Asus P5Q3 Review
Reviewed by: RA1D
Reviewed on: November 27, 2008
When speaking of motherboards, Asus is always a name that comes up. They roll out a product line that spans the entire spectrum of price points, from budget to high performance. Whether i'ts Intel or AMD, 790i or X48, DDR2 or DDR3, Asus makes it. Additionally, the reputation they've earned for making high quality motherboards ring loud throughout the enthusiast scene. Few can argue the attention to detail that remains consistent in all their merchandise.
The P45 Express is the last in a long line of successful Intel based chipsets made specifically for Socket 775 motherboards. It provides high end features and makes them available to the mainstream market by giving consumers an affordable platform that supports the latest technology. Asus makes 12 different P45 models and today I'll review the increasingly popular Asus P5Q3 which gives you 45nm CPU support, a 1600 front side bus, up to 16GB of DDR3-1800 compatibility, and CrossFireX support. If you are in the market for an affordable motherboard with lots of features, you will definitely want to check out this review.
Asus packs the P5Q3 in a handsome blue box that proudly displays all of its selling points. The top cover shows displays notable features such as the EPU Six Engine utility, DDR3-1800 support, solid capacitor use, and Express Gate. Flip the package over and you'll find a display of additional features that the P5Q3 provides.
The bundle provided by Asus is small but meets expectations for the price point of this product. Besides the user's guide, you'll receive some data cables and a SATA power cable. Asus also threw in the Q-Connector kit for an easier way to hook up front panel connections.
If you are a regualr OverclockersClub review reader, you'll recognize the layout of the P5Q3 as it is almost identical to the P5Q Pro motherboard I reviewed earlier this month. In fact, the only aesthetic difference between the two boards is the color of the DIMM sockets while the rest of the components are indistinguishable. And just as I said in the P5Q Pro review, the board has a great layout. Asus continues to use black PCB which looks absolutely fantastic. The majority of the data and power connection ports are placed along the edge of the board which provides easier installation and removal of cables and aids in cable management. I would like to see a couple more fan headers on the P5Q3, preferably near the SATA ports and another one by the memory sockets. As it stands now, if you were to use a memory cooler, the nearest fan header is located by the rear panel connectors.
The P5Q3 gives you four memory sockets that support 512MB, 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB of unbuffered non-ECC DDR3 modules each. You'll be able to use a total of 16GB of DDR3-1800 memory which would come in handy in RAM intensive tasks. Just don't forget to utilize a 64-bit operating system if installing more than 4GB of memory. Asus recommends installing RAM in the orange slots for increased overclocking ability.
The CPU socket area provides enough open area to make use of aftermarket heatsinks. The capacitors found near the socket are low lying and should not present any compatibility issues.
The P5Q3 supports ATI's CrossFireX technology and gives you two PCI Express 2.0 slots. Each slot provides 16 lanes individually but reduces down to 8 lanes in CrossFire mode. You also get three PCI-E x1 slots and two PCI slots to increase your expansion options.
Asus used vertically positioned SATA ports on this board which may cause a headache down the road. If a long, dual slot graphics card is installed in the black PCI-E slot, you will lose the use of four SATA ports. Additionally, if the expansion card used in either PCI slot is very long, then the loss of more SATA port availability may arise. I wish all motherboards used the right angled SATA ports placed along the edge, like the ones found on the high end motherboards that Asus manufactures.
The rear panel sports every port you could possibly need. You get both a coaxial and optical S/PDIF connector, an eSATA, and six USB ports among others. Its nice to see the eSATA show up on the P5Q3 as it was missing on the P5Q Pro model.
The P5Q3 comes with an AMI BIOS that is straightforward and simple to navigate. For overclocking settings, head over to the AI Tweaker menu which is the second tab. There you will find a wealth of choices to modify. For a mainstream product, the overclocking selection is robust and comparable to more expensive motherboards. The Tools menu gives the option of saving overclock profiles and access to EZ Flash 2, a BIOS update utility.
The Main tab in the American Megatrends BIOS shows some basic information about the system, date and time, and attached storage devices. Under the System Information sub-section the processor type, speed, and amount of system memory can be viewed.
The AI Tweaker menu items allow you to configure overclocking related items. Default values vary depending on the CPU and memory modules you install on the motherboard. You will need to scroll down to display the entire menu. My one complaint is the absence of a Command Rate memory setting. This omission left me to use 2T with no way to change it.
Under the Advanced Tab, we find the settings for Intel's EIST and Virtualization Technology, which can be enabled or disabled. The on-board peripherals, such as the LAN ports, audio codecs, and Drive Expert technology can be turned on and off under this sub-section. This is where the support for the TPM (Trusted Platform Module) is enabled or disabled.
This section allows a type of power profile to be set up. In the Hardware Monitoring sub-section, temperatures of the CPU and motherboard can be checked. The voltages available for monitoring include the three rails on the power supply, as well as the CPU Vcore. Fan profiles can be set up with the QFan control; monitoring of the fans can be turned off as well.
Setting the boot priority of the drives installed in the system is done here, and additionally, the configuration of the boot settings. Things such as quick boot, disabling error messages, and disabling the full screen boot logo can be accomplished here.
The Tools tab has a couple of very functional items in it. EZ Flash is a utility that can be used to flash the BIOS. It can be used with a USB flash drive, or you can pull the BIOS file from the hard drive of the computer; not once has this utility failed me. Sorting overclocked profiles makes switching back and forth between maximum performance and everyday performance profiles a breeze - no more guessing if the settings are correct. The Drive Xpert settings controls are stored here for each set of ports. The Express Gate menu can be turned on or off in this section as well.
After installing the motherboard and loading the operating system, dig through the bundle and locate the motherboard disc. The disc contains the necessary drivers to get your system running at an optimum level. Insert the CD into your disc drive and the installation interface appears with several tabs. The first menu lists the drivers needed for the motherboard. The second tab lists the utility programs to help increase your productivity. I've listed the contents below.
- Intel Chipset
- Realtek Audio
- Realtek LAN Driver
- JMicron Controller Driver
- Asus EPU-Six Engine
- Asus Update
- Asus PC Probe II
- Asus AI Suite
- Asus AI Direct Link
- Asus Express Gate
- Adobe Acrobat Reader 8
- Ulead Burn Now
- Corel MediaOne Starter
- CyberLink PowerBackup
- Ulead PhotoImpact 12 SE
- WinZip 11
- Drive Xpert
- Anti-Virus Utility
An energy efficient tool that satisfies different computing needs, Asus has created this power saving 'engine' that detects current PC loads and provides real time moderating. With auto phase switching for components such as the CPU, VGA, RAM, chipset, drives and system fan, EPU automatically provides the most appropriate power usage via intelligent acceleration and overclocking. The utility provides four modes that you can select to enhance system performance or save power. Selecting Auto mode will have the system shift modes automatically according to current system status. You can also customize each mode by configuring settings like CPU frequency, vCore voltage, and Fan Control.
Asus provides this all-in-one utility which allows you to launch AI Booster, AI Nap, and Fan Xpert utilities easily. AI Booster is an application that lets you overclock the CPU speed from your desktop without having to enter the BIOS. AI Nap allows you to minimize the power consumption of your computer whenever you are away. It assigns minimum power consumption and provides a quieter computing environment. Fan Xpert intelligently allows you to adjust both the CPU and chassis fan speeds according to different ambient temperatures caused by different climate conditions. The built in profiles offer flexible controls of fan speeds.
This utility lets you save, manage, and update the BIOS in a Windows environment. It provides options such as saving the current BIOS file, downloading the latest BIOS, updating the BIOS, and viewing the current version. I found this utility to be easier and faster than entering the BIOS and using EZ Flash 2.
PC Probe II:
You can monitor the computer's vital components using PC Probe II. It detects and alerts you of any problems as it senses fan rotations, CPU temperature, and system voltages. Because PC Probe II is software based, you can start monitoring the computer easily and rest assured that it is always at a healthy operating condition.
Socket LGA 775
Intel ICH10R Southbridge
JMicron JMB363 SATA/PATA controllers
JMircron JMB322 (Drive Xpert Technology)
Realtek ALC1200 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Back Panel I/O Ports
Power Saving Solution
- EPU-6 Engine
- 8-phase Power Design
- AI Nap
- Express Gate
- AI Direct Link
Quiet Thermal Solution
- Fanless Design: Heat-pipe solution
- Fan Xpert
- Drive Xpert
- O.C. Profile
- CrashFree BIOS 3
- EZ Flash 2
- vCore: Adjustable CPU voltage at 6.25mV increment
- vDIMM: 64-step DRAM voltage control
- vChipset (NB): 48-step chipset voltage control
- vFSB Termination: 15-step reference voltage control
- vCPU PLL: 64-step CPU PLL voltage control
- FSB tuning from 200MHz up to 800MHz at 1MHz increment
- PCI Express frequency tuning from 100MHz up to 180MHz at 1MHz increment
- Asus CPR (CPU Parameter Recall)
To test this motherboard, I threw on a QX9770 processor, Corsair Dominator DDR3 memory, and a Sapphire 4850 videocard. The CPU multiplier was set to 8 to match the Q9450's locked setting and the memory was run at 1333MHz. In order to stress the sytem's components, the testing suite consists of a series of scientific and gaming benchmarks ran at different resolutions. Results are posted along with the scores from other motherboards using the similarly clocked components. All benchmarks were run at both stock and overclocked settings.
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (333 x 8)
- Motherboard: Asus P5Q3
- Memory: Corsair Dominator DDR3-1800 2 x 1GB @ 1333MHz 6-6-5-16 2T
- Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 w/ Catalyst 8.11
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800w Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: Seagate 7200.11 1TB SATA 32MB Cache
- Optical Drive: Asus BC-1205PT BD Combo Drive
- OS: Windows Vista 32-bit SP1
The comparison boards used in this review are the P5Q Pro and Gigabyte's X48-DQ6 motherboards. I was interested in seeing how the P5Q3 fared against its DDR2 cousin, the P5Q Pro, as they are almost identical. Also, it would be nice to find out how well it performed against a higher end board like the DQ6.
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (450 x 8)
- Memory: Corsair Dominator DDR3-1800 2 x 1GB @ 1350MHz 6-6-5-16 2T
Overclocking the P5Q3 could not be any easier. I raised the memory voltage to 1.7V and left all other voltages on AUTO. Raising the front side bus speed in 10MHz steps landed me at a stable 450, which is the same speed I was able to reach with the P5Q Pro. Memory was set to 1350MHz @ 6-6-5-16 2T. As mentioned earlier, there is no Command Rate setting so it defaulted to 2T. I attempted to reach a higher overclock by manually entering voltages but found that leaving them in AUTO yielded similar results. Dual core overclocking should be just as painless.
- Scientific & Data:
- SPECviewperf 10
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- SiSoft Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02 Final
- CineBench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Call of Juarez
- Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
Apophysis is an open source, fractal flame editor and renderer for Windows. Fractal flames are a member of the iterated function system class of fractals created by Scot Draves. A fractal is a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into partts, each of which is a smaller copy of the whole. Natural objects that approximate fractals to a degree include lightning bolts and snow flakes. Draves' open source code was later ported into Adobe After Effects graphics software and eventually translated into Apophysis. The results display how many minutes it took to render a fractal flame; therefore, lower numbers reveal better results.
- Resolution: 2750x2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory Use: 512MB
WinRAR is a shareware file archiver and data compression utility. It is one of the few applications that is able to create RAR archives natively, as the encoding method is held to be proprietary. This program provides complete support for RAR and ZIP archives with the ability to create self-extracting and multi-volume archives. Here, I compressed three files of different sizes and recorded the time it took to compled the task. The results provided were measured in seconds so lower numbers demonstrate preferable outcomes.
Apophysis results met my initial expectations as the P5Q3 and P5Q Pro completed the flame editor at the same rate while the X48 performed a bit better. RAR tests did not reveal a clear winner as scores were all over the place.
SPECviewperf 10 benchmark is a standardized software that establishes graphics performance results for systems running under OpenGL and other application programming interfaces (API). The program evaluates performance based on CAD/CAM, digital content creation, and visualization applications Orginally developed by the Graphics Performance Characterization (SPECgpc) organization, SPECviewperf measures 3D rendering efficiency of systems using OpenGL while providing vendors and consumers the ability to perform their own measurements. Multi-threaded tests were run and the results are displayed below. Here, higher numbers represent superior results.
PCMark Vantage 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.
The P5Q3 performed very well during the multi-threaded benchmark, SPECviewperf. Actually, both P45 boards showed superior performance over the X48 in this test. And the P5Q3 beat out both comparison boards in PCMark Vantage.
SiSoft Sandra (System Analyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information and diagnostic utility. It provides a suite of benchmarks and displays the results easy to read reports. Sandra also allows you to compare results against a huge database of hardware.
Power Management Efficiency
Cache and Memory
The resuls were close throughout the SANDRA benchmarks but the P5Q3 showed an advantage in memory bandwidth tests.
ScienceMark is a comprehensive benchmark program that stresses your system by performing resource intensive scientific calculations. The program runs six optional tests and provides comparable results between different platforms. Intensive processing and memory requirements of the benchmark make it suitable for use as a stability test. It supports MMX, SSE, SSE2, 3DNow!, Hyper-Threading technologies and multi-processor systems. Sciencemark provides an overall score and higher results provide better performance.
CineBench is a real world benchmarking suite that assesses your computer's performance capabilities. It is based on Maxon's animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. CineBench runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances.
HD Tune is a hard disk utility that benchmarks transfer rate, access time, CPU usage and burst rate. It also reveals such things as partition information, supported features, firmware version, serial number, disk capacity, buffer size and temperature.
Sciencemark scores were comparable as the P5Q3 leads the group by a small margin. Cinebench results were almost identical and the P5Q3 fell behind during HD Tune testing.
Crysis is a science fiction first person shooter developed by Crytek and published by Electronic Arts. It is based in a fiction future where an ancient alien spacecraft has been discovered beneath the earth on an island near the coast of Korea. You assume the role of US Delta Force operator, Jake Dunn, referred to by his call sign, Nomad. Armed with various futuristic weapons and a Nano Muscle Suit, you fight both North Koreans and extraterrestrial enemies within the game. Results are measured in frames per second.
- Anti-Aliasing: x2
- Advanced Settings: High
Although there was very little difference between the scores, the P5Q3 performed marginally better than the comparison boards.
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval simulation that places gamers in charge of a fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II. Torpedo boats, trawlers, storm boats and patrol ships sail through the seas in this DX10 real time strategy and simulation game. Knights of the Sea allows you to take command of a boat and control each member of the crew. Results are measured in frames per second.
- DirectX Version: 10
- All resolutions: 60Hz
- Image Quality: High
- Anti-Aliasing: x0
The P5Q3 fell behind the comparison boards at every resolution, but not by very much.
BioShock is set in alternate history and places you in the role of plane crash survivor named Jack. You must explore the underwater dystopian city of Rapture and survive attacks by the mutilated beings and mechanical drones that populate it. The game is a first person shooter that incorporates elements found in role playing and survival horror games.
- All settings to maximum
Bioshock benchmark results were very close in all resolutions except for 1920 x 1200 where the X48 dominated the P45 boards.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. Since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.6.
- Anti-Aliasing: x4
- Anisotropic Filtering: Max
- Texture Quality: Extra
- All settings max
The P5Q3 and P5Q Pro did very well during COD4 testing.
World in Conflict is a DX10, Real Time Strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe.
- Graphic Detail: Very High
Here is another strong showing by the P5Q3 during World in Conflict benchmarks.
Call of Juarez is a DX10, First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800s. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played as both single player and multiplayer. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.
- Details: High
- Shadowmap Size: 2048x2048
- Shadow Quality: Normal
- Anti-Aliasing: MSAA 4X
Results were almost identical during Call of Juarez testing. Overclocked settings provided no significant gains.
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is a stand alone expansion of the real time strategy game, Company of Heroes, originally released in 2006. The game is set during World War II where you command two US military units during the Battle of Normandy and the Allied capture of France. Company of Heroes is the first title to make use of the Essence Engine which was coded by Relic Entertainment to make use of special graphical effect. It is currently one of the highest rated real time strategy games on the market.
- All settings to maximum
The P5Q3 and P5Q Pro traded blows in the Company of Heroes benchmark. Both P45 boards performed a hair better than the Gigabyte X48 board.
3DMark06 is the sixth generation 3DMark and determines the DirectX 9 performance of graphics cards. The measurement unit of 3DMark06 is intended to give a normalized mean for comparing different graphics processing units. This program features HDR rendering, video post processing, dynamic soft shadows, water shaders, hterogeneous fog, light scattering and cloud blending. The default setting for 3DMark06 is 1280 x 1024 but I conducted several runs using different resolutions to provide more results for comparison. Higher scores provide better results.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
At stock speed, all three boards scored similarly in 3DMark06.
Testing: 3DMark Vantage DX10 Benchmark
3DMark Vantage is a PC benchmark suite designed to test the DirectX 10 performance of your graphics card. A 3DMark score is an overall measure of your system's 3D gaming capabilities, based on comprehensive real-time 3D graphics and processor tests. By comparing your score with those submitted by millions of other gamers you can see how your gaming rig performs, making it easier to choose the most effective upgrades or finding other ways to optimize your system. 3DMark is widely used by the PC industry, press and media as well as individual users and gamers, for comparing performance levels between whole systems or even specific components. Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming benchmark, designed for Windows Vista and DirectX 10. By default, Vantage is in the Performance setting which runs at 1280 x 1024 resolution. Entry (1024 x 768), High (1680 x 1050), and Extreme (1920 x 1200) setting benchmarks were also conducted. Higher scores illustrate superior results.
- Default settings used
- Entry (1024 x 768)
- Performance (1280 x 1024)
- High (1680 x 1050)
- Extreme (1920 x 1200)
The P5Q3 did well in all of the Vantage runs as it finished ahead of the comparison boards at each resolution.
Once again, Asus proves that a mainstream motherboard can hang with high end competition. Throughout testing, the P45 Express chipset based P5Q3 performed on par with the Gigabyte X48 and, in some cases, beat it. Intel deserves the credit for designing an excellent chipset but Asus should receive recognition for implementing it into such a fantastic product. An excellent layout coupled with sexy black PCB makes the P5Q3 easy on the eyes. Additionally, I was able to push a quad core to 3.6GHz without breaking a sweat. If tweaking interests you, the BIOS has plenty of options and should keep you busy for quite a while.
I do have a few small complaints. Although there are a ton of memory settings available in the BIOS, it was odd that there wasn't a Command Rate option. The ability to change Command Rate from 2T to 1T improves memory performance and should be available in a mainstream motherboard like this one. A couple more conveniently placed fan headers are needed. Also, vertically oriented SATA ports are becoming more trouble than they're worth. The current trend of larger and longer videocards require the use of right angled SATA ports.
The minor issues did not take away from the overall impression left by this board. With solid performance, overclocking ease, power saving features, and a price tag that many will find very attractive, the Asus P5Q3 is one of the best bang-for-your-buck motherboards on the market.
- Solid performance
- Tweakable BIOS
- Easy Overclocking
- No Command Rate setting
- Vertical SATA ports
- Hard to find fan headers