ASUS L1N64-SLI WS
- Two CPU socket design means it will be able to handle up to eight CPU cores in the future, 12 SATA ports, Full-speed SLI graphics, Capable of running four graphics cards
- Only supports Socket-F Athlon 64 FX 7-series CPUs, Currently slower than an equivalent Intel quad-core platform
If you're in the market for a high-end quad-core configuration, the ASUS L1N64-SLI-WS is well worth a look. Even though the Athlon 64 FX-74 CPUs that run on this board are slower than Intel's high-end Core 2 Extreme QX6800, ASUS says the board will run AMD's set to be released Phenom CPUs, which give this board the potential to run up to eight CPUs cores.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
The ASUS L1N64-SLI WS is the first quad-core-capable motherboard that's available for AMD CPUs. It uses a dual-CPU socket design that can run two separate dual-core AMD Athlon 64 FX 7-series CPUs -- FX-70, FX-72 or FX-74.
It has four DDR2 memory slots and supports up to 8GB of memory. Furthermore, it's furnished with the best PCI Express (PCIe) and Serial ATA (SATA) options that we've seen to date: two PCIe x16 slots (for full-speed SLI), two PCIe x8 slots, one PCIe x1 slot and 12 SATA ports, using two NVIDIA controller chips. It's a board that's aimed at workstation users, but its SLI graphics configuration is well-suited to gamers and enthusiasts.
The L1N64-SLI-WS runs NVIDIA's nForce 680a chipset and its two CPU sockets make it scalable from two cores all the way up to eight with one caveat: it uses Socket-F CPU sockets, rather than AM2 CPU sockets. This means that it's not compatible with current AM2-based Athlon 64 X2 and Athlon 64 FX CPUs. Socket-F is similar to Intel's land grid array (LGA) socket design, which removes the pins from the CPU, leaving it with flat surface connections. The pins are located on the motherboard's CPU socket instead. This socket is also used for AMD's Opteron workstation and server CPU.
Using two AMD Athlon 64 FX-74 CPUs running at 3GHz, 1GB of DDR2 800MHz RAM, a 500GB Western Digital hard drive, an ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics card and Windows Vista Ultimate, we ran our WorldBench 6 benchmark, as well as media encoding and image processing tests. The results we obtained were fast -- for an AMD platform.
Referenced against a dual-core AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ CPU running at 2.6GHz, the L1N64-SLI-WS scored 18 percent better in WorldBench 6 tests. The 3ds Max rendering test, in particular, showed a dramatic improvement on the Quad FX platform, almost halving the amount of time it took to complete. However, it wasn't as zippy as the result produced by Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX6800 using the same hardware (except for the motherboard, which was an ASUS P5B Premium with an Intel P965 chipset). The breakdown in WorldBench 6 shows the L1N64-SLI-WS quad-core AMD solution trailing the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6800 by 40sec in the 3ds Max rendering test, by 67sec in the multitasking test and by 117sec in the Photoshop test.
The MP3 encoding test was also in favour of the Core 2 Extreme, despite the fact that the Athlon 64 FX-74 CPUs have a higher clock speed. It took just 43sec for the Core 2 Extreme to finish this task and CPU usage peaked at 67 percent. The quad-core AMD platform took 50sec to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 56Kbps MP3 files using iTunes and CPU usage peaked at 74 percent. The CPU usage for both the Intel and AMD platforms indicated that at least three of the cores were used to complete the task. When compared to the AMD Athlon 64 X2 system, which is only a dual-core system, the same task took 92sec, with up to 95 percent of the dual-core CPU getting used.
In the Neat Image test, the Intel Core 2 Extreme cleaned up our digital photo in less than a second, while the quad-core AMD platform took slightly longer -- 1.1sec. Neat Image can use all four CPU cores and CPU usage peaked at 100 percent on both platforms during this test. The dual-core Athlon 64 5000+ took 2.8sec -- 1.7sec slower than the quad-core.
The slower results against the Core 2 chip are a little surprising as the Athlon 64 FX resembles an Opteron server chip more than a typical Athlon 64 X2 desktop chip, and should've put up a better showing. In saying that, it didn't get clobbered by the Core 2; in fact, it managed to keep up nicely, despite having only 1MB of Level 2 cache for each of its cores (the Core 2 has a shared 4MB Level 2 cache for each pair of its cores). AMD will be releasing a new chip in August, called Phenom, which will include single-chip quad-core CPUs, and we're looking forward to seeing if it can bridge this gap in performance. For now though, Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX6800 is the fastest quad-core chip we've tested. It beat the quad-core AMD platform in all our workloads.
While AMD's quad-core solution may not currently be faster than a quad-core solution based on an Intel CPU, the L1N64-SLI-WS does have redeeming factors when compared against an equivalent quad-core-capable Intel motherboard. For starters, it has the potential to be upgraded to run eight cores in the future. It has double the amount of SATA ports (12 compared to 6), ten USB 2.0 ports, it has two gigabit Ethernet connections, and it has four PCI Express graphics slots, two of which can be used for a full-speed SLI configuration (the P5B Premium supports an ATI CrossFire configuration).
The final word: If you're in the market for a high-end quad-core configuration, the ASUS L1N64-SLI-WS is well worth a look. Even though the Athlon 64 FX-74 CPUs that run on this board are slower than Intel's high-end Core 2 Extreme QX6800, ASUS says the board will run AMD's set to be released Phenom CPUs, which give this board the potential to run up to eight CPUs cores.
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