Three networking devices enough to tempt you?
With AMD's Socket A platform being so mature; CPU's are into their 3rd year of life, chipsets are well established, fast and full featured and cost is extremely attractive, it's hard for motherboard makers to create new products and stand out from the crowd.
I've recently looked at Socket A motherboards from ABIT and DFI that represent their take on a late-life Socket A motherboard for the enthusiast. ABIT took NF7-S 2.0 and added their µGuru hardware; a Winbond chip and software to control most of the motherboard from the operating system. DFI took the A-revision LanParty NFII Ultra, tweaked the layout for the better, added all the latest features available and created the best Socket A motherboard on the planet.
Paired with something like an XP3200+ or overclocked XP2500+ (both Barton core processors) and you have yourself a feature fat, fighting fit x86 computer system, able to cope with anything thrown at it. Forget P4 or Athlon 64, for the money, systems based around late-life Socket A motherboards are where the enthusiast still loves to lurk, and rightly so in this reviewer's opinion.
In the Socket A arena, ASUS have long had a true favourite among the enthusiast. Up until recently when DFI stormed in with the revision B LanParty, if you weren't running an NF7-S 2.0, you were running an A7N8X 2.0 Deluxe. Soundstorm audio, SATA RAID and great performance and overclocking potential from the nForce2 Ultra 400 SPP bridge, combined with sub-£80 price, means that it was hard to resist. Indeed, until the DFI came along, it was the A7N8X 2.0 that I recommended to anyone looking for some good Socket A action.
And so it comes to pass, the usual suspects update their flagship products in a bid to not appear stale and to grab another few percentage points of market share, while their minds are elsewhere with LGA775 products and new Athlon 64 boards.
ASUS are the last of the usual suspects that have dominated the Socket A market recently, to update their wares. So have they done a DFI and upgraded almost all the features and sorted out the layout, or have they done an ABIT and augmented something a little off the wall? Maybe a bit of both?
Let's take a look at the A7N8X-E Deluxe WiFi and see.