With AMD moving to Socket-939 the days of Socket-754 seemed numbered. But the Sempron processor took over where the Athlon 64 left off and for those looking for an upgrade for their current Socket-754 Athlon 64, Asus has the complete solution. The K8N4-E Deluxe/Extreme N6600 is a motherboard and graphics card bundle which brings your Socket-754 processor in to the PCI Express era.
Let’s start with the motherboard. Deluxe tends to be a good thing in model names, as it means you’re getting all the trimmings. The K8N4-E Deluxe might be a low-end PCI Express board, but it’s far from a budget model. Asus is using the nVidia nForce4-4x chipset which offers all of the functionality of the nForce4 chipset, but with a couple of limitation.
The nForce4-4x only supports 800MHz hypertransport speed, but as all Socket-754 processors are stuck at 800MHz this really doesn’t matter. The other limitation is actually down to AMD rather nVidia, as the Socket-754 CPUs only support single channel memory. As the nForce4-4x is a version of the standard nForce4 chipset rather than the Ultra version it lacks the ActiveArmor Secure Networking Engine. I think nVidia has made a huge mistake here, as it is those users with a low spec PC that really need the CPU offload that the ActiveArmor Secure Networking Engine can offer if you take advantage of the nVidia Firewall.
There is no native support for 3GB/sec SATA II drives either, as the standard nForce4 chipset only supports 1.5GB/sec SATA drives. The native SATA controller supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD configurations. A Silicon Image controller adds a further four SATA connectors and add RAID 5 to the RAID features of the native controller. You also get two IDE connectors that support up to four drives.
Gigabit Ethernet is still part of the nForce4-4x chipset along with 10 USB 2.0 ports. Four of these are part of the rear I/O configuration while the other six are split up between two rear plates. Two of the USB ports share a rear plate with a game port. Asus has also added FireWire to the K8N4-E Deluxe board; one port is part of the rear I/O while the second comes on its own bracket.
7.1-channel audio is also part of the package courtesy to a Realtek ALC850 codec. This can’t compare with the high definition audio offered on the latest Intel chipset boards, but it’s decent nonetheless. Apart from the 7.1-channel outputs the motherboard also has a line in, mic in and optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs. For those still in need of legacy ports apart from PS/2 for keyboard and mouse, Asus has retained a single parallel and serial ports.