While the P5B and P5W DH are brand-new designs, the P5N32-SLI SE Deluxe is actually an updated version of Asus's existing P5N32-SLI mobo. The SE version adds support for Core 2 processors, but little else appears to have changednot that much needed to be changed. Until Nvidia releases its nForce 590 SLI chipset for Intel processors, the nForce4 SLI X16 is the only way to get full-bandwidth multi-GPU graphics with a Core 2 processor.
The P5N32-SLI's SLI capabilities don't come with much of a price hike, either. The board costs only $10 more than the P5B Deluxe Wifi-AP Edition, although it can't match that board's integrated Wi-Fi component.
Since most of the P5N32-SLI's features are consolidated in its nForce4 SLI X16 chipset, the board doesn't have much in the way of extra peripheral chips crowding the landscape. As a result, the P5N32-SLI is largely devoid of annoying layout quirks. Even the power connectors are well-placed along the top and right-hand edges of the board.
Positioning the auxiliary 12V connector along the top edge of the board does complicate matters for upside-down cases. However, since the vast majority of enclosures put the power supply above the motherboard, we'd rather see layouts optimized for that design, especially when the alternative creates unnecessary cable clutter around the CPU socket.
The P5N32-SLI certainly doesn't need any more crowding around the socket. The board's land grid array socket is surrounded by passive heatsinks on three sides and a heat pipe on the fourth. All this cooling is necessary given the nForce4 SLI X16's significant power consumption, but Asus has done a good job of ensuring that the various pipes and radiator fins won't interfere with larger coolers.
Heatpiped chipset coolers also provide additional cooling for the P5N32-SLI's VRMs. Like the P5B, the board uses a true eight-phase power design to feed the CPU.
Asus also does a good job of arranging the board's storage ports to avoid conflict with longer graphics cards. Users have access to all four Serial ATA ports even with longer double-wide cards installed—something not every SLI board can claim. Again, though, clearance between the top PCI Express X16 slot and the DIMM retention tabs is a little tight.
I'm willing to forgive Asus this time around, if only because the P5N32-SLI serves up an extensive array of expansion ports that makes it difficult to provide more clearance. In addition to its pair of PCI Express x16 slots, the board also has two x1 slots, one x4 slot, and a couple of standard PCI slots. That might be a little light on standard PCI for some, but with PCI Express peripherals finally starting to trickle out, it's a better bet for the long run.
Unfortunately, I can't let yet another poor Serial ATA port placement escape my ire. The internal SATA port connected to the P5N32-SLI's auxiliary Silicon Image controller sits at the top of the slot stack, just above the PCI Express x1 slot. Who wants a Serial ATA port up there?
To be fair, the Silicon Image controller might. The chip powers the board's external Serial ATA connector, and trace length limitations may give Asus few alternatives for the placement of the internal port.
Asus bucks convention with the P5N32-SLI's port cluster, swapping serial for parallel ports. Firewire doesn't make the cut, either, but there are headers for two 1394a ports onboard. You also get headers for another six USB ports to complement the four available in the port cluster.
Like the P5B and P5W DH, the P5N32-SLI provides digital S/PDIF output in coaxial and TOS-Link flavors. It's tempting to chastise Asus for not providing support for digital audio input, either instead of one of the outputs or in addition to them. However, anyone serious enough about audio to require S/PDIF input will probably be running a discrete sound card.