ASUS P6T Deluxe OC Palm Edition Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on November 5, 2008
ASUS P6T Deluxe OC Palm Edition is probably one of the most fully loaded socket LGA1366 motherboards to arrive on the market for the Core i7 processors, based on Intel X58 chipset with ICH10R south bridge chip. Features not found on most competing motherboards include a small 2.5” LCD display for overclocking options, three x16 PCI Express slots, support for SLI (finally), support for SAS hard disk drives, an impressive 16-phase voltage regulator circuit and several other features common to high-end boards from ASUS, like Express Gate (which allows you to immediately load an internet browser and Skype even without a hard disk drive installed), passive heatsinks with heat-pipes for the chipset and voltage regulator circuit and solid aluminum Japanese capacitors. Let’s take a look at this motherboard and what you should expect from it.
We have published a detailed article about Intel’s high-end motherboard for the Core i7 based on X58 chipset, DX58SO “Smackover”, so a comparison between the two is inevitable.
The “OC Palm” on the model name refers to the 2.5” LCD display where you can adjust overclocking options, like voltages. While you are not overclocking your system you can use this screen to monitor you system (temperature and fan speeds, for example) or to open a Yahoo! Widget, such as weather forecast.
This display is connected to the motherboard through any available USB port and in fact it is the same display that was included in some previous ASUS motherboards, such as P5B Premium Vista Edition.
ASUS P6T Deluxe has three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, one x4 slot and two regular PCI slots. The third x16 slot can’t run at x16 speed, of course (as Intel X58 chipset only offers support for two x16 lanes), so it runs at x1 when the two main x16 slots run at x16. But you can choose to run the third slot at x8, if you lower the speed from the second slot also to x8. In this case the first slot will continue at x16. To use the industry’s language, you have two possible configurations: x16/x16/x1 or x16/x8/x8. If you have only one or two video cards, they will run at x16, of course.
Notice that this motherboard doesn’t have any x1 PCI Express slot. If you have an x1 board you can install it on the x4 slot (or on the third PCI Express x16 slot, if it is available). The x4 slot can’t be used for installing a fourth video card (on Intel DX58SO you can install an x16 video card on the x4 slot available) because the north bridge heatsink physically prevents you from doing this installation.
Motherboards with more than one x16 PCI Express slot based on Intel chipsets have always supported CrossFire configuration, but never supported NVIDIA’s SLI, being the major drawback in having an Intel-based motherboard with more than one x16 slot. The only exception is Intel’s very high-end DX5400XS “Skulltrail” motherboard, which has a couple of small NVIDIA bridge chips to make this happen. This board, however, isn’t targeted to regular users, as it has two LGA771 sockets and supports only FB-DIMM memories.
ASUS P6T Deluxe, however, supports SLI. According to ASUS, SLI support with Intel X58 chipset is possible if the motherboard manufacturer pays a royalty fee to NVIDIA plus passes NVIDIA certification process, which is the case with the present motherboard. So you will see on the market motherboards based on Intel X58 with and without SLI support – to the best of our knowledge Intel’s “Smackover” does not support it, for example. Support will depend on whether the manufacturer paid licensing to NVIDIA and passed their certification process or not – which, by the way, increases the motherboard manufacturing cost and will surely reflect on the product’s price.
SLI support is enabled at driver level, so no bridge chip from NVIDIA was required on the motherboard.
Notice that even though this motherboard has three x16 slots, SLI is limited to two video cards on this board (i.e., no support to three-way SLI).
Interesting enough this motherboard does not require extra power for the PCI Express slots, contrary to what happens with Intel DX58SO. The CPU is fed through an EPS12V connector but half of it comes covered, meaning that you can install an ATX12V connector if your power supply does not feature an EPS12V output.
Core i7 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, just like it happens with AMD processors. All other Intel CPUs use an external memory controller, which is located on the north bridge chip (a.k.a. MCH or Memory Controller Hub) from the chipset. This means that with other Intel CPUs the chipset (and thus the motherboard) is the component that says what memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have on your PC.
Since now the memory controller is inside the CPU, it is the processor, and not the chipset, that defines the memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The Core i7 integrated memory controller accepts only DDR3 memory (up to 1.65 V; memories that require more than that won’t work and may even damage the CPU) and supports the new triple-channel memory architecture. Even though first Core i7 CPUs officially support up to DDR3-1066, ASUS P6T Deluxe supports memories up to DDR3-1600 (Intel DX58SO “Smackover” supports memories up to DDR3-1333). This is achieved by bypassing the CPU memory clock multiplier (the memory clock is achieved by multiplying a 133 MHz base clock signal).
The triple-channel architecture allows the CPU to access three memory modules at the same time to store or retrieve data, increasing the number of bits that are transferred per clock cycle from 128 (on dual-channel architecture) to 192. Thus this makes a 50% improvement on the maximum theoretical memory bandwidth compared to dual-channel architecture, if both are running at the same clock rate. For example, DDR3-1333 memories running on dual-channel have a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 21 GB/s while on triple-channel they have a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 32 GB/s.
One of the highlights of ASUS P6T Deluxe is the presence of six memory sockets and not only four, like Intel DX58SO. This allows you to make future memory upgrades without having to replace your current memory modules and keeping the maximum performance possible.
Just to clarify, in order to achieve the maximum performance you have to install three or six memory modules. If you install three memory modules you have to use sockets with the same color (on P6T Deluxe three sockets are black and three are orange). If you install a different number of memory modules the system won’t achieve its maximum possible performance.
On motherboards with only four memory sockets you have a problem: if you add a fourth memory module this module will be accessed at single-channel performance (1/3 of the maximum transfer rate) so for you to add more memory keeping the maximum performance you have to remove your old three modules and install new ones. This upgrade is more expensive than using a motherboard with six sockets, where you can simply add three more modules and keep your old modules installed.
With ASUS P6T Deluxe you can have up to 24 GB if six 4 GB modules are used.
ASUS P6T Deluxe uses the Intel ICH10R south bridge chip, which supports six SATA-300 ports with RAID 0, 1, 10 and 5. In addition to these ports, ASUS P6T Deluxe has one eSATA-300 port and one ATA-133 port controlled by a Marvel 88SE6111 chip and two SAS ports controlled by a Marvell 88SE6320 chip, supporting RAID 0 and 1. SAS, Serial Attached SCSI, is an interface standard used by enterprise-class hard disk drives, which provide higher performance compared to SATA drives. It is somewhat easy to find SAS drives with 15,000 rpm rotational speed, while most SATA drives rotate at 7,200 rpm. This is the first time we’ve seen a motherboard targeted to regular PCs with an on-board SAS controller. Another advantage of this motherboard from ASUS is the presence of one ATA-133 port, since Intel X58 does not provide one, and a floppy disk drive controller, feature not available on Intel DX58SO “Smackover.”
The portrayed board also comes with two hot swap connectors for hard disk drives, allowing you to install and remove two hard drives without the need of installing cables on them.
This motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, which are controlled by two Marvell 88E8056 controllers, which are connected to the system using PCI Express lanes and thus able to achieve their maximum performance.
The audio section from this motherboard provides 7.1 audio, produced by the south bridge chip with the aid of an Analog Devices AD2000B codec. This codec does not exist on Analog Device’s website, but some websites say this is an AD1989B manufactured exclusively for ASUS with the same basic specs. Problem is, this codec isn’t listed on Analog’s website as well. So we can’t talk about specific features from the audio section of this motherboard, in particular the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR).
This motherboard provides 7.1 independent analog audio outputs, which is great (even though Intel DX58SO also has 7.1 audio, it only offers 5.1 analog audio outputs). It also features on-board coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs (Intel DX58SO has only optical SPDIF out).
This motherboard has 14 USB 2.0 ports with eight of them soldered on the rear panel. By the way, the ICH10 chip has a feature called “USB Port Disable” that allows you to disable individual USB ports. This is a very interesting feature to have on PCs that are used by several different people to prevent users from installing USB devices (for example, an external hard drive or a USB drive, which can contain viruses and also to prevent people from copying data).
This motherboard also has two FireWire (IEEE1394) ports controlled by a VIA VT6308 chip, with one soldered on the rear panel and another available through an I/O bracket. This motherboard comes with an I/O bracket containing one FireWire port (mini format) and two USB ports.
On the connectivity side this motherboard also supports infrared transmitter and receiver, which don’t come with the board.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with PS/2 connector, eight USB 2.0 ports, coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs, one FireWire port, one eSATA port, two Gigabit Ethernet ports and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.
If you pay close attention to Figure 6 you will see that this motherboard uses a unique configuration for its PS/2 port. Instead of having one keyboard port and one mouse port, it has only one PS/2 port that can be used by either a PS/2 keyboard or a PS/2 mouse. This is the first time we’ve seen such configuration.
This motherboard doesn’t have parallel and serial ports.
ASUS P6T Deluxe comes with other important features. As mentioned before, all electrolytic capacitors used on this motherboard are solid from a Japanese vendor, preventing the infamous capacitor leakage problem. It also uses an all-copper passive heatsink with heat-pipes installed on top of the north bridge chip, south bridge chip and transistors from the voltage regulator circuit.
Speaking of the voltage regulator circuit, it uses ferrite chokes, which provide 25% less power loss compared to iron chokes, and MOSFET transistors with low RDS(on), i.e., low leakage current, which provide less consumption and less heat. But what is really important about this circuit is that it uses a 16-phase design, which provides a lower heat generation, a higher life-span and a cleaner voltage for the CPU. In fact, this is the first time we’ve seen such high-end configuration. The memory controller embedded inside the CPU uses a separated two-phase voltage regulator. For a better understanding of the importance of such design, read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator Circuit tutorial.
This motherboard has an on-board flash drive containing a Linux version with an internet browser and Skype. This feature, called “Express Gate” by ASUS, allows you to load these programs in less than five seconds without entering the operating system and even if you don’t have a hard disk drive installed. We think this feature would be terrific to have on low-end motherboards as well.
P6T Deluxe comes with on-board power and reset switches, which glow red and green, respectively, when the motherboard is turned on.
In Figure 10, you can see all accessories that come with this motherboard.
ASUS P6T Deluxe OC Palm Edition main features are:
ASUS P6T Deluxe OC Palm Edition will surely be one of the most complete motherboards for the Core i7 processors. It will bring several advantages over the competition for you to build the fastest computer you can. The main advantages that this product will bring are: