ASUS M4N82 Deluxe, Phenom II 940BE combo

madmat

Soup Nazi
Recently I upgraded from an aging M2N32-SLI Deluxe and Athlon 64 X2 4000+ (Brisbane core, 65W) to a new M4N82 Deluxe and Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition.

While the M2N supports the 940BE it doesn't support anything above that nor offer core unlocking. Sure, you CAN make the 955 and 965 quads work but it requires much hammering away with software and my experiences with software overclocking have been less than positive over the years. I'd rather have full support should the opportunity to upgrade on the cheap happens. Plus it's unknown how the M2N will work with the new six core procs.

The M4N82 seems like a less than stellar option for those of us wanting to make the switch to AM3 because it supports DDR2 rather than offering DDR3 support but that's actually a hidden strength. Yes, the cost of DDR2 has risen to the point where it's as costly as DDR3 but DDR3 has yet to reach the level of market saturation that DDR2 has. Most of us have DDR2 laying around or in use in a PC. This lowers the cost of entry and as DDR2 is so plentiful in the used market an upgrade to faster/more ram can be quite a bit cheaper. Yes the ram speeds aren't as high but the latencies can be considerably tighter than DDR3 which closes the margin. We saw that on DDR VS DDR2. CAS 2-2-2-5, 1T DDR400 was as fast as PC2-5400, offering similar bandwidth and much better latencies. Providing higher efficiency than the "faster" ram.

Speed is not always the cure, we have seen this in many failed products that offered inefficient speed for speed's sake. Rambus RDRAM... fail! Prescott core technology with insane longer pipelines that only hurt throughput. But, I digress.

DDR2 support allows more options for those of us that are on a budget. It means you can move up to the big gun CPU but don't have to today. You also don't need to buy more ram when you have DDR2 on hand. AM3 mobos can't run AM2 or AM2+ CPU's. It's an all or nothing upgrade path and honestly, with the performance deficit that AMD has to Intel, an all or nothing upgrade could be as well spent moving to Core i5 as to AM3.

Also, if your ram bandwidth is a major concern, this board supports DDR2-1200. If you look around you can find it used for a decent price, I've seen PC2-10000 for $75 shipped for four gigs.

The board also supports tri-SLI with 8X per slot in triple card mode. Asus' other 980a offering, oddly, only sports dual 16X slots. On the other hand there are a few things which are definitely marks against the board. No HDMI out (the 980a is capable of driving an HDTV on the southbridge if fitted with HDMI) or DVI/VGA ports so you can't use it for power saving with a big card by allowing the onboard GPU to accelerate 2D (I forget nV speak for it) and I've tried using the onboard GPU for PhysX processing to no avail. Seems the only thing it CAN do is hybrid SLI with a low end GPU which is hardly what this board is going to end up playing host to.

Another major shortfall is that there are only 5 SATA ports for internal drives. Four of them function as SATA ports in normal SATA mode while the fifth is missing. You have to toggle AHCI mode or RAID in the bios and run all five in AHCI mode or in RAID mode. ASUS claims it's a chipset limitation but I've seen other 980a boards that aren't cursed with that limitation.

The 980a chipset supports 6 SATA devices, ASUS opted to use the 6th for e-SATA duties forgoing the external SATA controller found on many of their earlier incarnations of this board.

If you're a drive whore like I am that's not a good thing. Especially since there's only one PATA port. Yeah, yeah... PATA is dying but at least it's something to use for more drives.

On the upside, the board layout makes sense. At last. One of my biggest complaints with my previous versions (this board directly traces its roots to the A8N32-SLI Deluxe) is that they put jumpers in the wrong place (M2N32-SLI Deluxe) where you can't reach them to reset the CMOS or putting the levers to release the GPU's from the X-16 slots on the bottoms of the slots where you just-can't-quite-reach-them without jamming your fingers up into the SMC's on either the GPU or around the slots. Wheee!

Amazingly they've learnt from past experiences. The levers were moved to the top of the slots on the M2N32-SLI Deluxe and I believe the clear CMOS jumper was relocated to the right lower corner of the board with the M3N-HT Deluxe. I'm hoping that momentary switches aren't too far off.

I dunno what to say about the 940BE aside from pointing out that their included HSF is pretty swanky but it's just an upgraded version of the HSF that came with their A64 X2-4800+ 939 CPU.

That all said I'd like to say that everything went together well with few surprises aside from one of my GPU's needing to be reseated. The bios is straightforward and you have to toggle the options on (ram, CPU and chipset options) in order to see the OC capabilities so it's full featured without being overly intimidating to users that aren't enthusiasts.

Once I got the PC together and the OS installed I found that there aren't many utilities for win 7. I had to go to ASUS user forums and dig around to find versions for different boards that other users have found to be compatible with this board. There are still utilities I can't find such as Turbo Key. Boo!

Also, ASUS' audio driver stinks! I was getting a roaring sound through my speakers, it wasn't until I ferreted out the audio chipset they used and downloaded the driver from the chipset maker's site that the roar went away. The chipset in question is a VIA HD offering that actually offers pretty good sound. In fact I find it to be 90% the quality of Auzentech's X-Fi based Prelude. With better bass to boot.

On the performance front, my 3DMark '06 scores went up by over 2,000 with double the CPU score. '05 went up by ~5,000 and '03 shot up close to 13,000 with the CPU scaling 100% over my former CPU on both.

This was in line with the performance increases I encountered in Sandra and Cinebench 10. The memory scores shot up quite a bit over my former combo, I was getting 8,000 on the bandwidth bench with the M2N32, with the M4N82 I got a lot closer to the theoretical limit of 13,800 with 10,000+. An older version reported 12,000...

So, all in all I have to say that the M4N82 Deluxe coupled with the 940BE has been a huge step forward from my former setup. Gaming feels more fluid, there aren't any of the odd little jumps I was experiencing in certain games. I'm also running at higher details with more eye candy.
 
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Rob Williams

Editor-in-Chief
Staff member
Moderator
Glad you are digging the new setup man! The 940 is a great CPU, that's for sure. I completely agree on the RAM issue as well... DDR3 might be faster, but as far as I'm concerned, there are few areas where that makes a real difference. In talking to Robert (Kougar) the other night, he mentioned that faster memory can make a -huge- difference in [email protected] projects, but if you don't take part there, then faster RAM isn't going to benefit you too greatly.

You're right also about having DDR2 kicking around. On my last PC, I kind of had that, but I ended up opting for an 8GB set just because I'm such a memory hog. Then when I moved to Core i7, I moved up to 12GB. Probably with the next major upgrade I do, I'll go for 128GB (just kidding ;)).

I don't think I could put up for too long with the 6 (or rather, 5) SATA ports. I wonder the reasoning behind that, because it's not atypical for people today to run more than one ODD and multiple HDDs. I am not a media hound, but I do handle a lot of data, and have two ODDs and three HDDs in this rig. I'd hate to not have the ability to expand past that.

I couldn't agree more on the jumper aspect either... I -hate- it when I look at a board and it has that. Even high-end boards are guilty of it sometimes. The same goes for the BIOS battery, where you have to uninstall a GPU just to get at it. It doesn't sound like it should be a pain, but if you have to go run to get a screw driver to get the GPU out, then it is.

I'm really, really surprised that you're having a hard time finding Windows 7 utilities... the board isn't even old. It came out, what, six months before Windows 7? Out of curiosity, did you happen to look on ASUS' support site at brand-spanking new AM3 boards to see if the utility is found there? I've noticed that sometimes that only the newest boards see recent updates (as an example, one board I reviewed not long ago was using an old version of TurboV, but ASUS told me that another board's version on the support site would work, and it did).

So what games are you playing, or planning to play, on this puppy?
 

madmat

Soup Nazi
I'm using Turbo V for the M4NXX EVO 980a based board which is the twin slot variant I mentioned. I used a couple of Vista 64 bit utilities for my board which worked fine.

I plan on upgrading to 4 gigs of DDR2-1100 here soon, I just didn't see a huge need to do it right away. The only trouble is that according to ASUS, this board won't run more than 2 sticks of DDR2-1066 or up. If you put in 4 sticks of ram it downclocks to DDR2-800.

As to games, I've been playing Left-4-dead and some GRID. Remember the problems I had with GRID on the last setup? It stuttered badly, was pretty much unplayable... not any longer. Now it's running at 1680X1050 with 2XMSAA and is smooth as silk. Sadly I still suck as a driver, I need to get a wheel.

I'm pretty pleased with the results, my 3DMark scores are in line with a Q6600 system running a single 9800GT. Had I bought a Q6600, good 775 mobo and 9800GT I'd have spent more money so I'm thrilled... And I'm still just playing with finding a good OC, so far I'm still down at a modest 10% OC.
 

Rob Williams

Editor-in-Chief
Staff member
Moderator
To be honest, I don't think there will be much of a difference between DDR2-1100 and DDR2-800. I ran 8GB of DDR2-800 4-4-4-12 since right before this upgrade and I loved it. I'd much opt for DDR2-800 and tighter timings if it's an option, rather than DDR2-1100 with say, 5-5-5.

GRID is such a finicky game, it's un believable. It's not even THAT graphically intensive by today's standards, yet it still can choke on seemingly capable machines.

Glad the machine is treating you well, though. I foresee a lot of FPS online ass-kicking in your future ;-)
 

madmat

Soup Nazi
FPS games are good, I need to have some fun.

The DDR2-1100 will run me about the same price as DDR2-800 and finding cas 4-4-4-12 800 is not an easy thing any longer. Unfortunately.
 
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