ASUS P5K Premium Motherboard Review

ccokeman - 2007-09-27 22:34:18 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: October 15, 2007
Price: $ 219.99


Yes, it's that time again. The terrible upgrade schedule of an enthusiast is a never ending cycle. As soon as a piece of hardware is scienced out, it's time to move on to the next latest and greatest toy. Video cards, system memory, motherboards, power supplies, they all end up falling into the cycle. So the idea is there, the question now is what to buy. Since we are enthusiasts, not just any motherboard will do. Performance is usually the deciding factor when it comes down to pulling the trigger and pushing the buy button. Is the Asus P5K Premium Black Pearl edition motherboard the right one for you? Let's see if she is. The board has an amazing array of options and performance enhancements to satisfy even the most demanding in the enthusiast crowd. These features include native support for DDR2 1066 memory, zero failure fanless design on the motherboard heatsinks, support for the latest processors (including the next wave of 45nm products), 8 channel High Definition sound, ATI crossfire support, and an Intel P35 chipset. There is so much more that makes this board an enthusiast's dream. Follow along as we dig deeper into the bowels of the "Black Pearl" special edition P5K!

"ASUS, a technology-oriented company blessed with one of the world's top R&D teams, is well known for high-quality and innovative technology. As a leading provider of 3C (computers, communications and consumer electronics) total solutions, ASUS offers a complete product portfolio to compete in the new millennium."


Closer Look:

The package that the "Black Pearl" comes in is a flashy metallic blue. The front of the box identifies the product and highlights the native DDR2-1066 support. The rear of the box shows the specifications, as well as some of the highlighted features. The front lid of the box lifts up and displays many of the features of the board.






The outer sleeve of the packaging comes off of the inner box. The box is black and identified again as the P5K Premium. Once inside the package, the the bundled accessories can be seen. Included as part of the bundle are two blower style fan assemblies to cool the motherboard heatsinks.



Pull out all of the accessories to access the motherboard under the divider panel. Under the divider hides the subject of this review, the 18th Anniversary Black Pearl Edition P5K Premium motherboard.


Closer Look:

This board is designed for use with a socket 775 Intel processor. The "Black Pearl" edition P5K Premium features a cooling method called Stack Cool to help dissipate the heat generated by critical components. It does this by transferring the heat through the specially designed eight layer printed circuit board. This helps these components run up to twenty degrees Celsius cooler.





One of the things that hits you when looking at the I/O section of the board is that there is no provision for a PS/2 mouse. Asus has chosen to move away from the interface for at least the mouse since the keyboard still has the option available. The good news is that there are a total of six USB ports available on the I/O panel. Additional connections available include two Gigabit LAN ports, Coax or Optical S/PDIF out, 8 channel high definition sound, one Firewire port, two E-SATA ports and last, but not least, the Wi-Fi connection. The wireless LAN is hard mounted to the board rather then being available as an add-in card.



This board features two 16x PCI-E slots, one blue for 16x operation and the other (black) that 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. Using water cooling would be a way to eliminate that as a concern. Many of the connectivity options are scattered along the bottom and right hand side of the board. These include the front panel USB and Firewire, as well as the front panel high definition audio, an additional com port and the high definition audio header.



The front panel connections for the power switch, reset switch, power and IDE activity LEDs are on the bottom right side of the board. The main power LED for the board is shown here above the IDE connection. Six SATA ports are available. The four orange slots are for boot disk usage (Master) while the others are used for data disks (Slave). The board supports up to 8 gigabytes of memory, as well as natively supporting both DDR2 1066 and DDR2 800 memory speeds.



As you can see, room around the CPU socket area is almost nil. This could present interference problems with large air cooled heatsinks. The board uses an eight phase power design. This design runs cooler, and reduces ripple on incoming current and outgoing voltage. The heatsink system for this board is a zero failure design. Easy enough when there are no moving parts. The system uses heatpipes to transfer heat from the north and southbridge chips up to the PWM heatsink where the heat can be exhausted out the rear of the case.




Closer Look:

The list of accessories that comes with the "Black Pearl" is pretty sizable. Pretty much everything you need to get the board up and functional is included. The list of items includes six SATA connectors, one SATA power adapter, a Wi-Fi solo antenna, Floppy and IDE cables, Firewire and USB expansion slot cables, blacked out I/O panel, two blower style fans, driver disc and the motherboard and Wi-Fi documentation. 





The Black Pearl is designed to be used with both water cooling and air cooling. One of the problems with many socket 775 boards when water cooled is how to cool the power regulation circuits to the CPU. Sometimes a fan blowing over the heatsink covering these circuits helps. Sometimes it just creates extra turbulence in the airflow to or from the heatsink. Well, Asus has come up with a solution. It has included two blower style fans that mount directly on the heatsinks to reduce temperatures of the vital components underneath them.




The I/O panel that is included is blacked out instead of the usual chrome finish. A nice touch! The expansion slot cabling includes both USB and and Firewire connectivity.



To get connected to the WWW you will need to use the supplied antenna that screws onto the wireless LAN card. A neat little accessory that Asus included are the the Q-Connectors. They allow the user to make the front panel connections to the connector and then insert that onto the appropriate motherboard header. I found that the installation of the front panel wiring went much quicker using these connectors. The three that are supplied are for the front panel power and LEDs, Firewire and USB.



Now that all of the components have been seen, let's get the board installed.


Installation of the board into the chassis of your choice is a straightforward process. If the board is a replacement, you of course have a few extra steps, including shutting down the computer and unplugging all of the wiring attached to the existing board and chassis. Once this is done, the chassis can be opened up to remove the existing hardware so that the "Black Pearl " can be put into its new home. Since I am a fan of large heatsinks to cool my processor, I usually start with the installation of the processor and heatsink on the bench. This allows for the installation of the heatsink backing plate.


Start out with removing the protective covering over the CPU socket and opening the retaining plate.



Once open, insert the CPU. Make sure that the processor is indexed properly into the socket to prevent damage to either the CPU or motherboard. Close the retaining plate and lock it into place to complete the installation of the processor.



Now that the processor is in place, it is time to install the processor heatsink. Start out with the application of whatever thermal paste you use. I prefer Artic Silver 5. Install the heatsink following the directions for your particular model. For this build I am using the Tuniq Tower. As you can see, the real estate around the socket is pretty crowded. This provided for an interesting installation. If using a stock heatsink or one that uses Intel's mounting method, you should not run into too much trouble. At this time, I chose to install the system memory and found the sockets quite tight, so some additional force was needed with the modules. This is not an issue exclusive to Asus, but worth noting.



Now it's time to put the board in its new home. Start off by installing the motherboard standoffs specific to the chassis you use. Some boards require ten, some require nine. This board required nine. Install the I/O shield and insert the motherboard into the chassis, and fasten it to the standoffs with screws.



Install the add-in cards, such as the video and sound. Make all of the wiring connections to the board and peripherals and you are ready for some serious all night frag sessions. Almost!


Closer Look:

The BIOS, this is where we make the magic happen. The motherboard uses an American Megatrends BIOS. There are five main heading used with this BIOS. I will take a quick stroll through each tab and spend most of the focus on the Jumper Free configuration under the Advanced tab.


The Main tab shows basic data and allows for the configuration of drives that are installed.



The Advanced tab is where all of the processor and memory configuration is done. In fact, pretty much all of the system and device specific setup is done under this tab.




The power section allows for setting of the power management options. The ability to monitor the critical voltages on the motherboard, as well as fan configuration, are done in the hardware monitor section.




The boot menu allows for the selection of which order the installed drives are chosen as the boot drive. The setting of all of the boot options such as Logo screen enable and boot error configuration.




The Tools section allows for accessing the E-Z Flash BIOS updating utility. Also available are the options for saving an overclocking profile or setup. Ai Net allows for checking the condition of the LAN cables connected to the motherboard.



Closer Look:

Now that I have shown the more mundane options in the BIOS, it's time to look at where the enthusiast spends most of the time on a board like this. The Advanced tab contains all of the settings the enthusiast needs to get the most from the board.

The Jumperfree section is where the processor and memory specific settings are made. The default settings leave just about all of the options set to auto. The good thing is that the base settings are pretty good right out of the box. There are several options available to the user here. You can use auto to load optimal settings. Manual for manual settings, Standard to load the non-optimized options, or the N.O.S. (Non- Delay System overclocking) option to allow the system to make changes based on system load.




I have chosen to show the options available when set to manual mode. Why you ask? This will allow me to show the options the enthusiast wants to know about. This is, you know. Setting CPU ratio control to enabled allows the clock multiplier to be adjusted down or up based on the limitations of the processor installed.



The northbidge strap can be adjusted from 200 to 333 FSB. Making adjustments here can help or hinder your overclock. The FSB frequency is adjustable from 200 to 800 FSB. Incredible if it can be achieved.



If you are looking for the last bit of bandwidth and clock speed, you can look at adjusting the PCI-E frequency. Adjustment are from 100 to 150. The DRAM frequency is tied into both the processor FSB and northbridge strap settings.



DRAM command rate can be set to Auto, 1 tor 2T. Setting DRAM timing control to manual gives the user full control of the memory's primary and secondary timings.



Moving down further, the voltage options are available. Processor voltage can be adjusted from 1.100 to 1.70. Not as high as some other enthusiast boards out there, but still enough to get the job done for most people. The voltage reference can be adjusted within a narrow range to keep the enthusiast from going too far off base. Finally, someone has managed to have an option available to help eliminate the droop in CPU voltage that most boards are plagued with. Options are auto, enabled and disabled.



The rest of the voltage options have varying effects that can only be tested on each individual system. The voltages are there to get the most from your hardware. Memory voltage has a maximum of 2.5 vdimm. This is lower than some other company's offerings, but will keep you from throwing 3.0 volts to the memory.





Putting the hardware together is only part of the the installation and configuration puzzle. Once the operating system is installed, you will need to install the drivers specific to the motherboard. Motherboard manufacturers have made this a painless process by including a disc with the correct drivers for the onboard hardware. Many times, the disc will autorun and pop up an installation GUI. If not, the manual option for installation of the drivers is always an option. The GUI that pops up with the included disc is shown below. Each tab has a submenu to allow for the installation of the hardware specific to your build. You start the process by inserting the driver disc into the optical drive in the computer.



The Drivers tab contain just that. If all of the onboard solutions are used, you would choose each one in turn to install to complete the driver installation. The utilities tab contains the motherboard utilities for monitoring vital temperatures and voltatages with PC Probe II. The AI suite is a series of tools to allow you to view system settings and overclock through Windows.



The manual section contains the manuals for the storage controllers. Make disk is the section used to make an install disk so that the RAID option can be used when installing the operating system. The last tab shows all of the company's contact information. If a manual driver installation option is chosen, you can explore the disk and pick and choose the options needed that way.




Wi-Fi Solo AP Setup:

The setup for the onboard wirelass LAN takes a little more setup, so that driver installation will be shown here. After enabling it in the BIOS, reboot the computer and you will be greeted by the familiar new hardware found wizard. Close this out and start the installation of the drivers from the drivers tab on the motherboard disk. The install will start and finish.




The Wi-Fi Solo interface has several adjustment and monitoring tabs. The Status tab gives basic top-line information about the setup of the device. The configuration tab allows for switching between AP and Station mode, as well as which wireless standard is used.



The statistics page show an analysis of packet transactions. The advanced page allows for detailed configuration of the device.The ICS tab is to allow for the configuration of the connection you wish to share when in the AP mode.





LGA775 socket for Intel® Core™2 Quad / Core™2 Extreme / Core™2 Duo / Pentium® Extreme / Pentium® D / *Pentium® 4 Processors

Compatible with Intel® 05B/05A/06 processors

Support Intel® next generation 45nm Multi-Core CPU


Intel® P35 / ICH9R with Intel® Fast Memory Access Technology

Front Side Bus

1333 / 1066 / 800 MHz


4 x DIMM, max. 8GB, DDR2 1066*/800 / 667 MHz, non-ECC, un-buffered memory
Dual channel memory architecture
"* The chipset officially supports the memory frequency up to DDR2 800MHz. Tuned by ASUS Super Memspeed Technology, this motherboard natively supports up to DDR2 1066MHz
Please refer to or user manual for Memory QVL."

Expansion Slots

2 x PCI-E x16 (blue @ x16 mode, black @ x4 or x1 mode) supports CrossFire Technology
2 x PCI-E x1
3 x PCI


- 6 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
- Supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10
JMicron® JMB363 PATA and SATA controller
- 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 for up to 2 PATA devices
- 2 x External SATA 3.0 Gb/s port (SATA On-the-Go)
- Supports SATA RAID 0,1 and JBOD


Dual Gigabit LAN controllers, featuring AI NET2
Marvell88E8056® PCI-E Gigabit LAN controllers
RealtekRTL8110SC® PCI Gigabit LAN controller

Wireless LAN

54 Mbps IEEE 802.11g and backwards compatible with 11 Mbps IEEE 802.11b
- Software Access Point mode
- Station mode : Infrastruceure mode and Ad-Hoc mode


ADI® AD1988B 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Coaxial / Optical S/PDIF out ports at back I/O
- ASUS Noise Filter

IEEE 1394

EEE 1394a controller supports 2 x 1394a ports (one at midboard; one at back panel)


10 x USB 2.0 ports (4 ports at mid-board, 6ports at back panel)

ASUS AI Lifestyle Features

ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution:
- ASUS Fanless Design: Heat-pipe solution
- ASUS Fanless Design: Stack Cool 2
- ASUS AI Gear2
- ASUS 8-Phase Power Design
- ASUS Q-Fan 2
ASUS Crystal Sound:
- ASUS AI Audio 2
- ASUS Noise Filter
- ASUS Q-Connector
- ASUS O.C. Profile
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
- ASUS AI Slot Detector
ASUS [email protected]
- ASUS WiFi-AP Solo

Other Features

ASUS MyLogo 3
Multi-language BIOS

Overclocking Features

Intelligent overclocking tools:
- AI NOS™ (Non-delay Overclocking System)
- ASUS AI Booster utility
Precision Tweaker:
- vCore: Adjustable CPU voltage at 0.0125V increment
- vDIMM: 16-step DRAM voltage control
- vChipset: 4-step Chipset voltage control
SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection)
- FSB tuning from 200MHz up to 800MHz at 1MHz increment
- Memory tuning from 667MHz up to 1333MHz for DDR2
- PCI Express frequency tuning from 100MHz up to150MHz at 1MHz increment
Overclocking Protection:
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)

Back Panel I/O Ports

1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x S/PDIF Out (Coaxial + Optical)
2 x External SATA
1 x IEEE1394a
2 x RJ45 port
6 x USB 2.0/1.1
1 x WiFi-AP Solo antenna jack
8-channel Audio I/O

Internal I/O Connectors

2 x USB connectors support additional 4 USB ports
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector
1 x COM connector
6 x SATA connectors
1 x CPU Fan connector
4 x Chassis Fan connector
1 x Power Fan connector
1 x IEEE1394a connector
Front panel audio connector
1 x S/PDIF Out Header
Chassis Intrusion connector
CD audio in
24-pin ATX Power connector
2 x 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector
System Panel(Q-Connector)


16 Mb Flash ROM, AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.3, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3


WfM 2.0, DMI 2.0, WOL by PME, WOR by PME, PXE

O/S Compatibility

Windows Vista/XP


UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
FDD cable
4 x Serial ATA cables
1 x 2-port Serial ATA power cable
I/O Shield
User's manual
ASUS WiFi-AP Solo manual
3 in 1 Q-connector
1 x 2-port USB2.0 / 1-port IEEE1394 module
ASUS WiFi-AP Solo omni-directional antenna

Support CD

ASUS Update
ASUS WiFi-AP Solo Wizard
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
Image-Editing Suite

Form Factor

ATX Form Factor, 12"x 9.6" (30.5cm x 24.4cm)



I will be running the "Black Pearl Edition" P5K Premium through our benchmarking suite to see what kind of performance the motherboard delivers. The OverclockersClub series of benchmarks include both system tests and gaming benchmarks to verify the performance of this product. I will be comparing the performance of the Asus offering against several other manufacturer's performance offerings to see how well the "Black Pearl" does. During our stock speed benchmarking, all clock speeds and memory timings will be the same on each of the boards to eliminate any variables. All motherboard and video card settings were left at setup defaults, again to eliminate any variables.


Testing Setup:

Comparison System:


The system tests we will be using are listed below:

Lets get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.


Lower is Better


WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.





At stock speeds, the Asus offering performed as well as the ECS and Abit offerings in Apophysis. In the Winrar testing, the the "Black Pearl" cleaned house easily out-performing the other offerings.


Specview is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance.



Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Specview testing shows the parity in performance at stock speeds with each of the boards featuring the P35 chipset. This came as no surprise.


PcMark05 is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.






Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


Higher is Better


The "Black Pearl" outperforms, or is equal in, performance with the ECS and Abit offerings. Again, this shows the parity in performance at stock speeds.


Sisoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key areas of the motherboards.





Processor Arithmetic


Multi-Core Efficiency


Memory Bandwidth


Memory Latency


Cache and Memory


File System


Physical Disks


Power Management Efficiency


Huge gains in performance while overclocked shows the potential this board has.


Sciencemark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.





Higher is Better!


Cinebench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark. Cinebench 10 has recently been added to our benchmark suite . Therefore, the only comparison will be stock vs. overclocked with the Asus P5k Premium.


Higher is Better


HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.


Higher is Better



Lower is Better



Now that the system benchmarks are complete, we will move on to the video benchmarking portion of the review. I will be using an EVGA 8800GTS 640MB as the video card of choice for today's test. We will be using an assortment of games to test performance across manufacturer's boards to look for any performance advantages. BioShock will be replacing Microsoft FSX in our gaming benchmark suite.


The game tests that we use are as follows:


First up we have Far Cry. This game makes extensive use of pixel shaders and features Polybump normal mapping technology to increase character details.


We will be using the Hardware OC Benchmarking Utility version 1.8 with the following settings.




Performance at the 1024x768 resolution shows an increase of 2 FPS over the other offerings. Above that, the video card limitations are reached resulting in even performance from each platform.


F.E.A.R. is a newer game that includes its own benchmarking utility. We will be using this test to benchmark the game. This game introduces a new AI model that emulates real squad behavior. It has the ability to counteract the moves you make rather than having a predictable routine.


The settings we will use are below:





Benchmark: BioShock

BioShock is one of the newest games on the market. It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to them, to provide a unique experience each time it is played. BioShock is a new addition to our game benchmarking suite, so comparison data will be stock vs. overclocked on the P5K Premium.











Call of Duty 2 is a WWII first-person shooter game that is dated, but still maintains a tremendous online following. This test will consist of a timed run on the Stalingrad multi-player map, measured by Average FPS (frames per second).


The settings used are listed below:







Quake 4 is next up for testing. We will be using the Hardware OC Quake 4 Benchmark Utility version 1.5 to complete the testing with this game. You will need to update to the most current version for the latest time demo and bug fixes. Average FPS (frames per second) will be the measure used.


The settings we will use are listed below:





Need For Speed: Most Wanted. For this test, we will time each race and record the average FPS (Frames Per Second) achieved.


The settings we will use are listed below.







3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.







The "Black Pearl" surged ahead in 3DMark06. It clearly posted better scores in all three resolutions.


RyderMark is a new benchmark developed by Candella Software. The benchmark illustrates a speed boat race through the famed canals of Venice, Italy. There are many options that can be changed in the benchmark, the settings we have settled on to complete this benchmark are listed below. Please check back for a full review on this new benchmark.

















After running the benchmarks four times to verify results, the Asus fell far behind in this benchmark.



The processor used in this motherboard has proven stable on another platform at 3960 MHz. What I experienced with this board was that I could run all of the testing at a higher front side bus that any of the other motherboards I have run to date. The board allowed me to run game stable at a FSB of 500 on the processor and 600 FSB on the memory. Pretty lofty achievements when you consider that this board was tested as an air cooled setup. That equates to a processor speed of 4000 MHz for those that don't want to do the math. The highest FSB that I could boot with was 524MHz x 7. This was 10 MHz faster than any other P35 chipset board I have used. While testing this board, something that really surprised me was the fact that at this speed I needed a huge decrease in CPU core voltage. The processor only needed to be run at 1.5 volts to achieve this level of performance. The previous best speed required 1.575 volts to the core to get into the operating system. One factor that helped that along would be the voltage dampener. This allowed the vdroop experienced on many manufacturers motherboards, including those from Asus, to be dialed out of the equation. Setting many of the options in the BIOS to auto will give you a great performance baseline. I can say that by setting the parameters manually allowed for better clock speeds and increased performance. Here are a couple shots to whet your whistle. Prime stable at 3800MHz and Game stable at 4000 MHz (500x600).



What did I learn from the Asus P5K Premium? I found it to be a well laid out package that performs at a high level. In the benchmarking section of the review, the Asus offering consistently finished on top of the other manufacturer's options. Was this expected? Not really! Many of the P35 chipset boards I have tested performed within a margin of error at stock speeds and settings. Even though I could not get the installed hardware to perform at its maximum potential for Prime 95 testing, I was able to run at a higher speed on the processor for the benchmarking portion of this review. 500 FSB on the CPU and 600 FSB on the memory is nothing to sneeze at, especially when the setup is air cooled. To accomplish that feat required much less voltage to the CPU core than on any of the previous motherboards I have tested. Is this because Asus has gotten rid of the voltage issue that plagues almost all of the Intel offerings on the market? With the voltage dampener option in the BIOS, the droop is significantly reduced. In this review I noticed only a .02 volt difference between the BIOS setting and the reading shown by Asus Probe. Normally I have seen .05 or worse from some of the other high end boards out today.

A couple of the cool things that come with the accessories are the blower fans for the PWM heatsinks. They really are not able to be used with large aftermarket heatsinks, but if water cooling or smaller heatsinks are in your future, I can see the value in installing these. Using a Tuniq Tower for cooling the CPU made the use of these fans impossible for this review. The Q-Connectors make life a lot easier when wiring up the front panel connections, as well as the USB connections. No more using a pair of needle nose pliers and a magnifying glass to make sure the wires get in to their intended pins on the board. Now make the connection where you can see it and push the Q-Connector onto the header and it's done. While not the cheapest motherboard on the market, it is reasonably priced when you consider the performance that can be had when pushing your hardware. If you are in the market for a new board, keep this one on your short list. You won't go wrong!