ASUS P5AD2-E Premium

ASUS P5AD2-E Premium

asus_925XE.jpgAsus pulls performance out of the ether to trounce the competition

Month Reviewed: April 2005
Verdict: 9
URL: www.asus.com

Maximum PC readers will find the P5AD2-E Premium strikingly similar to the motherboard we used in last year’s Dream Machine. That’s because it’s pretty much the same board, except this one supports CPUs with a 1066MHz front-side bus.

And that ain’t a bad thing, really. Like its illustrious predecessor, the P5AD2-E is a traveling ASIC salesman’s dream: It packs dual Gigabit, FireWire A and B, eight SATA ports, three PATA ports, onboard 802.11B/G support, and Dolby Digital Live. There’s just so much to love about this board’s layout and features. The P5AD2-E is the only one to include three free fan headers; the others provide just one. Asus also bundles an external SATA connector that lets you run up to two SATA drives outside your computer. Nifty. In fact, the P5AD2-E is so packed with goodies that we can’t think of anything to add—unless, that is, we could have the 925XE chipset magically support SLI.

OK, maybe we can think of a few other things. As we mentioned elsewhere in this roundup, Asus would benefit from a more pragmatic approach to expansion ports. As it stands, you must sacrifice a PCI slot to run a double-slot graphics card. Because we probably won’t see useful PCI-E add-in cards for another 12 months, we’d rather sacrifice the second PCI-E slot (as the Abit and Foxconn boards do). We also find the 12V power plug a little inconvenient. It’s no deal breaker, but you’ll find yourself cursing the board engineer’s ancestors while trying to wedge it into a tight case. These are minor points, though, and Asus’ design choice will be vindicated if 1x PCI-E cards become the norm RSN.

You might recall that the introduction of the original P5AD2 fostered some controversy. Motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte cried foul and accused Asus of cheating. With that in mind, we closely examined the bus speeds and clock speeds on all three boards. With FSB’s manually set to 266MHz, the Abit was slightly underclocked at 3462MHz, the Foxconn hit a perfect 3466, and the Asus was overclocked by 6MHz at 3472MHz—obviously not enough to really matter. We also picked through the BIOS looking for any performance advantages. We thought we found one because the Asus board overclocked our 6800 Ultra to 448MHz by default (our board’s BIOS was set to 435MHz). But when we disabled the feature and set our GeForce to a stock 425MHz, the scores got even faster.

We couldn’t determine with any of the tools on hand where the performance jolt came from, but there was a common denominator. In most graphics and memory tests, we found the P5AD2-E a few ticks faster than the others. We’re not talking 10 percent, but a consistent 1-to-3 percent.

So where does that leave the P5AD2-E? It’s the fastest board here, and it has the most features. In our book, that makes it the clear winner in this trio. --Gordon Mah Ung

+ Odd Job: Features aplenty and good performance

- Jaws: Poorly placed 12V connector; and by default, it overclocked the nuts off our videocard

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