Asus P5E3 Premium WiFi-AP@n Reviewccokeman - April 24, 2008
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THe P5E3 Premium WiFi-AP@n edition is an ATX form factor motherboard using the Intel X48 northbridge chipset and the ICH9R southbridge. The board is manufactured using the Asus "Stack Cool" technology that allows the PCB to help dissipate the heat generated by the onboard components, providing an up to 20 degree Celsius drop in operating temperatures with this fanless design. The southbridge features an additional heatsink on the backside of the board, while an additional strap is used for the northbridge. The Express Gate and EPU features are pointed out front and center with stickers highlighting these features.
The I/O panel allows for plenty of connectivity. PS/2 is still available for the keyboard, if needed. Available connections include six USB 2.0/1.1 ports, two e-SATA ports, one 1394 Firewire, Coax and Optical digital audio out, 8-channel High Definition sound, Dual Gigabit LAN ports (one Marvell and one Realtek) and Dual WiFi-AP@n jacks. More than enough to satisfy even the enthusiasts. The one thing I found not on this board was the clear CMOS switch that I have grown accustomed to seeing on higher end boards.
The WiFi card is hard mounted to the motherboard PCB and is just above the top x16 PCI-E slot. Expansion needs are met with one x1 PCI-E slot, two standard PCI slots and three x16 PCI-E slots. The two blue slots are designed for use with dual graphics cards while the third black slot is a universal x16 PCI-E slot that runs at a max of x4, though that is dependent on the type of device installed in the slot.
In between the bottom blue x16 PCI-E slot and the bottom PCI slot is the Express Gate module. This is not much more than a USB thumb drive taken to its bare components and installed onto the PCB. This module uses a stripped down Linux distro to allow for a quick connection to the Internet without going into the installed OS.
Moving along to the bottom of the P5E3, the available connections include the front panel audio, digital SPDIF for Asus HDMI capable video cards, a com port, a single Firewire connection, two USB headers, the clear CMOS jumper and last, but not least, are the front panel connection header and CMOS battery.
The right hand side of the P5E3 contains all of the drive connectivity. There are six SATA ports onboard, controlled by the Intel ICH9R southbridge; the single IDE port is controlled by the Jmicron controller and further up the board there is the floppy drive connection. Seen just above the floppy connection is the chassis intrusion jumper.
Power is supplied to the P5E3 Premium via a 24-pin EATX power supply connection as well as an 8-pin EATX auxillary 12 volt connection along the top of the board. The four memory slots support up to 8GB of DDR3 2000 (OCed), 1600(OCed), 1333, 1066, and 800 FSB memory. Intel X.M.P. (Extreme Memory Profile) is supported on the P5E3 Premium as long as a CPU with a native FSB of 1333MHz or higher is installed.
The P5E3 Premium is fitted with an all copper heatpipe assembly that covers the the nortbridge, southbridge and voltage regulation circuits. One thing you will notice right away is that the heatsinks are attached using screws and not push pins. The exception is the heatsink over the CPU voltage regulation circuit.
The CPU socket area of the P5E3 is pretty crowded with the capacitors and chokes to control the third generation eight phase power circuit. Even with space at a premium, I was able to install both a large air cooling setup as well as a universal fit water block during the testing of the board. Not only does the CPU get a new generation power circuit, but the P5E3 includes a three phase power supply circuit for the DDR3 memory while the northbridge gets a new two phase circuit. For a motherboard that is not squarely aimed at the gamer, this board has improved on the past generations of control circuitry to allow the enthusiast to better control power to the vital components, maximizing the overclocking of the installed components.
One of the special features of the P5E3 is the EPU (Energy Processing Unit). This small chip hides up under the heatsink assembly and is at the heart of the power saving features of the P5E3.
Now that we know what accompanies the P5E3 Premium to the user as well as having looked the board over in detail, it's time to get it installed and get to performance testing.