P67 Motherboard Roundupccokeman - March 8, 2011
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The P8P67 WS Revolution is, as the name implies, the workstation board in the P8P67 lineup. So what does that mean for the consumer? It means you get a fully featured board that gets you an incredible feature set that taps into all of the functionality designed into the platform. You get gaming attributes with Tri-SLI and Quad CrossfireX capability with the PCIe slot spacing optimized for multiple GPU configurations. Workstation functionality with SATA 6Gb/s, dual server class Intel Gigabit LAN for added network redundancy, USB 3.0, EPU energy management, GP Diagnostics card and Quick Gate to keep your USB flash drive hidden to reduce theft. For the average consumer you get these things previously mentioned along with 92% power efficiency, EFI BIOS, 2 ounce copper layers for both the power and ground layers, Digi+VRM and ASUS TPU to help you reach those extreme overclocks with Intel's latest Sandybridge K spec processors. Add in the reliability of the workstation type design and you have a board that can do it all.
The packaging for this board is not as flashy as say the ROG series but what it does do is get the important messaging across. That message is the laundry list of features and supported technologies shown on the front, back and flip-up cover of the box. On the top right corner you have 92% power efficiency, ATI (AMD) CrossfireX and NVIDIA SLI technology, Windows 7 support and the fact that you have a board that functions well as a gaming, productivity or server motherboard since it has the best attributes to excel in all three categories. The back panel shows the board with all of the highlights pointed out with a brief summary of the capabilities. The Intel Ethernet Technology, Multi GPU support and 92% power efficiency attributes are discussed a bit more thoroughly. Flipping open the front cover gives you a breakdown of even more of the feature set including the use of an EFI BIOS.
Inside the packaging you can see that the bundle of accessories is fairly stout for this board and is indicative of its intended use. Under the package tray is the motherboard ready for use and abuse in your system.
The bundle of accessories includes pretty much any and everything you need to put this board into service - save the processor, memory and video card. You get the manual and driver disk to start, SATA 6Gb/s and 3Gb/s cables with locking ends, a serial port adapter, an e-SATA/USB 2.0 expansion bracket, Q connectors, Q Shield, GP Diagnostics card that includes a Diagnostic LED, power and reset switches, SLI and Tri-SLI bridge connections and last but not least, a 4 pin molex to SATA power adapter.
One of the coolest things for me has been the introduction several years back of the Q Connector. This simple connecting block allows you to make the front panel connections outside of the case (where you can see how to install them) and then put one plug into the board. With big hands, this feature is a life saver for installing the front panel and USB wiring to the board. The Q Shield functions in two ways. First there are no sharp pieces of metal to knock out or push back and second, the backing creates a barrier against EMI interference to the connections at the I/O panel. The GP Diagnostics card is helpful for finding out what problems you are having during the boot sequence. There are power and reset switches on this card so that if the motherboard is pulled from the case you won't have to use the two pin shuffle to start the board. SLI connections are usually provided by the motherboard manufacturer when that multi-GPU strategy was adopted and the P8P67 WS is no different. It includes a Tri-SLI bridge as well as a single bridge for a two card solution. Crossfire bridge connections will come with your AMD based GPU's.
Now let's take a look at the object of this part of the review - the P8P67 WS Revolution motherboard from ASUS. This board is a full ATX sized motherboard that comes with 2 ounce copper layers and a host of ASUS exclusive innovations. With the P8P67 series, ASUS has reconfigured the material of the PCB to improve signal strength through the traces. Traditionally, the fiber of the PCB ran horizontally and vertically so you had square gaps in the fibers. Twisting the PCB to have all of the fibers running at diagonal angles to the edges of the PCB gives a smaller cross section for the traces to be presented without any interference or leakage. The black PCB and blue accents are consistent with the P8P67 lineup but the silver coloring of the large Digi+ VRM heat sinks give this board a more industrial look. The heat sinks are held on with screws in lieu of spring loaded push pins for a more secure mount without floating heat sinks. The CPU hold down bracket is made by Lotes not Foxconn on this board.
Starting with the I/O Panel, the P8P67 WS has a tremendous amount of connectivity. You have the dual function PS/2 port for use with a mouse or keyboard, a total of eight USB 2.0 ports (that coupled with the four available on the motherboard headers and two used for the Quick gate feature) gives a total of 14. You have coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs, One Intel 82574L Gigabit LAN and one Intel 82579 Gigabit LAN that supports teaming, One IEE1394a port, two NEC controlled USB 3.0 ports and last but not least, the Realtek ALC889 controlled HD eight channel sound module. Expansion capabilities for the P8P67 WS are more along the lines of a high-end gaming board than a workstation board. You have a total of four 16x PCIe 2.0 slots that are capable of running up to a Tri-SLI configuration from NVIDIA or a Quad CrossfireX setup using AMD hardware. For workstation use, the four slots can hold up to four Tesla cards for use in a workstation environment. Electrically, the slots can run a single card at 16x with slots 1 or 3 and 8x with 2, 3 or 4 slots populated. In this view you can see how close the heat sink over the NF200 chip is to the top 16x slot, not close enough to interfere with a normal video card but if your card has a backplate or additional cooling, there could be some interference. In addition to the 16x ports there are a total of three PCIe 1x ports for use with peripherals such as sound cards.
Along the bottom edge of the PCB you have some of the features that seem to be standard on pretty much all motherboards as well as some ASUS exclusives. The first item starting from the left is the S/PDIF output header, then the IEE1394a motherboard header, one of the two USB 2.0 headers and the EPU switch that can be turned on to monitor the power loading and dynamically adjust the power consumption for the load. Next in line is a comm port that is used with the included serial port bracket. The TPM header can be used with the included GP Diagnostics card that includes LEDs that display the post codes, power and reset buttons. A chassis fan header is next followed by the Quick Gate USB ports and the front panel switch and LED header. There is a Standby Power LED between the Quick Gate ports to indicate the system power state.
Around to the left side of the PCB you have the eight SATA ports. The left dark blue ports are SATA 6Gb/s Marvell controlled ports that support RAID 0 and 1. The remaining ports are pulled from the Intel P67 chipset and include four light blue SATA 3Gb/s ports and two gray SATA 6Gb/s ports that support RAID 0,1, 5 and 10. Right above the SATA 6Gb/s ports is the replaceable BIOS chip. Next in line is the ATX 24 pin power connection with a 4 poin molex connection for additional power behind it. The MemOK button allows the system to boot with a progressively looser set of latencies and higher voltages to attempt to get the system to boot and it works quite well. Beside the MemOk button is a diagnostic LED for the memory. The TPU switch allows the end user to enable or disable TPU functionality. There are a total of four DIMM slots that allow support of up to 32GB of DDR3 memory at speeds up to 2133MHz in a dual channel configuration. The memory slots differ slightly from what is used on competing motherboards as ASUS uses their proprietary Q-DIMM feature that locks one end with a traditional locking clip and the other side slips in and locks allowing you to remove the modules while the video card is still installed.
Around the top of the board there is not much to view but there is the CPU fan header a VRM test point and the eight pin auxiliary power connection. One of the design features of ASUS motherboards is the surge protection that is used n the boards. Behind the external connection ports on the I/O and front panel connections are diodes that effectively protect the board from an electrostatic discharge when plugging in peripherals.
The area around the 1155 socket is pretty well loaded on one side with a series of solid capacitors and chokes of the digital power pursuit with the mosfets covered by the large heat sink assembly. The P8P67 WS Revolution uses a 16+2 phase power design. Here is where you see the majority of the benefit from the Digi+ VRM design with the use of dual intelligent processors, EPU and TPU. This design is more efficient and allows for increased efficiency through dynamically adjusting the current load through each power phase at all times. The EPU (Energy Processing Unit) can be used through the AISuite II utility or as a standalone feature by enabling the switch on the motherboard to manage the power usage of not just the CPU and board but the entire ecosystem. The TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) is used through the UEFI BIOS, inside the windows environment with AISuite II or by using the TPU switch on the motherboard to automatically overclock your system with ASUS's TurboV auto tuning algorithm. Digi+VRM is a programmable microprocessor that when combined with the EPU and TPU, deliver increased overclocking ability, more granular voltage adjustment capabilities, increased system stability, cooling and efficiency.
The cooling solution used on the P8P67 WS Revolution looks much different from the rest of the P8P67 lineup. The angular silver heat sinks give the board a more industrial look as compared to the more elegant wave shape used on the rest of the P8P67 series. The large assembly around the CPU socket covers the mosfets of the Digi+ VRM 16+2 phase power circuit. The heat sink in the center of the board in the area that in the past has been occupied by the Northbridge, covers the NVIDIA NF200 chip. The P67 chipset is covered with a large flat heat sink that is interconnected to the rest of the heat sinks via a large heat pipe.
While not normally targeted towards the overclocking crowd, the WS Revolution series of boards are uniquely suited for use as a high-end gaming or overclocking board due to its feature set. Next up is a board a little lower on the feature scale for someone who may have a slightly tighter budget for their build and does not need all of the features included on the WS Revolution.