ASUS P5B Motherboard Review
By Gabriel Torres on December 15, 2006


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Silver Award

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.

ASUS P5B
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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.

ASUS P5B
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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.

ASUS P5B
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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.

ASUS P5B
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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.

Main Specifications

ASUS P5B main features are:

* Researched at Shopping.com on the day we published this review.

How We Tested

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the motherboard being tested.
 
Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Driver Versions

Used Software

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

Overall Performance

We measured the overall performance of this motherboard using SYSmark2004, which is a program that simulates the use of real-world applications. Thus, we consider this the best software to measure, in practical terms, the system performance.

The benchmarks are divided into two groups:

The software delivers specific results for each batch and also an overall performance result, all in a specific SYSmark2004 unit.

We compared the reviewed board to Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3, MSI P965 Platinum, Intel D975XBX and Intel D975XBX2. These two motherboards from Intel are based on Intel 975X chipset, while the other boards are based on Intel P965. Since we were using DDR2-1066/PC2-8500 memories, we ran all programs under two scenarios. First with the memory configured at 1,066 MHz when the motherboard supported this speed and then with the memory configured at 800 MHz.

You can see the results on the charts below.

P965 Motherboards

All motherboards based on Intel P965 chipset achieved a similar performance on SYSmark2004 overall score. ASUS P5B was 3.98% faster than Intel D975XBX and Intel D975XBX2 motherboards when our memories were set to 800 MHz and 4.89% faster than these two boards when the memories were set to 1,066 MHz (on Intel motherboards the memories were always running at 800 MHz; it is also important to note that Intel 975X chipset does not officially support DDR2-800).

P965 Motherboards

On Internet Content Creation all motherboards based on Intel P965 chipset achieved a similar performance as well. ASUS P5B was 5.01% faster than Intel D975XBX and Intel D975XBX2 motherboards. The use of DDR2-1066 instead of DDR2-800 made no difference here.

P965 Motherboards

On Office all motherboards based on Intel P965 chipset achieved a similar performance as well. The reviewed board from ASUS was 3.14% faster than Intel D975XBX and Intel D975XBX2 motherboards when our memories were set to 800 MHz and 5.10% faster than these two boards when the memories were set to 1,066 MHz (on Intel motherboards the memories were always running at 800 MHz; it is also important to note that Intel 975X chipset does not officially support DDR2-800).

Processing Performance

We measured processing performance using PCMark05 Professional program. PCMark05 Professional measures the system performance by running several tests. The System batch, which was the one we used, performs the following tests: HDD XP Startup, Physics and 3D, 2D Transparent Window, 3D Pixel Shader, Web Page Rendering, File Decryption, 2D Graphics Memory – 64 lines, HDD General Usage and three multithreading tests. The results are given in a PCMark05 specific unit.

P965 Motherboards

All motherboards based on Intel P965 chipset achieved a similar performance on PCMark05 System batch. ASUS P5B was 3.84% faster than Intel D975XBX2 and 4.13% faster than Intel D975XBX when our memories were configured to run at 800 MHz, and 4.87% faster than Intel D975XBX2 and 5.16% faster than Intel D975XBX when our memories were configured to run at 1,066 MHz (on Intel motherboards the memories were always running at 800 MHz; it is also important to note that Intel 975X chipset does not officially support DDR2-800).

3D Performance: Quake 4

We upgraded Quake 4 to version 1.3 and ran its multiplayer demo id_demo001 at 1024x768x32 with image quality settings configured at “low” four times. The first result was always discarded, and from the other three values, we discarded the highest and the lowest score, i.e., we used the middle value for our comparison. You can see the results below.

P965 Motherboards

Here is where we could see some performance difference between the reviewed motherboards. When we configure our memory to run at 1,066 MHz, ASUS P5B achieved a performance similar to MSI P965 Platinum, being 4.44% faster than Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3. When we configured our memory to run at 800 MHz, these three motherboards achieved the same performance level.

ASUS P5B was 5.98% faster than Intel D975XBX2 and 15.04% faster than Intel D975XBX when our memories were running at 800 MHz and 11.45% faster than Intel D975XBX2 and 20.97% faster than Intel D975XBX when our memories were running at 1,066 MHz (on Intel motherboards the memories were always running at 800 MHz; it is also important to note that Intel 975X chipset does not officially support DDR2-800).

Overclocking

ASUS P5B provides some basic overclocking options. On ASUS P5B (0904 BIOS) you will find the following overclocking options:

ASUS P5B
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Figure 5: Overclocking options on P5B (0904 BIOS).

This motherboard also provides memory timings adjustments, feature not found on other P965-based motherboards we reviewed. This option, however, is hidden under Advanced, Chipset, North Bridge Configuration menu, and you need to change the “Configure DRAM Timing by SPD” option to “Disable” for the memory configurations to show up. Also, depending on the BIOS version your motherboard is using, you will find more or less options here. Our board came with 0211 BIOS, which provided only the four basic timings adjustment, but after we upgraded the BIOS to version 0904 all the options shown in Figure 6 appeared.

ASUS P5B
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Figure 6: Memory timings adjustments on P5B (0904 BIOS).

The PCI Express clock configuration is very important, as you can lock the PCI Express clock at a given value (100 MHz, for example). Usually when you increase the FSB clock you will automatically increase the PCI Express clock as well, and sometimes your overclocking will be limited not by the CPU but by the devices connected to the PCI Express bus. Thus with this option you can increase the probability of setting a higher overclocking.

We could only find one feature missing: a separated clock configuration for the x16 PCI Express slot. But we think that the features present will satisfy almost all users. Of course if you want even more overclocking options, you will need to buy a high-end motherboard. It is important to say that Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 and MSI P965 Platinum have more overclocking options – but they don’t have memory timings adjustments.

With this motherboard we could increase the FSB clock of our Core 2 Duo E6700 from 266 MHz to 316 MHz and the system worked just fine. We locked the PCI Express bus at 100 MHz and configured the memory as DDR2-800 in order to keep them under their specs.

The overclocking we achieved represents an 18.80% increase on the CPU internal clock, making our 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo E6700 to run at 3.16 GHz. The performance measured by PCMark05 increased 11.76% and the performance measured by Quake 4 increased 18.18% with this overclocking. Really nice.

ASUS P5B
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Figure 6: Our 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo E6700 running at 3.16 GHz (316 MHz x 10) on ASUS P5B.

This was a better overclocking than the one we achieved with MSI P965 Platinum (306 MHz) and with Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 (308 MHz).

It is very important to keep in mind that our overclocking is limited by the overclocking capability of the CPU we used, a Core 2 Duo E6700. Also, the CPU overclocking capability is not only defined by the CPU model, but also by its production batch. You may achieve better results with different CPUs and even with the same CPU model but from a different batch.

We didn’t play with voltage adjustments or any other fancy adjustments, so you may achieve a better overclocking than we did with more time and patience.

Conclusions

First of all, you got to upgrade the BIOS of your P5B, if you have one. Our board came with 0211 BIOS and we achieved very low performance results with it. This was solved by upgrading the BIOS to the latest version available on the day we tested this board, which was the 0904 version. For you to have an idea of the problem, performance increased by almost 20% on PCMark05 and 15% on Quake 4 with this BIOS upgrade. This is amazing.

ASUS P5B is a good choice for the mainstream user building a Core 2 Duo-based system willing to achieve the best performance at the lowest price point possible. In other words, this motherboard is targeted to users that want a high-end performance but don’t want to spend a lot of money on a high-end motherboard.

This motherboard is faster than boards based on Intel 975X chipset, which is great. It also supports DDR2-1066/PC2-8500 memories and has a good overclocking potential for its market segment, features that will surely attract users wanting to pump the maximum performance possible from their systems.

It also features SPDIF optical and coaxial outputs soldered on the board, allowing you to connect its on-board audio to digital speakers or to your home theater receiver. This board provides a better on-board audio than the one provided by MSI P965 Platinum and Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 (90 dB vs 85 dB input signal-to-noise ratio and 192 kHz vs 96 kHz maximum input sampling rate). We, however, still recommend a minimum 95 dB SNR ADC (i.e., for the audio inputs) if you want to use your PC to capture analog audio and edit it professionally.

This motherboard uses only Japanese electrolytic capacitors, which is great, as this prevents you from suffering from the infamous capacitor leakage problem.

The problem, however, is that MSI P965 Platinum has more features and costs the same thing or less than this motherboard from ASUS (even worse, you can get a USD 15 mail-in rebate at Newegg.com and this board from MSI will cost you only USD 120). MSI P965 Platinum uses ICH8R chip instead of the plain ICH8 used by ASUS P5B and Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3, supporting six SATA-300 ports with RAID0, 1, 10 and 5, plus one extra SATA-300 port. It also has FireWire ports and a second x16 PCI Express slot (working at x4 though), allowing you to connect a second video card for attaching three or four video monitors to your system or even to increase 3D performance, as it supports CrossFire technology.

Even though ASUS P5B is a good product, MSI P965 Platinum offers a better cost/benefit ratio, as it provides more features for the same price. That is the only reason we are giving this motherboard our Silver award instead of our Golden award.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ASUS-P5B-Motherboard-Review/408


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