Asus P5NSLI Board Layout
Asus P5NSLI Board Layout
When we opened the box for this the one word that crossed our lips was "bare". Asus uses the yellow PCB to denote the fact that this board is a budget model and also you may notice the fact that it lacks WiFi-AP or Deluxe nomenclature that also usually accompanies Asus product names. So whilst it doesn't offer very much, you shouldn't expect very much from this board either. That doesn't mean it shouldn't utilise NVIDIA's nForce 570 SLI chipset to it's full potential - as we will find out later - but this board is clearly made to save money and pass those savings on to the consumer.

Everywhere you look, Asus has cleverly designed the P5NSLI with cost cutting in mind - there is no Firewire or WiFi attachment for starters. However the board still has a couple of PCI and PCI-Express x1 slots, added to the fact that the board is fully SLI capable using the pair of PCI-Express x16 slots.

The selector card is old school, especially when you consider that many board manufacturers use digital switches for controlling PCI-Express lane configurations. The downside is that digital switches cost more to manufacture and these costs are passed on to the consumer. So, the price you pay for saving a few pennies is having to mess around with removing your graphics cards and fiddling around inside your case. It's not like people usually switch between SLI and non-SLI modes that often though, so once it's done it's usually left for quite a while so the stress is short lived.

There are a few issues with the layout, for example if you install two dual slot PCI-Express graphics cards in both slots then you only have one PCI and one PCI-Express x1 slot left for expansion and installing a GeForce 7900 GTX into the bottom socket during testing caused problems with three of the four SATA ports.

The inclusion of two IDE channels as well as serial and parallel on the rear I/O is a clever market analysis by Asus because those looking to save money are more likely to still be using legacy peripherals and IDE hard disks.

The Gigabit Ethernet included is PCI based and there's only a single Ethernet socket, which is disappointing, but at least it's still Gigabit Ethernet and not just 10/100. However, even some other budget boards still include Gigabit and 10/100 dual Ethernet. The 6-channel audio provided by our less than favourite SoundMax audio and is based on the ADI1986 codec. This is a High Definition codec and it is capable of 5.1 channel output suitable for DVD playback, but we feel that ADI's codecs are inferior to the more-popular Realtek codecs when it comes to general compatibility.

Passively cooled heatsinks are a bonus for quiet computing, or in the P5NSLI's case: no heatsink at all; at least for the southbridge. The northbridge cooler is quite large but it doesn't get in the way of the other components. However, despite being an awesomely stable motherboard (see later), after testing both northbridge and southbridge were finger melting inferno hot.
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