Test Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
The top-of-the-line ASUS motherboard that we first laid hands on in March - the A8N-SLI Premium - didn't actually ship to the public until June. The reason for the delay had nothing to do with technical difficulties, but rather was related to the company's promise to deliver a fanless product to market. Current motherboards no longer include fans, which means the nForce4 chipset employs a heatpipe-based solution. This cooler stretches all the way from the back panel to the CPU socket, and uses its cooling fins to dissipate heat from the power supply as well. The last vestige of active cooling comes from the air stream from the CPU cooler.
Cooling issues aside, the ASUS nForce4 SLI motherboard remains one of the best models available today. Next to the integrated Gigabit Ethernet controller chip from NVIDIA, you'll find another Marvell chip for a second LAN connection. Overkill rules the SATA interfaces as well: a Sil3114 chipset from Silicon Image adds four more connections to those that the NVIDIA controller delivers - all supporting 300 MB/s (SATA-II) and native command queuing (NCQ). The chipset's SLI mode supports two PCI-e x16 NVIDIA graphics cards, but you'll also find one PCI-e x1 slot and one x4 slot as well. With three additional 32 bit PCI slots, there's plenty of room for existing expansion cards as well.
Fast memory timings, as always...