Asus P5Q Pro Review
Reviewed by: RA1D
Reviewed on: November 23, 2008
Intel's P45 Express chipset has taken the market by storm this year. It makes high end performance features available to mainstream consumers by providing support for the latest 45nm processors, up to 16GB of DDR2, Intel's Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP) and dual PCI Express 2.0 slots. Along with all these features, the chipset delivers Intel's Fast Memory Access, which optimizes available bandwidth while reducing latency. Also, Matrix Storage Technology affords faster access to data while providing greater protection against hard drive failure when using RAID and adds eSATA capability.
As one of the best bang for your buck platforms currently available, motherboard manufacturers have flooded the market with dozens of P45 models to choose from. Consumers are left with only one dilemma; which one should I get? Asus provides several P45 mobos ranging from mainstream to enthusiast models. Today, I'll be reviewing the wonderfully affordable and increasingly popular P5Q Pro motherboard. If you are shopping around for competitively priced board with performance that exceeds its asking price, you'll definitely want to keep reading this review to find out what this baby has to offer.
The P5Q Pro comes in attractive packaging that highlights all of its features. The face of the box flaunts the board's notable features such as Drive Xpert, Express Gate, the use of solid capacitors and 8-phase power design. On the backside, you will find more details about the product just in case you wanted a quick reference of what the P5Q Pro had to offer.
Asus provides a small bundle to get you going. Compared to other boards at this price point, Asus provides more extras than you would expect. Along with common internal cables that accompanies almost every motherboard, there is an eSATA/1394 module, three piece Q-Connector kit, and an SATA power cable for two devices. I like the fact that Asus also includes the Q-Shield instead of the customary I/O plate. I'll cover the support CD's contents later in the review.
As you can see below, the P5Q Pro has a presentable layout. Asus uses a black PCB with all of its high end products and has decided to implement it here, which is an excellent move. Most of the power and data connection ports are found along the edge of the motherbard which makes it convenient for installation and cable management. You will need an 8-pin CPU power cable and a 24-pin ATX power connector from your power supply.
Although I like the black PCB, I wish Asus would limit the number of colors used on the rest of the board. It would give the product a cleaner, less hectic look and better accent the black base. And with only four fan headers, the P5Q Pro could use a couple more considering the current emphasis on cooling and the number of fans used in current enclosures.
Like most boards, the P5Q Pro comes with four memory sockets. Each slot supports 4GB sticks for a maxium of 16GB installed. NIce! The motherboard also provides DDR2-1200 capability just in case you wanted to push your system to the limit.
Although there are chipset heatsinks installed, the immediate area surrounding the CPU socket provides room for aftermarket heatsinks if desired. The capacitors found near the socket are low lying and should not present any compatibility issues.
The P5Q Pro 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.
On the rear panel, you will find the standard connectors needed to hook up this board with the rest of your system. You get six USB 2.0 ports along with 8-channel Audio jacks. One complaint is the lack of an eSATA port here. While there is an eSATA bracket included in the bundle, there should be one on the rear panel.
The AMI BIOS found on the motherboard is straightforward and simple to navigate. For overclocking options, head over to the AI Tweaker menu. 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.
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
- Atheros L1e Gigabit Ethernet
- Marvell 61xx SATA
- 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 Xper 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 component 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
Marvell 88SE6111 PATA controller
Silicon Image Sil5723 (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)
For this review, I tested the motherboard with a QX9770 processor, Mushkin Redline memory, and a Sapphire 4850. The CPU multiplier was set to 8 in order to match the Q9450's locked setting. The testing suite consists of a series of scientific and gaming benchmarks that stress the board and other components. The results are posted along with the scores from other motherboards using the same components. The benchmarks were run at both stock and overclocked settings.
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (333 x 8)
- Motherboard: Asus P5Q Pro P45
- Memory: Mushkin XP2 Redline 8000 2 x 2GB 5-5-5-12 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
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (450 x 8)
- Memory: Mushkin XP2 Redline 8000 2 x 2GB @ 5-5-5-12 2T DDR2-1080
In order to overclock the system, I raised front side bus speed while keeping the CPU Ratio at 8. Memory was set to DDR2-1080 and timings were manually set to 5-5-5-12. CPU voltage was set to 1.6V, CPU PLL = 1.6V, FSB Termination Voltage = 1.3V, DRAM Voltage = 2.0V, and NB Voltage = 1.4V. All other settings were left in AUTO. Through trial and error, the board was able to reach a stable 450 FSB with the quad core processor which resulted in a 3.6GHz overclock. If you plan on using a dual core, the P5Q Pro should be able to hit even higher front side bus speeds.
- 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.
All three boards provide similar results during ZIP and RAR compression testing. At stock settings, the P5Q Pro beat the ECS P45 board but is outmatched by Gigabyte's X48.
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 P5Q Pro really flexed its muscles in SPECviewperf and destroyed the comparison boards, but the X48 provides the highest PCMark score of the group.
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 show very close scores in most of the benchmarks with the P5Q Pro pulling ahead in memory bandwidth testing.
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 X48 leads the group by a small margin. Again, the scores are almost identical but the X48 provides the best results. The P5Q Pro's low burst rate really stands out during the HD Tune benchmark. The other tests provided similar results.
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
The P5Q Pro provided the highest frames per second in the lower resolution benchmarks but the margin was closed during the higher resolution runs.
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
Results were almost identical during Knights of the Sea testing.
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
The X48 sustained the best performance during Bioshock testing while the P5Q Pro and P45T-A provided similar scores.
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 P5Q Pro turned in its best performance 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
Another strong showing by the P5Q Pro 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 P5Q Pro did well during Company of Heroes testing as it provided the best scores in three out of four resolutions.
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
3DMark06 scores were very similar and no board was able to pull away from the others during testing.
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)
3DMark Vantage is relatively new to OCC's benchmark suite and the P5Q Pro did surprisingly well against the X48 board. It scored higher in all four resolutions.
The P5Q Pro aims to bring the P45 chipset to the masses and does a wonderful job. As the last chipset made for Socket 775, this board provides a lot of features usually seen in more expensive models. Native 1600 front side bus, 16GB of DDR2-1200 support, and CrossFire compatibility make this one of the best bang for your buck motherboards currently available. It will be difficult to find another board in the same price range that offers as many overclocking options as the P5Q Pro.
There are no major problems with this product but I found a couple of issues that should be addressed. The internal SATA port placement should be redesigned to avoid possible issues with large videocards installed in the second PCI-E x16 slot. This is actually a common design flaw found in many boards and can be prevented by using right angled SATA ports. Asus does well to implement right angled ports in most of their boards but not this one. To nitpick a bit further, every current motherboard should have an eSATA port located on the rear panel for immediate use.
During this review, the board made a strong case for itself. Asus designed this board for the budget concious consumer looking for the best performance available from a mainstream product. The P5Q Pro beat the ECS P45 board in almost every benchmark and stayed competitive with Gigabyte's X48 board. Couple the P5Q Pro's performance and features with its attractive price and you've got a real winner. If you are in the market for a quality board at a terrific price, the Asus P5Q Pro should be high on your list.
- Support for 16GB of DDR2-1200 and 1600 front side bus
- Excellent BIOS and overclocking options
- Fantastic value
- Lots of utilities included on support CD
- Internal SATA port placement
- Missing onboard eSATA