We think we’re seeing a pretty solid pattern here. As is true of the Star Trek movies, it’s possible that only the even-numbered Nvidia chipsets are worth a damn. The original nForce was a beta product. The nForce2 was great. The nForce3 sucked eggs. The nForce4 SLI kicked much booty. And then there’s the nForce 590 SLI Intel Edition, which was hyped more than a David Blaine stunt, and might be just as anti-climactic. Originally scheduled for availability in August, boards using the laggard chipset didn’t appear until late October—just before boards using the newer nForce 680i were released. What’s the point?
That’s not to take away from Asus’ P5N32-SLI Premium board. The board is what we’ve come to expect from the company—packed with thoughtful touches such as quick connects for the front-panel connectors, onboard 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, and eSATA. There’s SLI support and even an audio riser card using an Analog Devices 1988B codec. The riser card theoretically gets the codecs up and away from the electrically noisy motherboard plane, and EAX support actually works, unlike with the Realtek parts. Asus also addressed the problems we’ve had with SATA port configuration in the past. All six SATA ports are available, even when two dual-slot GPUs are in place. The board has three physical x16 slots, with two running at full speed and the third functioning as a x8 slot.
Labeling the 590 SLI IE an nFarce for its late arrival is unfair. Sure, boards using the chipset were late, but that doesn’t mean the chipset is bad. On the performance front, the P5N32-SLI Premium held its own against the newer chipset. Its new sibling leads in some benchmarks, but both nForce offerings lead the 975X board overall. Nvidia and Asus both admit that the 590’s main weakness is its overclocking performance. You can crank up the clocks some, but not as high as on the 680i or even most 975X-based boards.
Our own experience with early engineering samples back that up. We’ve been able to hit mild overclocks with the 590 IE SLI, but not the spicy-hot speeds that enthusiasts crave. That makes the P5N32-SLI Premium a competent board for a gamer who doesn’t overclock. But the 680i’s arrival makes this board an even tougher sell. It’s like a 2006 model car sitting among a row of 2007s at the car dealership—it just isn’t going to get much notice.
Month Reviewed: January 2007 + MUNCHOS: SLI, Wi-Fi, and the goodness of the Nvidia south bridge in one board. - FUNIONS: Doesn’t overclock as well as 680i or 975X. Verdict: 7 URL:www.asus.com