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  • ASRock N7AD-SLI

    Phoronix: ASRock N7AD-SLI

    Years ago when we started reviewing ASRock motherboards, most of them were fairly basic with very few features compared to what could be found on the ASUS or Gigabyte motherboards. With time though ASRock has begun ramping up their motherboards with more features, new innovative designs, and other improvements that cater towards the desires of enthusiasts and gamers. These days there are ASRock motherboards that can compete with those from major OEMs both in terms of features and in terms of performance, while delivering a better price. One example of a modern, feature-rich ASRock motherboard is the N7AD-SLI. The ASRock N7AD-SLI has NVIDIA SLI support, Gigabit LAN, IEEE-1394 Firewire, S/PDIF output, OC Tuner, solid capacitors, and an instant boot technology. This motherboard is centered around NVIDIA's nForce 740i SLI Chipset.

    http://www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=13557

  • #2
    It seems nForce and Linux just don't play well together.

    I had a computer based on nForce4 at one point. By booting into an Ubuntu live CD, the ethernet port stopped working, even when I booted back into Windows. I had to cut power to the system by pulling the plug, and then it worked (in Windows) after it powered up again.

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    • #3
      Why not try more than one distribution

      How about trying something else as well, e.g http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?pag...item&px=NzA0Mg ?

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      • #4
        Wow that was unexpected.

        Thanks for the review Phoronix!

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        • #5
          Should have tested with other distros, or at the very least with other kernels (2.6.24 perhaps). Saying that it's not Linux friendly when only one distro was tested is a bit rash don't you think?
          Also, supposedly Asrock found a way to bring Crossfire support to the board:

          http://www.techpowerup.com/index.php?87030

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          • #6
            I have an nForce 750-based ASRock AMD motherboard (K10N750SLI-110dB). It replaced an nForce 4 AMD motherboard that worked pretty well with Linux. I had to update the BIOS on my 740i board before it would even boot Linux, and even with the latest BIOS, the Ubuntu -rt kernel simply will not run (it only detects one CPU, and either hard locks, panics, or reboots shortly after booting). With the standard Ubuntu 2.6.24 and 2.6.27 kernels (from 8.04 and 8.10) I experience horrible latency problems. This has, regrettably, driven me to use Windows a lot more than I used to. To top it off, with my SLI 8800GTs, for some reason one is running at x8 and the other at x4.

            What do I mean by latency issues? Well, with my SB Live 5.1, I used to be able to run jack with 2 64-sample buffers, or 3 32-sample buffers, for ridiculously low audio latency. Now, I can't run anything with 2 buffers (I have to use 3), and they have to be at least 128 samples long. I tried adjusting PCI latency timers to give the Live higher priority, but it seemed to make no difference at all. Even ordinary desktop usage feels sluggish, with or without compositing effects.

            My advice: unless there's a review stating that a particular motherboard does well with Linux, avoid nForce 7 boards. If you are stuck with one, you can update the BIOS by building a custom image of Ultimate Boot CD with your BIOS update on the disc.

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            • #7
              Did you try with Molex power connector on motherboard connected?

              Quote from page 3:
              There is also a 4-pin molex connector nearby in the event your power supply will just be providing a 20-pin and 4-pin power connector instead of a 24-pin and 8-pin interface.
              I was wondering, this white Molex power connector present on the motherboard, in the back close to the PCI express 1X, did you try to boot Linux with it connected?

              It seems like in your running setup it wasn't:
              http://www.phoronix.net/image.php?id...k_n7ad_sys_lrg

              On page 23 of the manual, it is sholwn connected.
              ftp://europe.asrock.com/manual/N7AD-SLI.pdf

              Perhaps it is nothing ...

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              • #8
                Originally posted by unix_epoch View Post
                My advice: unless there's a review stating that a particular motherboard does well with Linux, avoid nForce 7 boards. If you are stuck with one, you can update the BIOS by building a custom image of Ultimate Boot CD with your BIOS update on the disc.
                My 750a and 780a systems run fine. The nvidia 7 series for intel may be different but even there I know of a couple systems running Asus p5n-d's (750i's) running openSUSE 11.1 fine.

                Originally posted by Jeremy View Post
                Quote from page 3:


                I was wondering, this white Molex power connector present on the motherboard, in the back close to the PCI express 1X, did you try to boot Linux with it connected?

                It seems like in your running setup it wasn't:
                http://www.phoronix.net/image.php?id...k_n7ad_sys_lrg

                On page 23 of the manual, it is sholwn connected.
                ftp://europe.asrock.com/manual/N7AD-SLI.pdf

                Perhaps it is nothing ...
                Good catch!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by deanjo View Post
                  Good catch!
                  It would be interesting to see if having the Molex power connector connected solves the problem ...

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                  • #10
                    The expansion slots on this motherboard include two PCI Express x16, two PCI Express x1, and two PCI slots. This motherboard is SLI compatible, but there are not PCI-E x16 lanes going to each of the two PCI Express x16 slots. Due to not enough bandwidth from the nForce 740i SLI Chipset, this motherboard is like the very early SLI motherboards that had the paddle to provide PCI Express x16 support to one slot or PCI Express x8 to two slots.
                    It should be noted that since the slots are PCI-e V2 when in 8x SLI mode they have the same bandwidth as 2 PCI-e V1 x16 slots which is more then ample bandwidth to run even the most bandwidth hungry cards out there with no performance loss given the massive local video frame buffer memory found on such cards.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Jeremy View Post
                      It would be interesting to see if having the Molex power connector connected solves the problem ...
                      I just purchased one of these boards to install ubuntu to, I will try installing it this weekend with that connector connected and will try to let everyone know how it works out.

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                      • #12
                        Great Computx, this would be helpful :-)

                        Also, don't forget to install the latest BIOS update.

                        Jeremy

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                        • #13
                          It is really bad that new boards still need bootable images to flash the bios, Asus and Gigabyte only require a storage media like partitioned fat(32) usb drive to read the bios file and flash it with integrated flash tool. If you can live with 1 core you can try

                          acpi=off

                          to see if acpi tables are so broken that it does not start. A new kernel would also interesting as acpi was changed serveral times. Maybe a short test with moblin which uses 2.6.29 rc7.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Kano View Post
                            It is really bad that new boards still need bootable images to flash the bios...... If you can live with 1 core you can try

                            acpi=off

                            to see if acpi tables are so broken that it does not start. A new kernel would also interesting as acpi was changed serveral times. Maybe a short test with moblin which uses 2.6.29 rc7.
                            If ubuntu 9.10 with 2.6.28 doesn't work I will try something with a newer kernel. However as far as I can tell, the 2.6.29 changes list doesn't mention 740i-sli.

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                            • #15
                              Well i have got 2.6.29 live images, but not that board. I can create basically live images with any kernel which has an aufs module, squashfs 4 is now standard and not problematic at all.

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