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ASUS P5E3 Premium X48 Motherboard Review

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3oh6

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<center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/asus_logo-1.jpg" alt="ASUS Logo">


<b>ASUS P5E3 Premium WiFi-AP @N X48 Motherboard Review</b></center>



<b>Price:</b> $390+ CND <a href="http://hardwarecanucks.pricecanada.com/detail.php?product_id=532575&sku=P5E3PREMIUM%2FWIFIAP.N">Click Here to Compare Prices</a>
<b>Manufacturer Product Page:</b> <a href="http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=3&l2=11&l3=640&l4=0&model=2069&modelmenu=1">ASUSTek Computer Inc.</a>
<b>Manufacturer's Part Number:</b> P5E3PREMIUM/WIFIAP.N
<b>Warranty:</b> Limited 3 Year Warranty



<p style="text-align: justify;">For avid readers and forum dwellers of Hardware Canucks, this is what you were asking and waiting for. We recently took a trip to X48 / DDR2 country with our ASUS Rampage Formula Review. Today we hop a trans-continental flight and head over to another region of the motherboard world, again, courtesy of Air ASUS. Probably one of the most familiar names in the computer hardware industry is ASUSTek or commonly referred to as ASUS. Encompassing everything from mainboards to graphics processors and enclosures to laptops, ASUSTek has a very large foot in the door of nearly every consumer electronic market you can think of. ASUSTek is not only a leader in all of these markets but a highly trusted manufacturer that provides excellent quality, performance, and support to back it up.

Today we aren't discussing the merits of the ASUS enterprise though, we are only interested in one market, the motherboard market. More specifically, the ultra high-end X48 / DDR3 segment of that market. Boasting a wealth of features, the Intel X48 chipset is at the top of the Intel chipset offerings right now. That means that when paired with four DDR3 memory slots, the P5E3-Premium is at the top of the mainstream motherboard food chain in the ASUS ecosystem.

With a heritage that has pretty much run the roost on the Intel platform for as far back as one can see sitting at a desk behind a wall of LCD monitors, the X48 chipset that powers the ASUS P5E3-Premium is a very refined and capable chipset at this point. Offering dual full 16X PCI-E lanes for outstanding CrossFire performance and a host of user friendly features, the P5E3-Premium is targeted at the gamer who wants to have their cake, and eat it too. Fortunately, the P5E3-Premium appears to be able to offer that very thing, at least on paper anyway. This is what we plan on finding out today, whether the P5E3-Premium can satisfy our gaming, overclocking, and general computing needs. There is plenty to cover, so let's get started.</p><center>
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3oh6

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Specifications

Specifications


<p style="text-align: justify;">There is no denying that the Intel X48 chipset is feature rich and has a multitude of specifications to describe its capabilities, but this list is almost getting out of control. For those looking for just a basic one-two of this chipset, look elsewhere because we have pulled the entire specifications list from the ASUS web site...and it isn't for the faint of heart.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/specs-1.png" alt="ASUS Rampage Formula Specifications"></center>
 
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3oh6

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Features

Features


<p style="text-align: justify;">Instead of repeating what a spec sheet says over and over, we have isolated a few of the features that intrigue us on this motherboard and discuss them briefly here.</p><table align="center" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="90%"><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Dual-Channel DDR3 2000(O.C.)/1800(O.C.)</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/features-1.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0";" />As a bit of a surprise, the P5E3-Premium has DDR3-2000 listed as a supported memory speed. Of course it also has the O.C. caveat listed beside it but for ASUS to even mention DDR3-2000 is rather impressive. This basically ensures that the motherboard can run 500FSB because that is what is required to reach 1000MHz memory frequency on current Intel chipsets.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>ASUS EPU</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/features-2.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0";" />The biggest news story of recent weeks has been the battle between Gigabyte and ASUS regarding their energy savings technology. For ASUS, this is called EPU and involves lowering power consumption of the motherboard when running low power applications. This type of feature has been big news lately because of the global effort to reduce energy consumption for a cleaner environment. We didn't have any luck with the Rampage Formula but will try again with the P5E3-Premium.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Up to 20°C(36°F) Cooler - Stack Cool 2</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/features-3.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px";" />Silent operation and effective cooling are descriptions that did not co-exist in the past. Recently though, ASUS has been at war with noise and used a number of passive cooling solutions utilizing heat pipes to cool chipset components without the use of fans on the motherboard. Stack Cool 2 is just the marketing term for this type of passive motherboard cooling solution.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>ASUS WiFi-AP @n</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/features-4.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px";" />With built in dual 802.11n wireless antennas included with the P5E3-Premium, the ability to connect wirelessly to the home network is better than ever. Options for running in AP-Mode or Client Mode with the dual antenna setup provides flexibility for whatever our needs are. 802.11n also improves potential wireless speed with up to 300mbps transfer speeds.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>ASUS Express Gate</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/features-5.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0";" />A very unique feature to ASUS premium motherboards is the inclusion of Express Gate. An onboard Linux based operating system that allows for web, e-mail, and VoIP access within 5 seconds of powering up the machine; without even having to enter Windows. This is a very forward thinking idea and ASUS has recently announced its inclusion in all of their mainstream motherboards.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>SATA on the Go</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/features-6.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0";" />The explosion of personal data collection, transport, and storage has really pushed the connectivity envelope for motherboard manufacturers. The SATA interface is the fastest available at this time and the use of external hard drives tapping into this interface is such common place these days that ASUS has added two native eSATA ports at the rear I/O panel. eSATA provides the same 3.0Gb/s transfer capabilities of the onboard SATA ports but provides hot-plug ability for easy backup to portable external devices.</td></tr></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>O.C. Profile</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/features-7.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px";" />With complicated BIOS settings and literally hundreds of options, the ability to back up settings to be recalled alter is a very nice feature available to P5E3-Premium users. This may seem trivial to some, but for those spending time tweaking their system, this allows the convenience of saving the BIOS settings while making adjustments and providing the safety net of going back to a known good configuration instantly.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>GreenASUS</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/features-8.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px";" />Green is the name of the game in every industry and as we have already seen with the EPU features of this motherboard, the computer industry is no different. But energy savings is only a part of being green. Developing hardware that is safer for the environment and its inhabitants is another aspect of being Green friendly. ASUS adheres to the EU RoHS standards for non-toxic hardware manufacturing. Some aspects like lead free components in manufacturing and packaging that is environmentally friendly are just parts of the entire Green theme ASUS has taken on so adamantly.</td></tr></table><p style="text-align: justify;">The list of features we have briefly gone over are just an ice cube portion of an iceberg poking out of the water. ASUS has packed a lot into this P5E3-Premium like they do with all of their mainstream motherboards and going over everything would take just too long. The above features are those that stand out as being important in our opinion here at Hardware Canucks and we will be taking a closer look at a few of them throughout this review. Let's now move on to the motherboard itself and the accessory package it comes with.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Package & Accessories

Package & Accessories


<p style="text-align: justify;">Since the Asus P5E3-Premium is not a part of any additional marketing campaign groups like the Maximus or Rampage, the package is going to be a standard Asus offering that uses package real estate for advertising features.</p><center>
package-1.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As predicted, the P5E3-Premium package receives the ASUS premium package treatment of an all black box with gold foil writing and covered head to toe in logos more logos than a Nascar driver. Under the top flap, a primary focus of ASUS advertising budget has gone towards making sure we all know what EPU is, does, and how it can help save us money. Yes, even motherboard manufacturers are advertising how their products actually save us money by saving energy.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The underside of the top flap is very similar to our Features section in that it goes over a few unique features of this motherboard with images and text. The rear of the package continues on with this theme and proceeds to educate us on every possible feature they could jam into the space. We also get an abbreviated copy of that lengthy specifications sheet we presented a couple sections back.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As was mentioned, it is the abbreviated version because the specifications list we looked at had a heck of a lot more information than that. Either way, ASUS has done a fine job esthetically presenting a large amount of information about the P5E3-Premium. Let's now get a look inside and see what we have for an accessories package.</p><center>
contents-1.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The package of goodies we get with this motherboard is above average if we had to quantify it and will mention that it is very similar to a Rampage Formula accessory pack we just looked at recently here at HWC. Here is a complete breakdown of what is included:</p>
  • 1 x Floppy Cable
  • 1 x IDE Cable
  • 3 x 90 Degree SATA Cables
  • 3 x SATA Cables
  • 1 x 4-pin Molex > Dual 5-pin SATA power cable
  • 2 x Optional PWM Fan
  • Dual USB & Single Firewire PCI Expansion Bracket
  • 2 x Wireless @N
  • ASUS Q-Connector
  • Rear I/O Panel
<p style="text-align: justify;">There really is nothing to out of the ordinary that needs further explanation but let's get a better look at a couple items.</p><center>
contents-3.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The Q-Connector is a neat little piece of hardware that has become standard with all ASUS motherboards in recent memory. This connector is designed to make the tedious task of hooking up front panel cables simple and straightforward. For the most part, it does this task well and has eased the installation process a little bit for the end user. The other luxury item we have are the two additional fans that clip onto the surrounding heat sinks if you are water cooling or in a situation where there is no airflow over the heatsinks.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Like the list points out, there are also two included WI-FI antennas. The P5E3-Premium comes with two omni directional antennas in order to provide the maximum coverage possible for the wireless N connection. Through the included software, the P5E3-Premium can act as a normal wireless client, or take on the role of access point providing wireless access to other devices within wireless range. That is a nice feature that will come in handy for many people with less than simple wireless setups.</p>
 
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3oh6

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A Closer Look at the ASUS P5E3-Premium

A Closer Look at the ASUS P5E3-Premium



<center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/layout-1.jpg" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">If there was a way to judge a motherboard by looks alone, the P5E3-Premium would be ranked right up there with the best of them. The subtle touches of color but overall dark PCB give the P5E3-Premium that edge that makes it look good. The quality looking finish of the heat sink covers give it that prestige look of a high price motherboard. In the image above, we have outlined all of the major areas and components, we will now take a closer look at each of the major areas on the motherboard.

</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">We will start the tour at the CPU socket and what ASUS call 'Stack Cool 2'. All we can say is that we missed the days of a simple heat sink with a 40mm fan buzzing away. In jest of course because cooler, quieter, better all seem to form in that order in customer demands so ASUS simply obliges. In all honesty, as large and abundant the heat sinks are, they don't really intrude upon the CPU socket and do a great job of keeping the whole system running cool. Using a Thermalright Ultra-120 w/fan is possible in either direction and the heat sinks play no role. The CPU 8-Pin 12v connector is also found up here right at the top edge for easy cable management not having to stretch across any of the motherboard. The inductors and main capacitors are the exact same hardware as the ASUS Rampage Formula.</p><center>
layout-4.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">But that is where the similarities end and the P5E3-Premium goes off on its own. The first notable upgrade on this board from others is the three-phase vDIMM circuit for supplying the power to our memory. An overkill setup like this is designed to provide as clean a supply of power to the component as possible, this isn't the last multi-phase power supply for a component. Another interesting item in the first photo is the jumpers at the end of the outside black DIMM slot. These jumpers enable ridiculous voltage options for the CPU and NB. There is absolutely no reason most users would need to enable these so only do so if you understand the results would be our recommendation.

Overall, the memory area is nicely spaced from the CPU socket and still providing plenty of room for the top PCI-E 16X slot to stretch out. This will become repetitive but it can't be mentioned enough, ASUS does a superb job at routing all connectors to the direct edge of the motherboard. Every connector from the 24-pin ATX connector to the floppy, SATAII, and even the 3-pin fan headers; everything is right on the edge of the motherboard for easy routing and hiding.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The tidy layout continues down to the lower forward corner where the passive south bridge cooler, note the mounting hardware, meets six SATAII connectors, all of which run off of the ICH9R chipset. Four of the SATA connectors are on a right angle with the last two vertical. The right angled IDE connector is tied to the system via a JMicron JMB363 controller that we will see in a minute. Yet another two 3-pin fan headers can be found on the edge as well as the CMOS battery and just out of reach of the camera is the clear RTC jumper. Moving along the bottom edge takes us along additional USB 2.0, FireWire, and a COM port header. These two USB headers provide an additional four potential USB ports on the front panel of your case or for additional internal card readers.</p><center>
layout-8.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The back edge below the I/O panel houses the JMicron controller just discussed that also powers the two eSATA ports on the rear panel. There are two other inhabitants of this area are the RealTek RTL8110SC, and the smaller ADI1988B Audio CODEC positioned just behind the 4-pin audio connector. This Analog Devices solution provides plenty of features that can be found here. The RTL8110SC is a 'Single-Chip Gigabit LOM Ethernet Controller' which provides one of the Gigabit network connections while a Marvell 88E8056-NNC1 provides the other. This is sort of a love/hate outcome with the network controllers, the Realtek would be considered inferior and a cheap solution running over the PCI BUS and the Marvell considered substantially better and running on a single PCI-E lane.

The overall layout of the expansion slots is a little bit interesting. The two 16X PCI-E connectors are separated by the only PCI-E 1X connector which does leave the top PCI slot free, however, the length available to the top PCI slot may be shortened by memory slots. This leaves the three PCI-E 16X slots even spaced and able to each fit a dual slot cooler. The layout is the best and only way a tri-Fire setup could be run though so some exceptions had to have been made somewhere. Unfortunately it also means that running CrossFire X with a pair of HD3870X2s means they will be back to back causing the second card to run a good pinch warmer than the front. It was mentioned earlier, but take a look at the mounting hardware for the north bridge and south bridge heat sinks. ASUS has really stepped up the quality of their chipset cooling with this mounting hardware alone.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">We would have liked to see screw mounting hardware on all of the heat sinks but won't complain with at least the two most substantial receive this quality treatment. Speaking of which, the main center piece of the P5E3-Premium is the blue highlighted north bridge cooling section. Despite being completely silent and looking almost too fancy to work properly, the chipset cooling is more than adequate for most users. We haven't even changed the thermal paste out and results have been very good with this stock cooling.

One final item of interest I wanted to show was the dual-phase power supply for the north bridge. This feature is reserved for only the upper end of ASUS motherboards and again cements the P5E3-Premium as one of the premier ASUS offerings of the X48 chipset.
</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The rear I/O Panel is quite busy on this particular motherboard with 6 USB 2.0 ports, two gigabit LAN adapters, two eSATA and a FireWire connection along with the full supply of audio connections. At the far end are the two WiFi @N connectors that ultimately use up the last two USB ports that the chipset offers. The continued push for a serial device free environment continues and my cries fall on deaf ears that PS/2 mouse ports are still proffered for those of us with older KVMs.

The final touch on the cooling discussion is shown in the second photo above. Not only are screws used to secure the north and south bridge heat sinks, back plates are used for both providing an excellent and secure mount to ensure even and complete contact between the chipsets and the heat sinks. In the past ASUS has drawn criticism for some of their lack luster chipset cooling solutions but they have really started to step up their game, on the extremely expensive motherboards at least.</p>
 
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3oh6

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


<p style="text-align: justify;">The exciting talk out of a performance memory manufacturer as of late has centered around the ASUS P5E3-Premium and the first sign of that praise revolves around the BIOS and it's new features that we are about to look at right now.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The first screen we receive in the BIOS is a standard AMI Main option section. There is nothing of real significance that hasn't been around since the 80s but the inclusion of a System Information screen is always nice to have. A quick confirmation of processor frequency, memory, and the BIOS version is very useful for a number of users.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Putting every single overclocking option in one section is great for end users, but not so good when trying to explain things. Needless to say, I will spend some time on this single image so drag it somewhere comfortable to still read and let's get started. Ignoring the three option boxes highlighted, this is the AI Tweaker section after loading BIOS defaults and restarting. Notice the memory timings of 7-7-7-20? This is because we are using XMP enabled memory and at BIOS defaults, that kicks in and adjusts not only the memory timings, but frequencies including FSB as well as various voltages. As it turns out, with this memory installed, our BIOS defaults are actually 450MHz FSB with a CPU multiplier of 7X and a DRAM ratio of 1:2 giving DDR3-1800 speed with timings of 7-7-7-20. All of this without touching a single option in the BIOS, Intel XMP profiles work well, and this particular memory seems to really like this board as well.

As for the options, this P5E3-Premiums BIOS is very close to being the ultimate playground for overclockers or system tweakers. Manual FSB Strap selection and DRAM frequency speeds give us ultimate versatility although the 266 strap seems to be quite problematic, more on this in the overclocking section. The DRAM CLK Skews turned out to be very favorable for memory overclocking on the DDR2 X48 Rampage Formula and with the same options ranging from advanced 350ps to delayed 350ps, we should be able to really tune memory for the last bit of what it will give. The one screen we have not shown is the endless memory timing options that we have available to us. Every single timing from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, is available to be adjusted by us here in the BIOS. The tRFC adjustment is the standard 60 / 72 / 82 / etc... instead of manual control, but it beats no control like we are still being punished for with another chipsets reference design.

Aside from showing the Ai Clock Twister options we won't discuss the Transaction booster options until the next screenshot. For now, let's skip ahead to the voltages at the bottom. Instead of showing you a dozen screenshots showing the various voltage options, we have made a nice little chart:
<center><table border="0" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="735px"><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100px"> </td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100px"><b>Minimum</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100px"><b>Maximum</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100px"><b>Increment</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="335px"><b>Notes</b></td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">vCORE</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.85000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">2.10000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.00625v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335px">Over 1.7v requires OV_CPU jumper enabled</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">CPU PLL</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">1.50v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">2.78v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.02v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335px">Standard 1.50v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">vNB</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">1.25v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">2.21v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.02v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335px">Standard 1.25v<br>Over 1.91v requires OV_NB jumper enabled</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">vDIMM</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">1.50v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">2.78v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.02v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335px">Standard 1.50v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">FSB Termination</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">1.20v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">1.50v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.02v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335px">Standard 1.20v - 65nm<br>Standard 1.10v - 45nm</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">vSB</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">1.05v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">1.20v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.015v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335px">Standard 1.05v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">Clock Over Charge</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.70v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">1.00v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.10v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335px">Standard 0.80v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">CPU GTL 0/2</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.370x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.760x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.005x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335px">Standard 0.630x</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">CPU GTL 1/3</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.410x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.800x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.005x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335px">Standard 0.670x</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">NB GTL</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.61x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.67x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100px">0.067x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335px">Standard 0.67x</td></tr></table></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Although not quite as handsome at the upper end of a couple voltage ranges as the Rampage Formula, the P5E3-Premium shows that it has enough guts to push through some serious overclocking before volt mods will come into play. CPU voltage up to 2.1v is enough for all but 2 people benching with liquid nitrogen right now and 2.78v for vDIMM is just inviting the advancing of dry ice cooling pots for memory to become more abundant. Needless to say, 99% of users will have enough voltage adjustments at their finger tips to squeeze the most out of their components on air and liquid cooling.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">We skipped the Transaction booster settings earlier as it deserves its own screenshot. We see the same manual selection of the Common Performance Level as well as the individual channels that we saw on the Rampage Formula motherboard. This is probably the most important timing when it comes to memory performance as well as overclocking stability. Too low a Performance Level and the system won't boot, too high a Performance Level and memory performance suffers drastically. The default XMP Performance Level of 6 is very aggressive but the appropriate voltages adjustments were made to compensate and run PL6 stable.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The Advanced section isn't really that advanced. There are just a couple sections worth noting, the CPU Configuration and Onboard Devices Configuration sections. The CPU configuration tells us what frequency our CPU is running at, and the CPU ratio. Here we can obviously see the 3.16GHz CPU frequency and 7X CPU multi we get with the XMP profile of the Corsair Dominator. All of the CPU features are also left enabled. If you were looking to disable the advanced power saving functions of the SpeedStep Technology, this is where you would be disabling items. The last screenshot above is of the Onboard Device Configuration section. Everything is nicely labeled and easy to understand so we know what we are disabling or not.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The Power and Boot sections of an Asus BIOS are pretty boring but there are a couple aspects I would like to discuss. The first comes in the Hardware Monitor section of the Power menu. The main issue is the fact that we didn't have to stitch two images together like we did with the Rampage Formula because there were too many voltages and temperatures being reported. To see nothing more than CPU temp, MB temp, and CPU voltage was quite the let down. This means there is no chance of any more reporting in Windows either and with the voltage options we are provided in the previous screens we just looked at, it is hard to wonder why there aren't more readings for the end user. A few more lights and bigger heat sink, seems to be about the only conceivable difference between the P5E3-Premium and perhaps a Rampage Extreme. At least voltage reporting and NB/SB temperature readings would be appreciated on a motherboard of this pedigree.</p><center>
bios-12.png
bios-13.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The last section labeled as Tools, is a pretty accurate description of what we find here. Like many previous ASUS motherboards, EZ Flash is available directly from the BIOS and provides the safest and easiest BIOS flashing method. Just upload a BIOS to the root directory of your FAT formatted thumb drive and go into EZ Flash. It will all but find the BIOS, verify, and flash it in a couple key strokes. The other listed tool is ASUS Express Gate. For those not familiar with Express Gate, they can check out the Long Term Impressions section for our brief report on our use. The last screen shot simply shows the fact that we still have the two OC Profiles available to us for saving and recalling BIOS settings. These too have been a part of the ASUS BIOS for a long time. We would like to see a couple more slots or the ability to label the saved profiles. Although we figure the labeling is a limit of the AMI BIOS and not what ASUS can or would be willing to do with it.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Test Setup & Software

Test Setup & Software


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/setup-1.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0px 5px 20px" alt=""><b>Test Platform:</b>
  • <b>Motherboard:</b> ASUS P5E3-Premium
  • <b>Processor:</b> Intel C2D E8400
  • <b>Processor Cooling:</b> Thermalright Ultra-120
  • <b>Memory:</b> Corsair Dominator 2x1GB PC3-14400
  • <b>Power Supply:</b> Thermaltake Toughpower 750W
  • <b>Video Card:</b> HIS HD3870X2 512MB
  • <b>Additional Fans:</b> 120mm AD1212MS-A73GL 2050RPM/80.5CFM
  • <b>Hard Drive:</b> 1 x Seagate 7200.9 80GB SATAII 8MB cache
  • <b>OS:</b> Windows XP SP2 (with all updates) / Windows Vista SP1 (with all updates)
<p style="text-align: justify;">As with the last motherboard review, all testing will occur in an open bench setup to ensure complete control over motherboard and component cooling. The image to the right is an accurate portrayal of how the setup remained throughout testing. The 120mm fan was angled to cool the memory but also provided a bit of support to the chipset cooling on the motherboard.

During installation of the hardware there were absolutely no issues. The Thermalright 120-Ultra fit in either direction despite the four sided heat sink assembly and taller Corsair Dominator memory. The height of the motherboard heat sinks surrounding the CPU socket fit easily under the outstretched arms of the large cooler. Anything shorter, however, would definitely have issues.</p><center>
software-1.png
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Continuing forward, we will take a quick look at the software that comes with the P5E3-Premium with a particular interest in the WIFI capabilities of this twin antenna setup. The initial ASUS software is un-changed from those of the past and is very straight forward. There are a couple tabs along the top of a small window and the options listed for each tab on the page. There were no issues to note when installing the standard drivers like the Intel chipset, network controllers, or the audio drivers. Everything installed smoothly and the next item we wanted to look at was the WiFi-AP Solo @n, which is just a long name for wireless software.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The above sequence is that of switching from the original Client mode that we find ourselves in after the software installs. Setting up WEP as well as manual IP and DNS was very easy and within a minute or two we found our private SSID and were online and surfing our network. It was then time to switch to AP mode which was no more than a click of the mouse away.

Again, setting up the software for SSID and security options was extremely simple. It took about five minutes total, but without frustration, we now had the P5E3-Premium acting as an access point and supplying a much better WiFi service to the laptops used in the office than the cheap D-Link consumer level wireless G router that has been in use for years. The only issue was that of getting the wireless clients to access the network resources like the various NAS devices, print servers, and other machines. Personal lack of networking knowledge may have been the root cause for this issue though. All basic connectivity was easily setup and the simple interface was really easy to work with. Perhaps a little simple for some, but overall nicely implemented.</p><center>
software-6.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">This is just a quick look at the wireless connection in client mode connecting to said D-Link wireless router at the 54Mbps G standard showing the full 1200KBps download speed from some NVIDIA servers. This is the maximum download speed available on our network, wireless or wired. The overall latency was quite good and there were no real issues found when working in any of the wireless modes. The option for turning the ASUS P5E3-Premium into an Access Point is a unique feature and not likely one widely utilized but a nice little feature we found fun. Being the new draft N is even better, we are sorry we weren't able to test properly with a matching wireless N router.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Overclocking Methodology

Overclocking Methodology


<p style="text-align: justify;">Before getting into the overclocking discussion of the P5E3-Premium, we will briefly discuss what we consider to be the import aspects of a motherboard overclock. More importantly, we will outline what we feel is considered a stable overclock. During the overclocking we will take notes about how easy or hard it was to achieve each overclock as well as what is potentially holding the motherboard back each step of the way. We don't want to focus on how we achieved the overclocks we did, but more how difficult it would be for others to do the same.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/setup-2.jpg" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">If you are familiar with the ASUS Rampage Formula review posted at Hardware Canucks not too long ago, you will recall that we tested max FSB, memory clocks, and then an overall 24/7 stable system overclock combining all aspects of the previous overclocks for what we feel would be the best setup for a daily use machine given our components and capabilities. We will repeat this process somewhat for the P5E3-Premium since it was favorably received by our readers. We will however be testing specifically a 2x2GB kit of DDR3-1600 memory for stability in place of traditional memory overclocking.

In order to consider an overclock stable, we had to come up with a recipe of ingredients to ensure our whole system was stable for each of the overclocks. There is always great debate about what is and isn't stable. Remember, we were trying to simulate an average user when coming up with this stability testing and with time limitations there is only so much we can do. We feel this is a very good, well rounded stability test though for projected 24/7 use:</p>
  • Dual 32M runs of SuperPi Mod 1.5 (ran at the same time)
  • 2 hours of dual Prime95 using Prime95 v25.5 Stress Testing Blend
  • 2 hours of OCCT Custom 2H Mix OCCT v2.0.0a - Except for Memory Overclocking
  • 2 hours of dual HCI MemTest Pro in Windows using all available memory
  • Multiple loops of 3DMark 01 / 06 (30 minutes of looping the full tests each)
  • 1 hour of game play in COD4 & Crysis @ 1680x1050
<p style="text-align: justify;">The key factor in any stability testing is that everyone has different stability needs. For your own stability testing, do what you need to make sure is stable, not what someone else does. The standards are OCCT and Prime95 but if you mostly game, make sure you have a lot of extended gaming sessions in your testing...not that you will mind ;).</p>
 
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3oh6

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Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


<p style="text-align: justify;">This was going to be the crowning jewel of this review. We had great success in all aspects of the Rampage Formula x48 DDR2 overclocking and expected nothing less of our P5E3-Premium. Unfortunately things didn't quite work out how we wished, but despite our troubles, we did always have success in the 'sweet spot' and would fully recommend most 24/7 setups to be running in that FSB range.

We started having relative success with FSB clocks on BIOS 0401 but only passed 500FSB with this new beta 0503 BIOS. Keep in mind, this is the same CPU that was running Prime 95 at 580FSB within hours of setting the hardware up with the Rampage Formula. Our ASUS motherboard experience is deep and goes back through both the Maximus Extreme, P5K3-Dlx, and P5B-Dlx so the X48 chipset isn't exactly new, nor is the way ASUS sets up a motherboard but we have simply fought with this motherboard for high FSB clocking.

We have had success in a lot of other areas, one of them being with a 2x2GB kit of G.Skill PC3-12800 7-7-7-18. A very recent reader of HWC asked us to check stability at the rated timings/frequencies of a 2x2GB kit and since we were going to be limited by our FSB short comings on 2x1GB modules, we figured why not use this as a memory test.</p>

2x2GB DDR3-1600 7-7-7 Stability Testing

Click for full size...
<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/ocing-1.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/small/ocing-1.png" alt="2x2GB DDR3-1600 7-7-7 Stability Testin" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">After the questions being rasied about this motherboards ability to run 2x2GB kits of memory at DDR3-1600, I was concerned putting these G.Skill Pi modules in but they booted right up at the XMP profiles of 800MHz 7-7-7-18 and ran 100% out of the box. So much for those worries as the P5E3-Premium has shown it can handle DDR3-1600 2x2GB modules. All memory in this review was ran in the black slots.</p>

Maximum Overall Stability Overclocking

Click for full size...<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/ocing-3.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/small/ocing-3.png" alt="Maximum Overall Stability Overclocking" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The next order of business was our overall system overclock. In the Rampage Formula, this processor managed close to 4.1GHz stable so we started there. Much to our surprise, 456*9 for 4104MHz turned out to be stable with the memory running 1:2 @ 1824 7-7-7-20 at PL6. The voltages are all set to their lowest with slight bumps in PLL and of course vNB up to 1.51v which is still plenty low enough for 24/7 operation. Getting this type of overclock was relatively easy. Once we found out that the 266Strap didn't really work, we stayed on the 333Strap and life was good.</p>

Maximum FSB Overclocking - Thus Far

Click for full size...<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/ocing-2.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/small/ocing-2.png" alt="Maximum FSB Overclocking" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">This last screen shot is a departure from our regular rigorous testing and this is because we just got out hands on a beta BIOS that seems to be showing potential. We have only had it for a day but the FSB overclocking which was previously stalled right around the 500FSB mark has improved somewhat with very limited time in this new BIOS. When every other P5E3-Premium in the overclocking community is clocking well into the 550FSB range, we are perplexed as to why we are fighting for 530FSB with our sample.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Benchmark Methodology

Benchmark Methodology


<p style="text-align: justify;">Focusing our benchmarking on just the single platform, the P5E3-Premium, we will run the test setup at the BIOS defaults and in the same configuration as the Maximum Overall Stability Overclocking. <img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/asus/p5e3-premium/method-1.png" alt="Just a sample graph outlining where the results will be coming from in the up-coming benchmarks" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0px 4px 7px">The benefit the stock setup will have is that when paired with Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DFIN, the Intel XMP profile kicks in and adjusts the FSB and voltages accordingly to accommodate the 900MHz (DDR3-1800) frequency as well as 7-7-7 timings. This will heavily influence the memory bandwidth section of the benchmark results.

The <b>blue</b> results will outline that of the BIOS defaults and XMP profiles automatically enabled. The overclocked <b>red</b> results are then going to display the highest stable overclock we have seen a couple times already in the overclocking section.

The overclocking section provided us with a stable overclock of our E8400 to 4104MHz with the memory clocked to DDR3-1824. With these components, this is a higher-end overclock but seems mild for the memory and the system compared to the XMP defaults. The biggest difference is that the CPU is at a rather high frequency as a result of a lucky CPU that clocks very well on basic processor cooling. The following outlines our testing methodology:
a/ Windows is installed using a full format.
b/ Intel Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed followed by a defragment and a reboot.
c/ At time of benchmarks the latest drivers were downloaded from their official web sites as the latest drivers, most notable, Intel Chipset 9.0.0.1008 and ATI Catalyst 8.5.
d/ Programs and games are then installed followed by another defragment.
e/ Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates followed by a defragment.
f/ Benchmarks are each ran three times after a clean reboot for every iteration of the benchmark unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged.</p>
 
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