X48 is new, but there are many boards already begging for your dollars. We are taking a look at the most robust of them all, the P5E3 Premium, which includes built-in WiFi, a great board design and fantastic overclocking abilities. It would almost be a perfect board if it weren’t for the $375 price tag.
Although Intel never issued a press release to properly launch their X48 chipset, there are numerous motherboards available at popular e-tailers from the likes of ASUS, DFI, Gigabyte, MSI and of course, Intel themselves. We’ve had X48 boards in-house for a while now, so there is no better time to relay our experiences and post some reviews!
The first board to arrive was the P5E3 Premium WiFi-AP @n from ASUS, an upgrade of sorts to their P5E3 Deluxe. The main difference is the chipset, however, so overall, both are near-identical in almost all regards.
From time to time, companies may choose to release a product that serves the sole purpose of keeping the flow of releases constant, regardless of how revolutionary it is. That’s what X48 is, essentially. For those unaware, the difference between X38 and X48 is that the latter officially supports processors with a 1600MHz FSB. At this point in time, the Core 2 Extreme QX9770 is the only LGA775 desktop processor to fit that description.
You might think that there has to be more to it than that, but there isn’t. Even the same Intel chipset drivers can be applied to either X38 or X48, as nothing changes except that small profile. Overall, it’s a speed bump, and since most people have reached 400MHz and beyond already, the jump doesn’t feel all that exciting.
What this should mean, however, is that X48 motherboards will contain the highest binned chipsets to come out of Santa Clara, which could result in better overall overclocks. However, X38 wasn’t too much of a lightweight, with people reaching speeds in excess of 2000MHz. Regardless, it’s here, it’s the ‘best’ and it perfectly fits the QX9700. That’s all you need to know.
Like the P5E3 Deluxe before it, the Premium is designed for those who value features over overclocking. In some regards, it could almost be considered a luxury board, given the feature set and $375 US price tag. At that price, it costs around $50 more than the X38-based P5E3 Deluxe. It’s the Porsche of motherboards, no question.
Keeping in mind that the Premium’s lone upgrade is the simple chipset upgrade, I can already not recommend this particular model, unless you really want native 1600MHz FSB support for your brand-new QX9770.
Of all the X38/X48 boards available, this is one of the most robust. It has a fantastic layout, offers efficient and passive cooling, offers lots of connectivity and even support for three GPUs in Crossfire mode. One of the largest benefits of the board is the included 802.11n WiFi – a huge bonus for some. It means you don’t need a separate add-in card, and keeps things all-in-one.
Regarding the design, I have no immediate complaints. I am a fan of the colors ASUS choose to use, and though a simple thing, it looks fantastic once installed into a killer rig. I love darker colors, so it works. I am not a fan of the blue heatsink guards, however. The silver ones used on the Deluxe version of the board look far better. But ASUS had to differentiate the two somehow.
Time for a quick trip around the board to see all that’s offered!