ASUS P5E3 [email protected] is one of the most high-end motherboard for the socket LGA775 platform from ASUS. Based on the latest chipset from Intel, X38, it features tons of extra features such as Wi-Fi access point (allowing you to share your Internet connection wirelessly without the need of a wireless broadband router) based on IEEE 802.11n (300 Mbps and backward compatible with 802.11b/g, i.e., 54 Mbps), remote control, an embedded Linux version with Internet browser and Skype, allowing you to access the Internet without loading the operating system and even without a hard disk drive installed (feature called “Express Gate”), an energy processing chip to save energy (feature called “EPU” or “Energy Processing Unit”), an on-board flash drive for taking advantage of Vista’s ReadyBoost feature, passive heatsinks, all solid aluminum capacitors, lots of exclusive overclocking options and much more. We will show you the main features of this motherboard. Read on.
Figure 1: ASUS P5E3 [email protected]
Intel X38 is a high-end chipset featuring everything P35 (a mainstream chipset) has plus additional features. The main new feature of X38 compared to P35 is the support for the new PCI Express 2.0 bus, which doubles the maximum theoretical transfer rate of the add-on card you are using, if it is also PCI Express 2.0 (at this moment the only PCI Express 2.0 video card available is GeForce 8800 GT). PCI Express 1.0 cards work just fine on the new 2.0 slots, but are limited to their native maximum transfer rate (2.5 GB/s for x16 and 250 MB/s for x1 cards). Intel X38 provides two PCI Express 2.0 x16 connections (i.e., 5 GB/s maximum theoretical transfer rate each) supporting CrossFire. ASUS P5E3 [email protected] has three x16 PCI Express slots, two of them 2.0 running at x16 (blue slots) supporting CrossFire and one 1.0 running at x4 (black slot). This motherboard also features two PCI Express 1.0 x1 and two standard PCI slots, which are controlled by the south bridge chip.
The second main difference between X38 and P35 chipsets is the memory controller, with X38 supporting DDR3 memories up to 1333 MHz, while P35 supports DDR3 memory only up to 1066 MHz. DDR2 support on X38 officially goes up to 800 MHz, just like P35 and P965, but just like these two chipsets X38 unofficially supports DDR2 up to 1066 MHz. Keep in mind that even though X38 supports both DDR2 and DDR3 technologies, it is up to the motherboard manufacturer to decide which memory technology and how many memory sockets a give motherboard model will have. In the case of ASUS P5E3 [email protected] even though the chipset supports DDR2 memories the motherboard only provides DDR3 sockets. ASUS P5E3 [email protected] has four DDR3 sockets, allowing you to install up to 8 GB of DDR3 memory up to 1800 MHz (as you can imagine, since the chipset officially provides support only up to 1333 MHz, at 1800 MHz the chipset will be overclocked). We think having only DDR3 sockets is the main drawback of this motherboard, as DDR3 memories are not so popular and the performance gain brought by DDR3 compared to DDR2 is questionable.
On this motherboard DDR3 sockets 1 and 3 are orange and 2 and 4 are black. In order to enable dual channel feature, which doubles the maximum theoretical transfer rate from the memory system, you need to install two memory modules on sockets with the same color (or four modules, which will use all available sockets). By the way, X38 features Fast Memory Access Technology, which allows dual channel feature even if the memory modules have different capacities. So if you install a 1 GB module together with a 512 MB module they will run under dual channel module. On chipsets without this feature dual channel mode is automatically disabled if you have two modules with different sizes. This should help future upgrades.
Just like P35 the new X38 chipset officially supports CPUs running externally up to 1333 MHz (333 MHz x 4), however unofficially X38 supports the forthcoming 1600 MHz (400 MHz x 4) front side bus (FSB).
Intel X38 is paired with ICH9 south bridge family, just like P35 chipset, meaning that I/O specs for X38 are exactly the same from Intel P35 chipset. ASUS P5E3 [email protected] is based on ICH9R south bridge, which brings six SATA-300 ports with RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10, and 12 USB 2.0 ports.
Additionally ASUS P5E3 [email protected] has a JMicron JMB363 chip, providing the two eSATA-300 ports located at the rear panel of the motherboard (supporting RAID 0, 1 and JBOD) and one ATA-133 port.