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Nathan Edwards

Jun 24, 2008

Asus P5E3 Premium

At A Glance

Peppermint

Official 1,600FSB support, eSATA, and 802.11n for free!

Pepper Spray

Flaky BIOS problems and no SLI.

Motherboard naming conventions have never been easy to follow, but Asus threw us for a loop with its P5E3 Premium board. Is it an even better version of the stellar P5E3 Deluxe that we reviewed in January? Nope. The board actually features Intel’s newest enthusiast x48 chipset, which is, umm, 10 more than the x38 used in the P5E Deluxe board.

Besides the chipsets, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two boards if they were laid side by side. Like the Deluxe, the Premium has integrated 802.11n wireless capable of running in access-point mode. Both feature a beefy heat pipe, PCI Express 2.0, an Analog Devices audio component, eSATA ports, and spiffy I/O shields. And like the Deluxe, the Premium also sports three physical x16 PCI-E slots, two of which run at x16 PCI-E 2.0 data rates while the third runs at x4 PCI-E data rates. For hardcore gamers, SLI still isn’t supported since Nvidia is limiting its multi-GPUs to its own chipsets. You can run CrossFire mode, but AMD graphics aren’t anybody’s first pick for gaming right now.

Also aboard is the Express Gate feature. It lets you boot into a mini OS that sits in a bit of flash RAM on the motherboard. From this pre-boot environment, you can browse the Internet or access Skype without having to start your OS. It’s an interesting concept, but you can’t save files from the browser. Such capability would make the Express Gate a great emergency tool should your OS get trashed and you need to access the Internet to search for a fix or download a driver or utility.

If the only change is the addition of the x48 chipset, should you upgrade from a P35 or x38? Not necessarily. The key change from the x38 to the x48 is official support for Intel’s upcoming 1,600MHz front-side bus CPUs; the x48 also adds improved Xtreme Memory Profile support, so boards can auto-overclock. Other internal tweaks give it better memory-ratio settings and better voltage control over DDR3 RAM. We must point out, however, that the x38 is perfectly stable on a 1,600MHz front-side bus and many other chipsets are as well. Like a Vulcan, though, Intel must do everything by the book. If it’s going to have 1,600MHz CPUs, it’s damn well going to have a chipset fully validated for it too.

Coming off the high of the x38-based P5E3 Deluxe board, we thought the x48-based P5E3 Premium would be just as impressive. But this board was just plain finicky out of the box, and we had to go through several BIOS requests from Asus to get one that would let us make basic BIOS setting changes. While the Deluxe version excelled against a competing 680i board in January, the Premium couldn’t outrun our XFX Nforce 780i SLI board here. The only numbers worth mentioning are surprisingly subpar disk I/O numbers and a performance edge in FEAR.

The Premium’s one serious advantage over Nvidia’s 780i is still pretty valuable though: validated 1,600MHz front-side bus support, which makes it a far safer bet for anyone who places CPU performance above running two GeForce cards in SLI. But who knows, maybe AMD will do Intel a favor one day by introducing GPUs that people will use.

SPECS
  ASUS P5E3 Premium WiFi-AP@N Edition
XFX nForce 780i SLI
CPU Support
Intel 800, 1,066, 1333, 1,600 Intel 800, 1,066, 1,333
RAM Support
DDR3/1066 – DDR3/1800 DDR2
Maxium RAM
8GB
8GB
Audio
Analog Devices 1988 with optical and coax SPDIF Realtek ALC88S with optical SPDIF
USB Ports/Headers
6/2 6/2
SATA/eSATA 6 SATA 3Gb, 2 eSATA 6 SATA 3Gb
RAID Options
RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, Matrix RAID 0, 1, 5, 0+1
Networking
2 Gigabit, 802.11n 2 Gigabit
Firewire FireWire 400
FireWire 400

BENCHMARKS
  ASUS P5E3 Premium WiFi-AP@N Edition XFX nForce 780i SLI
Valve Particle Test 109 109
FEAR (FPS) 375
346
Quake 4 (FPS) 224.5
227.5
3DMark05
19,436 19,325
3DMark06 Overall 14,093
13,982
3DMar06 CPU
5,280 5,253
PCMark05 Overall 10,185 10,526
PCMark05 CPU
10,764
10,745
PCMark05 Memory
6,841
6,981
PCMark05 Graphics
13,909
13,419
PCMark05 HDD 6,973 7,665
ScienceMark 2.0 Overall 1,866
1,830
CineBench 10 12,048 12,028
MainConcept (Min:Sec) 25:06
27:33
Best scores are bolded. We used identical 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad Q6700, EVGA 8800 GTX graphics cards, WD Raptor 150GB 10K drives, 2GB of DDR2/1066 RAM and 2GB of DDR2/1333 RAM.

 

THE VERDICT

Asus P5E3 Premium

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