The Epox EP-9NPA+ is pretty much a no frills
Athlon64 motherboard, offering end users a very solid and upgradeable platform
that will not break the bank. Retailing for $165 CDN ($135 US), the EP-9NPA+ Ultra is
about $100 CDN less than the average PCI Express SLI motherboard, but still
manages to keep up in most benchmarks.
Physically there is not much to the EP-9NPA+ Ultra; it
has a few integrated peripherals like Gigabit LAN, IEEE 1394, SATA II and
8-channel audio. If you do need to add something specific, there are three PCI
Express x1 slots as well as three legacy 32 bit PCI slots. As an overclocker, I
appreciate the larger than normal heatsink on the NF4 Ultra chipset too.
The benchmarks indicate that the
performance of the Epox EP-9NPA+ Ultra is quite good. Certainly, if you mainly
work with 2D office style applications you won't see any visible difference
between this board and the others in its class.
In the 3D realm, the EP-9NPA+ Ultra kept up with the MSI
K8N Neo4 Platinum/SLI and Gigabyte GA-K8NXP-9 in pretty much everything. We did
notice slightly lower X2: The Threat and UT2004 numbers, the reasons of which
are not 100% clear.
Ultimately, the Epox EP-9NPA+ Ultra fills in the space
left behind the cash crop of SLI motherboards to flood the AMD scene, while
providing good overclocking capabilities at an affordable price.
The features have been kept pretty straightforward, and
it is clear that Epox have not gone to any great lengths to expand on what the
nForce 4 Ultra chipset already includes. An extra set of SATA channels, or
second NIC would have been nice. Still, the Epox EP-9NPA+ Ultra fills the needs
of Athlon64 users looking to migrate towards a PCI Express videocard rather
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