Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe A64-939 Motherboard

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Lots of goodies...

As the number of different devices you can plug into a motherboard have increased, the real estate for ports on the rear panel has become jam-packed. Because of this, a number of the usual ports are missing. Fortunately, ASUS has supplied them on PCI brackets instead, so they're all there if you need them. Included on the brackets are two Firewire ports (a 6-pin and a 4-pin), a serial port, a game/MIDI port and two additional USB 2.0 ports. In place of these older ports, there are a second Ethernet port, two S/PDIF ports (one optical, one coaxial), and the aforementioned eSATA port.

What is eSATA? eSATA is an extension of the SATA specifications that is designed to allow external devices to take advantage of the full 1.5 (or 3.0) Gbps interface bandwidth of SATA. If superior technology is the only criteria, it should replace USB 2.0 and Firewire as the interface of choice for external storage. A technical brief of the technology can be found on the SATA-IO web site.

eSATA cables can be up to two meters long, and, unlike internal SATA cables, are rugged enough for repeated uses. There is also a version, called xSATA, that will extend the maximum length to around ten meters. Unfortunately, eSATA does not carry power, so an external power source will be needed for external drives.

Why is this of interest to silencers? It would allow systems to be run without any internal drives, as the system drive could be located elsewhere. More importantly, it would mean that the system drive need not be silenced within the system itself. Without the space and mounting constraints of a computer case, it would become much easier to find ways to reduce drive noise.

No Firewire, but everything else is ready to go. Note the red eSATA port.

The inclusion of the second Ethernet port is a little odd — it seems unlikely that many users will use both ports, and the space for the second port could have been better used by integrating the Firewire port. They use two different control chips — one from NVidia and one from Marvell, and they have slightly different features. For example, the NVidia port comes with a hardware firewall, while the Marvell port can detect cable faults via a utility in the BIOS. There is considerable potential for user error here. Unless the user is aware of the differences (and which features belong to which port), he may be led to believe that he has firewall protection when he does not, or mistakenly believe that he has a cable fault. For the record, the nVidia port is on the left and the Marvell port is on the right.

Asus Compatibility the Antec NeoHE Power Supplies?

The A8N32-SLI Deluxe was one of many Asus motherboards which appeared to have a serious compatibility problem with the Antec NeoHE power supplies. Our first NeoHE PSU samples (circa Oct 2005), both retail package samples and the 430W models included with the Antec P150 case, refused to play nice with the A8N32-SLI, usually booting only for 10~40 seconds before powering down. The most recent NeoHE samples, revision A3, were received around Christmas 2005. These latest samples work quietly without any issues with the A8N32-SLI Deluxe, the Asus A8N-SLI, and Asus A8N-VM CSM — all the Asus socket 939 motherboards on hand in the SPCR lab.

We were informed by Antec that not all the PSUs are marked with a revision number, but you can figure out the date of ex-factory from the serial number. One of our A3s has this number: S05110081185. The 0511 means it was shipped from the factory in 2005, November. So any NeoHE whose serial number starts with S0511, S0512 or S06 should be perfectly compatible with Asus boards.

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