ABIT AN8 32X review
Author: Grga Curkovic
Date: 19 Apr 2006
When first introduced, nForce4 had 20 PCExpress lanes which was enough for one x16 slot or two x8 slots. At the time that was more than enough for top notch graphics cards. But things have change, the horse power of today GPUs has doubled and running those at a x8 slot resulted in losing performance. To patch things up nVidia came up with a solution that supports two x16 lanes. What was cool about nForce4 was the fact that it wasn?t a chipset, but a chip with all northbridge and southbridge functions integrated on a single silicon die. The easiest and cheapest way of adding 16 lanes was via another chip and that was exactly what nVidia did. At first this may not sound as a good solution, but when you come to think of things like development and manufacturing cost one comes to realize it is the optimal solution. This way nVidia introduced new features without spending all that much money which made the new motherboards more affordable. But the real question is if the extra 16 lanes really improve performance. We tested ABIT?s x16 board named ABIT AN8 32X. The naming may be a little confusing, while nvidia named its chipset nForce4 SLI X16 most of the motherboard makers included number 32 in their product names. The reason for this is marketing, 32 is more than 16 and it just sounds better. We compared ABIT?s motherboard to what we consider to be the best nForce4 board made, DFI LanParty UT SLI-DR.
The first thing we saw was that the board is passively cooled, which is something you come to appreciate when you are surrounded with computers all day and want to cut down noise as much as possible. The cooler on our DFI board sometimes just makes too much noise. We don?t understand why more motherboard makers don?t use passive cooling since heatpipe technology makes it possible. Another thing we noticed is that there is only one slot between the two x16 PCI Express slots. One of the first available nForce4 boards, the ASUS A8N-SLI had two slots between x16 PCI Express slots which greatly improves graphic card cooling. Since then there weren?t many motherboards with two slots between x16 PCI Express slots which is a bit of a mistery since it is a good solution and obviously can be done. When you use two-slot cooling cards in SLI configuration the upper card gets noticeably warmer. The board is equipped with six Serial ATA connectors, the back panel has four USB ports, two PS/2 ports, a set of six audio jacks and two optical connectors (input and output), FireWire and Ethernet port. You can connect additional six USB ports and a FireWire port using various front panels.