P67 Motherboard Roundupccokeman -
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ASUS comes to the table with an extensive lineup of P67 based motherboards. You have pretty much every price point and feature set covered. I did not look at all of the boards available from ASUS but a grouping that covered three distinct areas. The average home user, the work station and hardcore gamer with the P8P67 Pro, P8P67 WS Revolution and the Maximus IV Extreme.
First off, all three boards had a layout that was functional and easy to work with. The heat sink package was not so overdone that a large air cooling solution would have interference issues around the socket. The heat sink package on each board was more than adequate to do the job it was designed to do. That being to draw heat from the VRM circuits and chipsets. ASUS has employed its DIGI+VRM technology on all three of these boards to both increase the stability of the power circuit, offer more granular voltage adjustments and to increase the efficiency level of the boards through dynamically managing the power phases to keep the thermal load in check as well as spreading the load across the power phases.
This technology works hand in hand with ASUS EPU (Energy Processing Unit) and TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) engines and drives energy efficiency to a claimed 92% on the WS Revolution. When it came time to overclock the three boards from ASUS, the options are there to get the job done whether you want to overclock through the BIOS or with the much improved AI Suite II utility. When I tested the auto overclocking utility on the WS Revolution, I was only able to see a 400MHz improvement yet when I moved up to the Maximus IV it was able to punch all the way up to 4.5GHz on my multiplier locked 2600K. The maximum overclocks set manually through the BIOS on the Pro, WS and Maximus IV were all stunning at right around 4.95GHz or higher with just minor tweaking to the CPU voltages, Load Line Calibration and VRM switching frequency. The ease with which you can achieve a stout overclock is hideously simple. So much so that I used the RC Bluetooth application to overclock the Maximus from my HTC Incredible via the on board Bluetooth connection. I was like a kid on Christmas morning playing with a new toy as I turned the system on and off and boosted the settings from the other side of the house. It's just too cool. The PRO and Maximus IV both have a Bluetooth implementation that can be used for a wide array of things such as file transfers between a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet.
The accessory bundles included with the Pro, WS and Maximus IV are are substantial by way of comparison. The WS Revolution and Maximus IV more so than the Pro. You get what is needed to use the capabilities of the motherboards with the inclusion of the Bridge connections for the supported multi-GPU strategies which include Crossfire and Tri-SLI on the WS and Maximus IV, the thermal probes on the Maximus IV and GP Diagnostics card on the WS Revolution. The UEFI BIOS is finally here and a dream to work through on the Pro, WS Revolution and Maximus IV. Having the ability to navigate through the BIOS with a mouse much like working in the OS makes this implementation easy for anyone. There are two modes, E-Z and Advanced. Both allow for setting the basics but the Advanced section goes much deeper. The ROG BIOS is even more intricate than that of the P8P67 series so know what you are changing before making the change.
All in all, the P67 boards from ASUS offer a wealth of features both new and old with some serious overclocking credentials. SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0 are standard options that will improve the day-to-day activities of the home user, professional and gamer alike while ASUS unique features bring added value to the table.
- Feature set
- Bundled accessories
- DIGI+ VRM
- UEFI BIOS
- AI Suite II
- USB 3.0
- Tri-SLI (Revolution and Max IV)
Conclusion ECS P67H2-A:
ECS comes to the table with its P67H2-A that arrives fully loaded and ready to shine as bright as the box it is housed in. The board's layout is well done and is a major step away from the every color in the rainbow look that was used a few years back. The BlackX series has come of age. The large cooling solution may seem overdone but the VRM circuits on this batch of P67 based board do get a little toasty when pushed. The large dual heat pipe Qooltech III solution does the job of keeping the VRM circuits and P67 chipset cool. The ECS P67H2-A has a unique feature in its use of a Lucid Hydra Logix chip to allow a multi-GPU graphics solution using both AMD and NVIDIA cards at the same time to increase gaming graphics performance so you are not limited to one manufacturer. What's surprising is that this board does not support SLI technology specifically but does support Crossfire from AMD. The options at this time are either a combined solution or a Crossfire solution for your graphics needs. Overclocking the P67H2-A was no harder than the rest of the boards save one thing, the absence of a setting in the BIOS that makes the difference with multiplier locked CPUs like the one I have and that missing setting being PLL overvoltage. This one setting frees up the CPU to scale up to at least a 50 clock multiplier. Without this setting, I was limited in the overclocking I could achieve with the ECS board to a 4.4GHz overclock. While in the scheme of things a 1GHz overclock is nothing to sneeze at, it just reeks of lost potential. Fortunately all CPUs do not have this problem and most people will never know the difference and be satisfied with the Turbo boost speeds delivered via the BIOS of about 3.8 GHz. The AMI BIOS on the ECS is slim by comparison to the other boards in this test field. ASUS and MSI boards have well organized UEFI BIOS while the ECS seems like a step back in time to the old school BIOSs of the past. Even with its little quirks, the ECS board does what it is built to do, deliver performance potential.
- Feature set
- Onboard buttons
- Included applications
- Slim Legacy BIOS
Conclusion MSI P67A-GD65:
Here we are again talking about the P67A-GD65. This board, much like the rest of the P67 based boards looked at in this review, delivers a predictable level of performance when equipped with the same hardware as the rest of the comparison field. Overclocking on the other hand usually involves a lot of trial and error time in the BIOS like tweaking voltages, clock speeds, memory sub timings and clock multipliers. Sure you can take that route with this board but MSI has made overclocking so simple that yes "a cavemen can do it". How you ask? With their one touch overclocking using the OC Genie II button. Turn the system off, push the button, restart the system and you are greeted with a nice stable 25% increase in clock speed. This amounted to an almost 4.2GHz clock speed by just pushing a button. This is a great result if you do not really want to spend any time in the BIOS to massage the settings for an even higher level of performance. That being said, if you do take the time, the experience will prove fruitful as I was able to push my multiplier challenged 2600K to almost 4.9GHz with nothing really more than upping the core voltage. My chip is a little voltage hungry but it does scale well when the current is applied. If neither of those two options are appealing then you can always use MSI's Control Center application via the OS for some real time fun. Much like the AI Suite II app ASUS uses, the changes you make are real time with no rebooting the system. On this board, you have a wealth of USB 3.0 connectivity so that you have the latest standards to transfer your data and get back to what really matters. MSI has built this board using its military class II build strategy. Military class II components include DrMos, SFC (Super Ferrite Chokes) that have a 30% higher current capacity and 10% improvement in efficiency, Low Profile Hi-c Capacitors with Tantalum cores that last up to 8x longer, and solid capacitors. This build strategy creates a cooler running, longer lasting combination. The Super Charger function allowed me to charge my iPod and cell phone without problems in times that were well within the average time I would expect.
The Click BIOS UEFI BIOS implementation works but I found the look to be not what you would find in a board of this caliber. It looks like something you would find in a kid's game and does include a couple games under the Games tab in the BIOS. Things were generally where you would expect them and once found, the functionality was there allowing you to click your way to overclocking fame and fortune. Other than this one negative, the experience with the MSI P67A-GD65 was nothing but positive after sorting out some early BIOS issues. The P67A GD65 is a good looking board with all of the functions you need, all the latest technologies and some impressive overclocking credentials.
- One Touch Overclocking
- Manual Overclocking
- Military Class II Construction
- UEFI BIOS
- USB 3.0
- SLI & Crossfire Support
- Control Center
- BIOS's main pages look like a kids game