ASUS P5B is a socket LGA775 motherboard targeted to new Core 2 Duo family, as it is based on the new Intel P965 chipset. One of the main advantages of this new chipset is its unofficial support for DDR2-1066/PC2-8500 memories, feature present on this motherboard from ASUS. Let’s see how this motherboard from ASUS performed against competitors from Gigabyte and MSI.
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Figure 1: ASUS P5B motherboard.
Right now there are four P5B versions: P5B, P5B-E, P5B Deluxe and P5B Deluxe/WiFi-AP. Our review is based on the basic model, P5B. P5B-E uses ICH8R south bridge instead of ICH8 like on P5B, so on this board there are six SATA-300 ports controlled by the chipset supporting RAID (0, 1, 10 and 5) plus two extra ports controlled by a JMicron chip. P5B-E also has two FireWire ports. The rest of the specs are equal to P5B. P5B Deluxe has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, two x16 PCI Express slots (the second one running at x4), only one x1 PCI Express slot and a passive cooling solution using a heat-pipe. The rest of the specs are the same as P5B-E. P5B Deluxe/WiFi-AP is identical to P5B Deluxe but features a wireless access point supporting IEEE 802.11b/g (up to 54 Mbps).
This motherboard uses a passive cooling solution on its chipset and does not use any cooling solution on its voltage regulator transistors, as you can see in Figure 1.
This motherboard provides one x16 PCI Express slot, three x1 PCI Express slots and three standard PCI slots.
On the memory side, ASUS P5B has four DDR2-DIMM sockets, supporting up to 8 GB officially up to DDR2-800, however this motherboard supports DDR2-1066/PC2-8500 memories (we installed four DDR2-1066 modules and they worked just fine at 1,066 MHz). On this motherboard sockets 1 and 3 are yellow and sockets 2 and 4 are black. Configuring DDR2 dual channel on this motherboard is pretty easy: just install each module on a socket with the same color.
This motherboard has 10 USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the motherboard and six available through I/O brackets, which didn’t come with the motherboard).
On the storage side, this motherboard has a total of six SATA-300 ports, four provided by the south bridge (ICH8) and two provided by a JMicron JMB363 chip. The ports controlled by the chipset do not support RAID, as the south bridge used is ICH8 and not ICH8R, however the two ports controlled by the JMicron chip supports RAID0, RAID1 and JBOD. One of these two ports is located externally, for connecting an external drive. This port is different, as it is a port multiplier connector, so you can’t use a regular SATA cable on it.
Port multiplier is a technology targeted to external hard disk drives, allowing you to connect up to 15 Serial ATA hard disk drives to a single SATA-300 port. In order to use more than one SATA HDDs on this port you need an external port multiplier bridge, which is an external device sold separately. The hard disks are connected to this device, while this device is connected to this port multiplier port, which, in turn, is internally connected to one of the SATA ports controlled by the JMicron JMB363 chip on the motherboard. Read our Everything You Need to Know About Serial ATA tutorial to learn more about port multiplier.
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Figure 2: SATA ports.
It is very important to notice that the single ATA/133 port available on this motherboard is controlled by the JMicron chip, not by the chipset. This means that if you still have a parallel IDE optical drive it will only be recognized on Windows after you install JMicron’s driver. The problem is that this driver comes on the motherboard CD-ROM, and you won’t be able to install it, as the system does not recognize your optical drive. You can download the driver from the net, however the driver for the on-board LAN port is also on the CD-ROM… The only option you have is to copy the JMicron driver from the CD to a floppy disk or a USB pen drive using another PC. This problem happens not only with this motherboard from ASUS, but also with all other motherboards based on Intel P965 chipset we’ve seen to date. Of course if you have a SATA optical drive you won’t face this issue.
This motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by the south bridge using a Realtek RTL8111B to make the physical layer interface.
The audio section from this motherboard provides 7.1 audio, produced by the south bridge chip with the aid of an Analog Devices AD1988A codec. This codec provides a better signal-to-noise ratio for its inputs compared to Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 and MSI P965 Platinum – 90 dB against 85 dB. The signal-to-noise ratio for its output is of 95 dB and it supports up to 192 kHz sampling rate for its inputs and outputs (the one used by the two abovementioned boards from MSI and Gigabyte support 192 kHz only for their outputs, with their inputs limited to 96 kHz).
On the rear panel (Figure 3) you can find the Gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 2.0 ports, separated analog audio inputs/outputs (7.1 format), SPDIF coaxial and optical outputs, one external SATA port, one parallel port, PS/2 mouse and PS/2 keyboard connectors. The serial port is missing here but you still can use it by installing an I/O bracket, but this bracket didn’t come with the board we reviewed.
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Figure 3: Motherboard rear connectors.
ASUS is using a new connector called Q-Connector to make the installation of the wires coming from the case frontal panel easier. You connect the wires to this Q-Connector and then install the connector to the motherboard header. What we liked about this feature is that it speeds up the assembling process, as you can position this connector near your eyes, not needing to position your eyes near the motherboard (usually bending the whole body) to read what is written.
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Figure 4: ASUS Q-Connector.
A very important thing to note about this motherboard is its electrolytic capacitors: all Japanese (from Chemi-Con and Sanyo), so you won’t face the infamous capacitor leakage problem in the future.
This motherboard comes with just one CD, containing its drivers and utilities.