At CES this year we had the chance to talk to ASUS about some of their visions for the coming year as well as specifically about the P67 and Sandy Bridge. We were not surprised to hear that ASUS was thinking a little ahead of what we had heard from the other guys in terms of positioning their products.
Although we have seen other companies streamline their feature sets across an entire product line, what we have not seen is pushing boards in a pre-emptive way to ensure great overclocking. This is what ASUS has done; as we told you before, they are designing all of their new boards to handle a much higher power and thermal envelope from the beginning. This means that you should be able to get some pretty impressive clocks out of even your basic boards.
With that in mind, we are cracking open the box on one of our favourite lines of ASUS motherboards. This is the WS line; we have the P8P67 WS Revolution sitting on the test bench all ready to go. With its support for Three-Way SLI and Crossfire, Intel LAN chip and multiple USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 ports, it is looking to be a nice new board. So what can this $269.99 motherboard do for you? - Let's find out, shall we?
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
ASUS has a new look this year, and to be perfectly honest, I am not sure if I like it or not. There is just something about it that is not quite right. Maybe I have just gotten used to the old look. Still, even though there is something odd about the new packaging look, I do have to say it is clean. There is very little to distract you from what you are looking at here. Of course, you have the typical logos and badges, but even the "hard-sell" is clean and low key.
In keeping with the current fashions, ASUS has given you the typical flip-open cover. Here is where all the real marketing information is. Again, it is rather low key and clean. Overall, not a bad look really.
The back of the box has an image of the board and some extra marketing material for you to read. It still maintains a fairly clean look even though it is busy.
The goodies inside the box are fairly typical fare for an ASUS workstation board. You get a Tri-SLI adapter along with six SATA 3.0 cables, a pair of regular SATA cables, a Crossfire bridge and the WS diagnostic card that is just visible above the two red SATA 2.0 cables.
The new ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution is a nice looking board. There is something to be said about a nice black PCB and matt silver heatsinks. It just gives an overall look of class.
If you take a close look at this image here, you can see a couple of things. One is the clean layout of the chokes and regulators; the other that is a little less visible is the slightly larger than normal traces on the board. You can also see the MemOK! button which allows you to test your memory and automatically set the timings that will allow you to boot properly.
If you are one of those people that like to do a lot of benchmarking (or just like an open case), then there is a switch up here for you. It is labelled "TPU Switch" and is designed to improve performance when in an open case or on a bench.
Even around the CPU socket we see a cleaned up layout and the classy looking heatsink setup. The matte brushed aluminium look has a very nice effect. However, despite all of that, we still find the 8-pin aux power connector in an awkward place. It is a shame really, as we have noticed this moved towards the upper edge of the motherboard on a few other ASUS P67 based products.
Here we find more evidence of the beefed up traces and also get a nice look at the NF200 chip and how startlingly close it is to the primary PCIe slot.
The clean layout follows us down into the peripheral slots on the lower half of the motherboard. Here we find an interesting array as we find four x16 mechanical slots and three x1 slots. Now, the board only supports three-way SLI or Crossfire. This means that we cannot possibly have four x16 electrical slots; which is the case. What we end up with are the two blue slots which can act as x16 with a single card and should be used for the traditional dual card SLI or Crossfire. However, the two black slots share lanes with the blue slot above each. If you drop a video (or any other type) of card in here you will only get x8 and you will cut the number of lanes to the blue PCIe slot above it in half.
As with many workstation boards, there are a pair of USB ports directly off of the lower edge of the P8P67 WS Revolution. These are great for expensive dongles that are required to run certain applications like LightWave 3D and Mach Studio Pro. It puts the dongles inside the case, making them hard to steal. But there is more here than just the USB ports; we can also see the Marvell SATA 3.0 controller right next to the SATA ports. If you look closely, you can also catch a glimpse of the TPU unit.
In this shot we see the large number of USB (and other) ports you have for I/O. The two LAN ports are Intel based and between them the P8P67 WS should give you some excellent networking performance. ASUS has actually made Intel the standard for all of their boards with the exception of their entry level products, and in some cases boards with multiple LAN ports.
The new BIOS from ASUS is a change from what many will be used to. Instead of a basic system with only keyboard input, you get something a little more functional. You also have two modes; one is a basic mode and what you see when you first open up the BIOS.
Here you can change your operating profile with a simple click. You have three options to choose from. These options are similar to the ones we have shown you when using the old EPU 6 software. Now you can set them in the BIOS without the need to have any OS installed. This is useful to people that might not want to install Windows.
The advanced mode is more like what we are used to dealing with. There is an AI Tweaker page and many of the other pages you are used to in older ASUS BIOSes. Of course, things are also a lot more consolidated and the use of a mouse inside the BIOS makes navigation even easier. You will note something new listed; that is the Internal PLL Overvoltage. Now, you might not think this is a big deal, but as we have already told you this simple setting can mean the difference between a 47 multiplier and a 50.
Again, as we told you in our coverage of ASUS at CES, we found some of the same features that were once reserved for the ROG line-up filtering down into the mainstream and workstation market.
Some things still stay the same, though, as we find options broken out into an Advanced section.
The Monitor tab is where we now find the Q-Fan controls. These have been extended to both the CPU and Chassis.
One item I really like is the ability to see what the SPD information really is without having to boot into Windows. Again, with a simple click I have all of the timing information at my fingertips.
Overall I think I like the new BIOS layout. I do wish that it had a screen shot mode, but I hear that is coming very soon.
One thing I like about the new Sandy Bridge CPUs (and more to the point, most new Intel CPUs) is how easy they are to overclock. On the P8P67 WS Revolution I was able to kick things into high gear with little more than a click. The Auto Tune feature ran for a few seconds, rebooted and within a few minutes we had a 4.7GHz OC including a 104MHz BCLK! - That all on its own was something that I had never expected.
Altering the BCLK was something that I had previously thought was not going to be possible. In fact, to this point all of our testing had failed with altered BCLKs. But the ASUS P8P67 WS was able to do it. I imagine that we will see more of this in the future as well.
In the end after tinkering, and of course in keeping with our single run requirement for our final overclock, we ended up with 104MHz x 46 for 4.787GHz.
AI Suite II
Along with a new BIOS, ASUS has a redesigned suite of tools to help the enthusiast get the most out of their motherboard. This is the AI Suite II. The UI has been revamped with ease of use and accessibility in mind. When you launch the tool it opens up a small bar with a group of buttons. The first one we have already talked about; this is the Auto Tuning option.
After that we get into the tools, these are items like the TurboV Evo software, Digi+ VRM and others.
After that we have the more traditional EPU software (with a new look) and a Windows based utility that will let you adjust the Fan settings (Think Q-Fan).
The Probe II page lets you setup monitoring for a variety of sensors on the board. Here you can either monitor it in real time or track this using the recording function.
ASUS also lets you customize this software to suit your tastes with some nice options available in the settings pages.
Overall, the new suite is nice looking, and pretty powerful. It is the type of thing you would expect on a much more expensive system, but here it is on a workstation board.
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
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: ASUS, Intel, Corsair and Sceptre.
Putting the P8P67 WS Revolution together was a snap. Although that is true of most modern components these days, ASUS has still done a great job with their software installer and also with their utilities.
The new EFI BIOS also helps with setup. After all, even a novice user can quickly get things running with the EZ BIOS feature. You choose one of the three pre-set performance options and you are ready to go. Installing Windows and drivers also presented no issues at all.
To be honest with you, I think we have reached a point in the DIY market when there are almost no obstacles when it comes to building a system; at least no obstacles if the components are built right and are good quality.
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: 2011
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Buy It Here
Memory performance on the ASUS P8P67 WS is very good and manages to top our charts even at the same speed (1600MHz), even if it is only by .04 GB/s. This small edge in memory bandwidth could show up again with our transcoding and rendering tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com
Buy It Here
Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.
Again we find good performance numbers here and we can see the performance of the Intel memory controller showing up.
Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99
Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Download It Here
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 four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is 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 performance numbers here are more than likely due to HDD speed, as we know the system has better memory bandwidth than the others. Still, the P8P67 WS can do a fairly good job with HyperPi.
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.
Now this is a little odd. Normally with good memory performance, but slow HyperPi scores we would expect poor HDD performance. However, that is not the case here. Sandra seems to indicate that the P8P67 WS should have done much better, at least based on HDD speed.
AIDA64 seems to back up our Sandra findings for HDD speed until we see the lower end Read speeds. That is pretty far off of the mark to be honest, and could possibly be one of the causes for the slower HyperPi scores.
Synthetic Tests - Part III
Here is where we dig out the FutureMark tests.
Version and / or Patch Used: 184.108.40.206
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.
Now these are some impressive numbers. Getting in the high 18K range at stock speeds is something very impressive. It looks like the WS would make a great all around productivity product.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com
Buy It Here
For synthetic gaming tests we used the industry standard and overlockers bragging tool 3DMark 11. 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 11 uses the DX11 API in addition to having support for Physics run from the CPU, not PhysX. This puts things on a semi neutral ground as neither GPU can gain an advantage from proprietary code.
Once again the P8P67 WS delivers strong numbers. We can take this as a positive sign that we might get some decent gaming performance out of this board. Of course, as this is a synthetic, it is not the whole picture.
Cinebench R11.5 x64
Version and / or Patch Used: R11.5 x64
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 R11.5 tests your systems ability to render across a single and multiple CPU cores. It also tests your systems ability to process OpenGL information.
Not too bad again. In Cinebench R11.5 the WS Revolution is out in front for both stock and overclocked performance. In fact, in our overclocked testing we are coming close to hitting the coveted 10 Point mark.
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/
Buy It Here
Before we talk about the stock speeds, I want to point out quickly that the time it took to render the 4k sample while we had the Core i7 2600K running at 4.7 GHz was only 5 seconds behind a Core i7 980X overclocked to 4.2GHz. Now that is not a bad showing at all. At stock speeds the Revolution is still very respectable.
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.
AutoGK is no match for the Revolution when matched up with the Core i7 2600K. After all, we are getting a two hour DVD quality movie transcoded to 100% quality avi in around 1/6th the time it takes to watch it.
Real-World Tests Part II
Here we have our real gaming tests. Each of the games we chose uses 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 frame per second using FRAPS. This brings the whole game into play.
*** A word on gaming as a motherboard test; ***
Despite the fact that most games are very GPU limited, we are still noticing HDD and even audio creating issues in gaming performance. Because of this you may see differences in the number of frames rendered per second between different boards. Usually the difference is very small, but occasionally, because of bad tracing, poor memory or HDD performance, this difference is significant. The issues are often more prevalent in older versions of DirectX, but can still pop up in DX10 and 11.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (DX9)
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Timedemo or Level Used: First combat until the school is cleared
Developer Homepage: http://www.infinityward.com
Product Homepage: http://modernwarfare2.infinityward.com
Most of you know about the game Modern Warfare 2 - It caused quite a bit of controversy in the latter half of 2009. The game is a first person shooter with a heavy combat emphasis. It follows the events in the first Modern Warfare very closely and brings back several characters from the original.
As with most games in the Call of Duty franchise, it features a heavy AI load. This is not because of a complex AI routine, but more due to the sheer number of enemies in any given combat situation. It is also our single DX9 based game in our testing suite. Settings are shown below.
With this older DX9 game, the combination of the ASUS WS Revolution, the Core i7 2600K and the AMD HD 5870 from ASUS gives us performance that is simply way over what you would need to enjoy the game. Not to mention the fact that all of these systems are extremely close together in terms of gaming performance with this game anyway.
Far Cry 2 (DX10)
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
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. Settings we used for testing are shown below.
Interestingly enough the Revolution drops back a little bit in Far Cry 2 when we push DX10 on it. Still, all of the systems are pretty evenly matched.
Battlefield Bad Company 2 (DX11)
Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: From washing up on the beach to the mine fields.
Developer Homepage: http://www.ea.com/
Product Homepage: http://badcompany2.ea.com/
Battlefield Bad Company is another sequel and also another game "franchise". Bad Company 2 is also our DX11 Shooter game. The game follows a fictitious B company team on a mission to recover a Japanese defector. This puts you back in World War II (at least for the beginning of the game) while the multi-player game is centered on much more modern combat. For our testing we used the single player mode. Settings are shown below.
Interestingly in our DX11 game we find that our AMD system is out in the lead. Of course, this is only by 3 FPS (as most of the others are), but still interesting to see this board in the lead.
Despite it being marketed toward the workstation crowd, the P8P67 WS Revolution showed itself to be a capable gaming board. The audio was good and of course the Intel LAN was spot on. We also did not have any issues with level load times or in game lag. All in all, the P8P67 WS would make an excellent gaming platform, especially with its three way GPU support.
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 power consumption on the Revolution is something else. It is as power friendly as some micro ATX boards we have tested. Even when under load it still uses less power than the others despite being highly overclocked. I hope this is a trend we can expect from future motherboards and CPUs.
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 P8P67 WS Revolution was also excellent on heat. With the better power efficiency we see a direct reduction in heat generation. Since this is a workstation product, it means you can expect a good amount of life from this board.
ASUS has a very good product on their hands with the P8P67 WS Revolution. It shows us that they are most certainly leading the way when it comes to the workstation crowd. We were very happy with not only the productivity performance, but also with the gaming and multimedia performance that we saw.
The new EFI BIOS is very easy to work with, having a streamlined and simple UI. The addition of the EPU controls right in the BIOS will be a great thing for many Linux users that did not like being left out of good energy efficiency, while the auto tuning functions in the advanced BIOS will offer plenty of performance for even the most unskilled user.
When you consider what you have with this new product (Bluetooth, three-way SLI/Crosfire, Intel LAN, Multiple SATA 3.0, excellent power and heat envelopes along with good overclocking), it is not hard to see why ASUS' workstation platforms have been so popular. The $269.99 price might be a little high for some, but for the person that is looking for performance, stability and longevity, the P8P67 WS Revolution is a board you will want to take a very close look at.
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