Intel’s latest enthusiast chipset has been available in the marketplace for just over two months, so it’s at this point when your choices between motherboards can become complicated. At launch, ASUS did the honors of offering three different boards, but that number has since jumped up to seven. The model we are taking a look at today was one of the original three, but it still retains it’s title as being the king of their line-up.
ASUS divides their motherboards into various groups, with the “Deluxe” normally being the higher-end consumer motherboard. They are not designed for extreme overclocking, but rather for consumers who are looking for a feature-rich offering. There are two different versions of this particular board, but the only difference is that the one we are taking a look at today features on-board Draft N WiFi. If this doesn’t appeal to you, the original Deluxe will suit you fine.
One of the biggest features that Intel’s X38 chipset brought to the table is dual PCI-E 16x slots. This means that Crossfire will work well with no bandwidth bottleneck. I don’t have sufficient GPUs here, so I have to fore-go that testing on this board. Also here is native 45nm processor and DDR3-1333 support.
ASUS has pushed beyond those specs with a recent BIOS update that allows native 1600MHz support, catering to the likes of the Intel QX9770 which we will see launch early next year. It also offers the ability to overclock your memory to DDR3-1800 speeds, although that’s a feature that would have been available anyway, since it involves overclocking.
ASUS haven’t changed their “Deluxe” packaging in a while, but it does the job its set out to do. Information is plastered all over, including the fact that this is a “Lifestyle” board – one that’s catered to the digital lifestyle.
Taking a look at the board itself, we can see… what? Two massive stickers? That’s right, ASUS doesn’t want you to forget anything. The light-blue sticker tells us about the boards ExpressGate on-board Linux feature, while the other discusses their EPU, or Energy Processing Unit. ASUS set out to make the P5E3 more energy efficient, and they claim that at full load, it will prove 7% more efficient than other comparable offerings.
As far as the layout is concerned, I am quite pleased with the P5E3. It’s one of the few boards where I can’t find a real fault. For those who like to keep their case as clean as possible, you will be happy to see four side-mounted S-ATA ports, and another two for additional drives. I also appreciate the abundance of 3-pin fan connectors – two at the bottom, two near the DIMM slots, another near the back panel and another for the CPU fan.
The only real gripe I might mention is that the fan connector in beside the WiFi card and heat sink is awkward to get to once everything is installed.
Offering more copper than your penny bank, the P5E3 is designed to be completely passively cooled. If you want to delve into overclocking, they include two small fans that can be strapped to certain parts of the heat sink. During testing, however, I didn’t find this necessary. Your experiences may be different.
The side-mounted S-ATA ports will be useful for those who value cleanliness in their cases. Though useful, I do find these slightly more troublesome to use than the top-mounted ports, since once the board is installed, you can’t see what you are aiming for. For those still using IDE hardware, there is a port here for you.
Moving up we find our DDR2 DIMM slots as well as the 24-pin motherboard power and also a floppy-drive connection.
In addition to our dual PCI-E 16x slots, there is a spare PCI-E 4x in case you need to plug in a third GPU. For your sound cards or other peripherals, there are two PCI and two PCI-E 1x slots also available.
It makes the board top-heavy, but that much copper looks great. The board costs more than $300, and it shows.
There is no shortage of connectors on the side-panel – adding to the feature-richness. Six USB 2.0 ports are found, in addition to dual e-SATA, one Firewire, two LAN, audio ports and S/PDIF, a keyboard PS/2 connection and also our WiFi card. To help increase the signal, two antennas are required.
In our pile of swag we have the manuals and driver CD-Rom, the two WiFi antennas, two heat sink fans, media remote control, Q-Connector (makes plugging in the ATX cables easier) and a variety of IDE and S-ATA cables. The I/O back panel is even high-quality… it has a foam feel to it. Does this matter? Of course not, but it helps adds some value to the product.
This is a great-looking offering from ASUS. While being a far-stretch from a budget board, the P5E3 Deluxe WiFi includes everything you need and even a few things that you don’t. Can we expect the same from the BIOS? The next page bares all.
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