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ASUS A7N8X nForce2 Technology Review
Author : Wayne Date : 1st October 2002

A Closer Look:

Much as I'd like this to be a review of the ASUS A7N8X board itself I don't have the time or the details about it to do that. If you read our 2800+ review you'll know that DHL took a full week to deliver these goods to me on a next day delivery arriving yesterday mid-afternoon! It's not the first time DHL have screwed up our plans, they seem to be the least organised of all the carriers we regularly deal with (read crap!). What I'm planning instead is to treat this as simply a performance evaluation of a board that will be available in the retail channel, certainly a better option than reading a review of a board you can't actually go out and buy.

Key Specification Summary
- Supports Socket A - AMD Athlon/Athlon XP
- NVIDIA nForce2 SPP Northbridge and NVIDIA nForce2 MCP-T Southbridge
- 3 x DDR DIMM Sockets Max. 3GB unbuffered PC3200/2700/2100/1600 non-ECC SDRAM
- 1 x AGP Pro/8X
- 2 x UltraDMA/133/100/66
- 6 x USB 2.0 ports
- 2 x 1394 ports
- 2 x Serial ATA ports
- 5 x PCI slots
-MCP-T integrated APU and 6-channel CODEC
- Dual LAN architecture: MCP-T Integrated 3COM and NVIDIA LAN controllers
-ATX form factor

In terms of looks there's nothing too spectacular about the A7N8X. Of note are the fact that the SPP (North Bridge) is rotated at 45 degrees to the board edges, presumably to alter/shorten the traces and improve signal quality to and from the CPU. There's no active cooling on there although the sink is reasonably large. ASUS have included an AGP Pro 8X slot along with five PCI slots and an ACR slot. The inclusion of an ACR slot may seem a little odd but this is the interface used by the SoundStorm audio expansion card.

Because the A7N8X uses the MCP-T "Digital Media Gateway" (South Bridge to you and me but don't tell NVIDIA I said that) there are dual Ethernet ports amongst the plethora of connectors. As you can see this board uses the SPP "North Bridge" which means no integrated graphics, another term that NVIDIA are rightly keen to see the back of. It does tend to bring to mind visions of some prehistoric video chip struggling with the demands placed on it by a game of Solitaire. I know, let's refer to it as an "Board Integral Video System" or BIVS for short. Yeah, that'll do! It's probably an obscene word in some language or another but I'll chance it. So to sum up, there's no BIVS on this baby.

Serial-ATA is catered for courtesy of the Silicon Image Sil3112 SATALink host controller. This brings with it two S-ATA ports each capable of up to 1.5 Gb/sec transfers. Alongside this is the infamous ASUS ASB100 Bach chip responsible for system monitoring.

 

SiI 3112 Features
SATALinkTM PCI Host Controller


General
• Serial ATA - 1.5 Gbps (150 MB/s)
• Compliant with Serial ATA 1.0
specification
• Integrated Serial ATA Transport,
Link logic and PHY
• 48-bit sector addressing
• Dual independent DMA channels
with 256B FIFO per channel
• Virtual DMA
• Command buffering
• Supports up to 4 MB external Flash
• Supports external BIOS
• Supports spread spectrum clocking
to reduce EMI
• Register compatible with parallel ATA
• Single, digital PLL architecture, with
1 PLL for both channels

Transfer Rates
• Supports PIO and DMA modes
• Supports bus master DMA at
1.5 Gbps burst rate
PCI Bus
• 32-bit, 33/66 MHz
• PCI 2.2 compliant
Power
• Core: 1.8V, I/O: 3.3V operating
voltage with 5V tolerance
• ACPI: PCI Bus Power Management
Spec 1.1 compliant
Package
• 144-pin, 20x20 mm TQFP (Thin
Quad Flat Pack)

 

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