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ASUS P8P67 PRO LGA1155 Sandy Bridge Motherboard Review

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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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After a widely acclaimed early January launch, Intel's sparkling new Sandy Bridge LGA1155 platform experienced a bit of a setback with the announcement of a manufacturing flaw that could undermine the performance and even functionality of the native SATA II ports on all motherboards featuring the Cougar Point H67 and P67 chipsets. Immediately following this announcement, responsible retailers pulled all LGA1155 motherboards from their 'shelves' and the motherboard manufacturers detailed their plans for the voluntary recall of all models that had already been purchased by consumers.

That was a little over 6 weeks ago, and today we can tell you that freshly manufactured (and fixed) B3 revision Intel 6 series chipsets are being shipped to the motherboard manufacturers as you read this. In fact, some consumers who RMA'd their B2 motherboards early have already received replacements, and stocks of B3 motherboards have slowly started strickling into the retail channel.

With all that said, today we will be bringing you a review of what is likely to be among the most popular P67 motherboards, the ASUS P8P67 PRO. For this new platform, ASUS have created ten P67-based models ranging in price from $150 to about $350. The PRO comes in at about $190, which makes it ostensibly a mid-end model, but with decidely above-average specs. Featuring the new digital DIGI+ VRM 12 phase power design, four USB 3.0 ports, four SATA 3Gb/s, four SATA 6Gb/s, three PCI-E x16 slots, 2-way SLI and CrossFireX support, onboard Bluetooth module, Intel Gigabyte LAN controller, 8-channel HD audio codec, futuristic EFI BIOS, and a redesigned AI Suite II software package, the PRO comes with just about every feature that we would want in motherboard. The P8P67 motherboard series also features a wide range of new ASUS-specific features that we will examine throughout the review.

Want to know more? Keep reading...

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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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Specifications

Specifications


Back when Lynnfield was launched, we were introduced to an all new chipset layout from Intel where many of the usual Northbridge functions were consolidated onto the CPU die. This P55 Express “Ibex Peak” chipset allowed for a more integrated layout and also moved away from the traditional two-chip layout of a Northbridge and Southbridge towards a single chipset design.

Sandy Bridge LGA1155 motherboards use the “Cougar Point” 6-series chipsets of which the P67 boards will target the upper end of the spectrum while others like H67 and Q67 will be destined for slightly lower-end products. Cougar Point won’t change the ballgame like Ibex Peak did last year. Rather, this new chipset design uses the same building blocks as past PCH-equipped chipsets yet features expanded capabilities in several key areas.

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The high-end P67 Express chipset layout is nearly identical to the P55 Express but there are several key changes. Sandy Bridge processors themselves will feature an integrated PCI-E controller which supplies 16 PCI-E 2.0 lanes. When installed on a P67-equipped board, they can be used in one of two ways: either one slot operating at x16 or dual slots running at x8. This means both Crossfire and SLI are supported but not at their full theoretical bandwidth.

Sandy Bridge processors will also retain the same basic memory layout as the last generation with two memory channels (versus the three memory channels of the high-end Bloomfield series) with the capability of running DDR3-1333 modules in each of the two channels. A total of 32GB can installed when using dual sided 8GB DIMMs.

The link between the CPU and the P67 Platform Controller Hub (PCH) is still done via the DMI interface but in this case, the specifications of this interface have been upgraded from past generations. It now features four lanes in each direction which can operate at speeds of up to 2 GB/s. This results in 4 GB/s of aggregate bandwidth if both upstream and downstream lanes are used to their theoretical maximum.

The Cougar Point chipset (in this case P67 Express) acts as the control hub for all of the peripheral and storage connectors on Sandy Bridge motherboards. Not much has changed here since it still features eight PCI-E lanes, an Intel HD Audio module along with Intel’s Extreme Tuning support. Intel Extreme Tuning will only be available on the P67 boards and adds Windows-based overclocking if you have an unlocked K-series processor as well as some basic system monitoring tools.

For the most part, external storage capabilities of Sandy Bridge-based boards haven’t changed all that much from the previous generation since up to fourteen USB 2.0 ports are available but native support for USB 3.0 is missing. The real difference lies in the Serial ATA interface as Intel has decided to add native support for the new SATA 6 Gbps standard. Of the six support SATA ports, two can be converted to SATA 6. Naturally, motherboard manufacturers still have the option of adding third party controllers for both USB 3.0 support and additional SATA 6 Gbps ports.

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One advantage P67 Express-based boards will have is their ability to support the full range of overclocking and unlocking capabilities for Sandy Bridge processors. At this point, lower end products simply lack the support for processor tweaking and tuning but they will allow some extension to on-board processor graphics performance.

While board partners are once again sure to add in some basic overclocking options into the BIOSes of certain lower-end products, Intel seems to be pushing users to choose a K-series chip along with a P67 board in order to push their processors to the limit.

That's about all there is to know about the chipset, so let's move on to the motherboard itself. Despite being a mid-level motherboard from a mainstream platform, the ASUS PRO model is definitely outfitted with just about anything you could want on a motherboard.


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As you can see, the P8P67 PRO has one heck of specifications list, in part due to the fact that ASUS have added a whole bunch of exclusive new features to this model.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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Package & Accessories

Package & Accessories


Now that we have gone over the P8P67 PRO’s chipset and its extensive specifications, it is time to take a look at the packaging and the included accessories. At $190.00CDN+, this motherboard is firmly in the mainstream segment, so we expect to see at least a few included goodies.

Let's check it out:

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For the P8P67 series, ASUS unveiled a new package design, and now they have added eye-catching B3 revision visuals as well. The box itself has a new black theme with an emphasis on the equally new DIGI+ VRM digital power design. The packaging is also adorned with logos illustrating this model's numerous features and specifications, and you will find quite a bit of additional information about all of the interesting ASUS-specific features on the back.

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The accessories bundle is a little light on surprises, but honestly there's nothing missing. There are two SATA 3Gb/s cables and two SATA 6Gb/s cables, all of which feature 90-degree connectors. There is an expansion bracket with two USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports, but this model doesn't come with the unique Front Panel USB 3.0 Box that ASUS have included with the higher-end P8P67 Deluxe. Lastly, there is the anti-EMI I/O panel, 2-Way SLI bridge connector, and Q-Connectors, which make attaching the case cables to the system panel connector a much easier process.

Here is a break down of the included items:

  • 2 SATA 3Gb/s Cables
  • 2 SATA 6Gb/s Cables
  • 2-port USB 3.0 Expansion Bracket
  • 3-port eSATA/USB PCI Expansion Bracket
  • 2-Way SLI Bridge Connector
  • I/O Panel
  • Manual / User Guide
  • Installation CD
  • Q-Connector

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Now that we have taken a closer look at the accessories, let's do the same for the motherboard.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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A Closer Look at the P8P67 PRO

A Closer Look at the P8P67 PRO


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Unlike some manufacturers, ASUS have stayed faithful to their past design philosophy, and aside from the new chipset cooler, this new motherboard could be mistaken for a previous P7P55D model.

As we have come to expect from ASUS, this motherboard has a near perfect layout. The 8-pin CPU power connector, 24-pin ATX power connector, EPU & TPU switches, eight SATA ports, USB 2.0 and FireWire headers are all ideally located on the edges of the motherboard. We do wish the front panel USB 3.0 header was located at the very bottom of the motherboard, instead of below the memory slots where it makes routing to the 2-port expansion bracket a little difficult. This slight complaint will be negated if/when ASUS sells the Front Panel USB 3.0 Box separately.

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The P8P67 PRO is based on the new LGA1155 socket, which is frankly indistinguishable from the previous LGA1156 socket. This similarity, while frustrating to consumers, is actually beneficial since LGA1155 mounting holes are identical to the LGA1156 holes, so users can re-use previous CPU coolers and mounting brackets. The MOSFET heatsinks are milled aluminium, and don't make use of heatpipes, but they do a very good at keeping VRM temperatures in check. They also feature a low profile design, so installation issues are highly unlikely with any well-designed heatsink. There is a good amount of clearance room between the socket and the various capacitors that surround it, so insulating the motherboard for sub-zero overclocking shouldn't pose any problems.

This motherboard has been blessed with the brand new DIGI+ VRM 12+2 phase digital power design,
with 12 phases dedicated to the CPU core, and 2 phases for the memory controller I/O. Combined with this new DIGI+ VRM hardware are the Dual Intelligent Processors 2 (DIP2), consisting of the independent EPU (Energy Processing Unit) and TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) controllers. Thanks to the digital VRM and the TPU controller, this motherboard has extremely precise 0.005V voltage increments, five levels of Load-Line Calibration (LLC), very fast VRM phase switching with fine 10KHz switching frequency adjustments, all of which help greatly when trying to achieve the best possible Sandy Bridge overclock. The EPU controller monitors CPU loading and controls the number of active power phases, while also adjusting the voltages and multipliers on-the-fly in order to regulate power consumption. It is also connected to the chipset and memory VRMs, and optimizes their power efficiency as well. The main benefits of this new DIP2 design are that you can have full control over the system settings without using any CPU resources, and it’s no longer necessary to choose between power management (EPU) and overclocking (TPU).

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For those who are curious, the P8P67 PRO is outfitted with both a Foxconn socket and retention module. Aside from one isolated case, there has been no mention of burnt/melted pins with Sandy Bridge, so this a moot issue on this platform.

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The DDR3 memory slots support overclocked memory frequencies up to DDR3-2200, and are fed by a 2-phase power design. We are glad to see that ASUS are continuing the user-friendly Q-DIMM memory slot design, which is clip-less on one end. The reason for this innovative design is to prevent the memory clips from coming into contact with the back of an expansion bracket, or just to make DIMM removal simpler.

In the top-right corner are the EPU on/off switch and MemOk! button, the latter can be used to fix any memory compatibility issues in order allow the system to boot. The 24-pin ATX power connector is right on the edge of the motherboard, exactly where it should be.

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The NEC D720200F1 has been the de facto USB 3.0 controller on the majority of USB 3.0-enabled motherboards, and in this case it supplies the front panel USB 3.0 header.

We are very pleased to see that ASUS have outfitted this motherboard with a removable BIOS chip. This is not quite as good as a dual BIOS approach, but if there's a mishap, it is a heck of a lot simpler to simpler to swap a BIOS chip than it is to ship a motherboard back to the manufacturer.

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The H67 PCH heatsink is a fairly standard aluminium affair, but it does add a little positive design points to the motherboard's overall appeal. The P67 chipset has a low 6.1W TDP, so this low-profile cooler has no problems dissipating the heat output.

The aforementioned TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) controller is capable of real-time monitoring and adjustment of system settings, and is responsible for features like AutoTuning, CPU Level UP, MemOK!, OC Tuner, and TurboV EVO.

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This motherboard features 8 right-angle SATA ports, 6 of which are supplied by the Intel P67 chipset. The 4 light blue ports are SATA II 3Gb/s and the 2 light grey ports are SATA III 6Gb/s, they all support Intel Rapid Storage Technology in the form of RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. The 2 navy blue ports are SATA III 6Gb/s as well, but are courtesy of the Marvell 9128 controller.

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Near the bottom-right corner, you can spot the power LED and antiquated blue jumper which is used to clear the CMOS. There are also three USB headers good for an additional six USB 2.0 ports.

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The TPU switch can be used to manually engage the OC Tuner auto-overclocking option without having to enter the BIOS.

The onboard audio is provided by a slightly newer Realtek ALC892, an 8-channel High Definition audio codec that supports DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,086
Location
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A Closer Look at the P8P67 PRO pt.2

A Closer Look at the P8P67 PRO pt.2


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The overall expansion slot layout and assortment is definitely well balanced. There are three mechanical PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, two PCI-E x1 slots, and two legacy PCI slots.

Although this motherboard features three mechanical PCI-E x16 slots, the bottom-most slot can only operate at up to x4 mode. As a result, this model only supports 2-way CrossFireX and 2-way SLI. Sandy Bridge processors feature an integrated PCI-E controller that supplies 16 PCI-E 2.0 lanes, so
when installed on a P67-equipped motherboard, users have the option of running a single x16 or dual x8 graphics card configuration.

Those multitude of PCI-E switches are what ASUS use to split the 16 PCI-E 2.0 lanes coming from the processor across the two graphics-oriented PCI-E x16 slots.

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The ASMEDIA AMS1085 is a x1 PCI Express to 32-bit PCI bridge, which is needed since the P67 PCH no longer natively supports PCI slots. The VIA VT6308P is a IEEE1394/FireWire controller. The JMicron JMB362 supplies the two eSATA/USB Combo ports on the rear I/O panel. Forgoing the usual Realtek controller that nearly everyone uses, ASUS have outfitted their P8P67 series with a high quality Intel WG82579V Gigabit LAN controller. This one of two NEC D720200F1 USB 3.0 controllers, the one that supplies the two USB 3.0 ports on the rear I/O panel.

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On the rear I/O panel, ASUS have placed a PS/2 mouse port, PS2/ keyboard port, coaxial and optical S/PDIF connectors, Bluetooth module, two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, a combo eSATA/USB 2.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit LAN port, two USB 3.0 ports, and the six audio jacks.

Thanks to the Bluetooth 2.1 receiver and ASUS BT GO! utility, users can do novelty tricks like control and manage their systems from a smartphone, or even allow a system to connect to the internet using a smarphone's 3G data connection via the BT-to-Net functionality.

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The rear of the P8P67 PRO features twelve back-mounted MOSFETs, but without the cooling system that we saw on the P7P55D Deluxe. Hopefully this new generation of FETs runs cool enough to not need them. We are glad to see that the PCH heatsink is held in place with proper mounting springs, screws and washers.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,086
Location
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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


In the Hardware Installation section we examine how major components fit on the motherboard, and whether there are any serious issues that may affect installation and general functionality. Specifically, we are interested in determining whether there is adequate clearance in all critical areas.

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When installed in the traditional North-South orientation, our Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme CPU cooler did prevent the installation of memory modules with tall heatspreaders in the first memory slot, but only when we used Thermalright's 120MM fan holder. If we removed the fan shroud, we could install a DDR3 module in the first memory slot but the clearance between the module and the fan was minimal. Installing the fan on the other side of the heatsink is obviously an alternative, but at the expense of blowing the hot air inside of your case.

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When we rotated the cooler to the East-West orientation installation remained tricky. As you can see, in this orientation the CPU cooler overhangs the first memory slot and even slightly overhangs the second slot. It is close enough that the heatsink actually makes contact with the memory heatspreaders, and actually prevents the memory module from being installed perfectly vertically. You will need to use memory modules with heatspreaders no taller than 4.5 centimeters if you plan to install your CPU cooler in this orientation and avoid any contact.

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Thanks to the expansion slot layout, there is a nice gap between the Q-DIMM memory clips and the back of the graphics card, so there are no issues when installing/removing memory modules. The 24-pin ATX power connector and the 8-pin CPU power connector are both ideally placed, so that makes assembling and disassembling the system just a tad easier.

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No matter what orientation you install the CPU cooler, there is a lot of croom between the back of the graphics card and the heatsink, so you can install as large a heatsink as you want, and accessing the PCI-E x16 slot clip is easy.

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Thanks to a well thought out expansion slot layout, when you install two dual-slot graphics cards on this motherboard you will still have access to one legacy PCI slot, one PCI-E x1 slot, and one PCI-E x16 (x4 electrical) slot. It should be noted that if you install a dual-slot graphics card in the third PCI-E x16 slot, you will obviously be restricting easy access to the FireWire/USB/front-panel headers.

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The eight 90-degree SATA ports are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed.

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There is really nothing on the back of the motherboard that would give us cause for concern regarding clearance issues with an aftermarket CPU cooler mounting bracket.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


One of the most anticipated and talked about features of the P8P67 series is the ASUS EFI BIOS, which is based on the new Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) specification and replaces the ancient text-only BIOS layout that we have all grown accustomed to. Most noticeably, UEFI brings forth a graphical user interface (GUI) and the ability to use the mouse instead of just keyboard in the BIOS environment. However, this new BIOS spec also features other new capabilities as well, like support for boot drives above 2.2TB, which previously required third-party storage cards, and the potential for faster boot times.

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The EFI BIOS has two different interfaces: EZ Mode and Advanced Mode. Any self-respecting enthusiast will want to switch to Advanced Mode right away via the Exit menu in the top right corner, and then by selecting the appropriate Setup Mode in the Boot section.

By default, the EZ Mode screen provides a user-friendly visual overview of basic system information
like bios version, CPU type, memory frequency, total memory, system temperatures, voltages, and fan speeds. It also allows you to select between three different system performance modes (Power Saving / Normal / ASUS Optimal), and very simply select boot drive priority with your mouse or keyboard. While it is intended for novice users, we would have liked to a few more capabilities added to EZ Mode, particularly the auto-overclocking OC Tuner feature since this is arguably where it would get the most use.

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The Ai Tweaker tab is where all the fun happens. Once the manual option is selected in the Ai Overclock Tuner setting, the BIOS opens up to reveal all of the essential system clock control options: individually adjustable Turbo multiplier(s) (ie: CPU multiplier), BLCK frequency, memory frequency, and the ability to enable/disable EPU power saving mode.

You also have the ability to enable to the new Internal PLL Overvoltage feature, which can help you reach and stabilize a very high CPU multiplier. If you do enable this feature though, you will have an issue resuming from sleep/hibernate. This is a known problem with Intel's firmware code, and they are currently working on a solution.

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The OC Tuner utility is BIOS-based overclocking feature that will automatically reboot the system and set the overclock. It takes about 5 seconds and it works surprisingly well as you can see in our Overclocking Results section.

The Turbo Mode Parameters allow you to circumvent the various Turbo Mode power limitations instituted by Intel, but I wouldn’t recommend that you mess around with those settings unless you are really familiar with the Sandy Bridge platform. ASUS have done a great job tweaking this BIOS, so the Auto setting are absolutely perfect for 99.999% of users.

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When you enter the DRAM Timing Control sub-menu, you are presented with just about every memory timing that you could want.

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The DIGI+ VRM features consist of Load-Line Calibration (LLC), VRM Frequency, Phase Control, Duty Control, CPU Current Capability. These are all fairly advanced features, and most users who overclock will simply want to set LLC to Ultra high, VRM Frequency to 350Hz, and the rest on auto.

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ASUS gives users the option to select manual or offset mode when it comes to tweaking voltages, and of course all the expected system voltages are present and accounted for.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Messages
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Location
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BIOS Rundown pt.2

BIOS Rundown pt.2



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The CPU Configuration section is where you can enable/disable all the CPU-specific features like Hyper-Threading, Virtualization, Enhanced SpeedStep, Turbo Mode, and the various C-STATE levels.

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The SATA Configuration sub-meny is where you can set SATA mode, as well as enable or disable hot plug functionality.

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The USB Configuration tab is obviously home to all the USB settings.

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The Onboard Devices Configuration sub-menu is also where you can enable or disable the various onboard controllers like as well as all the onboard devices like audio, LAN, FireWire, eSATA, and USB 3.0.

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The Monitor tab has very basic temperature and voltage readouts. Usually we would say that we would like to see additional readouts, but the voltages are listed in real-time in the Ai Tweaker section.

ASUS have outfitted the P8P67 PRO with a extensive fan control functionality, so if you want to get all your fans spinning just right, this should be right up your alley.

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The Boot tab is essentially where you set storage device priority and select the boot drive, where you can set supervisor and user passwords, and also disable the full screen logo.

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ASUS EZ-Flash 2 is a built-in utility that greatly simplifies the BIOS updating process. You can easily update your BIOS from a ROM file located on your hard drive(s), USB flash drive(s), or even a CD. It's quick, painless, and it takes the worry out of BIOS flashing.

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The ASUS O.C Profile feature gives users the option to save and switch between BIOS profiles, for example an everyday profile and a benchmarking profile. Not only is this infinitely quicker than manually inserting every setting, but the profiles can be saved and shared among other P8P67 PRO owners.
 

MAC

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Joined
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Messages
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Location
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Included Software

Included Software



For this brand new platform, ASUS have combined their numerous software utilities into the much more user-friendly Ai Suite II toolbar. As you’ll see this new approach is much more organized than having various apps scattered around everywhere.
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After going through the brief installation process, you will be greeted with this handy new Ai Suite II toolbar, which gives you one-click access to an unprecedented level of control over most system settings.

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TurboV EVO utility contains the Auto Tuning feature, which will automatically overclock your system by going through various tweaking and stability testing phases. As you will see in our Overclocking Results section, Auto Tuning proved to be quite capable, and since ASUS are continually improving this feature, it will get better and better at safely squeezing extra performance from the available components.

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For the P8P67 series, ASUS have slightly reworked TurboV EVO, the highly popular overclocking utility that was unveiled with last year's LGA1156 motherboards. This application allows users to adjust all essential system parameters from within Windows, namely the base clock frequency, all the system voltages found in the BIOS, and individual CPU multipliers. Unsurprisingly, we had a flawless experience using the program, and we have come to rely on it to make quick on-the-fly adjustments in order to find stable overclock settings in various benchmarking applications.

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Continuing the ‘full control’ theme, DIGI+ VRM gives you extremely precise control over various aspects of the new digital VRM. As mentioned before, these are all fairly advanced features, and most users who overclock will simply want to set LLC to Ultra high, VRM Frequency to 350Hz, and the rest on auto.

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EPU is a feature that ASUS have been touting for a few years now. This technology works in coordination with the EPU (Energy Processing Unit) controller in order to minimize your system's energy consumption. It does this by continuously monitoring and altering the speeds and voltages of the CPU, VGA card, hard drives and fans. There are two configurable manual modes and an automatic mode that varies system settings according to system load. Can it provide tangible energy efficiency gains? We will verify that in our Power Consumption section.

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Fan Xpert is another utility that ASUS have carried over to this new platform, but with a huge increase in capabilities. Honestly, we don’t know of another piece of software that provides such extensive control over system fans. It’s a dream come true for those who fine tune their system’s cooling performance and noise output.

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PC Probe II is back again, and we’re surprised that it’s not called PC Probe III, since it has been completely revamped. This is a system monitoring utility that displays information regarding fan speeds, component temperatures and voltages, as well as alerting users once preset thresholds have been surpassed. As always we like to see some additional temperature and voltage readouts, CPU VTT and DRAM voltages at the very least.

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Sensor Recorder, as its name suggests, allows users to monitor changes in system voltages, temperatures, and fan speed.

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Thanking advantage of the integrated Bluetooth 2.1 receiver, the ASUS BT GO! utility allows users to do novelty tricks like control and manage their systems from smartphones, or even allow a system to connect to the internet using a smarphone’s 3G data connection via the BT-to-Net functionality.

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System Information displays basic...system information, just the same stuff you can see in CPU-Z.

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Settings allows users to customize various aspects of the toolbar, as well as completely tweak the aesthetics of the various utilities.
 

MAC

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Test Setup & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology



For this review, we have prepared four different test setups, representing all the popular platforms at the moment, as well as most of the best-selling processors. As much as possible, the four test setups feature identical components, memory timings, drivers, etc. Aside from manually selecting memory frequencies and timings, every option in the BIOS was at its default setting.

Test Setup​
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Although Windows Vista SP1 was our principal OS for the majority of benchmarks, we did use Windows 7 (with all the latest updates) when benchmarking AIDA64 and HDxPRT 2011.

For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

A) Windows is installed using a full format.

B) Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed followed by a defragment and a reboot.

C)To ensure consistent results, a few tweaks were applied to Windows Vista and the NVIDIA control panel:
  • Sidebar – Disabled
  • UAC – Disabled
  • System Protection/Restore – Disabled
  • Problem & Error Reporting – Disabled
  • Remote Desktop/Assistance - Disabled
  • Windows Security Center Alerts – Disabled
  • Windows Defender – Disabled
  • Screensaver – Disabled
  • Power Plan - High Performance
  • NVIDIA PhysX – Disabled
  • V-Sync – Off

D) Programs and games are then installed & updated followed by another defragment.

E) Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates followed by a defragment.

F) Benchmarks are each run three times after a clean reboot, then the results are averaged. If they are any clearly anomalous results, the benchmark was run 3 times again. If they remained, we make mention of it in the individual benchmark write-up.

Here is a full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:
  • AIDA64 Extreme Edition v1.50.1200 (Windows 7)
  • ScienceMark 2.0 32-bit
  • MaxxMEM2 Preview
  • wPrime Benchmark v2.03
  • HyperPI 0.99b
  • PCMark Vantage Advanced 64-bit Edition (1.0.2.0)
  • Cinebench R10 64-bit
  • Cinebench R11.5.2.9 64-bit
  • WinRAR 3.94 x64
  • Photoshop CS4 64-bit
  • Lame Front-End 1.0
  • X264 Benchmark HD (2nd pass)
  • 7-Zip 9.20 x64
  • POV-Ray v3.7 beta 40
  • Deep Fritz 12
  • HDxPRT 2011 v1.0 (Windows 7)
  • 3DMark06 v1.2.0
  • 3DMark Vantage v1.0.2
  • Crysis v1.21
  • Far Cry 2 1.02
  • Left 4 Dead version 1.0.2.3
  • Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark
  • Word in Conflict v1.0.0.0
  • Resident Evil 5 1.0.0.129
  • X3: Terran Conflict 1.2.0.0

That is about all you need to know methodology wise, so let's get to the good stuff!
 
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