ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition Motherboard Review
By Gabriel Torres on June 15, 2007


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

P5B Premium Vista Edition from ASUS is a high-end socket LGA775 motherboard based on the Intel P965 chipset, coming with several extra features compared to other Intel P965 motherboards, such as two x16 PCI Express slots, two Gigabit Ethernet ports and, what is really unique on this model, a LCD display, called ScreenDuo, a remote control, called AI Remote, and a good-quality array microphone. Let’s take a look at the features and performance of this model from ASUS.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 1: ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition motherboard.

The main problem with this motherboard is its name. Because its model name starts with P5B you may think (as we did when we first heard its name) that it is an enhanced version of ASUS P5B motherboard, which is not the case: ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition is a completely different motherboard from the plain P5B. All “Vista Edition” motherboards have five extra features: LCD display (ScreenDuo), remote control (AI Remote), TPM module support (which is an optional microcontroller that stores keys, passwords and digital certificates), AP Trigger (a feature to turn on your computer and load your favorite application by just clicking one button) and an on-board flash memory for ReadyBoost technology. Only the two last features are specific to Windows Vista (TPM module, however, will allow you to enable Windows Vista's BitLocker feature, even though TPM itself isn't a specific feature from Windows Vista) and you can run Windows XP on this motherboard just fine like we did on our review.

Even though this motherboard is based on Intel P965 chipset, which officially supports an external bus up to 1,066 MHz, ASUS says that P5B Premium Vista Edition supports the forthcoming 1,333 MHz bus.

Well, there is really a lot to say about this motherboard. Let’s start with its passive cooling solution. The south bridge chip uses a regular passive heatsink, however the north bridge chip uses a passive heatsink with a heat-pipe, dissipating the heat produced by the north bridge chip on a radiator located on top of the MOSFET transistors from the voltage regulator circuitry.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 2: Passive cooling.

If you think that the heatsink on top of the MOSFET transistors is too hot, you can install a fan that comes with the motherboard. In this case you kill the main goal of passive cooling, which is not producing noise.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 3: Fan installed on top of the MOSFET transistors heatsink.

This motherboard has two x16 PCI Express slots. They don’t support SLI, as SLI is a feature found on NVIDIA chipsets only, however they support CrossFire. The main PCI Express x16 slot, which is blue, works at x16, but the second PCI Express x16 slot, which is black, works only at x4, so even though this motherboard has two x16 PCI Express slots it is not the ideal platform for CrossFire configuration. We see the second x16 PCI Express slot more like a way for you to expand the maximum number of independent video monitors you can have connected to your PC.

This motherboard also has one x1 PCI Express slot and three standard PCI slots, as you can see in Figure 4.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 4: Slots, the blue one works at x16 but the black one works at x4.

Introduction (Cont’d)

On the memory side ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition has four DDR2-DIMM sockets, supporting up to 8 GB officially up to DDR2-800 and unofficially up to DDR2-1066 (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.

On the storage side, this motherboard has a total of eight SATA-300 ports and one ATA/133 port. The south bridge chip, ICH8R, controls six of them. As this motherboard uses the “R” variant of the south bridge chip, it supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. An external chip, Jmicron JMB363, controls the other two SATA-300 ports and the ATA/133 port. One of these two ports is an eSATA port, found on the rear panel of the motherboard. This port is different, as it is a port multiplier connector, so you can’t use a regular SATA cable on it. This JMicron chip also supports RAID (0, 1 and JBOD), so you can set RAID1 and mirror everything that is inside your internal hard drive automatically to an external drive, for example.

This motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by a Marvell 88E8056 chip connected to the south bridge chip through a PCI Express x1 connection, and the other controlled by a Marvell 88E8001 chip connected to the south bridge chip through the standard PCI bus. Since PCI has a maximum transfer rate of 132 MB/s – which translates to 1 Gbps – achieving 1 Gbps on this second port is very unlikely, as it would be working at the PCI maximum transfer rate.

The audio section from this motherboard provides 7.1 audio, produced by the south bridge chip with the aid of an Analog Devices AD1988B codec, which provides a better signal-to-noise ratio than AD1988A, used on several other ASUS motherboards: 92 dB for its inputs and 101 dB for its outputs and a maximum sampling rate of 192 kHz for both inputs and outputs.

This board has one coaxial and one optical SPDIF output soldered directly on the motherboard, which is great as you can easily connect it to your home theater receiver.

This motherboard has eight USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the motherboard and four available through I/O brackets – this motherboard comes with only one I/O bracket featuring two USB ports) and two FireWire ports controlled by Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip (one soldered on the motherboard and another available through an I/O bracket that comes with the motherboard).

This motherboard has an on-board 512 MB flash drive soldered to the USB ports 9 and 10, as you can see in Figure 5. This memory chip is used to provide on-board support for ReadyBoost technology, available on Windows Vista – i.e., at least in theory this feature will improve the performance of your PC. That is why even though Intel P965 chipset provides 10 USB 2.0 only eight are available on this motherboard.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 5: 32 MB flash memory used by ReadyBoost.

On the rear panel (Figure 6) you can find the two Gigabit Ethernet ports, four USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire port, analog audio inputs/outputs, one eSATA connector, coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs, serial port, PS/2 mouse and PS/2 keyboard connectors. This motherboard doesn’t have a parallel port, not even through the use of an I/O bracket.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 6: Motherboard rear connectors.

As you can see in Figure 6, ScreenDuo and the remote control receiver must be connected to the USB ports with the orange sticker.

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. This motherboard comes with three Q-Connectors, one for the standard case frontal panel connections, one for two USB ports and another for one FireWire port.

All capacitors on this motherboard are solid aluminum capacitors, which is terrific. The coils used on the voltage regulator circuit are ferrite coils, providing a 25% less power loss compared to iron coils used on regular motherboards.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 7: Voltage regulator circuit with solid aluminum capacitors and ferrite coils.

In Figure 7 you can also see that this motherboard features an EPS12V power connector that comes with a cover closing half of it, allowing you to use a regular ATX12V power connector in case your power supply does not provide an EPS12V connector.

Extra Features

What is hot about this motherboard is its extra features not found on motherboards from other brands.

The first thing that is different on this motherboard is its power LED. At one of the corners of the board there is an ASUS logo that is lit in blue when the motherboard is in stand-by mode (i.e., system turned off but power supply power switch turned on) and changes its color to red when the system is turned on. You can see this on Figures 8 and 9. We took these pictures with our motherboard outside a case, so when assembled in a case the logo should bright more, as the chassis will reflect more light back to the logo.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 8: Motherboard in stand-by mode.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 9: Motherboard when the system is turned on.

In Figure 10, you can see all cables and accessories that comes with ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 10: Cables and accessories.

This motherboard comes with a good array microphone, which can be seen in Figure 11.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 11: Array microphone.

It also comes with a remote control, where you can control remotely your media player, turn your PC on/off, launch applications, etc.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 12: Remote control.

But what is really special about this motherboard is its LCD display, ScreenDuo.

ScreenDuo

ScreenDuo is a new chapter on motherboard history. It is a high-quality 2.5” TFT LCD display (1.9” x 1.45”, 48.96 mm x 36.72 mm) with 320x240 resolution that allows you to remotely control and manage your PC, and can be used to watch pictures, be alerted when new e-mails arrive at your inbox, be alerted when news are posted on your favorite website (through RSS), see your schedule at Outlook Calendar, see weather forecast, etc. In summary, ScreenDuo is an auxiliary display for your PC.

It is connected to the motherboard through an USB cable and it has six buttons: a power button, a navigation pad, an enter button, a return button and two customizable buttons. You can configure all ScreenDuo functions through the software that comes with it.

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Figure 13: ScreenDuo.

We were really impressed by the quality of this screen: it is a real high-end display. On the pictures below the screen quality appears to be not so good, but this is the side effect of using a digital camera to take picture of this screen. Believe in us, its quality is far better than that.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 14: ScreenDuo.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 15: ScreenDuo.

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Figure 16: ScreenDuo.

The only drawback we found about this display is that it doesn’t play videos. If you use it to play videos, it launches Media Player on your system and only shows a progress bar and Media Player controls on the display (see Figure 15, where we launched a video clip).

Main Specifications

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition 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 ECS PN2 SLI2+ (nForce 680i), ECS NF650iSLIT-A (nForce 650i), ASUS P5N-E SLI (nForce 650i), MSI P35 Platinum (Intel P35), MSI P35 Neo Combo (Intel P35), ASUS P5B (Intel P965) and Intel D975XBX2 (Intel 975X). On the graphs present on this and on the following pages you will see the clock rate we configured our memories. Since we had DDR2-1066 memory modules installed, we ran our tests two times, first with our memories configured at 800 MHz and then configured at 1,066 MHz. Some motherboards (like the ones based on nForce 650i and Intel 975X chipsets), however, do not support DDR2-1066 and that is why you won’t find DDR2-1066 results for them.

You can see the results on the charts below.

Socket LGA775 Core 2 Duo Motherboards

With our memories configured at 800 MHz, ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition achieved an overall performance similar to MSI P35 Neo Combo (Intel P35), MSI P35 Platinum (Intel P35), ASUS P5B (Intel P965) and ECS NF650iSLIT-A (nForce 650i), all with their memories also running at 800 MHz. Under this scenario the reviewed board was 3.90% faster than Intel D975XBX2 (Intel 975X), 4.53% faster than ECS PN2 SLI2+ (nForce 680i) and 4.85% faster than ASUS P5N-E SLI (nForce 650i).

When we set our memories to run at 1,066 MHz, ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition achieved an overall performance similar to MSI P35 Platinum (Intel P35), ASUS P5B Premium (Intel P965) and  ASUS P5B (Intel P965), all with their memories also running at 1,066 MHz. Under this scenario the reviewed board was 5.11% faster than ECS PN2 SLI2+ (nForce 680i).

Socket LGA775 Core 2 Duo Motherboards

On Internet Content Creation with our memories configured at 800 MHz ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition achieved the same performance level of all motherboards included in our comparison with their memories also running at 800 MHz.

When we set our memories to run at 1,066 MHz, ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition achieved a performance similar to MSI P35 Platinum (Intel P35), ASUS P5B Premium (Intel P965) and  ASUS P5B (Intel P965), all with their memories also running at 1,066 MHz. Under this scenario the reviewed board was 3.47% faster than ECS PN2 SLI2+ (nForce 680i).

Socket LGA775 Core 2 Duo Motherboards

On Office Productivity with our memories configured at 800 MHz ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition achieved the same performance level as MSI P35 Platinum (Intel P35), MSI P35 Neo Combo (Intel P35) and ASUS P5B (Intel P965), being 3.85% faster than ECS NF650iSLIT-A (nForce 650i), 5.47% faster than Intel D975XBX2 (Intel 975X) and 6.30% faster than ECS PN2 SLI2+ (nForce 680i) and ASUS P5N-E SLI (nForce 650i) - DDR2-800.

When we set our memories to run at 1,066 MHz, ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition achieved a performance similar to MSI P35 Platinum (Intel P35), ASUS P5B Premium (Intel P965) and  ASUS P5B (Intel P965), all with their memories also running at 1,066 MHz. Under this scenario the reviewed board was 6.61% faster than ECS PN2 SLI2+ (nForce 680i).

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.

Socket LGA775 Core 2 Duo Motherboards

Here all motherboards achieved similar results, with the exception of Intel D975XBX2 (Intel 975X), which was 3.11% slower than the reviewed motherboard with our memories configured at 800 MHz.

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.

ECS NVIDIA nForce 680i

With our memories configured at 800 MHz, ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition achieved an overall performance similar to ASUS P5B (Intel P965), MSI P35 Platinum (Intel P35) and Intel D975XBX2 (Intel 975X) - DDR2-800, all with their memories also running at 800 MHz. Under this scenario the reviewed board was 3.78% faster than ECS PN2 SLI2+ (nForce 680i), 5.62% faster than ECS NF650iSLIT-A (nForce 650i), 5.71% faster than MSI P35 Neo Combo (Intel P35) and 6.76% faster than ASUS P5N-E SLI (nForce 650i).

When we set our memories to run at 1,066 MHz, ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition achieved an overall performance similar to MSI P35 Platinum (Intel P35), ASUS P5B Premium (Intel P965) and  ASUS P5B (Intel P965), all with their memories also running at 1,066 MHz. Under this scenario the reviewed board was 5.98% faster than ECS PN2 SLI2+ (nForce 680i).

Overclocking

On ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition we could find some overclocking options (0402 BIOS):

This motherboard also provides several memory timings adjustments, as you can see in Figure 17.

ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition
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Figure 17: Memory timings adjustments.

On this motherboard there is no way to lock the memory clock at a specific clock rate, so overclocking the CPU you will automatically overclock the memory as well. This may be a problem as the maximum clock your memories can achieve may limit your overclocking. On the other hand, you can configure the FSB/memory clock ratio, so you may increase this when you think your memories are running at a too high clock.

The PCI Express clock configuration is also 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.

The maximum external clock rate we could configure on this motherboard was 323 MHz. With this overclocking our Core 2 Duo E6700, which normally runs at 2.66 MHz, was running at 3.23 GHz, an impressive 21.42% increase on its internal clock rate. With this overclocking our system performance increased 21.65% on Quake 4 and 13% on PCMark05.

We could configure our external clock above that but the system was unstable. We only consider our overclocking to be successful after we can run at least four times Quake 4 and PCMark05 with no errors.

Just for reference, on ASUS P5N-E SLU we could set our CPU running at 327 MHz, on ASUS P5B we could set our CPU running at 316 MHz, on MSI P35 Neo Combo we could set our CPU running at 314 MHz and on ECS PN2 SLI2+ we could set our CPU running at 306 MHz.

We, however, didn’t play with voltage settings or any other fancy adjustments, so you may achieve a better overclocking than we did with more time and patience – on this motherboard and also on the other motherboards we reviewed.

Conclusions

What can be said about a flawless product? Everything about this motherboard is great: great performance, great features and great overclocking.

If you are looking for a socket LGA775 motherboard with a truck loaded of features this is the motherboard you are looking for: support for DDR2-1066 memories, support for the forthcoming 1,333 MHz FSB (even though Intel P965 does not officially support it), two Gigabit Ethernet ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire ports, eight SATA-300 ports including one eSATA, two PCI Express x16 slots, terrific overclocking capability, above-the-average performance and 7.1 really high-quality audio.

The on-board audio is really high quality and its 92 dB input signal-to-noise ratio will allow you to work professionally capturing and editing analog audio. And its 101 dB output SNR plus on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF connectors will make it easy for you to hook up your computer to your home theater receiver.

The overall quality of this motherboard is great, as all its capacitors are solid (aluminum) and the voltage regulator circuit uses ferrite coils instead of iron coils.

And there is, of course, the array mike, the remote control and the ScreenDuo LCD display, which allows you remotely control and manage your PC, and even see weather forecast or be alerted whenever a news is posted on your favorite website or a new e-mail arrives at your inbox. This display works as a secondary display for your PC. We were really impressed by the high image quality of the LCD display that comes with this motherboard.

The only drawbacks we found on this motherboard were the impossibility of playing videos on its LCD display, the speed of the second PCI Express slot, only x4, the absence of an option for locking and/or configuring the memory clock separately from the FSB clock and its name – as we mentioned, its name can lead people think that this motherboard is similar to the plain P5B or that it runs only on Vista. Everything else about this motherboard is great. Even its price – USD 250 – isn’t that expensive if you think about the number of extra features it has. It could me cheaper, of course. But everything in the world could be cheaper, right?

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ASUS-P5B-Premium-Vista-Edition-Motherboard-Review/461


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