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BIOS options galore
Asus is one of the best in the business at providing oodles of BIOS options, so it's no surprise the M3N-HT Deluxe is packed to the gills with tweaking potential.

Bus speeds CPU base clock: 200-600MHz in 1MHz increments
PCIe: 100-200MHz in 1MHz increments
DRAM: 400, 533, 667, 800, 1066MHz
HTNB: 200-2000MHz in 200MHz increments
Bus multipliers CPU: 5x-25x in 0.5x increments (Phenom X4 9850)
CPU NB: 5x-16x in 1x increments (Phenom X4 9850)
Voltages CPU: 0.775-1.55V in 0.0125V increments
CPU NB: 0.775-1.55V in 0.0125V increments
VDDA: 2.52, 2.622, 2.728, 2.83V
DRAM: 1.8-2.5V in 0.02V increments
NF200: 1.2-1.56V in 0.02V increments
HT: 1.2-1.5V in 0.02V increments
NB: 1.1-1.7V in 0.02V increments
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed control CPU, chassis

Most Phenom overclockers will probably grab a Black Edition with an unlocked multiplier and take the easy route. The Deluxe has them covered with CPU multiplier control in 0.5X increments and a separate multiplier for the processor's north bridge. If you want to kick it old-school, CPU base clock options are available between 200 and 600MHz in 1MHz increments. It's even possible to adjust the speed and bus width of the HyperTransport link between the CPU and chipset, should you be so inclined.

Voltage adjustments are a key component to any overclocking attempt, and the M3N-HT's BIOS has plenty on offer. CPU voltages range between 0.775 and 1.55V in 0.0125V increments, with separate settings for the CPU core and the north bridge. DRAM voltages extend up to 2.5V, alongside a full complement of chipset voltage options.

Speaking of memory, the Deluxe's BIOS has all the basic timing settings you'd expect. Asus supplements these with a couple of pages worth of advanced timing control for those who wish to dig deeper into the Phenom's integrated memory controller. Separating the basics from more advanced memory timing options makes perfect sense, since I suspect the vast majority of even hard-core enthusiasts probably won't go beyond the fiddling with the big four memory timings and the DRAM command rate.

The BIOS exposes some Hybrid SLI controls, too. One may specify how much system memory is allocated to the motherboard GPU and whether it's enabled at all. Keep in mind that you'll need to dedicate at least 256MB of system memory to the mGPU for HybridPower to work.

We think fan speed control is just as important as overclocking, so we're pleased to see the M3N-HT's BIOS include temperature-based fan speed control for its processor and system fan headers. However, we'd like to see Asus provide more granular control over fan speeds and temperature targets; the Deluxe's BIOS only lets users select from a couple of pre-defined profiles.

If you're not comfortable poking around in the BIOS, you'll be pleased to know that the M3N-HT Deluxe comes with Asus' AI Suite and PC Probe tweaking, overclocking, and hardware monitoring software for Windows. Thanks to the nForce 780a SLI's ESA support, the board is also compatible with Nvidia's latest System Utility software. Well, sort of compatible, anyway.

We covered the new Nvidia system utility in great detail in our first look at ESA in action, so I won't dwell too much on it here. Suffice to say that it's by far the slickest system monitoring utility we've seen in the last few years. Unfortunately, the M3N-HT Deluxe doesn't have the necessary BIOS hooks to take full advantage of the utility's capabilities. The Nvidia control panel's clock speed controls are intact, but its voltage and fan speed options don't work. The Deluxe doesn't report temperatures or voltages to the utility's hardware monitoring component, either.

Sure, Asus replicates some of the missing Nvidia system utility functionality with its own software, but not the app's ability to interface with other ESA-compliant components. Asus would do well to bring the Deluxe's BIOS up to speed, but given its spotty support for Nvidia's previous nTune apps, we're not holding our breath.

Specifics on specifications
Should you prefer your motherboard specifications carefully compiled into a single chart, the goods on the M3N-HT Deluxe are provided below.

CPU support Socket AM2/AM2+ Phenom, Athlon X2 processors
North bridge Nvidia nForce 200
South bridge Nvidia nForce 780a SLI MCP
Interconnect PCI Express 2.0 (16MB/s)
Expansion slots 3 PCI Express x16
1 PCI Express x1
2 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory 4 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 8GB of DDR2-533/667/800/1067 SDRAM
Storage I/o Floppy disk
1 channel ATA/133
6 channels 300MB/s Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 support
Audio 8-channel HD audio via Analog Devices AD1988B codec
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard
USB 2.0 with headers for 6 more
1 RJ45 10/100/1000
1 eSATA via Marvell 6111
Headers for 2 1394a Firewire via LSI FW322
1 VGA out
1 HDMI out

1 front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 digital TOS-Link S/PDIF out
1 digital coaxial S/PDIF out