The new ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe is a Pentium 4-based motherboard equipped to handle the latest and greatest components you throw at it.
It will handle 64-bit, Extreme Edition and even dual-core processors in its LGA775 CPU socket. In addition, it's also the only current Pentium 4-based motherboard to support SLI.
This feature has been brought to the Pentium 4 platform courtesy of NVIDIA and its nForce4 SLI chipset, upon which this motherboard is centred. The nForce4 chipset also delivers integrated Gigabit Ethernet, plenty of RAID solutions (RAID 0, 1, 0+1, JBOD and even RAID 5) and it also supports SATA2.
We tried the P5ND2-SLI Deluxe motherboard with several processors: Intel's Pentium 4 660 64-bit, 3.46GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition and Pentium Extreme Edition 840 dual-core (reviewed on page 24). The board accepted all these CPUs without a hitch.
Our main test configuration during productivity and game testing included two ASUS N6600GT Extreme graphics cards in SLI configuration, one 80GB Samsung SATA drive, and 1GB of 533MHz DDR2 memory, along with a Pentium 4 660 processor (3.6GHz).
This configuration achieved a score of 100 in PC WorldBench 5, which is one of the best scores we have seen out of a Pentium 4-based system. We also obtained a score of 6414 in 3DMark2005. Doom 3 testing (at 1280x1024 in high quality mode), returned an average frame rate of 123fps with SLI enabled, and 86fps with SLI disabled. Overall, gaming performance on this board should be exemplary.
The future is now
It's fair to say that if you purchase this board now you'll likely not need to upgrade for at least a few years. This is due to the board's wide CPU support, as well as its dual PCI Express 16x graphics slots, SATA2 support and also the fact that it can run DDR2 memory at up to 720MHz (with CPUs that support a 1066MHz front-side bus).
DDR2 667MHz memory is supported natively as well, with ASUS recommending Corsair memory for use with this board, especially if you plan to investigate its overclocking features - of which there are plenty.
Of note, is AI NOS (Artificial Intelligent Non-delay Overclocking System) that automatically boosts a system's performance when a high workload is detected. We did record a slight gain in performance with this feature enabled. This is configured through a graphical interface in Windows, which also allows you to manually tweak your CPU settings.
As for connectivity, this board has everything from legacy ports to an external Serial ATA (SATA) port. Up to 10 USB 2.0 ports and two FireWire ports are supported, and the package includes D-brackets with one FireWire and two USB 2.0 ports, respectively. A game/MIDI port is also included in the package.
Verdict: If you're thinking about building a high-end machine for gaming and intensive processing tasks, this board is a sure bet.
ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe
Price: $399 Vendor: ASUS URL: www.asus.com.au Specification: LGA775 socket; nForce4 SLI chipset; 4 x DDR2 memory slots; 2 x PCI Express x16 slots; Gigabit Ethernet; 10 x USB 2.0; 2 x FireWire; 5 x SATA; RAID; 8-channel digital audio; Features: 10 Value: 8 Overall: 9