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The ABIT NI8 SLI is the second passively cooled motherboard that I have looked at this month, but this time around the heatpipe really gets to show what it’s made of. On the AN8 Ultra, the heatpipe barely got warm to the touch, but on this board it got scorching hot. It seems that that the nForce4 Intel Edition chipset runs a lot hotter than its AMD counter part.
As the nForce4 Intel Edition is a two-part chipset it seems quite odd to add a heatpipe solution as it only cools the System Platform Processor (SPP). The MCP on the other hand is cooled by a small passive aluminium heatsink which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence compared to the one MSI used on the P4N Diamond, which featured a copper core. Additional cooling has also been fitted to the power regulation circuitry in the form of a large passive heatsink.
So until you fit your CPU and graphics cards into the NI8 SLI this is a very quiet motherboard. But luckily low noise isn’t the only thing the ABIT NI8 SLI has going for it.
The standard features of the nForce4 chipset are all present such as onboard Gigabit Ethernet, SATA RAID with support for RAID 5 and of course the hardware Firewall. To this ABIT has added a second Silicon Image SATA controller, which adds a further two SATA connectors offering a range of RAID configurations. The NI8 SLI is also using one of ABITs AudioMAX 7.1 riser cards for the audio, although this is a Realtek ALC850 AC97 codec and not a high definition one. Another downer is the lack of FireWire, something I would’ve expected to find on a high-end board.
Looking at the board itself the layout is adequate, although the floppy connector has been placed below the bottom PCI slot making it awkward to access. ABIT has also added a Molex connector here that needs to be attached to the PSU when the board is in SLI mode.