Is it of no surprise that Intel has released its new chipset to the world. It seems nowadays we don't really get much of a chance to settle into one new product before another is announced and released into the wild. It also makes buying a PC component a lot harder these days.
Intel has really pushed forward into the Express chipset lineup with the new 4 series being touted at what the 3 series should have been. It seems like the 3 series was just a stepping stone and the 5 series isn't all that far away. But that's for a totally different processor architecture.
So far, we have already had the early P45-DQ6 and MSI P45 Platinum cross our paths. Today we are looking at another big wig P45 offering, namely ASUS' P5Q Deluxe Motherboard.
Featuring its EPU6 energy saver, DDR2 and a wide array of features including Express gate, ASUS hopes to topple the likes of GIGABYTE and MSI. Let's see just how well it manages to perform.
Specifications of the ASUS P5Q Deluxe
Supports Intel Core 2 Series (Extreme/Quad/Duo)
Supports Intel Pentium Dual Core Series
Supports Intel Pentium D Series
Supports Intel Pentium 4 5xx/6xx Series
Supports Intel Celeron D 3xx/4xx Series
Supports Intel 45nm Series CPU
Intel P45 Express Chipset
Intel P45 Northbridge
Intel ICH10R Southbridge
DMI @ 2GB/s
4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM Sockets
64/128Bit Dual Channel
Supports up to 8GB Total Memory (4x 2GB)
P4 Bus Architecture
3 PCI Express x16
2 PCI Express x1
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives
8 Serial ATA ports
1 e.SATA port
2 Gigabit Ethernet Port
1 PS2 Keyboard/Mouse Port
12 USB 2.0 Ports (6 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)
6 Stereo Audio Ports
1 RCA SPDIF Port
1 Toslink SPDIF Port
1 e.SATA Port
2 RJ45 Ethernet Ports
2 Firewire ports (1 rear accessible, 1 via expansion bracket)
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
Starting off as we normally do, we first take a look at the package and contents that you get with the board. After all, it's only half complete if you don't get any goodies for your money. The box that the P5Q Deluxe comes in has a new colour scheme, something new from ASUS. A dark blue theme with light blue overtones gives it a rather eye catching design.
There is a lift-up flap on the front of the box that has quite a bit of marketing hype about the EPU6 technology and features of the board. While it's nice to see, there isn't any real info on how the technology works. This will come from us in our next article.
On the back of the box, ASUS has gone with some more marketing info as well as a full spec sheet on the board's features. It's the same spec info that comes in the user manual and on the website, so there is no need to look at the company website to gain extra info on the board when you have the manual in hand. To help aid your buying decision, ASUS has put a colour picture of the board in the top right corner of the box, something we applaud at this level of price.
The board comes with a single user manual that explains the full workings and specifications of the ASUS motherboard, including the driver install, software included and the BIOS setup; a very comprehensive manual form ASUS. The DVD included has drivers and software for both Vista and XP in both 32-bit and 64-bit variants. There are no Linux drivers, so alternate OS users are once again left in the dark.
Inside the Box - Continued
Inside the Box Continued
Moving along to the cables and accessories, we get for our hard earned dollars a total of eight SATA data cables, one FDD cable and a single IDE cable that supports two drives. This is fantastic arrangement as you don't have to purchase any additional SATA data cables if you want to use all the ports on the board; you get enough from ASUS.
Power converters are limited, you get two Molex converters that support two drives per converter; a total of four. So, if you want to make use of all eight ports in the system, your PSU needs to have a minimum of four SATA power ports and two extra 4-pin Molex connectors available. But by today's PSU standards, that's not unusual.
For users who are into water cooling and other forms of extreme cooling that do not use any fans on the CPU itself, this little baby will help keep your system cool. When the board is equipped with the heatsink and fan, the air flow from the exhaust of the CPU heatsink passes over the surrounding components to keep them cool. With water cooling and VPC cooling, the CPU fan is eliminated. This fan is used if you go one of these two routes; it is placed on top of the Mosfets heatsink and air is blown across them to help keep them at operational temperatures.
It's time to take a look at the most important part of the motherboard review; the board itself. While the box colour scheme may have changed from the dark black/grey scheme we are used to, the boards PCB hasn't changed in colour. The same black/dark brown full ATX size PCB measuring 24x30cm makes its appearance here.
The layout from ASUS couldn't have been designed better; the 24-pin ATX power connector along with the FDD connector are placed on the upper right hand edge of the board, behind the four DDR2 memory slots. The 4/8pin combo power port gets located in its usual spot on the upper left hand corner, right behind the PS2/USB combo tower for the rear I/O.
The IDE connector and four of the eight SATA ports are located on the right hand edge of the board at the mid-way point. Two of them are orange and two are red. These ports have been place on the 90 degree angle to help keep the cables as tidy as possible. The last four SATA ports that the board supports are located right behind the two red ports on the 90 degree angle and face straight up.
The reason the board has two orange ports is that they are controlled by a Silicon Image 5723 Drive Xpert chip that allows for a RAID 0 or RAID 1 array and can automatically back up any data from anywhere on the system. This means the main RAID array on the ICH10R can be backed up to the Silicon Image system if you wish; a very impressive feature. GIGABYTE already has this system in place on its P45-DQ6 and it's nice to see ASUS following suit. The two orange ports do not support ATAPI devices, so no SATA DVD drives or any other form of ATAPI device using SATA protocols can be used on these ports.
The CPU area is rather cramped by today's standards. ASUS has gone with a very intricate heatpipe that cools not only the ICH10R Southbridge, but also encompasses the Northbridge and the Mosfets on the left side and top row. While keeping them cool, it makes it hard to get large heatsinks installed; in fact, our OCZ Vanquisher had a few issues getting installed. A few copper fin cuts to the fingers and knuckles were the results. If this board was installed in a case before putting the heatsink on, it would have been totally impossible to get the push pins down, so if you're going with a large heatsink, install the CPU and heatsink before putting it into the case; your fingers and knuckles will be less damaged by the end of the day.
The CPU is fed its power through a 16 phase VRM system. That's right, 16 phases; four more than the top GIGABYTE board on offer. Though ASUS does not have any info as to whether or not this is a true 16 phase system or a dual 8 phase system. Remember, GIGABYTE doesn't have 12 phases, but a dual 6 phase setup working in parallel to supply its power to the CPU. We asked this question of ASUS at Computex 2008 during the technical Q&A, but received no answers on whether or not it was a true 16 phase arrangement or how many phases it would shut down at idle.
Turning our attention to the rear I/O ports, ASUS has a fantastic layout and design. Of note here, there is only one PS/2 port, but it has a half purple and half green colour scheme. This is a dual purpose port; if you have a PS/2 mouse, you can run it off the PS/2 port and run the keyboard off the USB, or vice versa. If you have both a PS/2 keyboard and mouse, you're stuffed here; time to pick up a USB mouse/keyboard.
Digital audio is handled by either the Toslink or RCA S/PDIF port and digital connection is through the FireWire and eSATA port that runs off the same chip which controls the IDE port on the motherboard. While ASUS has touted its SupremeFX audio card on a few other models, this one gets the audio codec soldered to the board. There's no fancy module board here; just as well though, as there's no real need to have it external unless it's a dedicated sound system.
Time to look at the expansion layout that ASUS has managed to slip into the frey. First off, we look at the PCI Express slots. In total we have three PCI Express x16 slots and two PCI Express x1 slots. Out of the PCI-E x16 slots, we have one blue slot and two black. The blue slot runs at a full 16 lanes when only a single graphics card is inserted onto the board in this slot. If you plan to go Crossfire on this board, a second graphics card needs to be inserted into the upper black slot; this will then trigger the digital switch to split the 16 lanes from the Northbridge down to 8 lanes for the blue and 8 lanes for the black slot. The last PCI Express x16 slot is a universal slot that runs x4 max speed and is created using the PCI-E lanes from the ICH10R Southbridge. If you plan to use an extra graphics card in here, you can't use any of the PCI-E x1 lanes as their bandwidth is routed to the last slot to make it functional. If you do use the other PCI-E x1 slots, the last x16 slot will only work in x1 mode.
To wrap up the legacy connections, two PCI slots are also included if you want to use older sound cards, modems, TV tuners or anything PCI based.
Additionally, since the ICH10R does not support any form of IDE port, ASUS added in a Marvell 88SE6121 PATA/SATA PCI Express combo chip. This chip gives the board its single IDE port along with two SATA ports. However, only one is used and it is routed to the eSATA port for the rear I/O.
As mentioned earlier, the board has two orange SATA ports at the bottom of the board which are not controlled by the ICH10R, but are run off the Silicon Image SIL5723 PCI Express RAID controller supporting Drive Xpert technology.
An LSI logic FW-3227 PCI based FireWire controller takes care of the two FireWire ports the board has, while two Marvell PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet chips gives the board its Dual Net support.
BIOS and Overclocking
Now, to the BIOS. ASUS uses its trademark Award Tab BIOS as we like to refer to it as. Its appearance and colour scheme is identical to the reference BIOS Intel uses for its own desktop boards, but ASUS has a lot more tweaking options under its hood.
The AI Tweaker tab has all the overclocking options, apart from actual control of the CPU ratio. This has to be done in the advanced tab under the CPU Control Sub menu. Also from here, you can set the boot-up VID rather than having to rely on the default VID the CPU is set for.
FSB Frequency: 400 - 800 in 1MHz Increments
PCIE Frequency: 100 - 180MHz in 1MHz Increments
CPU Voltage: 0.85v to 2.1v in 0.00625v increments
CPU PLL Voltage: 1.5v to 2.78v in 0.02v increments
FSB Termination Voltage: 1.1v to 1.9v in 0.02v increments
DRAM Voltage: 1.8v to 3.0v in 0.02v increments
NB Voltage: 1.1v to 20.6v in 0.02v Increments
SB Voltage: 1.1 to 1.4v in 0.1v increments
SATA PCIE Voltage: 1.5v to 1.8v in 0.1v increments
Ratio and Dividers
CPU GLT Reference (0/2): 0.370x to 0.760x in 0.005x increments
CPU GLT Reference (1/3): 0.410x to 0.800x in 0.005x increments
FSB Strap to NB: 200-266-333-400
Overclocking the ASUS P5Q Deluxe was a dream. With all the options onboard, we managed to hit a max FSB of 564MHz, which is quite high for a DDR2 supporting motherboard. A very impressive result here.
For this result, we had to adjust the GTL reference multipliers and the DDR2 channel ref voltages.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Memory Performance
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16GHz (9.5x333MHz)
Memory: 2x 1GB DDR2-1186 Geil (Supplied by Geil)
Hard Disk: 500GB Western Digital SE16 (Supplied by Western Digital)
Graphics Card: MSI GeForce 8800GTS 640MB (Supplied by MSI)
Cooling: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy II (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: Intel INF 126.96.36.1998, Forceware 175.16
Pressing on, we have the ASUS P5Q Deluxe Motherboard against an old favourite of ours, the GIGABYTE P35-DQ6 which is the most impressive P35 motherboard we have ever had the pleasure of testing. Since the P5Q Deluxe is designed to take the place of the P35 chipset, it's fitting we hit up the two boards together.
For stock settings, we ran with the CPU at its default 333MHz FSB along with a memory setting of 800MHz which is the highest JEDEC standard and the highest official standard the P35 and P45 support. At overclocked specs, we ran the boards with a memory ratio of 1:1 while our P5Q ran with a FSB of 564MHz and our P35 managing 558MHz.
EVEREST Ultimate Edition
Version and / or Patch Used: 2006
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Buy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
At stock speeds the ASUS P5Q is able to slightly get ahead of the GIGABYTE P35. This is because P45 has had a few extra tweaks done to its memory controller over the P35.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage//
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
While in the memory test we see a better result for the P5Q, here at stock both boards run near identically. Not much difference is seen between the two at overclocked speeds either.
Benchmarks - SYSmark 2007 Preview
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/products/sysmark2007preview/>
SYSmark 2007 Preview is the latest version of the premier performance metric that measures and compares PC performance based on real world applications.
SYSmark 2007 Preview extends the SYSmark family, which has been widely accepted by IT Managers, PC OEMs, press and analysts worldwide to support Windows Vista.
SYSmark 2007 Preview allows users to directly compare platforms based on Windows Vista to those based on Windows XP Professional and Home.
The new release also incorporates numerous new features and enhancements such as an improved GUI allowing streamlined start-up and run along with a heads-up-display (HUD) and automated error reporting.
SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications.
SYSmark puts the P5Q a couple of extra marks at stock, but the GIGABYTE board still holds its ground at overclocked levels.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com
Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/
Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
Pushing into real world benchmarking, we see that the P5Q manages to knock a couple of seconds off the encode time at stock speeds. At OC it manages to wipe off a full minute of the encode time.
Benchmarks - HDD Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 188.8.131.52
Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTachBuy It Here
HD Tach has been around for a long time and is excellent when it comes to testing hard drive performance. It is also a very handy program when it comes to testing the controller used on particular motherboards. Tests such as Read, CPU Utilization and Burst are available at a click of the button and give you a good idea of how the hard drive can perform from system to system.
While the P5Q has a newer ICH compared to the P35 chipset, both boards mass storage controllers work identically. ICH10R has no performance tweaks here.
Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Our first gaming benchmark falls into the synthetic category. 3DMarkVantage does a good job here, as we see at stock both boards just about equal. At OC ASUS manages to get a slight lead.
Benchmarks - Crysis
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.
Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.
Lastly, our gaming benchmark is Crysis which puts quite a bit of stress on the system. Here ASUS manages to get the win, but only when overclocked.
Power Usage and Heat Tests
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD-ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Power wise, we see that the ASUS P5Q is able to draw a bit less than the P35; its efficiency is quite impressive.
As a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboards, this being the Northbridge, Southbridge (if it contains one) as well as the Mosfets around the CPU. The results are recorded at idle and load during the power consumption tests.
Here we see that the GIGABYTE's heatpipe manages to remove heat quite a bit better than the ASUS design.
ASUS has always put out impressive boards, and the ASUS P5Q Deluxe is without a doubt one of ASUS' most impressive boards to come from the Taiwanese company.
ASUS always puts a huge amount of time and effort into their boards and it's with great pride they only put out great boards.
The P5Q Deluxe is without a doubt a board I would consider in my own personal system. Its support for Crossfire finally comes with a balanced x8/x8 setup and the next gen 16 phase voltage regulation system makes for an efficient voltage setup.
The additional onboard features including eSATA, Drive Xpert RAID backup and dual Gigabit Ethernet is the icing on the cake.
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