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EVGA P67 FTW Motherboard Review

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Eldonko

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EVGA had huge success with the P55 FTW and it was considered one of the trailblazers in the enthusiast world. In our opinion it was actually one the best boards of the P55 generation so we couldn’t wait to get out hands on the P67 version of the FTW. However EVGA experienced some major changes in the motherboard team and as a result they were late to the table with their P67 boards. This did allow them to avoid the Intel B2 P67 chipset recall fiasco but EVGA’s new P67 were nonetheless delayed.

Now over six months after the Intel’s P67 launch and several months after Z68 was first introduced, we finally have a P67 FTW in the lab. In the P67 world the P67 FTW is a high-end board, competing with other flagship products such as Gigabyte’s UD7, ASUS’ Maximus IV Extreme, and MSI’s Big Bang Marshal. Part of what makes it such an appealing enthusiast level board is the huge bundle of accessories it comes with and an NF200 chip which makes 3-way SLI possible. In terms of price the board we are reviewing (the K2 version) is close to $290 which is in the same range as the previously mentioned competitor boards.

In terms of features and capabilities, the FTW is definitely up there with the big boys. However, we’re sure many of you will be questioning this board’s placement in relation to the Z68 products that are available from EVGA’s competitors. To us and many other enthusiasts, the Z68’s advantages over its predecessor are a little underwhelming which makes the P67 still relevant today. Users are still leaning towards the less expensive option as many don’t need the onboard video outputs and SSD caching offered by the newer chipset.

EVGA may be a bit late with this board but its long list of features and high performance pedigree should make it an appealing option.

 
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Eldonko

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Specifications and Features

P67 FTW Specifications and Features

Before jumping right into photos and testing, let’s take a look at the specifications for the P67 FTW.


Notable features for the P67 FTW include:

 
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Eldonko

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NF200 Motherboard Comparison

NF200 Motherboard Comparison

For users looking for an NF200-based motherboard with specific features or options we have created a handy quick reference guide that compares three of the top P67 boards, the P67 FTW, the M4E, and the UD7.


Comparing the P67 FTW NF200 setup to Gigabyte’s P67 UD7 and ASUS’ M4E setups, each configuration is a bit different:
  • The P67 FTW has all PCI-E slots but one going through NF200
  • The M4E bypasses NF200 when two cards are installed and then the NF200 is activated when three cards are installed
  • The UD7 has all PCI-E slots always going through NF200

It may sound like a bad thing for a board to run SLI at 8x/8x but this will still outperform 16x/16x SLI on P67 with NF200 in almost all cases. Only when you use a top level GPU and very high resolution (i.e. 2600 x 1600) will 16x/16x NF200 come out on top. The reason the UD7 is able to run 16x SLI for dual card is because the NF200 takes the native 8 lane 5GT/s bus, splits the PCIE lanes and doubles the bandwidth to 16x5GT/s. This allows for 32 lanes of 2.5GT/S PCIE or dual 16x.
 
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Eldonko

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories

The box of the P67 FTW uses a similar design to the P55 FTW with a black color scheme and grey lettering albeit with a touch of red added. This change is because the FTW has taken the Classified’s place as EVGA’s flagship board and thus the FTW now uses the Classified color scheme.


On one side of the box EVGA lists the accessories included in the box and on the opposite side there is a little write-up on how EVGA is #1 in a number of areas.


Typical to most recent motherboards, the P67 FTW’s box has a matte black interior composed of thin cardboard. This is likely to provide flexibility and cut down on print costs. Having a look inside there is a mountain of accessories, each in its own anti-static bag.


Beneath a cardboard divider is the motherboard itself which is wrapped in an anti-static bag. Meanwhile, as you can see the accessory pile truly is massive.


Above is a list of accessories included with the board and their associated descriptions.


Taking a closer look at a few accessories, we have three SLI bridges that come with the board: a flex bridge for dual SLI, and two bridges of different lengths for tri-SLI. Since there are a number of PCI-E slots available to run your video cards, EVGA has accounted for all configurations. Next up are USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 brackets for extra exterior USB ports.


The EVGauge and ECP Panel are two optional accessories that only come with the K2 version of the FTW or can be purchased separately direct from EVGA. EVGauge is a clock speed gauge that dynamically shows the system’s clock speed while the ECP Panel gives users the ability to boost vCore and VCCSA, clear CMOS, and disable/enable PCI-E slots with a push of a button. The ECP Panel also has the debug LED to show CPU temps and debug messages on the front of your PC.

Although we did enjoy the extras in the bundle we did find a few issues with some of the accessories. First of all, there is no indication on the SATA cables to indicate which are SATA2 and which are SATA3. For whatever reason, the EVGauge cable is also very short so placement options become quite limited.

One of the more glaring issues we encountered was the ECP Panel’s lack of included screws since the ones required are smaller than normal. This means users would have to go to a hardware store and purchase 2.5mm screws or contact EVGA to get some shipped. In their defense, EVGA has said that upcoming shipments of the FTW K2 will include the necessary screws.
 
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Eldonko

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Included Software

Included Software


The main software included with the P67 FTW is EVGA’s E-LEET which is basically a CPU-Z-based tuning utility with built in system monitoring and tweaking tools. We will be looking at the 1.09.3 version which can be found on the install disk. There are constant upgrades to E-LEET so it is a good idea to check EVGA’s website regularly for updates.


The first tab in E-LEET looks almost identical to CPU-Z and includes CPU information and speeds as well as vCore readings. Under the second tab you will find memory information including size, frequency, memory ratio, and timings.


Next up is the E-LEET section which includes all of the voltage, temperature, and fan speed monitoring for the board. Voltages monitored include 3.3V, VCORE, DRAM, VCCIO, PCH, 5v, 12v, VSB3V, and VBAT along with temperatures for CPU, VREG, system, and the four CPU cores individually. If you have fans installed using the board headers, fan speeds are also included.

The appropriately named “Overclocking” tab contains the first part in a series of system tweaks. BCLK and PCI-E clocks are adjustable by simply moving a slider and clicking “apply” while there is also a turbo mode control which allows for adjustments on a core by core basis. E-LEET also includes a Brink OC feature that automatically saves a screenshot with every clock speed increase. This is a great feature for benchers that are on the edge of instability but need that extra Mhz in a screenshot.


The next tab contains all of the adjustments for key voltages and are identical to the ones available in the motherboard BIOS. Voltages available include VCORE, DRAM, VCCSA, PCH, SFR, NF200, VCCIO, and four VREF voltages. The default value is also noted so for PCH and SFR, users will have a reference regarding how far past specs they are pushing things.

There is also a new addition to E-LEET with the graphics tab. Here users can see GPU information and clock speeds and are given the option to adjust vGPU. Unfortunately, this tab didn’t work for us even though NVIDIA GPUs were being used as the readings were incorrect and vGPU was not available.


The processes tab is also a new addition to E-LEET and is designed for benchmarkers. A bencher can set affinity for a specific process to try and achieve a better score. The last page contains the various program options and allows users to save and submit a CPU-Z validation and save profiles.
 
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Eldonko

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A Closer Look at the P67 FTW

A Closer Look at the P67 FTW


Above is a map of the P67 FTW motherboard layout with descriptions of the various parts.


The I/O panel on the FTW includes a clear CMOS button, two eSATA ports, a IEEE 1394a port, two LAN ports, two USB 3.0 ports (blue), six USB 2.0 ports, an optical S/PDIF out, and 8-channel audio I/O. There is also space between the clear CMOS button and the I/O panel for the small I/O panel fan that EVGA has included. A full map of the I/O panel with descriptions is above.


Starting at the top right corner directly behind the I/O panel there is a small chip marked uP1618a. This is a 6+2 phase buck controller made by uPI Semiconductor.

The P67 FTW also has an extra 12v power connector for supposed “overclocking stability” and EVGA recommends using both 12v connectors when increasing CPU speeds. Here you also find a fan header and heatsinks covering the VRM area.


Next up and also next to the CPU socket is an NEC Tokin 0E907 proadlizer capacitor which we have seen on a number of higher end graphics cards as of late. Conductive polymer technology gives this high quality capacitor extremely low ESL and ESR, high current capability, and high capacitance. If the NEC Tokin 0E907 looks familiar, you may have seen it before on the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme.


Underneath the main heatsink are twelve chokes and two MOSFETs (highside and lowside FETs) per phase. EVGA could have probably used one choke per four MOSFETs but adding the extra chokes allows more current to pass through, which is definitely a good idea for an overclocking board.

Since the PWM is six phase and not 12, EVGA does one PWM channel per four MOSFETs and has used double the number of FETs and double the number of chokes. This is what makes up the FTW’s 12 phases.

The decreased efficiency due to switching double the number of FETs is kept to a minimum by using a lower switching frequency. You can also adjust the switching frequency within in the BIOS from 300kHz to 400kHz.


The DDR3 RAM slots as well as the voltage measure points are located closer to the right edge of the board. The inclusion of voltage points for vCore, vSA, VCCIO, PLL, PCH, and DIMM is an excellent choice as it allows for accurate measurements with a digital multi-meter without having to manually find the measurement areas on the PCB.


Around the memory area are a few different chips. First we have three chokes, three DrMOS, and a CHL8325A 4+1 phase PWM controller. Next to that is a JMicron chip marked JMB368 which acts as a PCI-E to PATA host controller and converts PCI-E to PATA (IDE).


Directly behind the 24-pin power connector is a Compact Flash port which is something you don’t see on many boards at all and is a nice addition to the FTW.

To the left of the power connector are the PCI-E jumpers. You can use these jumpers to disable PCI-E slots or connect the ECP Panel here so the PCI-E disable buttons work on the panel.
 
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Eldonko

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A Closer Look at the P67 FTW p.2

A Closer Look at the P67 FTW


Left of the PCI-E jumpers are the SATA ports: four SATA 2 (black) and two SATA 3 (red) are included. This is a bit low considering that some competing products are being shipped with eight or more SATA connectors but we’re guessing that six (including two for faster SATA 6Gbps drives) is more than enough for most users.

Moving over to the corner of the board we come to the front panel and ECP V4 connectors. The motherboard battery, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 headers, and the debug LED are also in this area. The debug LED displays the CPU temperature when the board is in operation and displays debug codes during POST. A full list of debug codes is found in the manual.


The FTW comes with a removable BIOS chip which is handy if you end up bricking the board with a poorly performed flash. However with THREE different BIOS versions to choose from with the flick of a switch, this is unlikely to happen.

Just next to the BIOS chip is an ICS chip marked ICS 9LPRS140CKLF. This is the board’s clockgen chip and enables adjustment of a number of board frequencies.


The power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons as well as the BIOS switch are housed along the FTW’s lower edge which makes them a bit hard to use when installed into a case. For anyone using their board outside of a case, these will definitely come in handy though. In addition, the BIOS switch makes it easy to test out a few BIOS versions without re-flashing every time.


Common to many boards, the onboard audio for the FTW is provided by the Realtek ALC889 audio codec. The two identical Marvell Yukon 88E8057 chips nearby are responsible for the two LAN ports on the board.


Directly next to the PCI-E x1 slot is the 4-pin molex power connector that supplies extra power to the FTW’s PCI-E slots. Moving right from there is a VLI VL800-Q8 chip which is used an a USB 3.0 host controller for the USB 3.0 ports on the I/O panel.
 
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Eldonko

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A Closer Look at the P67 FTW p.3

A Closer Look at the P67 FTW

The heatsinks on the P67 FTW fit the board’s color scheme quite nicely and don’t take up a large amount of horizontal space.


Taking the heatsinks off the board we can see the VRM heatsinks use a rubberized heat pad and the ones installed on the chipset and NF200 use thermal paste.


The heatsinks are all held down with screws rather than push pins which is something we always like to see. Meanwhile the thermal paste is applied in a thin, easily removable sheet rather than the hardened TIM that we see on most boards.


Beneath the two heatsinks are Intel’s P67 chipset and Nvidia’s NF200 controller. The NF200 may be common across NF200 boards but the implementation is quite different for each manufacturer.


The P67 FTW has a ton of PCI-E slots (7 in total) and this is really where it looks like a Classified from previous generations. For explanation purposes we have numbered the PCI-E slots 1 to 7. The black slots (slots 1 and 3) are PCI-E x1 slots and the following five are either PCI-E X16/8 (slots 2, 4, and 6) or PCI-e x8 (slots 5 and 7).


Above is a diagram of the P67 FTW which displays how the NF200 is connected to the PCI-E slots. As you can see all slots go directly through NF200 via switche but slot 2 has the ability to bypass the NF200 and to get its lanes directly from the CPU. The reason for this is to help remove the latency added by NF200 when using a single card at 16x speeds. Slot 2 has its own dedicated switch, while slots 4 and 5 and slots 6 and 7 share a switch.

It first appears that running SLI from slots 4 and 6 would result in a x16 / x16 setup since both are physically and electrically x16. This is a common misconception since a particular detail is missing from the diagram: the NF200 only has 8 lanes of bandwidth to interface with the CPU. Thus, a bottleneck is created if you run a dual card setup in slots 4 and 6 even though there’s a dual 16x link to NF200 from the GPUs.


The FTW uses x8 bandwidth ASMT switches to switch the NF200's native x16 / x16 configuration to x8 on each PCI-E port for SLI.
 
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Eldonko

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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


To show you how your hardware is going to fit on the P67 FTW we installed a Zalman CNPS10x Flex, a 4GB kit of G.Skill memory, and two GTX 460 video cards. The Zalman is an average-sized aftermarket CPU cooler so it should provide a good reference and the G.Skill kit is taller than most so we can see if there are any clearance issues.

When it comes to the board’s heatsinks, things get a bit close but there were no clearance issues and we have to conclude that most coolers will fit without any problems. The socket 775 mounting holes also makes the FTW convenient for those using older coolers.


In terms of memory compatibility the only way there could be a clearance issue when memory with larger heatsinks is used alongside a cooler with dual fans. This would however be quite rare and could be worked around by simply removing the fan on the side of the memory slots. EVGA recommends using the red slots for dual memory configurations but we testing both sets of slots without any apparent problems.


Since we have seven PCI-E slots to work with, there really is a lot of flexibility when installing add in cards onto the P67 FTW. Adding two video cards to the mix really shows how much space there is to work with as there is plenty of clearance.

Above is a slot 2 and 5 configuration but we preferred using slots 2 and 6 for a dual card setup (shown below). The reasoning for this is discussed in the SLI testing section.


The video cards do not block anything you need to get at and since the SATA ports are side mounted they are easily accessible as well. Power, reset and clear CMOS buttons are accessible as long as a GPU is not installed in slot 7.
 
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Eldonko

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown

Similar to several other boards being launched in 2011, the P67 FTW uses a UEFI BIOS which features capabilities such as support for boot drives above 2.2TB and the potential for faster boot times. In addition to this UEFI often has mouse support for easy navigation.

Unfortunately, the FTW falls a bit flat in the ease of use department since its current BIOS version doesn’t have mouse support which is an integral part of the UEFI experience. The BIOS screen itself looks like an early 90s DOS page with a black background and plain white lettering. While it is admittedly quite functional in a minimalistic way, it feels like a generation behind the UEFI designs from ASUS and MSI.

The BIOS version used at the time of these screenshots is version 679 1.18, dated 07/01/2011.


The Overview section allows for a quick rundown of the system and BIOS information such as time and date, BIOS version, clockspeeds, voltages, and temperatures.


The next area of interest is the Advanced page which contains a variety of items including configuration for ACPI, onboard devices, SATA, and USB.

Here we also have an extensive hardware monitor / PC health status page. It includes information about temperatures, fan speeds, voltages, and has set up option for SmartFan.


Moving over to the Chipset tab we have Legacy OpROM support options, power loss settings, and an option to turn off thermal monitoring. The main areas of interest here are the Launch PXE OpROM and Launch Storage OpROM settings which should be disabled to speed up boot time.

Right next to the Chipset section is the important page in the BIOS for enthusiasts: the Overclocking tab. Within this tab there are three subpages called Memory Configure, CPU Advanced Configure, and BCLK setting (see below). On the main page you can adjust every setting required for a manual overclock or enable Dummy OC for an automatic overclock. Multiplier, vdroop settings, and all the voltages you will need are available here. This page also allows for adjustment of PWM switching frequency, VRef, TDC and TDP.


Going into the memory submenu we find the usual memory info and memory frequency along with an SPD Profile select which allows for manual adjustment of memory each channel’s timings if Custom Profile is selected. Unlike some other boards, each channel must be adjusted separately.


The Configure Advanced CPU Settings sub page contains CPU information and settings for CPU features such as active cores, Hyper Threading, EIST, turbo, C1E and c-states.


The final sub page under overclocking is the BCLK Setting page. It seems strange to have separate pages for BCLK adjustment Integrated Clock Chip Configuration since both perform essentially the same function.

The Boot tab contains the common motherboard boot options such as drive priorities and fast boot.


The final BIOS page we will be looking at is the Save/Exit page. Here you can save your changes, load optimized defaults, and save or load profiles. We couldn’t see a difference between Save Changes and Exit and Save Changes and Reset as both seemed to do the same thing. Also, with other boards most users just hit F10 to save and exit but with the FTW the only way to save your BIOS settings is to visit the Save/Exit page.
 
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