ASUS P5E3 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on October 29, 2007
ASUS P5E3 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n 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.
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 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n 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 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n even though the chipset supports DDR2 memories the motherboard only provides DDR3 sockets. ASUS P5E3 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n 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 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n 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 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n 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.
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 92 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its inputs and 101 dB SNR 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.
Although X38 chipset provides 12 USB 2.0 ports, this motherboard has only 10 ports available, as two of them are used by the onboard 32 MB flash drive. This on-board flash drive, called ASAP (“Asus Accelerated Propeller”) by ASUS, was first introduced on “Vista Edition” motherboards by ASUS and it is built in order to improve the system performance through the ReadyBoost feature from Windows Vista. Oddly enough this feature isn’t listed on ASUS website or on the product manual, even though it is clearly available, as you can see in Figure 2.
This motherboard has six USB 2.0 ports soldered on its rear panel and it comes with an I/O bracket featuring two USB ports, so two of them are left over for the frontal USB ports from your case.
ASUS P5E3 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n also has two FireWire ports controlled by an Agere L-FW3227 chip. One of the ports is located on the motherboard rear panel, and the other is available through an I/O bracket that comes with the board.
In Figure 3, you can see the motherboard rear panel with PS/2 keyboard connector, six USB 2.0 ports, coaxial and optical digital audio (SPDIF) outputs, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one FireWire port, two eSATA ports, complete set of 7.1 audio jacks and two antenna connectors for the on-board WiFi access point (more about this feature in the next page).
As you can see, this motherboard does not have a PS/2 mouse connector, so you have to use a USB mouse with this motherboard. This board also doesn't have a parallel port and one serial port is available through an I/O bracket that doesn’t come with the product.
ASUS P5E3 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by a Marvell 88E8056 chip, which is connected to the south bridge chip through a PCI Express x1 bus, and the other controlled by a Realtek RTL8110SC chip, which is connected to the south bridge chip through the PCI bus. Since the standard PCI bus 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 most different feature present on this motherboard is its 801.n WiFi access point. An integrated access point allows you to share your broadband internet connection (and also files and printers) with other computers around your office or home without the need of a wireless broadband router, so you can save some bucks (even though the cost of this access point is embedded on the motherboard cost, of course).
IEEE 802.11n specification allows networks running up to 300 Mbps, if you also have IEEE 802.11n cards on your other computers. If you don’t, the on-board access point will work at 802.11g (54 Mbps) or b (11 Mbps). Of course your internet speed will be limited by your broadband connection: if you have a 2 Mbps connection that will be the maximum transfer rate you will get on the internet. The 300 Mbps, 54 Mbps or 11 Mbps transfer rates will only be available for local file transfers – i.e., for transferring files from one computer to another. With more and more digital contents like movies being produced and saved on hard disk drives, the higher your network speed the better for transferring files between computers. Even though if you are really worried about speed you will probably build a cabled network using a Gigabit switch in order to achieve 1,000 Mbps when transferring files between your computers.
ASUS P5E3 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n comes with two omni-directional antennas, as you can see in Figure 5. According to ASUS the operating ranges for its on-board access point are the following:
Other main ASUS P5E3 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n features include:
In Figure 8, you can see all cables, the Q-Connectors and the rear panel plate that come with this motherboard.
ASUS P5E3 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n main features are:
* Researched at Pricewatch.com on the day we published this first look article.
ASUS P5E3 Deluxe/WiFi-AP@n is in fact one of the most high-end motherboards for Intel CPUs money can buy – if you can afford it. Costing around USD 360 in the United States only people with bottomless pockets can afford this marvel.
The only “flaw” we can see is the DDR3-only requirement, as DDR3 memories are still more expensive than DDR2 and with a questionable performance gain. If you have money this won’t be a problem for you, plus you will be 100% updated with the most high-end technologies available today.
Express Gate feature – which allows you to browse the Internet and access Skype without entering the operating system and even without a hard disk drive attached – is a really clever idea. It is done by incorporating a small Linux version with web browsing and Skype on the motherboard ROM memory. This feature would be really interesting if added to entry-level motherboards, because then you could assemble really cheap medialess PCs for Internet browsing.
If you aren’t impressed by its embedded 802.11n access point you can still buy the version without it, called simply P5E3 Deluxe, if you can find it (we couldn’t find the model without the access point being sold in the USA).
ASUS also has other three motherboards based on Intel X38: P5E (the simplest one), Maximum Formula and Maximums Formula Special Edition – all based on DDR2 memories. You can see them all clicking here.