with a x4 interface, you should take a look at the K8X890 Pro from Albatron, as the manufacturer has now bundled the four PCIe lanes of the K8T890 chipset into a single fast port. The best bargains of the bunch could be the boards from EPoX and WinFast, with EPoX using the nForce3 Ultra, and WinFast the 755FX from SiS.
Stay tuned for a follow-up article early in the year in which we will present more boards.