The only mainboard for AMD Quad FX platform that is currently available in the market is made by ASUS. It is called L1N64-SLI WS. Other mainboard manufacturers seem to be not yet interested in the new Quad FX platform. Which is actually not surprising at all, keeping in mind that the sales of this platform will not reach any significant numbers soon enough.
Now that we took a closer look at Nvidia nForce 680a SLI chipset, ASUS L1N64-SLI WS mainboard doesn’t surprise us with its remarkable features anymore. Its features are mostly those of the chipset. The mainboard is equipped with two 1207-pin LGA sockets with two DDR2 DIMM slots assigned to each of them. To ensure maximum performance AMD recommends using all four memory slots for two dual-channel memory kits. As for the coolers retention, it is pretty standard, so you can use traditional Socket AM2 cooling systems on ASUS L1N64-SLI WS mainboard.
Four physical PCI Express x16 slots laid out on this mainboard are color coded. Blue slots are logically connected to the fully fledged PCI Express x16 bus, while the black slots are actually none other but the PCI Express x8 bus. Besides the PCI Express x16 slots there is also one PCI Express x1 slot and one regular PCI slot on the PCB, which actually has hardly fit onto the mainboard. Note that ASUS L1N64-SLI WS cannot accommodate four graphics cards with dual-clot cooling system. The three graphics cards like that will block all other available expansion slots.
According to the Nvidia nForce 680a SLI chipset specification, the mainboard has 12 Serial ATA-300 ports laid out and even one Parallel ATA-133 port. The mainboard allows creating RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5 arrays. Each array like that can consist of maximum 6 hard disk drives connected to the same core logic chip. Also ASUS equipped its mainboard with one SATA On-the-Go port laid out on the mainboard back panel. There is a special external SiI3531 controller responsible for this port’s operation.
Out of 20 USB 2.0 ports supported by the chipset, ASUS L1N64-SLI WS features only 10. Four ports are placed on the back panel and the remaining six are available in the form of onboard pin-connectors. The mainboard also doesn’t make use of all the supported network controllers. ASUS L1N64-SLI WS offers only two Gigabit network controllers and their RJ45 connectors are laid out on the mainboard back panel.
To implement the FireWire interface, ASUS equipped its mainboard with VIA VT6308P chip. This controller provides two connectors for add-on brackets with IEEE1394a ports.
High-definition sound solution on ASUS L1N64-SLI WS uses AD1988B codec. The mainboard features six analog audio Ins/Outs, an optical and coaxial SPDIF Outs located on the back panel.
Also there are PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse and a parallel port. The serial port is also available, but it is implemented as a pin-connector.
Since ASUS L1N64-SLI WS mainboard features two processor sockets and a lot of additional connectors it is designed in eATX form-factor measuring 307x267mm. As a result, far not all the system cases may be fit for the new Quad FX platform. And certainly not all the power supply units, which was clear from the very beginning. By the way, there are three power connectors on this board: 24-pin, 8-pin 12V one and a standard MOLEX.
Despite all ASUS engineers’ efforts, the design of their L1N64-SLI WS is far from perfect. The 24-pin ATX power connector is located in an unbelievable spot: almost right in the center of the PCB.
Each of the CPUs features its own four-phase voltage regulator. The MOSFET used in these regulators are covered with two copper heatsinks which can be topped with individual turbo-fans. The chipset is also cooled down with a very advanced solution. Both chips of the core logic set used on this board are located next to one another, so they share a cooler. The construction of this cooler includes a flat copper plate with two heatpipes leading to a separate copper heatsink also equipped with a turbo-fan. Despite this complex cooling system, the chipset of ASUS L1N64-SLI WS heats up so much, that you can burn your fingers if you touch the chipset heatsink during operation.
Since AMD Quad FX platform and ASUS L1N64-SLI WS are targeted for computer enthusiasts, the BIOS Setup of this platform features quite a list of advanced options, including overclocking-friendly ones, of course.
You can configure the memory subsystem, set all the major parameters including the important for AMD systems Node Interleaving option.
The mainboard also allows performing some processor overclocking. I cannot call the overclocking friendly features of ASUS L1N64-SLI WS unprecedented, but they are quite enough to achieve noticeable results. You can raise the clock generator frequency up to 400MHz, the processor Vcore can be increased by maximum 0.2V above the nominal, while the Vmem can be raised to maximum 2.5V.
I have to admit that we didn’t perform any detailed testing of the overclocking-friendly features of ASUS L1N64-SLI WS mainboard. But we checked that the mainboard works stable at 250-260MHz clock generator frequency. In fact, Quad FX processors hardly require any further overclocking. Firstly, their clock frequency multiplier is unlocked like by any other Athlon 64 FX, and secondly, their nominal frequencies are already very close to the maximum the Windsor core can handle thanks to the current production technology.