J&W is a relatively unknown company to us here at TweakTown. However, that doesn't stop us from looking at anyone's products. In fact, the computer industry needs some fresh blood to stir up the big names. ASRock did this when their motherboards hit the market, showing some initiative and good overall designs. ASRock boards are extremely popular in the value and budget sectors, where ECS used to rule the roost.
Looking at J&W's homepage, we learnt that the company was founded back in 1994. So while a young company in the grand scheme of things, they have been around in the shadows, mainly as an nForce motherboard partner. However, it's now evident in today's market you simply can't put all your eggs in one basket, especially in motherboards and graphics cards; you just can't survive on one brand alone.
Today we have our very first J&W motherboard based around the Intel X48 chipset. No big surprise here on the choice of chipset due to its maturity and presence as an enthusiast oriented piece of kit. But how well does it compare to the likes of the even newer P45 based offerings? Let's find out.
Specifications of the JW-X48D2-EXTREME
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 X48 Express Chipset
Intel X48 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
1 PCI Express x16
2 PCI Express x1
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives
6 Serial ATA ports
2 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
2 e.SATA Ports
2 RJ45 Ethernet Ports
1 Firewire ports (via expansion bracket)
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
In typical fashion we start off with the package that the board is shipped and sold in along with the extra goodies you get for your dollar. One thing about the J&W board was the packages artwork, or complete lack of I should say. Even ASRock and ECS has some form of artwork on the front of the box, but J&W only had the company logo, Intel's standard support logos and a few Intel chipset monograms on the front; that's it.
The back of the box was equally unimpressive; no marketing data for you to read. In all, a very disappointing start. Without a colour photo we can't see what we're buying; something we consider to be a big no-no in today's information age. We don't buy cars from the dealers without at least seeing a photo of them.
Thankfully the packaging doesn't seem to have been skimped on. With the documentation side of the contents there are two manuals; a quick install manual in blue and the standard users manual in black. The manual is a little thin but does get you through the install process adequately. The driver DVD contains Windows XP and Vista drivers for the 32-bit and 64-bit versions, but sadly for the alternate OS users there are no Linux drivers, so if you plan to go down this route, a huntin' you will go.
On the cables and accessories side of the equation, you get three internal SATA-II data cables along with two Molex to two SATA power converters (a total of four power ports) as well as a single eSATA data cable for good measure. When you work it out, you get half the amount of SATA data cables and half the amount of eSATA data cables that the board can support natively.
As far as ribbon cables go, you get a single FDD cable which supports a single drive and a single IDE cable that supports a master and slave device (two IDE drives). As for the rest, an I/O shield is needed for the ATX cases as J&W does not follow any standard ATX port placements (no company does anymore) and a single PCI cover bracket that has a single 6-pin FireWire port and two USB 2.0 ports for the onboard headers.
Finally, it's time to take a look at the board itself. When we unpacked the board it was encased in a plastic bubble, much like GIGABYTE and ASUS do for their high end boards. So it was nice to see J&W taking the same time and care here. A full 30x24cm ATX PCB is used with 6 layers in a black colour, which looked quite attractive to us. There's no generic green or brown; the black really looks good, especially in case mods with lighting.
The 24-pin power connector is placed behind the four DDR2 memory slots on the upper right hand side of the board. The 8-pin power connector is located behind the PS2/USB tower port combo, however due to the heatpipe placement it was hard to get the cable in and out. While not impossible, it makes it hard when the board is in the case with limited space. My chubby digits would find it hard to remove it, should you need to replace the PSU.
Following down on the right hand edge of the board, the single IDE port that is controlled by the JMicron SATA/PATA controller chip resides on its side, just below the power port. J&W has gone with stacking the SATA ports on the right hand side the board, keeping all the major cable clutter to one area of the board and making it easier for routing and keeping the memory, CPU and GPU clear of cables whilst also allowing for a much better air flow profile. On the bottom right hand edge of the board there are two press button switches; one for power and one for reset. So if you don't want to install the board into a case, you can still power up the unit.
The only real problem we found with the layout was the placement of the FDD connector in the middle of the bottom edge of the board. If you want to use this antiquated hardware you need to run a large ribbon cable through the system and even across the graphics card in some cases. For those who have USB based FDD drives or now live in the 21st century, this won't be a problem.
While very impressive in design, the heatpipe assembly that J&W has used on this board really does need a bit more thought. While during our testing it did keep the voltage system nice and cool, it also interfered with the install of our OCZ Vanquisher heatsink test. We use this heatsink as its very large design gives us an idea on how easy it will be to install oversized heatsinks on the boards. And with this test, we were scraping knuckles on both the CPU heatsink and the heatpipes on the board just to get it in. Removing it proved just as painful.
Speaking of voltage, the CPU is fed through a 6 phase voltage system using solid state components rather than the older components some companies stick to. For an unknown company like J&W we expected to see electrolyte caps, but were given a big surprise with what was offered to the users.
Turning our attention to the rear I/O ports, we were surprised to see the lack of a PS/2 mouse port on the board; rather having two USB ports below the keyboard port. The only other company we know who does this is ASUS; could J&W be imitating ASUS? - Who knows, but if you have a PS/2 keyboard and mouse, you're going to have to swap one or both over to USB to use this board. Digital audio is included with S/PDIF RCA and S/PDIF Toslink ports included. Thanks to the two extra SATA ports that the JMicron chip provides, they have been routed to the rear I/O in the form of eSATA ports; two of them in fact. Well done J&W, use everything you can.
Finally, it's onto the expansion slots. Using the X48 Northbridge the board gets two full speed x16 slots for Crossfire configurations. And thanks to the dual full speed lanes, you can run CrossfireX with the X2 series cards that ATI has out. Rounding up the expansion slots, we have three PCI Express x1 slots coming off the ICH10R and two PCI legacy slots.
BIOS and Overclocking
Moving onto the BIOS, J&W's greeting screen in the BIOS looks identical to the Award layout that ASUS and ASRock use. The blue background tab screen gives us a very familiar feeling, especially if you have played with ASUS boards before.
To find the overclocking settings, you need to navigate to the JUSTwoot! menu; very creative naming. From here you can change quite a few voltage and divider options.
CPU FSB Frequency: 266 - 999 in 1MHz Increments
PCIE Frequency: 100 - 150MHz in 1MHz Increments
CPU Voltage Control: 1.00v to 2.20v in 0.00625v Increments
DIMM Voltage Control: 1.8v to 3.3v in 0.2v increments
NB Voltage Control: 1.2v to 1.6v in 0.075v Increments
CPU VTT Control: 1.087v to 1.482v in Various Increments
CPU PLL Voltage Control: 1.55v to 2.0v in Various Increments
SBCore Voltage Control: 1.150v to 1.350v in 0.1v Increments
SB IO Voltage Control: 1.6v to 1.95v in Various Increments
Ratio and Dividers
MCH GLT Reference: 0.660x to 0.825x in Various Increments
HSWING GLT Reference: 0.250x to 0.336x in Various Increments
CPU GLT Reference: 0.550x to 0.630x in Various Increments
Being unknown to us, we didn't know what to expect when it came to overclocking. And being DDR2 based, we weren't expecting mind blowing scores. However, J&W's board does provide quite a bit of voltage leeway and with GTL reference dividers, we were able to press a healthy 526MHz out of the board. But it did take a bit to get this stable with ratio adjustments being done all over the place. It seems as if this is the wall for the J&W board. Possibly with a new BIOS we might see improvements, however it's more design than features that would be stopping this.
In all, though, 526MHz is a good result for a DDR2 based board and when we consider that X48s don't clock as well as P45, we start to see that J&W did a good job on its X48 series.
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: GIGABYTE 9800GX2 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Cooling: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy II (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: Intel INF 220.127.116.118, Forceware 175.16
Todays testing consists of the GIGABYTE EP45 Extreme and the ASUS P5Q motherboards which are based on the P45 chipset. Unfortunately we didn't have any X48 DDR2 boards on hand to do tests with. However, looking at how well J&W have put this board together, we decided to see just how well the board can go against the new contender chipset, which is where J&W is aiming this board; a cheaper X48 with all the goodies.
For overclocking we dropped the DDR2 memory divider down to 1:1 to eliminate it as a possible bottleneck. Our FSB settings were 526MHz for the J&W, 571MHz for the GIGABYTE EP45 Extreme and 564MHz for the ASUS P5Q, with all boards running a 6x multiplier.
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.
First in line is Everest Memory Performance. Here we see that all the three boards have a very similar stock clock speed. X48 and P45 share the same memory controller so it's no surprise to see the three perform identically. When overclocking we see that the X48 based J&W can't keep up as well and falls behind.
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.
Again, at stock speeds we see the three contenders right on each other heals. However, at the OC level the increased CPU, FSB and memory helps the other two pull ahead of the J&W offering, showing that X48 and P45 in single card configurations perform almost identically.
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 all three boards at stock on the same level, however at OC marks we see the J&W just trailing behind.
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.
Real world benchmark Premiere Elements 4 gives us a good idea on how the system will perform in a general encoding task. At stock speeds all three are right on the money, however due to a lack of memory and CPU speed at OC on the J&W, it falls behind a bit.
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.
Synthetic gaming through 3DMark Vantage shows us that at stock speeds all three contenders are equally matched. However, the overclocking results put J&W behind the two P45 boards. But being unable to clock as high, we were expecting that. So far J&Ws board is looking like a very good contender, nonetheless.
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.
Real world gaming at stock speeds shows no difference between GIGABYTE, ASUS and J&W. When we move to overclocking we see that J&W does fall a bit behind due to the lack of clocking in the X48 chipset. However, the results are extremely impressive for an X48 board.
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.
When it comes to power usage, J&W has done a great job at keeping the power down on the X48 chipset. While it's higher than the rest of the pack, it's still not a huge figure. The solid state components help along with DDR2 memory to keep things going.
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.
J&W's heatpipe may be a bit of a pain to install power cables and heatsinks around, but it does the job in keeping the components cool, especially the Northbridge which gets pretty warm on most X48 boards.
J&W truly surprised us by jumping straight into the X48 platform. And to be honest, the performance was extremely impressive. While it doesn't seem that way when you look at the scores, there are a few things to consider. First off, compared to P45, the X48 is the first gen 4 series chipset from which the P45 has since evolved. P45 contains the same DDR2 and DDR3 memory controllers, but with a few features disabled. So, X48 and P45 on the memory and CPU fronts should perform identically, making X48 and DDR2 really a waste; only with DDR3 and XMP does it become attractive.
The second major thing is that X48 has a better Crossfire setup, allowing for CrossfireX where P45 doesn't. This is the big aim for the J&W board, aiming at high-end users wanting extreme performance and to do that you need a good board (which we think the J&W offering is) along with solid components like a Core 2 Quad or high-end 45nm Core 2 Duo and two GPUs to really take full advantage.
On the whole, the board impressed us. However, the lack of information on the box and complete absence of artwork really left us with a feeling of an OEM look with extreme performance. Maybe splash some more colour on the next line-up of packages J&W, this would be better.
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