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ASUS P5Q PRO P45 Motherboard Review

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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Memory Benchmarks

Memory Benchmarks


Everest Ultimate v4.50

Everest Ultimate is the most useful tool for any and all benchmarkers or overclockers. With the ability to pick up most voltage, temperature, and fan sensors on almost every motherboard available, Everest provides the ability to customize the outputs in a number of forms on your desktop. In addition to this, the memory benchmarking utility provides a useful tool of measuring the changes to your memory sub-system.

p5q_56.jpg


As you can see going from the stock configuration to our overclocked settings has led to considerable improvements in all three areas of memory bandwidth. This is expected though, since we increased core clocks from a tepid 2.13Ghz to 3.6Ghz for the CPU and from 800Mhz up to 1200Mhz for the memory.

p5q_57.jpg


Here we see an over 40% drop in latency, which is a tremendous achievement. Likewise, any figure in the low 50’s is considered a very respectable result.


ScienceMark v2.0

Although last updated almost 3 years ago, ScienceMark v2.0 remains a favorite for accurately calculating bandwidth on even the newest chipsets.

p5q_58.jpg


As with Everest, we see a monumental 64% bandwidth increase going from the stock to overclocked settings. Clearly, the memory sub-system is doing a good job of turning the increased frequencies into raw MB/s.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
System Benchmarks

System Benchmarks


SuperPi Mod v1.5

When running the SuperPI 32MB benchmark, we are calculating Pi to 32 million digits and timing the process. Obviously more CPU power helps in this intense calculation, but the memory sub-system also plays an important role, as does the operating system.

p5q_59.jpg

Once again, the increased CPU and memory frequencies have shown their effect by nearly cutting the calculation times in half. On a side note, we used HyperPI to run SPi Mod v1.5, since it has a better interface to deal with some Vista-related issues.


PCMark Vantage

The latest iteration of the popular system benchmark is PCMark Vantage from the Futuremark crew. The PCMark series has always been a great way to either test specific areas of a system or to get a general over view of how your system is performing. For our results, we simply run the basic benchmark suite which involves a wide range of tests on all of the sub-systems of the computer.

p5q_60.jpg

Since PCMark Vantage also tests the storage sub-system the performance gains are not as great as in the previous benchmarks. However, a 36% improvement in overall synthetic system performance is very respectable.


Cinebench R10

Another benchmarking community favorite, Cinebench renders an intense 2D scene relying on all the processing power it can. Cinebench R10 is another 64-bit capable application and is likely the most efficient program tested today at utilizing all cores of a processor. We will be running both the single threaded and multi-threaded benches.

p5q_61.jpg

These results truly illustrate how amazingly efficient Cinebench is, since the results have scaled perfectly with the increase in core speed.


DivX Converter v6<o:p></o:p>

Now that we have ran some of the more 'synthetic' benchmarks, it is time for a real-life AVI to DivX encoding task. We will take a 2.04GB AVI rip of the cult-classic movie Full Metal Jacket and convert it into DivX using the default multi-media setting of DivX converter v6. DivX fully utilizes both cores of the processor and will rely heavily on all aspects of the system for performance.

p5q_62.jpg

A 68% decrease in encoding time was achieved through our overclock, which equates to over thirty-five minutes off of an eighty-seven minute task. Everyone can appreciate a free half-hour, no?


Lame Front End

Unlike the DivX conversion we just looked at, Lame Front End is not multi-threaded and only utilizes a single core of a processor. This will obviously limit performance but we should still recognize significant time savings going from the stock settings to the overclocked results. We will be encoding a WAV rip of Santana’s Supernatural album and converting it to MP3 using the VBR 0 quality preset.

p5q_63.jpg

Almost 2 minutes were saved with the overclocked settings, which is a significant reduction from the stock 4.5 minute encoding time. This is definitely another impressive result in a real-life task.

Photoshop CS3

For the image editing portion of this review, we will use Photoshop CS3 in coordination with Driver Heaven’s Photoshop Benchmark V2, which is an excellent test of CPU power and memory bandwidth. This is a scripted benchmark that individually applies 12 different filters to a 60MB JPEG, and uses Photoshop’s built-in timing feature to provide a result at each test stage. Then it’s simply a matter of adding up the 12 results to reach a final figure.

p5q_64.jpg

With the overclocked settings, we were able to complete the benchmark almost 54 seconds faster than with the stock configuration, which is an immense 66% improvement.

WinRar

The last of our real-life tests will be with the highly popular WinRAR v3.71, which has a built-in benchmark that can measure both single-threaded and multi-threaded archive extraction performance.

p5q_65.jpg

If you are anything like us, WinRAR is an application that you use countless times per day, so any performance improvement can provide some very tangible time savings. With the overclocked settings, archive extraction performance was 65% greater than with the stock configuration, which is a tremendous improvement, and demonstrates that WinRAR can really utilizes every last CPU cycle available to it.

The last of the benchmark sections will focus on 3D applications and gaming, let's take a look at those now.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
Gaming Benchmarks

Gaming Benchmarks


Futuremark 3DMark 06

We used the venerable 3DMark 06 because it is less GPU-bound than Vantage, and thus a better indicator of overall system performance.

p5q_66.jpg

Here we have a more than 25% performance improvement, which suggests that our GeForce 8800GT 512MB was being bottlenecked by the stock CPU speeds.


Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts

This test consists of actual gameplay using a single mission (Authie: Boudica's Boys from the British Campaign) since it holds a bit of everything the game has to offer: vehicle battles, artillery barrages and house-to-house fighting. We recorded framerates using FRAPS up until the 15 minute mark of the mission and excluding any in-game briefings / cutscenes. The game was run in DirectX 9 mode at 1680x1050 with all detail levels set to high.

p5q_67.jpg

Although COH: OP can be quite graphically intensive, the extra CPU Mhz do provide a substantial performance boost as demonstrated by the more than 20% gain achieved with our overclocking settings.


Team Fortress 2

As our last gaming benchmark, we will use the addictive and CPU limited Team Fortress 2. For this test, we made an action-packed 30-minute timedemo on the “2_Fort” map with a constant 20-24 player load. This test represents a worst-case scenario because it is a small map with a high number of players on the screen at all times, placing a very heavy load on the CPU. The resolution was set to 1680x1050 with all settings on high.

p5q_68.jpg

The Source engine is well-known for having excellent CPU scalability, and TF2 is known for being CPU intensive, and both these facts are absolutely evident in our results. Because of the heavy load, our stock clocked CPU becomes a huge performance bottleneck. However, with the overclocked settings, performance nearly doubles, and the fast-paced FPS experience becomes much more fluid.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
Voltage Regulation

Voltage Regulation

Our voltage regulation testing is compromised of two factors being tested. Since this ASUS motherboard provides 'Loadline Calibration', we will be testing the vCORE fluctuation with and without this feature enabled in the BIOS on our stable overclock. Intel specification outlines a droop in voltage for Intel processors when switching from idle to load conditions. This droop is referred to as Vdroop in the overclocking community and generally regarded as a bad thing because it requires setting a higher vCORE to make up for the droop that occurs at load. Loadline Calibration in the ASUS BIOS is basically an option to eliminate the Vdroop from occurring. So our testing will not only be showing the difference between the two different states of Loadline Calibration, but it will also let us know how well Loadline Calibration does at eliminating Vdroop.

The second prong of our voltage testing will be a look at the various voltages and the differences encountered between what is selected in the BIOS, what is reported by digital multi-meter (DMM). We have found five voltage read points on the motherboard so the vCORE, PLL, vFSB/VTT, vNB, and vDIMM will be recorded with the DMM. Both vCORE and vNB will be read from the underside of the motherboard at the output side of the corresponding inductor for each voltage supply. PLL and vFSB/VTT voltages will be read from points on the top of the motherboard. vDIMM will be read directly from an open DIMM slot using the VDD pin closest to the key. The ground point used for all readings will be a screw hole. Here are a few photos showing the various read points used.


Now that we have established where the read points are, let’s have a look at the results. In the chart below, vCORE (LLC) is the vCORE with Loadline Calibration enabled and vCORE will be with Loadline Calibration disabled. These measurements were taken at 7x400Mhz, the highest officially supported FSB, and the FSB that will most likely be used by those seeking mild overclocks. Everything else in the BIOS is set to auto. Here are our extensive findings:

p5q_73.jpg


As you can see…we have a lot to talk about, so let’s examine each voltage separately.
  • vCore: Overall, even without the benefit of LLC, this board displays good vCore regulation with minimal vDroop. The BIOS selections are within 3% of the actual readings for pretty much all of the voltages, which is quite commendable. At the auto setting, the vCore is set a little high, but it will allow novice users achieve respectable overclocks without fiddling with the vCore settings.
  • vCore (LLC): The solid vCore regulation obviously gets even better once LLC is enable. In fact, vDroop is eliminated and there’s actually a bit of vBoost under load. Quite impressive.
  • PLL: As you can see, the first two settings are set very high when compared to Intel’s recommended 1.50V ± 5%. However, there is no conclusive evidence that PLL can cause long-term harm to a CPU, and we can’t formulate our own opinion without long-term testing of PLL-related issues. Having said that, we recommend that users manually set this option to 1.54v just to be safe. Also, it is quite possible that the BIOS will lower this setting when a 45nm chip is detected.
  • vNB: Overall, we are very satisfied with the northbridge voltages, which display superior stability across the board. Once again there is a bit of overvolting at the auto setting, but it was likely implemented to ensure that all P5Q PRO’s would be able to achieve their FSB1600 specification without unnecessary user tinkering.
  • vDIMM: ASUS motherboards are well-known for overvolting the memory by between 0.06-0.10V, and we do not see any issues with this, as long as the user is aware that it is happening.
  • vFSB/VTT: From 1.24V onwards the VTT is perfectly acceptable. However, the auto and 1.20V settings are quite high. Recently, there have been countless debates about the effects of VTT on the long-term health of 45nm chips, and the general consensus is not to use over 1.40V on a 24/7 basis. However, once again, it is quite possible that the BIOS would lower the VTT to a more reasonable auto setting when it detects a 45nm chip.
Now let’s recap a few important facts. Every individual motherboard is different, and it is entirely possible that our sample is alone in displaying any and all of the above voltage characteristics. Also, the motherboard did not significantly overvolt the PLL and FSB/VTT voltages when using a 266Mhz and 333Mhz FSB, they remained at 1.55V and 1.22V respectively on the auto setting.

Now let’s have a look at a couple of OCCT vCORE charts over a two hour stress test.


vCORE w/Loadline Calibration Disabled

p5q_74.jpg

This result was with the processor set to 8x400Mhz with a 1.325 vCore. Overall, the regulation looks quite good. The slight vDroop is noticeable once the stress test actually kicks-in, but otherwise the fluctuations are quite minimal, and there are no zero worrisome spikes. Evidently, the eight-phase power design is doing it's job quite well.


vCORE w/Loadline Calibration Enaled

p5q_75.jpg

This time once the stress test kicks-in the motherboard actually increases the vCore by almost 0.01V, which should help ensure stability under heavy load. As you can see, once the test gets going the vCore is straight as an arrow until the last 5 minutes, when OCCT enters the low load monitoring stage.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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1,086
Location
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Heat & Acoustical Testing / Long Term Impressions

Heat & Acoustical Testing

This section is going to be short and sweet since the P5Q PRO does not have a fan, thus has no acoustical footprint.

Now since this motherboard is a mainstream model, it unsurprisingly does not come with temperature sensors for the northbridge and southbridge. Therefore, we had to rely on our trusty digital thermometer for all temperature measurements. The FSB was set to 400Mhz, the voltages to AUTO (see above chart for exact figures), and then OCCT was run for two hours. The temperatures were recorded at twenty minute intervals throughout the two hour test.

p5q_77.jpg

With an aforementioned 400Mhz FSB, the northbridge cooler reached 45°C/113.0°F and the southbridge cooler measured a toasty 47°C/116.6°F. Both of these temperatures are at the upper-limit of what we would consider desirable, but they are not unsafe. Interestingly, the heatsink-cooled MOSFETs actually ran 2°C hotter (41 °C vs. 39°C ) than the 'naked' ones. We can possibly attribute this to the fact that the northbridge and MOSFET heatsinks are linked by a heat pipe, and therefore heat output from one component will affect the other.

Now because our side-mounted 120MM "case" fan was disabled during this testing, and there was no airflow to speak of, all these figures essentially represent a worst-case scenario. In a regular case with one or two 120MM fans, temperatures should improve somewhat. Having said that, we definitely recommend that you provide proper cooling to all heatsinks if you plan on doing any serious overclocking with the P5Q PRO.


Long-term Impression

Overall, the long-term impression of the ASUS P5Q PRO is quite favourable. The motherboard ran flawlessly throughout our veritable gauntlet of tests. We never experienced any stability concerns or strange BSODs…although we did cause a few with our over-ambitious overclocking attempts. We did experience an issue when the motherboard attempted to recover from an unsuccessful overclock that refused to POST, it simply sat there idling with the monitor on standy.

As a result, we had always to turn off the power supply for a split second in order to reset to the safe defaults that would allow us back into the BIOS. We are not entirely sure why C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall) is failing to automatically reset the BIOS once we hit the reset button, but it’s an issue that affects a few ASUS motherboards, like the Rampage Formula. This is a minor inconvenience though, and it is the only noteworthy issue that we encountered.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion

Once again, ASUS has delivered an exceedingly competent product at a price that almost seems too good to be true. The P5Q PRO enters the mainstream market packed to the gills with great features such as dual mechanical PCI-E x16 (8x electrical) 2.0 slots, three PCI-E 1x slots, eight SATA-II ports, eSATA and FireWire connectivity, top-notch RAID capabilities, twelve USB 2.0 ports, 8-channel high-definition audio codec, 8-phase power design for the CPU, 2-phase power design for the chipset and memory, ExpressGate, EPU…and the list goes on. Many of these features were high-end exclusives just a few months ago, so it’s a tremendous achievement to pack all this functionality into a mainstream price point.

When it comes to build quality, ASUS has not held back either. The board is built on a sturdy 6-layer PCB, and it looks great in dark brown. It also features long-lasting solid aluminium electrolyte capacitors and quality Yageo ferrite chokes in all critical locations.

The BIOS has everything that we have come to expect from a mainstream ASUS product, which is to say enough features and tweakability to satisfy all but the most ardent enthusiast. It is also clever and functional enough to be accessible to novices, and even allow those users to achieve a respectable overclock while maintaining the majority of settings on AUTO. For the more experienced overclocker, the P5Q PRO and its P45 chipset do not disappoint, and will likely only be held back by your choice of components.

On the other hand the AUTO voltage settings are a little high for our liking, but if you are reading this review, you are already an enlightened consumer and can easily fix the problem by manually inserting your own voltage settings in the BIOS.

On the layout front, we find the floppy and IDE connector placement to be slightly impractical, but this is a relatively minor issue given the rapidly declining popularity of these two interfaces. The P5Q PRO’s biggest flaw is the fact that the use of a dual-slot graphics card in the second PCI-E x16 slot blocks access to a few SATA-II ports. We fully acknowledge that only a small fraction of users who buy a motherboard in this price range will utilize CrossFire, but since the capability is there, the functionality should be there too, and without compromises.

Overall though, for about $135 CDN, the P5Q PRO provides excellent Bang for the Buck, and an abundance of capabilities that we have never seen before in a mainstream motherboard. It is a worthwhile upgrade choice for those who are interested in trying CrossFire, or simply for those who want a stable, overclockable, fully-featured motherboard that performs well and won’t break the bank.


Pros
  • Excellent price
  • CrossFire x8/x8 support
  • 45nm and FSB1333/1600 CPU support
  • Lots of connectivity options
  • Capable BIOS
  • Great overclocking potential
  • Solid voltage regulation


Cons
  • Some SATA ports blocked when using dual-slot graphics cards in CrossFire mode
  • AUTO voltage settings should be lowered
  • Chipsets run fairly hot
  • Questionable floppy & IDE connector placement

 
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