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ASUS P67 'Sandy Bridge' Motherboards Preview

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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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As should come as no surprise to our always well-informed readership, a new generation of Intel processors is on the way. Codenamed Sandy Bridge, these new CPUs have been an increasingly hot topic of discussion on various enthusiast forums for the last few months, if only due to the sporadic and dubious rumors about the capabilities of the new platform. We aren't free to clear up any of the confusion, nor tell you any titillating new information about Sandy Bridge, but all will be revealed sooner rather than later.

Thankfully though, Intel have mercifully given motherboard manufacturers the green light to show off their new motherboards based on the upcoming 6-series chipsets. Specifically, manufacturers have been permitted to reveal models based on the performance-oriented P67 chipset, which is the one that enthusiasts will really be interested in.

So without further ado, let's take a sneak peak at a few of ASUS' upcoming P8P67 series, Republic of Gamers (RoG), and The Ultimate Force (TUF) motherboard models.

 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
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1,141
Location
Montreal
Maximus IV Extreme & Sabertooth P67

ASUS Maximus IV Extreme

We always like to start an article on a high mark, and it doesn't really get any better than the Maximus IV Extreme, which part of ASUS' enthusiast-oriented Republic of Gamers (RoG) product line.

Unsurprisingly, ASUS have stuck to the popular red & black RoG theme for the M4E (that's the preferred abbreviation for this model), but they have unveiled a new heatsink design throughout the board.




Click on image to enlarge

Under those large MOSFET heatsinks lies ASUS' new 16+2 phase DIGI+ VRM power design that is controlled by the Dual Intelligent Processors 2 (DIP2). As per its name, DIP2 consists of two controllers, the power-saving Energy Processing Unit (EPU) and the overclocking-enhancing TurboV Processing Unit (TPU). Although both technologies have been found on previous ASUS motherboards, when combined with the new programmable DIGI+ VRM they allow for extremely precise adjustment and management of the power design, high power efficiency, cooler VRM temperatures, and in the end, increased overclocking potential.

The M4E's most distinguishing features are without a doubt its four PCI-E x16 slots. What this means is that the Maximus IV Extreme supports Quad CrossFireX and is also Triple SLI capable, which is courtesy of an NVIDIA NF200 PCI-E controller. Yes, that venerable NVIDIA chip has found its way onto another platform, but it is the only way to get more than 2-way SLI support.

Another familiar controller is the PLX PCI-E bridge chip, which is designed to multiply the PCI-E bandwidth as well as effectively distribute it among this motherboard's various high-performance storage controllers. The M4E features two NEC USB 3.0 controllers and has 8(!!) USB 3.0 ports on its rear I/O panel. A brand new JMicron 9182 controller feeds four SATA 6Gb/s ports. Networking aficionados will be glad to hear that ASUS have decided to ditch the usual Realtek Gigabit LAN controllers and make use of a high quality Intel Gigabit LAN solution instead.

Casual overclockers will find the M4E a dream to use thanks to its super user-friendly new UEFI BIOS and smart TurboV Processing Unit, but this simply wouldn't be a Republic of Gamers motherboard without some hardcore overclocking-oriented features, and the Maximus IV Extreme doe not disappoint. There are read points for all the essential system voltages, an LN2 mode button, switches to turn on/off the four PCI-E x16 slots (a great feature first unveiled on the Rampage III Extreme, molex power connectors to improve power delivery to the board when you have four power hungry graphics cards installed. There are also two replaceable bios chips, to give you extra protection just in case things go terribly wrong.

ROG Connect, the remote system management and overclocking feature, once again makes an appearance, but this time it has been expanded to allows users to overclock graphics cards, only select ASUS models are supported at the moment though.


ASUS Sabertooth P67

A little over a year ago, ASUS introduced their first TUF (The Ultimate Force) series motherboard, the Sabertooth 55i. This new product family was specifically designed with the best possible components to be as durable and reliable as possible for power users, in even the most extreme conditions. ASUS backed up this new series with an industry-leading 5-year warranty. It was apparently popular enough to release a second model, Sabertooth X58, and with Sandy Bridge, ASUS will be introducing a third model, the Sabertooth P67.


Click on image to enlarge

This new TUF motherboard is unlike any of the past models. In fact, it is unlike like any other motherboard that has ever been marketed in the consumer realm. The first thing to catch your eye is obviously the new Tactical Vest, a large protective piece of ABS plastic. Now you may be wondering why a motherboard needs body armor, and we would tend to agree, but it actually serves a dual purpose. First and foremost, with the Tactical Vest installed it is now much more difficult to physically damage the motherboard's PCB while installing expansion cards or simply tightening screws. Furthermore, in coordination with the new TUF ESD Guards, there is also a significantly lower risk of ever short-circuiting or otherwise electrically damaging any part of the motherboard. The second purpose of the Tactical Vest is in improving to cool the motherboard's various onboard components and controllers. There is a little hatch where the northbridge cooler would usually be, it is removable and allows users to install an included fan that sucks exterior air into the Tactical Vest and is then channeled to various critical locations. The end result is a significant (up to double-digit) drop in the operating temperatures of the motherboard's various controllers and other SMDs.

From a specs point-of-view, the Sabertooth P67 benefits from the new DIGI+ VRM, it supports front and rear-panel USB 3.0 ports, has 2 SATA 6Gb/s ports, and also comes with the Intel Gigabit LAN controller. Gamers will be glad to know that this model supports both CrossFireX and SLI support. The new UEFI BIOS has also found its way onto this model.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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1,141
Location
Montreal
P8P67 DELUXE

ASUS P8P67 Deluxe

The Top Dog in ASUS' initial P8P67 series roster will be the marvelously-equipped P8P67 Deluxe model. As we have come to expect from this model designation, it is packed to the gills with features, some of which will only be included with this model.




Click on image to enlarge

As befits a high-end model, the P8P67 Deluxe has the new 16+2 phase DIGI+ VRM design, and also comes equipped with the power-saving Energy Processing Unit (EPU) engine. Overclockers will be able to really stress this new VRM thanks to the user-friendly mouse-supporting UEFI BIOS and very capable TurboV Processing Unit overclocking processor. You can even overclock this motherboard without even touching your system thanks to the updated onboard Bluetooth Go! capabilities.

The Deluxe has three PCI-E x16 slots, supporting 2-way CrossFireX and 2-way SLI, 2 PCI-E x1 slots, and even two venerable PCI slots. Overall, it's perfectly balanced modern layout. Some will criticize the usefulness of two legacy PCI slots in 2010-2011, but obviously motherboard manufacturers still see the demand for them.

Obviously, this model's greatest selling point is the ASUS Front Panel USB 3.0 Box, which connects to the front USB 3.0 header that is located to the bottom-right of the memory slots. There is also USB 3.0 ports on the back, along with a powered eSATA port, and twin Intel GbE LAN ports. Users with serious storage needs will be excited to know that the Deluxe features four SATA 6Gb/s ports, just waiting for those next-generation 500MB/s+ solid state drives.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,141
Location
Montreal
P8P67 PRO

ASUS P8P67 PRO

Ever since we reviewed the ASUS P5Q PRO back in July 2008, the PRO models have been among our favourites since they offer tremendous Bang-for-the-Buck; all the necessary modern features, at a price that's within everyone's reach. Based on what we are seeing here, this new iteration won't be the exception to the rule.



Click on image to enlarge

While the P8P67 PRO doesn't ship with the ASUS Front Panel USB 3.0 Box, you can clearly spot the front USB 3.0 header to the bottom-right of the memory slots, so clearly they will be offering it for sale in the retail channel. If you don't want to buy the box, that is not a problem since this motherboard has two USB 3.0 ports on the rear I/O panel. Speaking of high-performance storage solutions, this model does feature four SATA 6Gb/s ports, same as the Deluxe.

Although this PRO model has the same expansion slot layout as the higher-end Deluxe model, it doesn't support SLI (...since SLI certification isn't cheap!), but it does support 2-way CrossFireX. If you absolutely need SLI, but don't need all the features of the Deluxe, we believe there will be an intermediary model...

The new DIGI+ VRM has also found its way onto this model, but obviously in slightly cut-down form. We aren't sure how many phases it has exactly, but it will be less than the 16+2 phases found on the P8P67 Deluxe. We will gladly make due with a few less phases if it means having the futuristic new UEFI BIOS, which this model does support in all its GUI glory. Frankly, our only real disappointment with this model is the fact that it is missing the onboard power and reset switches that open-air computer users find so useful.


Hopefully, this piece has been somewhat enlightening, if not totally informational, since there are so many details about ASUS' P67 models, and Sandy Bridge in general, that we are not at liberty to discuss right now. Soon though, soon...

 
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