ASUS is a manufacturer known for the features they stuff into their motherboards. This has been viewed as both a benefit and an annoyance, but in the end you cannot deny that ASUS does know how to make a motherboard with performance in mind.
ASUS has now brought this mindset to bear for the H55 and H57 chipset. Although the H55 and H57 are aimed at the mainstream and entry level market, ASUS has not allowed this to stop them from making an enthusiast level product. Today we take a look at the P7H57D-V EVO. This board has both USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 as well as ASUS' Turbo EVO software for quick and stable overclocking.
Will ASUS' features be enough to make the P7H57D-V EVO rise above the rest and to justify the $200 price tag at Newegg.com? - Read on to find out.
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
In an interesting twist, the semi-enthusiast aimed P7H57D-V EVO comes in a box that looks more like an entry level product. The box is thin and relatively plain with only the "Xtreme Design" logo to show that it is something more.
Flipping the box over, we find some more familiar images, but again not the usual gaudy jumble of images you would find on the higher end boards.
Opening the box, we find it literally stuffed with the accessories you need to get the board up and running.
The P7H57D-V EVO is a full sized ATX motherboard. As such, ASUS has more "real estate" to play with.
The first thing to note is the way that ASUS has laid out the upper half of the board. The first thing that jumps out at you is the continued use of the one arm style RAM slots. These things are a great addition and despite not having the second clip, they hold the RAM in very securely while allowing easy removal when a graphics card is installed.
The CPU socket also received some thought as ASUS placed the components in a stepped configuration to allow the most efficient use of space. There is one small problem, though. The 8-pin 12v Aux connector is again in an area that makes it difficult to reach when the board is installed in a case like a mid-tower.
Moving to the lower half, you may first think that ASUS has lost their mind with the number of slots and how close they are together. But, after a closer look you will see that this jumble of PCIe and PCI slots makes sense. It allows an incredible flexibility in how you can use the P7H57D-V EVO.
The heatsink that covers the Southbridge components is an interesting design that also allows for some excellent cooling. The "arms" cover the components that need the extra cooling while the open areas prevent heat build-up where it is not.
ASUS has used their now familiar 90-degree angled SATA ports along the right edge of the board with a 90-degree PATA port just above. But while these are common, there are two items along the bottom of the P7H57D-V EVO that are not. These are the two SATA 3.0 ports in the middle of the line of USB 2.0 headers. These connect back to the H57 chipset via a PLX bridge chip. This helps to maintain the needed throughput that is required for the faster transfer.
For the rear I/O ports we also see a couple of new items; USB 3.0. As with the SATA 3.0 ports, these are bridged by the PLX chip to keep them moving properly. The rest of the array is pretty common stuff now, though.
BIOS and Overclocking
ASUS uses an AMI (American Megatrends Incorporated) BIOS for their boards. According to a few people at ASUS that I have talked to, this gives them a few more options for tuning than Phoenix or Award; I am not sure of the validity of this claim, but I do know that ASUS puts a lot of time and engineering into their BIOS revisions.
The place in the BIOS that should hold the most interest for the enthusiast and overclocker is the AI Tweaker. Here you can find almost every option you need to push your Core i5 or 1156 Core i7 to its maximum potential.
One of the interesting features in the BIOS is the CPU Level Up. This is similar to many "quick OC" functions that are becoming popular. You simply select the speed you want the CPU to run and the board will set the rest for you. It is a handy little feature that allows you to give a small boost to your CPU. It is great if you are new to the overclocking scene and do not want to spend a ton of time tinkering or are looking to get a little extra punch without wasting time. Unfortunately the speeds are not that impressive and the gain from them will be minimal.
Another place that will hold interest for the enthusiast is the UnCore Configuration. It is on this page that you can overclock (or underclock) the IGP on the Clarkdale. You can also adjust the amount of memory the IGP borrows from the system and the DVMT (Dynamic Video Memory Technology) settings.
Under the Advanced heading you can find a few tweaks for your CPU and information about your system.
ASUS has included their TurboV EVO software with the P7H57D-V EVO. This gives you more than a few methods for overclocking. If you are concerned about entering the BIOS and playing around, then the Auto Tune function is a great place to start. We ran this against our hardy little Core i5 661 which has been all the way up to 4.5GHz to see what the ASUS software would send our way.
The Turbo EVO software is very easy to use and provides options for easy, manual and automatic overclocking. ASUS has even provided an "in-OS" method for overclocking the GPU.
The Auto Tuning mode is very impressive and allows you to get a fast OC, an extreme OC or a custom one with your own settings.
The other options in the TurboV EVO software are less interesting to us, but can also allow you a few extra "quick" settings to get a boost from your CPU.
Giving the ASUS TurboV EVO a chance to overclock the CPU, we were happy with the speed it gave us in a very short amount of time.
This push gave us an impressive 4.2GHz in a little more than five minutes.
But, a simple overclock was not the only thing we wanted to see from the P7H57D-V EVO. We took this simple overclock and headed back into the BIOS. There we pushed the CPU a little harder. This time we were able to get a very decent 4428 MHz OC (185x24) at only 1.4V. As with all of our overclocking, we left Turbo and Hyper-Threading on.
You can see the validation for the i5 661 with the GMA HD here.
As all overclocking results are dependent on the hardware you use, your results may vary.
Results of our overclocking tests are included in the performance section with the stock scores.
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 Comments
Processor: Intel Core i5 661
Mainboard ASUS P7H57D-V EVO (Supplied by ASUS)
Memory: 4GB Kingston KHX12800D3T1K3/6GX (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk: Kingston SSD Now M (Intel X25-M 80GB SSD) (Supplied by Kingston)
Graphics Card: Zotac GTX 285 AMP! Edition 1GB (flashed to stock BIOS) (Supplied by Zotac)
Cooling: Cooler Master Hyper 212 (with an extra fan) (Supplied by Cooler Master)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Drivers: Intel INF 184.108.40.2065, ForceWare 195.62
Synthetic Tests - Part I
With any system you will want to see a combination of synthetic testing and real-world. Synthetics give you a static, easily repeatable testing method that can be compared across multiple platforms. For our synthetic tests we use Everest Ultimate, Sisoft Sandra, Futuremark's 3DMark Vantage and PCMark Vantage, Cinebench as well as HyperPi. Each of these covers a different aspect of performance or a different angle of a certain type of performance.
Memory is a big part of current system performance. In most systems slow or flakey memory performance will impact almost every type of application you run. To test memory we use a combination of Sisoft Sandra, Everest and HyperPi 0.99.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2010c 1626
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
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The memory performance on the ASUS P7H57D-V EVO is a hair better than the stock performance on other H5x boards we have seen. When we overclocked the CPU we also received a boost in the memory performance as well, but still not more than what you would expect from the H5x chipset.
Version and / or Patch Used: 5.30.1983
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
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Everest Ultimate is a suite of tests and utilities that can be used for system diagnostics and testing. For our purposes here we use their memory bandwidth test and see what the theoretical performance is.
Again we see what we have come to expect from the H5x boards and the new IGP on the Core CPUs.
Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99
Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
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HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.
For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the two physical and two logical cores for the i5 are trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.
The ASUS P7H57D-V EVO manages to perform quite well here with times that beat the other two H5x boards that we have tested.
Synthetic Tests - Part II
Disk Drive Controller
The system drive controller is an important part of system performance. In most modern boards your drive controller will run off of the PCI-e bus. The PCI-e bus performance can be affected by poor trace layout as well as many other design choices that show up on different boards.
For testing we use Sisoft's Sandra and Everest.
With the inclusion of SATA 3.0 on the ASUS P7H57D-V EVO, we have added that to our normal testing suite. As there are multiple methods for including this on the motherboard, we may see large differences in performance.
For the ASUS H57D-V EVO we see what we have come to expect from the Intel controllers found in the H5x boards and also see decent performance from the Marvell SATA 3.0 controller.
As a side note, I do find it funny that some 10+ years after the first ATA 100 controllers and drives were introduced, we are finally seeing actual speeds close to 100MB/s on a traditional HDD.
Our Everest testing validates what we saw with Sandra. The ASUS H57D-V EVO is not going to have any issues with SATA-II (or SATA 3.0) drive speeds.
Synthetic Tests - Part III
Overall System performance and Gaming
Here is where we dig out the FutureMark tests.
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
Buy It Here
For overall system performance we use PCMark Vantage. This is run in both x86 and x64 mode to give the best indication of performance.
Interestingly enough, the P7H57D-V EVO does not do so well in our PCMark Vantage testing. It actually comes in behind the other two H5x boards we have tested.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
Buy It Here
For synthetic gaming tests we used the industry standard and overlockers bragging tool 3DMark Vantage. This is a test that strives to mimic the impact modern games have on a system. Futuremark went a long way to change from the early days of graphics driven tests to a broader approach including physics, AI and more advanced graphics simulations. 3DMark Vantage uses the DX10 API in addition to having support for PhysX. Due to the PhysX support and our use of an NVIDIA GPU, we run with PhysX enabled and disabled to give you the best indication of real system performance. For testing we use the Performance test run.
In 3DMark Vantage the ASUS P7H57 manages to pull ahead by a couple of points for a win with the Intel HD GMA running. To be fair to the other two H5x boards, the margin was so small you would never notice the difference in a real world test.
Cinebench R10 x64
Version and / or Patch Used: R10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: www.maxon.net
Download It Here
Cinebench is a synthetic rendering tool developed by Maxon. Maxon is the same company that developed Cinema4D, another industry leading 3D Animation application. Cinebench R10 tests your systems ability to render across a single and multiple CPU cores. It also tests your systems ability to process OpenGL information.
The P7H57D-V EVO is a pretty impressive board when it comes to Cinebench. Of course, it cannot hope to keep up with a real workstation, but it does show that it can hold its own when it comes to image rendering.
Real-World Tests - Part I
Real-world testing allows us to see how well a product will perform when used in the same manner as it would be in your house or office. It is an important side to performance testing as it can uncover hidden glitches in the way a product performs.
It is especially true when testing a mainboard; there are so many components of a board that have to interact that any problems between parts can cause a failure of the whole.
For real-world testing we use some common applications and functions. We test with LightWave 3D for rendering performance, AutoGK for transcoding from DVD to AVI and two games for gaming testing.
Rendering of 3D Animation is a system intensive endeavor. You need a good CPU, memory and HDD speed to get good rendering times. For our testing we use LightWave 3D. This software from Newtek is an industry standard and has several pre-loaded scenes for us to use.
Version and / or Patch Used: 9.6
Developer Homepage: http://www.newtek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.newtek.com/lightwave/
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Our Lightwave render times are almost identical across the board, with the notable exception of the overclocked scores (which you would expect to be different).
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.55
Developer Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Download It Here
AutoGK stands for Auto Gordian Knot; it is a suite of transcoding tools that are compiled into an easy to install and use utility. It allows you to transcode non-protected DVDs and other media to Xvid or Divx format. For our testing purposes we use a non-DRM restricted movie that is roughly 2 hours in length. This is transcoded to a single Xvid AVI at 100% quality.
The P7H57D-V EVO does very well in our transcoding testing. It easily outperforms the GIGABYTE H57 and the ASRock H55 boards.
Real-World Tests - Part II
Here we have our real gaming tests. Each of the games we chose use multiple cores and GPUs. They are able to stress the system through use of good AI. Both have decent positional audio that adds impact to the sound subsystem of the board. We ran each game through the level or parts listed and recorded frames per second using FRAPS. This brings the whole game into play.
Beginning with this review, we are changing our testing for CPUs and motherboards with an Internal Graphics Processor (IGP). As most IGPs are not meant for high-end gaming, we have swapped out one of our First Person Shooters for a more mainstream game. We have also adjusted down the testing resolution from 1920x1200 to 1280x960. In order to keep full measure of the board, we return to 1920x1200 when we test the board with our GTX 285.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Timedemo or Level Used: Ten Minutes of Game Play in Sunset Valley
Developer Homepage: http://www.ea.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.thesims3.com/
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The SIMS 3 is the third complete edition of this popular game. In it you create a personality for use in a virtual world. The town we chose was Sunset Valley, we created a basic character and off we went. We performed as many actions as we were could to give the board and GPU as much to think about as possible. The settings we used are shown below.
The Intel HD GMA does quite well with SIMS 3 at a more common resolution. We found the game to be playable and smooth. The quality of the graphics was also good with the options we set. It looks like Intel's claims of mainstream gaming on the Core i5 661 GPU are accurate for the SIMS 3 at least.
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: Clearing the Safe house through to the Rescue
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com
Product Homepage: http://farcry.us.ubi.com
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Far Cry 2 is a large sandbox style game. There are no levels here so as you move about the island you are on you do not have to wait for the "loading" sign to go away. It is mission driven so each mission is what you would normally think of as the next "level".
In the game you take the role of a mercenary who has been sent to kill the Jackal. Unfortunately your malaria kicks in and you end up being found by him. Long story short, you become the errand boy for a local militia leader and run all over the island doing his bidding. The settings we used for testing are shown below.
While we saw great promise with the SIMS 3, we still had trouble (big trouble) with Far Cry 2. In the end we feel that you would have to reduce the resolution and effects too far to achieve playable frame rates.
As we have talked about since the launch of the Clarkdale, the Intel HD GMA is not meant for high end gaming. It is designed to cover the mainstream gaming market. This it does very well as we see in our testing with SIMS 3. Granted, it cannot hit the high end resolutions, but the mainstream gaming market does not consist of 1920x1200 panels. Instead the average resolution is around 1280x960. The pairing of the Core i5 661 and the ASUS P7H57D-V EVO will give you good mainstream gaming performance in addition to its general purpose power.
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).
The ASUS P7H57D-V EVO has great power usage. This is due in part to the EPU hardware and the EPU-6 software. Once you set this into Auto mode it can control the power consumption of every part of the board and reduce the energy draw when at idle. Unfortunately this only works with the all settings at Auto in the BIOS. If anything is set manually the EPU-6 software will run, but will put itself in high performance mode.
As a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboard; 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.
The ASUS H57 board also does will in keeping the H57 chipset and other components cool, even with the GTX 285 on the board.
When we first started playing with the ASUS P7H57D-V EVO we wondered if the board would be able to justify its hefty $200 price tag at Newegg. After testing the board, we can say that it is a great performer with some excellent overclocking headroom and features, but we are still not sure if it is worth $200.
Remember, the Core i5 661 and H5x chipsets are not meant as enthusiast level products. This is not where Intel was marketing them. However, we are seeing motherboards with enthusiast level features and performance and the enthusiast level prices hitting the market. Now, does this mean there is no market for this type of board? No, it does not. But it does raise some questions about the H5x chipset and where it fits.
Getting back to the ASUS P7H57D-V EVO, we do think this is a great performing board. The TurboV EVO in combination with the EPU-6 gives you some excellent options for power management and easy overclocking. The Hybrid Phase design on the H57D-V EVO helps to keep everything running with stable and clean power. As we mentioned above in our walk around of the board, ASUS has also designed the H57D-V EVO with flexibility in mind with the layout and inclusion of their expansion ports. The inclusion of both SLI and CrossfireX only adds to its allure.
Overall, I would have to say that the ASUS P7H57D-V EVO is a great motherboard, but it needs a price cut to make it more attractive to the mainstream buyer.
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