ASUS P5K-E/WiFi-AP Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on November 6, 2007
ASUS P5K-E/WiFi-AP is a top mainstream motherboard for the socket LGA775 platform from ASUS, based on Intel P35 chipset and featuring a 802.11g (54 Mbps) WiFi access point, allowing you to share your Internet connection wirelessly without a wireless broadband router. This motherboard also features passive heatsinks, solid aluminum capacitors, eSATA ports, two x16 PCI Express slots, coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs and more. In this article we will explore the main features from this motherboard. Check it out.
P35 is the latest mainstream chipset from Intel. There are three main differences between P35 and the previous mainstream chipset from Intel, P965: support for the 1,333 MHz external bus (P965 goes only up to 1,066 MHz), support for DDR3 memories (if your motherboard has DDR3 sockets, which isn’t the case of P5K-E) and the use of the new south bridge series, ICH9 (P965 uses ICH8). The difference between the plain ICH9 chip and the plain ICH8 chip is only on the number of USB 2.0 ports: ICH9 has 12 of them, opposed to 10 on ICH8. The main difference is on the “R” (which stands for “RAID”) variation, which is the version used by this motherboard. ICH9R supports six SATA-300 ports, while ICH8R supports only four.
The main difference between P35 and the latest high-end chipset from Intel, X38, is the support for the new PCI Express 2.0 on the later, which doubles the maximum theoretical transfer rate of the add-on video 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). Two other differences between the two is the unofficial support for the 1,600 MHz external clock rate on X38 and the support for DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz on X38 (P35 supports DDR3 up to 1,066 MHz). Both chipsets are paired with the same series of south bridges: ICH9.
We are talking about DDR3 but you have to keep in mind that the decision of supporting DDR3 memories on a given motherboard is up to the motherboard manufacturer. Since DDR2 and DDR3 sockets are different, the manufacturer is who chooses which technology will be used on a given model. As mentioned, P5K-E only supports DDR2 memories, up to 8 GB and up to DDR2-1066 – even though P35 chipset officially supports only up to DDR2-800, non-officially it supports DDR2-1066.
On this motherboard DDR2 sockets 1 and 3 are yellow 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, P35 chipset 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.
This motherboard has two PCI Express x16 slots, one (blue) truly running at x16 speed and the second one (black) running at x4 speed. This motherboard supports CrossFire, but since the second slot has a limited bandwidth this isn’t the best platform to run such configuration. We see the second x16 slot more like a way to expand the maximum number of video monitors you can have (two per video card). This board also has two x1 PCI Express slots and three standard PCI slots.
P5K-E WiFi/AP has six SATA-300 ports controlled by the ICH9R south bridge, supporting RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10, plus two eSATA-300 ports, controlled by a JMicron JMB363 chip, which also controls the single ATA-133 port present on this product.
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. These specs are terrific for the mainstream user.
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 ICH9R south bridge provides 12 USB 2.0 ports, this motherboard has only 10 ports available, as two of them are used by the onboard WiFi access point. This motherboard has six USB 2.0 ports soldered on its rear panel and the other four ports are available through headers available on the board, and this motherboard doesn’t come with any I/O bracket for using these ports.
P5K-E WiFi/AP 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 header and unfortunately this motherboard doesn’t come with an I/O bracket for you to use this port (but can be used by the FireWire port available on the frontal panel of your case, if your case has one, of course).
In Figure 2, you can see the motherboard rear panel with PS/2 keyboard connector, six USB 2.0 ports, coaxial and optical digital audio (SPDIF) outputs, one Gigabit Ethernet port, one FireWire port, two eSATA ports, complete set of 7.1 audio jacks and one antenna connector for the on-board WiFi access point (more about this feature in the next page).
P5K-E WiFi/AP has “only” one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Marvell 88E8056 chip, which is connected to the south bridge chip through a PCI Express x1 bus. We say “only” because almost all top motherboards have two Gigabit Ethernet ports.
The most different feature present on this motherboard is its 802.11g/b WiFi access point, which is based on a Realtek RTL8187L chip. An integrated access point allows you to share your broadband internet connection (and also files and printers) wirelessly 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). Of course your other computers will need a wireless network card installed.
IEEE 802.11g specification allows networks running up to 54 Mbps, if you also have IEEE 802.11g cards on your other computers. If you don’t, the on-board access point will work at 802.11b, with a maximum transfer rate of 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 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.
P5K-E WiFi/AP comes with one omini-directional antenna, as you can see in Figure 4. According to ASUS the operating ranges for its on-board access point are the following:
As you can see on Figures 1 and 5, this motherboard uses a passive heatsink solution, which is particularly indicated to users that are annoyed with the amount of noise produced by a typical PC (since this motherboard doesn’t have a fan on top of the chipset heatsink, less noise is produced by the PC).
This motherboard also uses only solid aluminum capacitors, which is great in order to prevent the infamous capacitor leakage problem. The coils from the voltage regulator circuit are regular iron coils instead of ferrite coils. High-end motherboards are start using ferrite coils, which provide a lower power loss.
In Figure 6, you can see all cables, connectors and manuals that come with this motherboard. This motherboard features Q-Connector, which facilitate the installation of the wires coming from the frontal panel of your case.
P5K-E WiFi/AP main features are:
* Researched at Shopping.com on the day we published this review.
ASUS P5K-E/WiFi-AP is a really nice mainstream motherboard, featuring all you need to have an updated Intel-based computer: DDR2-1066 support, 1,333 MHz external bus support, six SATA-300 ports supporting RAID, two eSATA ports, two FireWire ports, Gigabit Ethernet, on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF connectors and, of course, its exclusive WiFi access point working under 802.11g or b, allowing you to create your own wireless network without needing a wireless broadband router.
The quality of the on-board audio of this motherboard is also something we need to say: with over 100 dB signal-to-noise ratio on its output you get the same quality of good add-on sound cards. Its input signal-to-noise ratio, however, is low for today’s standards, with only 92 dB while it should have at least 95 dB. Even though this is enough for the regular user, if you are looking for a motherboard for professionally capturing and editing analog audio (converting LPs, VHS tapes, etc) you should look for a different motherboard or install a better add-on sound card on this board.
Of course there are features missing if you are looking for a truly high-end motherboard, such as SLI support, DDR3 memory support, PCI Express 2.0 slots, two Gigabit Ethernet ports and support for the forthcoming 1,600 MHz external bus. But if you want those options you will have to pay high bucks for them (expect the SLI, which is available on several cost-effective motherboards) and honestly today these features don’t make sense for Average Joe – maybe one or two years from now.
Also on the good side is the manufacturing quality of the board, with passive heatsinks that eliminate the noise produced by the motherboard and solid aluminum capacitors, which provides a higher life span compared to traditional electrolytic capacitors plus you won’t face the infamous capacitor leakage problem. But for a truly high-end motherboard ASUS could have used ferrite coils on the voltage regulator circuit instead of the traditional iron coils.
Of course this isn’t the cheapest motherboard around – but it isn’t also the most expensive. For users willing to have top features, and WiFi access point and good manufacturing quality this motherboard is a good pick. Trying to save some bucks buying the non-WiFi version doesn’t make any sense: at Newegg.com the price difference between the two is of just five bucks. Newegg.com, by the way, sells this motherboard by USD 150.00 – a good price for a P35 motherboard, comparable to other good models such as Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R. With the detail that other P35 boards don’t come with a WiFi access point.