When we reviewed the Asus Crosshair III Formula we talked about the major change that Asus had made by switching from an nVidia chipset to ATI silicon. This change reduced the price of Crosshair III compared to Crosshair II but, of course, also required you to switch from SLI graphics to CrossFire if you wanted a multi-card setup.
That could be a deal breaker for staunch fans of nVidia so, if that's you, the Asus M4N82 Deluxe may well pique your interest as it looks like a true update to Crosshair II, complete with nVidia chipset and SLI graphics.
The chipset in question is nForce 980a SLI which sounds as though it should be fairly new but it is actually the same 780a SLI that we saw on Crosshair II. For some reason nVidia keeps thinking that renaming its products somehow adds value to our PC experience.
The issue here is that nForce 780a/980a is relatively aged and as a result it supports Socket AM2+ (although you can install a Socket AM3 processor) and as a result the memory slots on the M4N82 support DDR2 rather than DDR3.
In many respects the M4N82 Deluxe is an update of the M3N-HT Deluxe which is built around the nForce 780a SLI chipset. If you click the link you'll see the picture shows a Mempipe model that has an extensive passive cooling system that links your RAM to the chipset cooler, but for the purposes of this conversation we'll ignore that particular feature.
As we mentioned the nForce 980a SLI chipset that lies at the heart of the M4N82 Deluxe is nothing more than an nForce 780a SLI with a new name. The differences between the M3N-HT and M4N82 are, therefore, rather slight as the M3N-HT supports up to 8GB of RAM and has ten USB ports while the M4N82 can support up to 16GB of memory with 12 USB ports. In fact that's not entirely accurate as both models have headers that support six USB ports so the real difference is that M3N-HT has four USB ports on the I/O panel while M4N82 has six ports.
Asus isn't relying on the power of nVidia's marketing machine to make nForce 980a SLI sound more interesting than it truly is and it has added a few tweaks to the M4N82 such that the manual is full of references to EPU, Express Gate, Turbo V, Turbo Key and Anti Surge.
Then again Asus is charging £20 more for the M4N82 than it does for the M3N-HT so we would rather hope that it adds a little something to sweeten the deal.
If we accept that the M4N82 is an evolution of the M3N-HT then it is clear that Asus has had a good long while to develop this motherboard but even so the M4N82 has seen no fewer than five revisions to its BIOS.
Plugging the board together is quick and easy provided you don't attempt to connect a drive into the fifth SATA port as legacy support is restricted to ports 1-4. The fifth port only operates if you use AHCI or RAID but Asus has thoughtfully used different colours on the connectors to differentiate them.