ASUS M3N-HT 780a SLi Reviewajmatson - May 6, 2008
The ASUS M3N-HT is a full ATX form motherboard and uses the Stack Cool 2 design which layers the black colored PC board and effectively transfers heat from critical components to the other side of the specially designed board. The back of the board has the massive backplate which holds the CPU heatsink in place without damaging the board and critical components..
The back panel connectors offer an even balance for any user. ASUS has done away with the PS/2 mouse connection but left the PS/2 keyboard connection. There are also four USB 2.0 ports, optical and coaxial S/PDIF connectors, one LAN port, an e-SATA port, the audio in/out ports, and video connections. You can see that ASUS has the VGA D-Sub connector and an HDMI port. You can also use DVI via the included HDMI to DVI connector included with the accessories.
The ASUS M3N-HT has a wide array of options for expansion. There are two PCI slots for audio, PhysX or other cards, one PCI Express x1 slot, and three PCI Express x16 2.0 slots. The x16 slots support Triple SLi configurations for high end gaming cards with Tri-SLi support. For a dual card setup they run at x16 and x16, and for a triple card setup they will run at x16, x8 and x8. Another great feature that the ASUS M3N-HT offers is nVidia's new Hybrid SLi support. Hybrid SLi integrates the onboard graphics with a discrete card to offer a performance boost when needed, but also will throttle down the discrete card when not needed and uses the onboard only, saving power, resources and heat output.
The bottom of the board is where the headers are for add-ons galore. ASUS has included enough for any user, including legacy devices. There is an AAFP header for front panel audio, a floppy port, a COM port header, two Firewire headers, three USB 2.0 headers, and the front panel headers. On the side of the motherboard ASUS has six SATA 3.0Gb/s ports lined up at 90 degree angles to aid in better cable management and one IDE port for up to two drives.
The upper area of the motherboard has the CPU socket, which supports AM2 and AM2+ processors, including the Quad Core Phenom, Athlon X2s and Semprons. Surrounding the socket are the voltage regulators and capacitors. The M3N-HT uses an 8+2 Phase Power design. This uses an 8 Phase design for the CPU and a 2 Phase design dedicated to the Memory Controller and HT bus. There are four memory slots which support up to 8GB of DDR2 memory with speeds up to 1066MHz. The M3N-HT also supports ECC as well as Non-ECC, unbuffered memory.
The ASUS M3N-HT uses a unique copper cooling system which connects the Southbridge, Northbridge, and voltage regulators together with heatpipes for maximum heat transfer. The heat is then dissipated by the fins over the voltage regulators either by natural case airflow or by the help of the heatpipe fan.
One neat difference I want to point out on the M3N-HT is that if you look between the first PCI slot and the black PCI Express slot, you will notice a small daughterboard mounted there. This is the Express Gate module that is soldered to the board. The writing around the board shows that is where a USB header should be, so essentially this looks like an external flash drive in essence, which has the Express Gate program stored on it.