Oh, how the world turns. Last month you marched past the Intel 975X chipset motherboards holding your nose, but with the release of the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme CPUs you’ve made a U-turn to give this chipset a second look.
Well, you better take a good look at Asus’ P5W DH Deluxe, which could be the ultimate 975X board, with its handy remote, driverless RAID, and onboard Wi-Fi. Our favorite feature of the P5W DH Deluxe, though, is the simple fact that it works with the Core 2 Duo and Extreme CPUs. Many older boards that still litter store shelves and inventories don’t support the Core 2’s lower voltage requirements.
On Intel’s D975XBX motherboard, for example, only those with “AA” codes that end in 304 work with Core 2s out of the box. Asus’ original version of the 975X board, the P5WD2-E, didn’t work with Core 2s, but newer versions do. Unfortunately, the majority of web stores don’t differentiate between new and old boards. You avoid the incompatibility pitfall by purchasing a board that universally supports Core 2, such as the P5W DH.
But the differences aren’t just in CPU support. The P5W DH Deluxe adds a mix of new tricks to the 975X chipset, such as the aforementioned remote, which lets you turn your PC on or off.
Asus went plumb crazy with the storage options: The board includes Intel’s Matrix RAID-ready ICH7R south bridge and the integrated JMicron controller (which lets you create RAID 0 or 1 using an internal SATA drive and an external eSATA drive). We’re not sure what exactly you’d use an internal/external RAID array for, but the chip also supports non-RAID options, and it gives you a valuable second PATA port.
Even more interesting is the Silicon Image 4723 controller chip which supports driverless RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD. Just set the mode via jumpers on the board and start installing your OS—you don’t even need to install F6 drivers! By default, you’re given RAID 1, which Asus calls “EZ Backup.” As a safety feature, the board won’t change RAID modes even if you change the jumpers by accident, until you approve it in the BIOS. We recently learned the value of driverless RAID when we tried to recover a file from a corrupted RAID 0 system. A driverless RAID mode would have saved us hours of work.
The expansion-slot layout is PCI friendly. If you run two dual-slot CrossFire cards (nVidia doesn’t allow SLI on the Intel chipset), you can still run two PCI cards. This is great for today’s hardware, but what if the graphics-card manufacturer’s plans to use a third PCI-E graphics card for physics pans out? You’re out of luck with the P5W DH’s config. Another ding is more against the chipset. When running two graphics cards in CrossFire mode, the board limits both cards to x8 modes. In today’s games, the bandwidth gap shouldn’t make much difference, but why not support dual x16s? Bueller? Intel? Anyone?
The board includes Asus’ excellent overclocking capability (we took our 2.66GHz proc to 3.2GHz without breaking a sweat) and tons of BIOS options. We have a hard time quantifying the performance of the board because it’s the first production Core 2 board we’ve reviewed. We ran a few benchmarks with the 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700 and, golly, the new Intel chip still kicks ass. If we could just get SLI support, everything would be perfect. Unfortunately, that’s apparently out of the hands of Asus and Intel.
Month Reviewed: October 2006
+ M240B: Core 2 Duo and Extreme support, up to 8GB of RAM, and driverless RAID!
- M60: Where's the dual x16 PCI-E? And damn, this thing is expensive!