Asus P5K3 Premium Black Pearl Edition Reviewccokeman -
The "Black Pearl" edition P5K3 Premium motherboard has several distinctive features that sets it apart from the crowd. First and foremost is the lack of DIMM slots for the system memory. The reason becomes evident when you take a closer look. The memory is actually built onto the board and is heavily heatsinked to reduce its operating temperatures and improve its ability to overclock. With speeds guaranteed at 1500MHz or above, it needs the help. The second distinctive feature is the "Stack Cool 2" method of using the specially designed ten-layered PCB to help cool critical electrical components by transferring heat directly through the PCB. Asus claims a 20 degree celsius reduction of operating temperatures on the critical onboard components.
The I/O panel features a tremendous number of connectivity options. One thing that is evident is the lack of a PS/2 port for a mouse. Asus has moved away from this option on this board. Not to worry, as most, if not all, of the input peripherals available today are USB. The P5K3 Premium has that avenue covered with six USB ports available on the I/O panel, along with four more available on-board. The remaining options include 1x1394 Firewire, Coax or Optical S/Pdif audio out, 2x E-SATA, Dual Gigabit LAN, 8 channel high definition audio and the Asus Wi-Fi AP. The Wi-Fi card is hard mounted onto the P5K3 instead of making it a removeable add-in assembly.
This board features two 16x PCI-E slots, one blue for 16x operation and the other, black, which runs at 4x and can run any card from 1x to 16x with a maximum speed of 2 GB/s. These two ports are Crossfire compatible. Three standard PCI slots and two PCI-E 1x slots are also available. If dual graphics cards are used with the stock or aftermarket heatsinks, accessing the PCI slots may prove difficult. However, by using the "Black Pearl" in a water cooled configuration, that is no longer a concern. The internal connectivity options are spread across the bottom and right side of the P5K3. Along the bottom of the board are the High Definition front panel audio header, the S/Pdif out header, the onboard 1394 Firewire, 2x USB ports, and a COM port.
The front panel connection header and IDE port are located along the bottom right hand side of the board. The main power LED is located just above the IDE port. The SATA connectors are located along the right hand side of the board. Six SATA connectors are available on-board. The red connections are for boot disk usage, or the "master" setting, while the black connections are for disk storage and are configured as the "slave" drive connections. The P5K3 Premium features 2GB of on-board DDR3 1333MHz, non-ECC, un-buffered system memory hidden beneath a set of large copper heatsinks. The chipset natively supports DDR2 1066 memory and due to Asus tuning the board, it is capable of native DDR3 1333 support.
The CPU socket area on the P5K3 Premium has little left in the way of room. Large air cooled heatsinks could prove interesting to install. The board uses an eight phase power design. This design runs cooler, reduces ripple on incoming current and outgoing voltage, providing increased stability. The heatsink system for this board is a zero failure design. Zero failure is easy enough to achieve when there are no moving parts. The heatpipe heatsinks used on the "Black Pearl" are 100% copper. By using all copper heatsinks, operating temperatures can be decreased for added stability.
Some of the heat generated by the chipsets and memory end up at these two heasinks. These two heatsinks can be actively cooled by the included blower fans or through air from an air cooled heatsink. The plates on the under side of the board cover the second set of memory modules and the bottom of the P35 chipset.