P67 Motherboard Roundup

ccokeman - 2010-12-06 18:16:33 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: March 8, 2011
Price: $179- $280

Introduction:

At the beginning of January, Intel launched their second generation Core series processors that set a new benchmark for performance while at the same time, still using all of the power savings features that Intel has been equipping their processors with. Things such as using Turbo Boost 2.0 to dynamically lower and increase the CPU muliplier to get the best of both worlds. Those two worlds being energy efficiency and increased performance. This introduction brought us to yet another different way to overclock as traditional BLCK (base clock or bclock) overclocking is now fairly limited (to between 100MHz to 109MHz) meaning it's all about the multiplier now. In the Intel Core i7 2600K launch article we looked at what Intel has to offer in terms of the performance of the 2600K when mounted in their in-house board, the DP67 BG. What I found was that performance and overclocking had been improved since the last generation boards (the DP55WG on the P55 platform and DX58SO for the X58 based processors). This Intel board offers a full feature set and allowed for some decent overclocking. But, if that won't suffice, the aftermarket has plenty to offer from improved components through to proprietary features. What I have to look at today is a broad cross section of P67 based motherboards from ASUS, ECS and MSI that showcase some of the latest features offered by each manufacturer. Some of these features are proprietary and others are standard for the P67 lineup. With ASUS you have DIGI+ VRM, Dual BIOS, BT, Go and ROG options. With MSI, you get Military Class II components and DrMOS. While with ECS, you get a Lucid Hydra graphics solution and a much richer feature set with the goal to really compete in the enthusiast market.

Closer Look:

The boards we have to look at in this comparison are two versions of ASUS's P8P67 series. We have the P8P67 WS Revolution and the P8P67 Pro giving us the chance to do a comparison of the feature set from the mid to the upper end of the spectrum. At the opposite end of the spectrum we have the Maximus IV Extreme which is targeted at the extreme gamer and hardcore enthusiast with a significant jump in features to make this an attractive board for the consumer looking for it all. The ECS Black series board moves up to play in the enthusiast ranks after seeing success with the ECS P55H-AK and they have not pulled any punches with the P67H2-A. The MSI offering will be the MSI P67A-GD65 that makes use of the company's Military Class II components and one touch overclocking with OC Genie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let's look at each one of these boards individually to see what they have to offer in terms of feature sets and performance.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look:

The ASUS P8P67 Pro motherboard is in the low end of the mid-range offerings in the enthusiast sector of the P67 based boards. It includes some of the features of its higher-end brothers like digital VRM, SLI and Quad CrossfireX capabilities, EPU and TPU functions and has a Bluetooth receiver built-in. The new EFI BIOS allows users to manipulate the BIOS settings with a mouse now, instead of only a keyboard as in the past. This is really a nice advance and long overdue, not to mention a lot quicker in both access and the BIOS speed itself. The manipulation of the BIOS settings still remains very intuitive and user friendly for both the seasoned user and the beginner as well. The higher memory bandwidth of the SB platform really brings back the snappy feel of the overclocked memory of old, even at stock memory speeds. The overclocking capability of the SB K-series chips is nothing short of remarkable and ASUS has done a great job at exploiting this potential with their new line of P67 motherboards.

The packaging of the motherboard is just a standard cardboard offering with the name on the front and a brief description of features on the back. Two manuals come with the motherboard, a complete user guide and a manual specifically for the Digi+ VRM and Bluetooth. The disc included contains all of your drivers and utilities. You also receive four SATA cables in the package along with ASUS exclusive Q-Connectors (I wish more manufacturers would use something like this) to easily attach the front panel connections. You also receive a rear I/O shield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have the included SLI bridge and a rear panel USB 3.0 header adapter, because you just can't have too many USB ports.

 

 

 

The motherboard layout is diagrammed here to give you a quick overview of the landscape. The motherboard has a decent amount of open or low protruding real estate so things like graphic cards and CPU coolers can be generously sized. The socket/hold-down used for the Pro are both made by Foxconn. But since the 1156 debackle, you really don't have to worry because the hold-down has been redesigned with much larger feet to contact the processor better and the pins in the socket seem to be much stouter. This is just an observation and has not been confirmed by ASUS or Foxconn and was determined just by mounting the processor and the subsequent pressures involved.

 

 

 

 

The memory slots have a maximum capacity of 32GBs with a maximum overclocked rating of DDR3-2400. The USB 3.0 auxiliary header port is right below the memory and in a slightly perplexing location that makes routing the cable a little difficult if you utilize a very long graphics card or have a short width case. The only slot with a direct shot would be the very top slot that would require the cord of the adapter to lay directly on top of your graphics card, so if you could sneak it by the graphics card and access a lower slot I'm sure things would work better for you.

The eight SATA ports employed by the Pro are two Marvell SATA 6.0 Gb/s, two Intel SATA 6.0Gb/s and four SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports. This section of the board also includes the P67 chipset with a low profile heat sink, a power LED, a clear RTC jumper, a chassis fan connection and a front panel header.

 

 

 

The board includes three PCI-E 16x slots with the option of running one at 16x or CF/SLI at 8x 8x configuration and the third being just a one-4x slot. There are also two 1x PCI-E slots and two PCI slots available. The bottom of the board includes an analog front panel header, digital audio connector, IEEE 1394a connector, TPU switch with LED and USB 2.0 connectors.

The rear I/O includes headers for PS/2 mouse and keyboard, digital audio outputs, Bluetooth module, six USB 2.0 connectors, two USB 3.0, two eSATA (one of which is powered), IEEEE 1394a connector, LAN connector and 2-8 channel audio connector.

 

 

 

The socket area is encompassed with passively designed heat sinks for better heat dissipation with minimal to no air flow required. The capacitors are all Japaneese solid capacitors and are part of the 12.2 phase DIGI+ VRM power circuit. The CPU hold-down and socket are produced by Foxconn. You can clearly see here that the hold-down feet, which contact the processor, are much wider than in previous versions of Foxconn brackets used in the last generation of Intel processors.

 

 

Closer Look:

The Maximus IV Extreme is the ROG (Republic of Gamers) offering of the ASUS P67 lineup. The packaging and messaging are clear as to the intended use and the targeted audience. Where the P8P67 WS Revolution is targeted at the professional market, the ROG series and the Maximus IV Extreme is targeted towards the overclocking enthusiast and hardcore gamer just as it says on the front panel of the packaging. As with past ASUS ROG motherboard offerings, the packaging is blood red with a wealth of information on the packaging making the comparison of other products possible if you are purchasing at a brick and mortar store. The front panel has a few icons across the bottom edge showing this board includes support for both NVIDIA's SLI technology as well as support for AMD's CrossfireX multi-GPU strategy. The back panel lists support for Intel's second generation Core processors from the i3 to the i7, dual channel memory support up to DDR3 2200Mhz, ROG specific features such as ROG connect, the inclusion of ten USB 3.0 ports, a Bluetooth module and Futuremark's 3DMark Vantage Advanced edition. Flipping open the front cover, you are hit with the full spectrum of ROG features that include USB BIOS flashback and Extreme Engine DIGI+.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the packaging, the motherboard and accessory bundle come in two separate boxes. A sure sign the bundle is quite large. In that respect the bundle is huge and includes the traditional as well as the ROG specific parts needed to get this board installed and fully functional.

 

 

Pulled out of the box, the bundle is indeed substantial. The more mundane pieces include the SATA cables in both standard and SATA 6Gb/s flavors, the USB port expansion bracket, Crossfire and SLI bridge connections, manual and driver disk. That's about where the mundane stops and the ASUS/ROG implementations take over. You get labels for the drive cables, ROG connect cable, thermal probes, Q-connectors, Q-shield I/O panel, Bluetooth RC module, ROG ProbeIT connections and a Tri-SLI bridge.

 

 

So some of these things look like normal devices but they each perform a function that sets them apart from what other manufacturers offer. For instance, the Q shield prevents EMI interference while also not having sharp tabs to knock out creating a cut hazard. The Q connectors make installing the front panel and USB wiring so much easier when you have single wire connections. The thermal probes allow you the opportunity to keep tabs on specific devices. The ROG ProbeIT connector allow you the luxury of not having to hold your meter probes to the board while trying to overclock. The Bluetooth module opens up another connectivity option for overclocking on the fly and the ROG connect cable can be used while overclocking and monitoring the status of your ROG board from a laptop or netbook.

 

 

 

 

Here we are finally with the Maximus IV Extreme. The socket 1155 P67 based ROG offering. This much anticipated board is a feature rich offering based on the Intel P67 chipset for use with Intel's second generation socket 1155 Core processors. The rest of the boards in this roundup are an ATX form factor while the Maximus IV is an Extended ATX design providing more room on this board for the ROG specific features. The Maximus IV uses a hybrid Extreme Digi+ implementation to deliver reduced switching delays and provide more granular adjustments to the power and VRM frequencies. You get Bluetooth capabilities that range from simple file transfers to overclocking control if you have a supported smartphone. You have ROG connect, a new AISuite implementation, multi-GPU capabilities in the form of CrossfireX and SLI (both supporting more than two cards), Qshield, Q-connectors, MemOK, TPU, EPU and much more. When you get down to the aesthetics, this board uses the traditional red and black theme of the ROG series to good effect. The heat sink package on this card is quite large and is implemented on both the front and rear of the PCB.

 

 

The expansive feature set starts with the I/O panel where you have a wealth of connectivity options that starts with the combination PS/2 port that can be used for either a keyboard or a mouse. Eight USB 3.0 ports with a total of two more available on a motherboard header. A CMOS clear button, Optical S/PDIF output, a pair of eSATA ports, a pair of Intel Gigabit LAN ports, the RC Bluetooth module, ROG connect button and USB 2.0 port and the analog HD audio port for the 7.1 sound solution. The Maximus IV is equipped with a total of four 16x PCIe Q-slots that support both AMD and NVIDIA multi-GPU strategies up to three way SLI and CrossfireX. When three slots are populated, the slots run at 8x-16x-16x electrically due to the use of an NF200 chipset that supplies the additional PCIe lanes. On top of the four 16x slots, you have one 4x slot and a 1x slot available for additional expansion such as a sound card. Additional power for the GPUs is supplied via two E-Z Plug 4 pin molex connectors, one above the top PCIe 16x slot and one along the bottom edge of the EATX PCB.

 

 

Along the bottom edge of the PCB, real estate is pretty scarce with all of the connectivity found there. To start off we have the one of two E-Z Plug 4 pin molex connections, the front panel audio and four pin S/PDIF out connection, one of the three thermal sensor connection points, two of the eight fan headers on board, a total of four USB 2.0 headers, the dual BIOS chips, the front panel header where you can use the Q-connector to make your life easier hooking up the front panel wiring and the BIOS switch. You use this switch to toggle between BIOS chips . You can save two different BIOSs and choose between the two using one for your everyday tasks and one for your OC adventures. LEDs close by will let you know which one is in use. Above the bottom edge connectivity you have a PLX technology's bridge chip to add PCIe lanes. Also visible in these shots are two of the iROG chips that work with the TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) to allow for added overclocking functionality.

 

 

 

Along the right hand side of the PCB we start off with the SATA ports. There are a total of eight available. The four red connections are SATA 6Gb/s with the gray connections being the four SATA 3Gb/s ports that support RAID 0,1, 5 and 10. Two of the SATA 6Gb/s ports are controlled by the P67 PCH and two are controlled by the Marvell 9182 controller. The header just before the SATA ports is for an additional two SATA 3Gb/s ports that are used via an expansion bracket. Moving up the side you run into a great deal of the feature set of the Maximus IV. The four DIMM slots support up to 32GB of DDR3 memory running at speeds up to 2200Mhz. The 24 pin ATX power connection is here along with the ProbeIT measuring points and ProbeIT connectors to measure voltages in real time. You have the option of using the solder pad for a quick measurement of the ProbeIT connector for a long term measuring solution. Around the ProbeIT connections are several added functions controlled by switches. Most notably, the onboard power and reset buttons. Besides these you have the Go button that serves two purposes. One as the MemOk button when pressed before starting the computer to progressively adjust memory timings and voltages to eliminate any memory incompatibilities. The second function is to provide a temporary overclock while in the operating system based on the parameters set in the Go Button file.

 

 

A couple more switches are located on this side of the board. There are a total of four switches that are used to disable each of the four 16x PCIe slots. This function would be useful when troubleshooting GPU problems when a multi-GPU setup is used or when testing the scaling of a standard two card setup up to a four card solution without removing the card(s) from the system. The LN2 (liquid nitrogen) switch is used to help with booting the board by optimizing the system to eliminate a no post due to a cold bug situation on the CPU. Just north of this area is a debug LED that is really helpful in diagnosing boot issues. Inside the manual is a comprehensive list of post codes and their meanings if you get into a bind.

 

 

Across the top of the board there is not a ton of connectivity but there are some items that need to be mentioned There are additional fan headers for the CPU and a power fan above the Q-DIMM slots. Further along you get another fan header with a thermal probe header beside it and the eight pin auxiliary 12v power connection. Buried behind PS/2-USB3.0 header is the Q-reset button used to bypass an S5 freeze up during the boot cycle due to an extreme overclock. Right behind the sound header is another USB 3.0 header that can be used with an expansion bracket.

 

 

 

The CPU socket is designed for use with Intel's socket 1155 second generation Core i7, i5 and i3 processor lineup and should not be confused with the previous generation's socket 1156 design. Surrounding the socket is the 8+2 phase power circuit used in the hybrid digital/analog Digi+ VRM implementation. The Digi+ VRM design is able to intelligently manage each phase independently in real time with a more granular frequency control. This chokes used in this implementation are capable of a 25% increase in current capacity and are able to handle up to 40 amps of current. Of note is the NEC/Tokin Proadlizer capacitor used in the VRM circuit.

 

 

The cooling solution used on the Maximus IV Extreme is an interconnected heat pipe design that connects heat sinks used on the NVIDIA NF 200 chipset and FETS used in the power circuit around the CPU socket. The heat sinks are held in place with screws and feature a back plate. The large extruded aluminum heat sink used over the P67 PCH is held on with spring loaded screws. The sink used on the NF 200 chipset has a small LED lit graphic on it to add a little more bling factor to this board in addition to the strategically placed status LEDs on the board.

 

 

These three offerings from ASUS cover the gamut from the lower mid-range to the upper end professional and hardcore gamer with each offering a feature set tailored to the intended market segment. Now that we have seen what ASUS is offering, let's move on to ECS's latest offering - the P67H2-A Black series motherboard for a look to see how it compares to the offerings from ASUS and then MSI.

Closer Look:

ECS comes to market with its latest Black Series offering - the P67H2-A. ECS has really moved to upgrade their image and the performance capabilities of their lineup. From that of a manufacturer of economical boards to that of a high-end performance builder with top end offerings such as the P55H-AK and this offering the P67H2-A "Black Extreme" series motherboard for use with Intel's second generation Core processors. The packaging used goes all out to deliver this message with a metallic blue background and a full list of the technologies supported on the front panel. Items shown include support for a three card multi-GPU solutions and Hydra core technology for a cross manufacturer multi-GPU solution via use of a Lucidlogix Hydra SoC. The back side of the packaging gives added detail about ECS Hydra Core technology , ECS M.I.B. X BIOS, Gold Contacts, the ECS software package and Hyper HDD. THe extensive feature set is further illustrated along the bottom of the back panel. The front panel flips open to show off the P67H2-A Black Extreme while the data on the flap shows the overclocking and graphics performance potential.

 

 

Inside the packaging, the motherboard is in a plastic shell while the accessory bundle is housed in a box below the board. The bundle included with this board is pretty substantial and supplies both the basics such as the manual and driver disk to the SATA 6Gb/s cables and USB 3.0 expansion port bracket and 3.5 inch bay housing for using the additional connectivity from the front of the chassis. One of the interesting additions to the bundle is a set of what ECS calls connector caps that cover up ports on the I/O panel to protect them.

 

 

 

The ECS Black Extreme is a full featured motherboard built for use with Intel's second generation Core series processors. Specifically the K-sku processors for some incredible overclocking fun. The graphing on the front panel touts a 147% increase in the operating frequency of the Core i7 2600K so ECS puts out an expectation of performance that is achievable. The ECS P67H2A is an ATX form factor board targeted at the high-end user with features such as solid capacitors, DDR3 2133MHz support, an on board diagnostic display, USB 3.0, SATA 6Gb/s connectivity and three way multi-GPU support with an interesting twist via the LucidLogix Hydra core technology. The color scheme is shades of grey and black that really present a unique look that works. The large Qooltech III dual heat pipe cooling solution is the dominant feature on this board. The back side shows the Lotes CPU socket bracket and that the Qooltech III heat sinks are held on with screws rather than push pins. A more robust solution.

 

 

The rear I/O panel contains a wealth of connectivity. You have the clear CMOS button on the top (left), a legacy PS/2 port that can be used with either a keyboard or a mouse, a total of six USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA ports, four USB 3.0 ports in blue, Dual Realtek 8111E controlled RJ-45 Gigabit LAN ports that support teaming, the audio jacks for the Realtek HD 8 channel sound solution and an optical S/PDIF output. This is pretty much what you see on the majority of higher end enthusiast boards. Expansion capabilities come in the form of three 16x PCIe 2.0 slots that support up to a three way graphics solution, two PCIe 1x slots and a pair of PCI slots. The 16x slots will run at x16  x  x16 when running two video cards and x16  x  x8 x  x8 when a three card solution is used. CrossfireX is supported as well as a hybrid setup but there is no mention of SLI support for up to three cards. Installing the connector caps into the USB ports is as simple as pushing them in with removal just as simple with the small handle on the cap.

 

 

Along the bottom of the board is added connectivity. From left to right you get the front panel audio header, S/PDIF header, a comm port header, system fan header, S/PDIF debug header, a total of four front panel USB 2.0 headers and the front panel switch header. Of the four USB 2.0 front panel headers, three are white and one is gray. This gray header supports the EZ Charger function allowing enough current to flow to properly charge your portable device such as a cell phone or iPod. Right around the corner of the PCB is the ADD or Advanced Dual Display Indicator that functions as both a debug LED during the post sequence and as a system temperature display once into the operating system.

 

 

Coming up the right side of the PCB you have the front panel USB 3.0 header used with the USB 3.0 expansion kit right above the ADD, the four SATA 3Gb/s (white) that support RAID0, RAID1, RAID5 & RAID 10 and two 6Gb/s (gray) ports supporting RAID 0 and 1. Moving on up we get to the onboard power and reset buttons for use when this board is on a tech station or open bench. Power is supplied through the 24 pin ATX power connector with another fan header located just above this connection. The four DIMM slots will support up to 32GB of DDR3 2133MHz memory in a dual channel configuration but ECS states they have tested only to 16GB due to the availability up to 4GB density modules.

 

 

Another interesting addition when you swing around to the top of the PCB from ECS comes in the form of voltage measuring points that are being implemented on more and more high-end enthusiast grade boards. Even with the implementation of this feature I have to say this feature needs to be setup with a pocket that will hold the probes of your multimeter for full time monitoring. Something that has been addressed by MSI and now finally by ASUS on the Maximus IV Extreme. Next is another addition in the form of LEDs that light up to show the power circuit phase loading. The eight pin auxiliary power connector rides the edge of the PCB. Just behind it you can see the dual heat pipes of the Qooltech III cooling solution.

 

 

The LGA 1155 socket uses a Lotes retention bracket to hold in the Intel second generation Core series processors. The area around the socket is filled with solid capacitors, even so I did not notice any issues with either large heat sinks or a waterblock. The power design for this board is a VRD12 compliant 12 phase implementation. The ferrite chokes are hidden up under the massive cooling solution. The Qooltech III cooling solution used by ECS looks like overkill at first glance but is in reality quite functional because the VRM circuit will get warmer than the CPU in most instances. The dual heat pipe design offers a second conduit to transfer the thermal load to the aluminum heat sink body.

 

 

ECS has a surprise player here with this offering. The key is how will the multi-GPU implementation perform as well as how expansive are the overclocking options? All questions to be answered. Now the last board we have in this roundup is the MSI P67-GD65.

Closer Look:

MSI has been a major player in the enthusiast market for a while now and have increased their standing in the overclocking community with high-end offerings that perform well and come with an extensive list of innovative technologies. Most notable is the use of military grade components. MSI uses Hi-C caps, Super Ferrite Chokes and DrMOS (Driver Mosfet) a replacement for three chips combined into one for a cooler, more efficient solution. Other exclusive technologies from MSI include their Click BIOS feature introduced with the P67 based lineup. You get their OC Genie one push overclocking feature that so far has been by far the easiest and most reliable overclocking utility from any manufacturer. Coupled with the OC Control center that allows real time overclocking from within the OS environment. Add in the latest in connectivity solutions with USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s capabilities and you have a high-end solution for the masses. The packaging that MSI chose to use highlights the Miltary Class II components selection along with the three year warranty. On the box now, across the top are supported technologies and hardware. Multi-GPU strategies from both NVIDIA and AMD are supported as well as Intel's second generation Core series processors. Other mentions on the front are USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s connectivity options. The rear panel goes into detail on the Military Class II components and exclusive feature set including Instant OC, Super Charger to fast charge your portable devices, Click BIOS and MSI's low overhead quick boot option (Winki) that allows you to enter into an OS environment much faster for a quick check of your email. Opening the package allows you to get a quick look at the full size bundle of accessories.

 

 

The accessory bundle that comes with the board is substantial and contains everything you need to get started along with a few unique items. You get the manual and driver disk, the application and quick start guide, SATA 6Gb/s cables, USB 3.0 bracket, I/O shield, M-connectors, SLI bridge, SATA power adapter and the V-Check cables. These cables extend the socket to make using a multimeter to read the voltages supported by the measuring points a bit easier to get to.

 

 

 

The MSI P67A-GD65 is one step down from the top in its P67 based motherboard hierarchy so you should see some value and performance with this board. Much like most of the comparison field, the MSI offering is an ATX form factor motherboard that uses MSI's exclusive Military Class II build-out with low profile Tantalum cored Hi-c capacitors that offer an 8x improvement in life span as well as Super Ferrite Chokes that show a 10% improvement in efficiency and a 30% boost in current capacity. The layout looks fairly standard with the heat sinks being slightly smaller than either of the high-end ASUS or ECS solutions. The PCB is black with blue and silver accents. The back side of the PCB is clean with the exception of the Lotes CPU retention backing plate. Just like the rest of the comparison field, the heat sink package is held on with spring loaded screws offering a more secure mount.

 

 

The I/O panel is fully loaded with connectivity options. From left to right you have the combination PS/2 port, two of the eight USB 2.0 ports, a clear CMOS switch, Optical and Coaxial S/PDIF outputs, a single IEE1394 port, two eSATA ports, one RJ-45 Gigabit LAN port, two USB 3.0 ports and the analog outputs for the 7.1 sound solution that supports THX Tru Studio Pro standard. Expansion capabilities come in the form of a pair of 16x PCIe slots that support both SLI and Crossfire multi-GPU strategies, three 1x slots with one being above the top 16x slot making it perfect for use with a PCIe 1x sound card if the onboard solution is not to your liking and a pair of PCI slots at the bottom of the PCB.

 

 

Across the bottom of the board you find more connectivity options to increase functionality. Starting on the left is the front panel audio header, CD input connection, S/PDIF out header, the USB 3.0 header that is backwards compatible to USB 2.0, the IEE1394 header, front panel USB 2.0 header that supports MSI's Super-Charger technology allowing you to fast charge a portable device, the TPM header, serial connection and last but not least the Power, Reset and OC Genie one touch overclocking button to allow you to overclock your system with nothing more than the touch of a button.

 

 

On the right hand side of the board are the JFP1 and 2 headers. These are the connection points for the front panel switches and LEDs. Up next are the SATA ports You have two pairs of white 90 degree connections and a pair of black connections. The left hand pair of SATA 6Gb/s ports are controlled by the Marvell 0128 controller supporting RAID 0 and 1. The remaining ports are controlled from the P67 PCH with the black ports being the SATA 3Gb/s connections that support RAID 0,1, 5 &10 with the last pairing being the SATA 6Gb/s ports. The 24 pin ATX power connection, two chassis fan headers are up next with one of the best implementations of a voltage checkpoint solution is available with MSI's V check points. What I like about this setup is that your multimeter leads can sit in the pockets while you are doing some extreme testing.  Freeing your hands for other uses such as pouring LN2. Just like the balance of the P67 boards, the P67A-GD65 supports memory speeds up to 2133MHz in dual channel mode. 16GB is the maximum supported capacity.

 

 

Next to the heat sink across the upper power circuit are the Active Phase shifting LEDs that indicate the how many power phases are being used at any one time and are labeled 1-6. Further to the right is the eight pin auxiliary power connection to supply additional current to the processor.

 

 

Due to the use of Hi-c caps, Super Ferrite Chokes and DrMOS components, the area around the CPU socket is very clean and efficient. The 6+2 phase design utilizes Active Phase switching. This technology dynamically alters the amount of power phases needed based on loading to provide a cool running stable power supply to the CPU, memory and chipset. Based on the efficiency of the design, the heat sinks used around the socket are smaller in size than those of the competing boards in this roundup and were more than capable of keeping the temperatures of the power circuit in check under load. The heat sink used over the P67 PCH is a finned piece that follows the design of the main cooling package and board color scheme.

 

 

 

The MSI P67A-GD65 is a full featured offering much like the rest of the comparison field and makes use of its own unique features to set it apart from the crowd.

Closer Look:

Each of the motherboard manufacturers come to market with a suite of utilities that add value to the entire package. These utilities offer up overclocking and monitoring functions, easy ways to update the drivers and BIOSs used on the board as well as a way to quickly jump online with a small Linux distribution that loads up much faster than the Windows OS. What I will focus on are the utilities that really matter to this crowd. Mostly the overclocking and monitoring utilities. Each of these utilities deliver real time overclocking that can be applied in the OS without the need to reboot the computer, a real time saver when you are trying to find your hardware's limits. I will start off in alphabetical order and show each of the utilities.

ASUS:

ASUS comes to market with the latest implementation of their AISuite II utility. When I looked at the precursor to this package at an ASUS event in November, the first thing I thought was that it was done right. This new look is a tremendous step away from a fractured utility with everything having an individual interface. Now its all under one comprehensive suite accessed through a toolbar menu. This toolbar has 5 separate functional areas plus an "Auto Tuning" tab that is accessible in the Turbo V submenu. When you dig under the surface, the Republic of Gamers version used with the Maximus IV Extreme is the same application with the ROG Logo up top to let you know you have an ROG product. It's a nice added touch.

 

Tool: Under the tool section there are a total of six separate functional areas to look through. TurboV Evo, DIGI+ VRM, EPU, Fan Expert, Probe II and Sensor Recorder. Sensor Recorder will show you the system status over time. You can monitor voltages, temperatures, fan speed and set the duration of the monitoring and the interval in which it polls the system. Probe II allows you to choose what functions you can set alerts for. You can set thermal, voltage and fan speed thresholds that will throw an alert. Fan Expert allows you to set up fan profiles as well as choosing from a set of pre-set profiles from Standard to Turbo. The EPU Control Panel is used to define the power profile of the system from High Performance to Maximum power saving modes that reduce the carbon footprint of the system using the EPU processor to its fullest capability.

 

 

 

DIGI+ VRM offers some pretty unique features that allow you to really fine tune the capabilities of the P67 lineup from ASUS. Under this submenu there are a total of five areas that can be manipulated. The first is the familiar Load Line Calibration to change the Vdroop when the CPU is loaded from 0-100% in 25% increments. DIGI+VRM CPU Current Protection allows you the ability to increase the current flow to the CPU with a wider range of up to 180%. DIGI+ VRM Switching Frequency can be set to auto or fixed frequency mode. This helps when overclocking and the frequency range is from 250Khz to 1100Khz in 50 Khz increments. Much like most of the adjustments we make, this one has a trade off between stability and overclocking potential. DIGI+ VRM PWM Mode can be set to T.Probe or Extreme. Phase control can be set to one of three presets as well as a manual adjustment option to set how fast the phase switching of the VRM circuit occurs.

 

 

TurboV Evo is the section where you set the voltages and target frequency you are shooting for. You can use the Auto Tuning section to let the TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) take over and set up an overclock using the Fast or Extreme options. When running the Auto Tuning, I saw varying success with it depending on the board with the Maximus IV delivering an overclock of 4.5Ghz using the Extreme option while I was able to pull a stable 3.8GHz with the WS Revolution using the Fast mode. Using the Manual configuration option you can push to almost the extreme maximum your chip is capable of reaching through this interface. Under the More Settings section of TurboV Evo is an advanced mode section with additional voltage options as well as the CPU ratio tab that allows for adjusting the CPU Turbo Boost ratio. Once you find your sweet spot, the profile can be saved so that changing between settings can be a simple process so that you can step up on a new setup slowly or fall back to the saved settings when things don't go so well when overclocking.

 

 

One of the features of the ROG version of the P67 ASUS lineup is the ROG connect feature that allows you to manipulate the settings available in the AISuite II from a remote computer. That's all well and good but ASUS has gone one step further by allowing the ability to do this via your smartphone or other computer. Most of the monitoring and overclocking functionality is there and I had to try it out. This application connected to the ROG Maximus IV Extreme through its Bluetooth connection with the phone. All I had to do was transfer the files to the phone and install them then marry the phone to the computer and start overclocking. It was interesting to walk in the front door of the house start the RC Bluetooth application on my HTC Incredible and power the system on. No laptop needed for this chore although that option can be used. I think I had more fun playing with this option than actually overclocking in the EFI BIOS or with AISuite II.

   

   

 

 

The P8P67 Pro and ROG Maximus IV Extreme come with Bluetooth capabilities. This allows for transferring of data between Bluetooth capable devices and the ability to use the RC Tweakit utility. Transferring files was a simple process once the computer and device were connected.

 

MSI:

MSI Is not the only one to revamp their signature overclocking utility. MSI's Control Center application delivers much the same way that AI Suite II does for ASUS. The utility is fully functional in the OS allowing for real time overclocking. Under the Overclocking section there are a total of four areas that have either information or the capability of manipulating the clock speeds, voltages or memory timings. The Mainboard section gives top line information about the motherboard with more detail found under the "More" button to the right of the window. The CPU monitor section again gives top line info about the installed CPU, in this case an Intel second generation Core i7 2600K. The CPU monitor tab to the right of the window opens up a new window that shows the current CPU clock speed, clock multiplier, temperature and maximum Turbo Boost ratio by cores. The "More" button shows information displayed that is similar to what you see displayed in CPU-Z.

 

 

 

For the DRAM portion of Control Center, the main page displays the type and size DIMMs populated into each slot along with the manufacturer, part number and speed. Pushing the DRAM timing button opens up a window to allow the memory primary and sub timings to be adjusted while pushing the More button shows the SPD information of the modules for three JEDEC specifications as well as the XMP profile for the test modules. The Overclock section is where the voltages can be tweaked to increase the level of performance of the processor , motherboard and system memory. Included is a small widget for use with the Windows sidebar when Control Center is minimized.

 

 

 

The "Green Power" section of this application is where the board parameter can be set to maximize the efficiency of the power systems through a series of presets. Here is where the Phase LEDs can be enabled or disabled.

 

 

ECS:

ECS makes use of the Intels performance tuning utility for overclocking in the operating system but offers up a bit of software for configuration of the operating parameters of the Hydra Logix cross manufacturer multi-GPU solution.

 

 

Let's see how each of the BIOS are configured. This should be interesting with the move to an EUFI BIOS for the majority of the boards.

Closer Look:

The introduction of the P67 based motherboards from ASUS have brought the first ASUS boards out that use the EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) BIOS. This implementation gets rid of the old "feel" when navigating through the BIOS and replaces it with the feeling of navigating through an operating system. Instead of the keyboard being the primary way to navigate through the BIOS you use the mouse and use the same gestures and mouse movements used in the OS to select options and values. The keyboard is not totally abandoned but plays a lesser role in the process. The EFI Forum is a location where you can find out everything you want to know about the EFI standard and its implementation. The first question on their FAQ page is What is EFI? Here is the answer given "UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) will be a specification detailing an interface that helps hand off control of the system for the pre-boot environment (i.e.: after the system is powered on, but before the operating system starts) to an operating system, such as Windows* or Linux*. UEFI will provide a clean interface between operating systems and platform firmware at boot time, and will support an architecture-independent mechanism for initializing add-in cards." I will show a brief walk through of the BIOS used on the P8P67 series and show a couple shots as to how the ROG BIOS differs from that used on the P8P67 series. Although they have the same interface, the options differ in a few sections.

EZ-Mode is just what it implies. This page gives a top line view of the system in regards to the CPU used, the amount of memory and BIOS revision. Under that are monitors for the temperatures, voltages and fan speeds. Several presets can be used to optimize performance and energy use with the boot order listed along the bottom of the page. With the move to "Advanced Mode" a more familiar layout is seen on screen. In the advanced mode there are a total of six sub menus that contain all of the BIOS options. The Main page shows much the same information seen on the EZ-Mode page - just in a different format.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AI Tweaker is the section used to adjust the performance of the CPU and memory installed in the system. AI Overclock tuner is a one stop shop with three options: Auto; Manual and XMP. WIth the manual option chosen, a new set of options appears allowing you to adjust the "BCLK By All Cores" so that the Turbo Boost multiplier can be adjusted in the OS or only in the BIOS. The default being Auto. Memory Frequency gives the option of setting a memory multiplier higher than the default 1333Mhz setting. EPU Power saving mode is what it implies, a way to lower the carbon footprint of your system. OC Tuner is used to run the auto tune algorithm after the reboot from BIOS. DRAM timing control is where you set the memory sub timings with CPU Power management being where you enable and setup the Turbo Boost multiplier. Excellent overclocking can be had with the Tubo Mode parameters left on auto.

 

 

 

 

 

Further down the page are the voltage options starting with Load Line Calibration. There are five presets that work their way up from Regular to Extreme. The VRM switching frequency is another tool for overclocking that is new to this lineup. Additional options include Phase control, Duty Control and CPU Current Capability.

 

 

 

 

At the bottom of the page are the voltage options. CPU voltage has two options, Offset mode and Manual mode for applying voltage to the CPU. Offset mode allows for an offset from the base CPU voltage instead of a specifically applied voltage in the manual mode. DRAM voltage should be manually set for high performance modules. Beyond these options are the VCCSA, VCCIO, CPU PLL, PCH, DRAM DATA REF Voltages with CPU Spread Spectrum as the last option.

 

 

The Advanced section allows additional configuration of the CPU parameters, configuration of the SATA, USB, PCH, enable or disable the onboard hardware.

 

 

 

 

 

The Monitor Functions show the operating temperature of the CPU and motherboard as well as the fan speed of the CPU fan and three chassis fans and Power fan if connected. CPU Q-Fan control can be used to intelligently increase or decrease fan speeds based on temperature.

 

 

 

The Boot section is where the boot device priority is set, the keyboard numlock state is set, the Full Screen Logo is enabled or disabled and the BIOS mode you enter when first entering the EFI BIOS. EZ mode is the default. Choosing the order in which the installed optical and HDD devices are polled is completed here as well.

 

The Tool section is where the ASUS EZ-Flash utility can be found to flash the BIOS. ASUS OC Profile allows the user to save BIOS profiles with up to a total of eight spots available. ASUS SPD Information shows the information stored on the SPD chip of the memory modules.

 

 

 

The ROG implementation is slightly different. Not just because of the color scheme but because there are options not available on the standard P8P67 boards. Below you will find a series of screen shots that show most of the differences in the ROG BIOS as well as a screenshot form each BIOS page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And there you have the ASUS EFI BIOS. I found that it was quite easy to move around in with a mouse although the keyboard is not entirely gone. Some functions such as scrolling through values after an option is selected still need the use of the keyboard. Overall this is a huge improvement over the traditional blue screen.

Closer Look:

Whereas the ASUS and MSI BIOSs are elaborate EFI based BIOSs, the P67H2-A still comes with the old standby that has served us well over the years - an American Megatrends BIOS. The BIOS on this board is functional and allows for some nice overclocks once you figure out which items to adjust. Sure you don't have the "New Hotness" here but the old does just fine thank you!

The Main section of this BIOS is pretty slim and shows the system time, system date and the BIOS language of choice. The Advanced section contains several options including the CPU configuration, LAN Configuration and the setup options for ECS's eJiffy application. Under power management setup is where the fan setting and profiles are adjusted along with monitoring of the CPU temperature. Something that proves useful just in case you forgot to hook up the fan for the CPU or it is obstructed by a wire or just fails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chipset tab contains little in the way of functionality. Under the Northbridge submenu is the ability to set the order in which the GPU's are polled during POST. The Southbridge submenu allows the onboard audio solution to be enabled or disabled as well as setting the power reset status. The ME Sub System shows the version and the ability to enable or disable this feature.

 

 

The M.I.B. X section of the BIOS is where the overclocking will be done with this board. The options are fairly slim by comparison to the ASUS and MSI boards but the functionality is there. The one item missing is the PLL over voltage function available on the ASUS and MSI boards in this round up. This one setting alone is required for some of the 2500-2600K processors to reach over a 44 multiplier. The memory timings are limited to the four primary timings.

 

 

The last three pages are again fairly slim with BOOT allowing the boot order to be set along with the keyboard numlock status. The security tab is where you would set a supervisor password and the Save and Exit tab is where the default or optimized BIOS settings can be forced on.

 

 

There was enough functionality to get the job done although the memory settings could not be changed without a boot failure. Something a later revision of the BIOS is sure to fix although swapping to a different set of modules mitigated the problem.

Closer Look:

MSI has also gone with an EFI BIOS to move into the now and provide a richer experience in the BIOS. MSI calls this implementation "Click BIOS". Why you ask? Because you navigate through the BIOS and chose the setting to change with the "Click" of a mouse button. Catchy Eh? The shell is quite different from what we have seen in ASUS's new BIOS with MSI going a different route. When you first enter the BIOS, there are a total of five options to choose from, Green Power, Utility, OC, Game and Settings. Each section has a distinct set of options to tweak. Under the Green Power tab you can turn on or off the Active Phase Switching feature of this board as well as saving a few pennies by turning off the motherboard LEDs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Utility tab there are four separate items, Memory Test that allows the end user to run a test similar to memtest, Use the Live update feature to update the BIOS or find new drivers for your hardware. The Boot Screen tab gives the ability to change the view of your boot screen and HDD backup to safely backup the contents of the disk drives.

 

 

The OC Section is where most of the overclocking is done. The adjustments that MSI put into this BIOS are quite granular. The BCLK adjustment is made in 10Khz increments. The voltages adjustments allow for tuning up to the limit rather than overshooting what the system needs. Under this section is where the CPU and memory configuration is accomplished. Setting the Turbo Boost ratio and DRAM timing are things that are found in this section.

 

 

 

 

The Games section is included and offers some low overhead games but is not something of great interest although you can kill some time with them. The Settings section is the other section of value within the Click BIOS. Under this tab are the System Status, Advanced, M-Flash, Security, Boot and Exit tabs. The system Status button brings you to what normally would be the main BIOS page showing the installed disk drives, system time and date as well as the installed hardware. The Security button provides a way to set use and admin passwords, configure the chassis detection features and a way to automatically update the BIOS. The Advanced section is where the integrated peripherals can be enabled and configured, USB options setup and the fan profiles and monitoring can be configured. Power management is also found here. M-Flash is used to update the BIOS with little worry as to whether the flash will take or that the board will be non-responsive. With the amount of times I flashed a BIOS on this board not once did I have an issue. The Boot section allows the MSI logo to display during the POST sequence. This can however be turned off. Inside the Boot section is where the disk boot sequence is setup. Save and Exit is just what the name implies. Here is where the default or optimized BIOS configuration can be set. Here is the way out of the BIOS if pushing the F10 key is not to your liking.

 

 

 

 

Much like the ASUS BIOS, the Click BIOS from MSI is smooth and easy to navigate through. The look is one that is either liked or disliked and looks more like something in a kids game but I guess that is the allure. It's a radical step away from the traditional BIOS with just enough left over to keep the traditionalist happy.


 

Specifications:

Motherboard
P8P67 WS Revolution
P8P67 Pro
Maximus IV Extreme
CPU
Intel® Socket 1155 Core™ i5 Processor/Core™ i3 Processor/Core™ i7 Processor/

Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
Support Intel® 32nm CPU
* The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 support depends on the CPU types.
* Refer to www.asus.com for Intel CPU support list
Chipset
Intel® P67 Express Chipset ; Nvidia NF200*1
Intel® P67 Express Chipset
Memory
* The Max. 32GB memory capacity can be supported with DIMMs of 8GB (or above). ASUS will update QVL once the DIMMs are available on the market.
* Due to CPU behavior, DDR3 2200/2000/1800 MHz memory module will run at DDR3 2133/1866/1600 MHz frequency as default.
4 x DIMM, Max. 32 GB, DDR 1866(O.C.)/2133(O.C.)/2200(O.C.)/1600/1333 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
Please refer to www.asus.com or user manual for Memory QVL.
* Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
Expansion Slots
(@ x16 or x8)
x PCIe 2.0 x16 2 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (@ x8)
3 x PCIe 2.0 x 1 (@ x1)
(@ x16 or x8)
x PCIe 2.0 x16 2 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (@ x8)
3 x PCIe 2.0 x 1 (@ x1)
(single @x16, dual @x8, triple @x8, x16, x16 )
x PCIe 2.0 x16 4 1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
1 x PCIe 2.0 x 1
Multi-GPU Support
CUDA support:
Up to 4 NVIDIA Tesla GPUs
Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
Supports ATI® Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
Support NVIDIA® 3-Way SLI™ / ATI CrossFireX™ Technology
Bluetooth
N/A
Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR
ASUS BT GO! Utility
Bluetooth Module Accessory Card
- Bluetooth V2.0/V2.1+EDR
- RC Bluetooth On/Off Switch
Storage
Intel® P67 Express Chipset
2 xSATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
(gray)
4 xSATA 3.0 Gb/s ports (blue)
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10

Marvell® 9128 PCIe SATA6Gb/s controller
2 xSATA Gb/s ports(navy blue) Support SATA RAID 0 and 1
Intel® P67 Express Chipset
2 xSATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
(gray)
4 xSATA 3.0 Gb/s ports (blue)
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10

Marvell® 9120 controller
2 xSATA 6.0 Gb/s ports (navy blue)*
JMicron® JMB362 SATA controller
2 xExternal SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports*
* These SATA ports are for data hard drives only. ATAPI devices are not supported.
Intel® P67 Express Chipset
2 xSATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
(Red)
4 xSATA 3Gb/s ports (Gray)
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10

Marvell® 9182 PCIe SATA6Gb/s controller
2 xSATA 6Gb/s ports (Red)
JMicron® 362 controller
2 xExternal SATA 3Gb/s ports at rear (SATA On-the-Go)
* Due to the Windows XP/ Vista limitation, the RAID array with the total capacity over 2TB cannot be set as a boot disk. A RAID array over 2TB can only be set as a data disk only.
LAN
1 x Intel® 82574L GbE LAN 1 x Intel® 82579 Gigabit LAN- Dual interconnect between the Integrated LAN controller and Physical Layer (PHY)
- Support teaming function
Intel® 82579 Gigabit LAN Dual interconnect between the Integrated LAN controller and Physical Layer (PHY)
2 x Intel® Gigabit LAN
Audio
ALC889 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Multi-Streaming
- Jack-Sensing
- Front Panel Jack-Retasking
- Optical/Coxial S/PDIF out ports at back I/O
- ASUS Noise-Filer
Realtek® ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Absolute Pitch 192khz/24bit True BD Lossless Sound
- BD Audio Layer Content Protection
- DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC
- Supports Jack-Detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-Retasking
- Coaxial / Optical S/PDIF out ports at back I/O
Realtek ALC889 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
- Supports Jack-Detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-Retasking
- Supports 1 x Optical S/PDIF out port at back I/O
IEE1394
VIA VT6315N controller supports 2 x 1394a ports
VIA® 6308P controller supports 2 x 1394a ports (one at mid-board; one at back panel)
N/A
USB
NEC USB 3.0 controller
- x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (Blue, at back panel)
2 Intel® P67 Express Chipset
- x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 ports at mid-board, 8 ports at back panel)
14
NEC USB 3.0 controllers
- x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (2 ports at mid-board for front panel support, 2 ports at back panel (blue))
4 Intel® P67 Express Chipset
- x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 ports at mid-board, 6 ports at back panel)
12
1 x NEC USB3.0 Controller with 2 x VIA SuperSpeed USB hub controllers:
6 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports at rear
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports at mid-board for front panel support Intel® P67 Express Chipset
- x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (8 ports at mid-board, 1 port at rear is also for ROG connect)
9 1 x NEC USB3.0 Controller
- x USB 3.0/2.0 ports at rear
2
Overclocking Features
Intelligent overclocking tools:
- ASUS TurboV Evo
- O.C Profile
Overclocking Protection:
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Intelligent overclocking tools:
- ASUS TurboV Evo
- O.C Profile
Overclocking Protection:
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED
Precision Tweaker 2
- vCore: Adjustable CPU voltage at 0.005V increment
- vCCIO: Adjustable I/O voltage at 0.00625V increment
- vCCSA: 144-step system agent voltage control
- vDRAM Bus: 160-step Memory voltage control
- vPCH: 90-step Chipset voltage control
- vCPU_PLL: 160-step CPU & PCH PLL voltage control
SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection)
- BCLK/PEG frequency tuning from 80MHz up to 300MHz at 0.1MHz increment
Overclocking Protection
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
ROG Connect
RC Bluetooth
ROG iDirect
USB BIOS Flashback
ROG Extreme Engine Digi+
- 8-phase CPU power
- 3-phase Memory power
- ML Cap on CPU only
BIOS Flashback with onboard switch button
ProbeIt
Extreme Tweaker
iROG
Loadline Calibration
ROG OC Kit
- LN2 Mode
- PCIe x16 Lane Switch
- Debug LED
- Q_Reset
EFI BIOS features
- ROG BIOS Print
- GPU.DIMM Post
- CPU Socket Monitor
Intelligent overclocking tools:
- ASUS TurboV Evo
- O.C Profile
Overclocking Protection:
- COP EX (Component Overheat Protection - EX)
- Voltiminder LED
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Special (Unique) Features
ASUS Digi+ VRM Utility
ASUS Exclusive Features
- MemOK!
- AI Suite II
- ASUS EFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution
- ASUS Fanless Design: Heat-pipe solution
- ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS EZ DIY
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS Q-Connector
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS Q-Design
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 2 with DIGI+ VRM:
ASUS EPU
- EPU, EPU switch
ASUS TPU
- Auto Tuning, TurboV, TPU switch
ASUS Digital Power Design
- Industry leading Digital 12+2 Phase Power Design
- ASUS DIGI+ VRM Utility
ASUS BT GO! (Bluetooth)
- Folder Sync, BT Transfer, Shot & Send, BT to Net, Music Player, Personal Manager, BT Turbo Remote
ASUS Exclusive Features
- MemOK!
- AI Suite II
- AI Charger
- Anti Surge
- ASUS EFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution
- ASUS Fanless Design: Stylish Heat-sink solution
- ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS EZ DIY
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS Q-Connector
- ASUS O.C. Tuner
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS Q-Design
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
CPU Level Up
MemOK!
Onboard Switches: Power / Reset / Clr CMOS (at rear)
Q-Fan Plus
ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
ASUS Q-Connector
ASUS Q-Shield
ASUS Q-Slot
ASUS Q-DIMM
ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
ASUS MyLogo 2
ASUS Special Workstation Features
4 PCIe x 16 slots
G.P. Diagnosis Card bundled
Quick Gate:2 vertical USB 2.0 on board
ASUS SASsaby series Cards support
ASUS WS Diag. LED
ASUS WS Heartbeat
N/A
N/A
Back Panel I/O Ports
2 x USB 3.0/2.0
1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Combo port
1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical and Coxial)
1 x IEEE 1394a
2
x LAN(RJ45) port 8
x USB 2.0/1.1 8 -Channel Audio I/O
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (blue)
1 (purple)
x PS/2 Keyboard 1 (green)
x PS/2 Mouse 2 (1 x Power eSATA)
x External SATA 2 x S/PDIF Out (1 for Coaxial, 1 for Optical)
1 x IEEE 1394a
1 (Intel® LAN)
x LAN(RJ45) port 6 ports
x USB 2.0/1.1 8 -Channel Audio I/O
8 x USB 3.0/2.0
1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Combo port
2
x External SATA 1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical)
2
x LAN(RJ45) port 1 (also for ROG Connect)
x USB 2.0/1.1 8 -Channel Audio I/O
1 x Clr CMOS switch
1 x ROG Connect On/Off switch
1 x RC Bluetooth switch
Internal I/O Connectors
1 x Mem OK! Button
8-pin ATX +12V Power connector
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 connector(s) support additional 4 USB ports
1 x COM port connector
1 x TPM connector
1 with PWM control
x CPU Fan connector 3 with Q-fan control
x Chassis Fan connector
1 x Power Fan connector 1 x S/PDIF Out connector
24-pin ATX Power connector
4-pin EZ_PLUG Power connector
AAFP connector
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 vertical ports
20-pinfront panel connector
4 x SATA 6.0Gb/s connectors (2 x gray; 2 x navy blue)
1 x Mem OK! Button
8-pin EATX 12V Power connector
1 x TPU switch
1 x EPU switch
1 x USB 3.0/2.0 connector(s) supports additional 2 USB ports (19-pin)
3 x USB 2.0/1.1 connector(s) support additional 6 USB ports
1 x IEEE 1394a connector
1 (4-pin)
x CPU Fan connector 2 (1 x 4-pin; 1 x 3-pin)
x Chassis Fan connector (3-pin)
1 x Power Fan connector 1 x S/PDIF Out connector
24-pin EATX Power connector
Front panel audio connector
System Panel (Q-Connector)
4 x SATA 6.0Gb/s connectors (Red)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
1 x Power-on switch
1 x Reset switch
1 x USB 3.0/2.0 connector(s) (Red) supports additional 2 USB 3.0 ports
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 connector(s) support additional 8 USB 2.0 ports
1 x Front panel audio connector
1 x System Panel connector
1
x CPU Fan connector 3
x Chassis Fan connector
1 x Power Fan connector 3 x Optional Fan connector
1 x S/PDIF Out connector
1 x 24-pin ATX Power connector
7 x ProbeIt measurement points
3 x Thermal sensor connectors
1 x En/Dis-able Clr CMOS header
2 x EZ Plug connectors (4-pin Molex Power connectors)
1 x RC Bluetooth header
1 x LN2 Mode switch
1 x Q_Reset switch
1 x Go Button
1 x BIOS switch button
1 x ROG light connector
BIOS
32 Mb Flash ROM , EFI AMI BIOS, , EFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
32 Mb Flash ROM , EFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI2.0a Multi-Language BIOS
Manageability
 
 
WfM 2.0,DMI 2.0,WOL by PME,WOR by PME,PXE
Accessories
G.P. Diagnosis Card bundled
Quick Gate:2 vertical USB 2.0 on board
ASUS SASsaby series Cards support
ASUS WS Diag. LED
ASUS WS Heartbeat
1 x 3-Way SLI bridge
1 x SLI Cable
2 x SATA 3.0Gb/s signal cables (2-in-1)
2 x SATA 6.0Gb/s signal cables (2-in-1)
1 x Q-Connector Kit (2-in-1)
User's manual
1 x I/O Shield
2 x SATA 3.0Gb/s cables
2 x SATA 6.0Gb/s cables
1 x Q-Shield
User's manual
2 in 1 Q-connector
1 x ASUS USB 3.0 Bracket
1 x ASUS SLI bridge connector
2 x SATA 3.0Gb/s signal cables (2-in-1)
2 x SATA 6.0Gb/s signal cables (2-in-1)
1 x Q-Connecor Kit (2-in-1)
User's manual
1 USB2.0 module
1 x I/O Shield
1 x ROG Connect Cable
1 x ProbeIt cable set
1 x Thermal Sensor Cable Pack
1 x 3-Way SLI bridge
1 x SLI Cable
1 x Crossfire cable
1 x Cable Ties Pack
1 x ROG Theme Label
1 x 12-in-1 ROG Cable Label
1 x RC Bluetooth card
1 x ROG exclusive feature guide
Support Disc
ASUS Utilities
Drivers
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
ASUS Update
ASUS Utilities
Drivers
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
ASUS Update
Drivers
ASUS AI Suite II
ROG CPU-Z
3DMark Vantage
Kaspersky® Anti-Virus 1-year license
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
Extended ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 10.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 26.9 cm )

 

Features:

P8P67 WS Revolution  Workstation Features: 

Ultimate Graphics Power with 3-Way/2-Way Geforce SLI™ and Quad Quadro cards on demand

Platinum-level 92% power efficiency

Built in Dual Intel® Gigabit LAN

Heart-touching design-Quick Gate

Easy to Find System Error with G.P. Diagnosis Card

CPU, Chipset and Graphics Features P8P67: 

DIGI+ VRM:

ASUS Exclusive Features:

Latest Transfer Technology:

ROHS:

ROG Extreme OC Features: MAximus IV Extreme:

ROG Rich Bundled: 

 



All information courtesy of ASUS @ http://usa.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=AoHE7iDJrYucOm0n&templete=2

Specifications:

CPU
º LGA1155 socket for new 2nd Generation Intel® Core™/Pentium™/Celeron™ Processors
º Supports Intel® Turbo boost 2.0 technology
º Support Hyper-Threading Technology CPU
º 12 Phase Power Design with VRD 12 Compliant
º DMI 20GB/s
CHIPSET
º Intel® P67 Express Chipset
GRAPHICS
º Lucid Hydra Core Technology Support
º Support ATI CrossFireX™ Technology
MEMORY
º Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture
º 4 x 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socket support up to 32GB*
º Support DDR3 up to 2133(OC)/1866(OC)/1600(OC)/1333/1066 DDR3 SDRAM
º *(Due to the DRAM maximum size is 4GB at present, the memory maximum size we have tested is 16GB)
Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS.
For Windows® 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation
EXPANSION SLOT
º 3 x PCI Express Gen 2.0 x16 slots
º 2 x PCI Express x1 slots
º 2 x PCI slots
STORAGE
º Support by Intel® P67
    • 4 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s devices
    • 2 x Serial ATA 6.0Gb/s devices
    • RAID0, RAID1, RAID5, RAID 10 configuration
    • 2 x eSATA 6.0Gb/s ports supporting external SATA 6.0Gb/s devices
AUDIO
º Realtek ALC892 8-Ch High Definition audio CODEC
º Compliant with HD audio specification
LAN
º Dual RealTek RTL8111E Gigabit Fast Ethernet Controllers with Teaming
REAR PANEL I/O
º 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port
º 2 x RJ45 LAN connectors
º 1 x Audio port (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in)
º 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
º 1 x Clear_CMOS button
º 4 X USB3.0 ports
º 6 x USB 2.0 ports
º 2 x eSATA 6.0Gb/s ports
INTERNAL I/O CONNECTORS & HEADERS
º 4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
º 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Supply connector
º 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power Connector
º 1 x 4pin CPU_FAN connectors
º 1 x 4-pin SYS_FAN connector
º 1 x 3-pin PWR_FAN connector
º 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
º 4 x USB 2.0 headers support additional 8 USB ports
º 1 x Power on button
º 1 x Reset button
º 1 x USB 3.0 header supports additional 2 USB 3.0 Ports
º 1 x Front panel switch/LED header
º 1 X onboard Buzzer
º 1 x Front panel audio header
º 1 x 7S-LED Display
º 1 x SPDIF out header
º 1 x Serial port header
USB
º Support by 2 NEC USB3.0 Controller
º Support 6 USB3.0/2.0 ports
º Up to 14 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
SYSTEM BIOS
º AMI BIOS with 32Mb SPI ROM
º Supports Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Boot
º Supports ACPI & DMI
º Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS
º F7 hot key for boot up devices option
º Support over-clocking
º Support eJIFFY
º Support eBLU
º Support eDLU
º Support eOC
º Supports ACPI 3.0 revision
º Support eSF
º Support eGS
FORM FACTOR
º ATX Size 305mm*244mm

 

Features:




All information courtesy of ECS @ http://www.ecs.com.tw/ECSWebSite/Product/Product_Detail.aspx?DetailID=1202&CategoryID=1&DetailName=Feature&MenuID=103&LanID=9

Specifications:

Socket
1155
CPU (Max Support)
Sandy Bridge
AM3 CPU Ready
N/A
FSB / Hyper Transport Bus
100MHz
Chipset
Intel® P67
DDR2 Memory
N/A
DDR3 Memory
DDR3 1066/1333/1600*/2133*(OC)
Memory Channel
Dual
DIMM Slots
4
Max Memory (GB)
32
PCI-Ex16
2
PCI-E Gen 2.0
Gen2 (1x16, 1x8)
PCE-Ex4
N/A
PCI-Ex1
3
PCI
2
IDE
N/A
SATAIII
4
SATAII
4
RAID
0/1/5/10
LAN
10/100/1000*1
TPM
1
USB 3.0 ports (Rear)
2
USB 2.0 ports (Rear)
8
Audio ports (Rear)
6+Coaxial/Optical SPDIF
Serial ports (Rear)
N/A
Parallel ports (Rear)
N/A
1394 ports (Rear)
1
eSATA
2
Display Port
N/A
VGA
N/A
HDMI
N/A
DVI
N/A
VGA Share Memory (MB)
N/A
DirectX
N/A
Form Factor
ATX
DrMOS
Y
APS
Y
Sideport Memory
N/A
SLI
Y
3-way SLI
N/A
Hybrid SLI
N/A
CrossFire
Y
Hybrid CrossFire
N/A
D-LED2
N/A
Green Power Genie
N/A

 

Features:

 

 

All information courtesy of MSI @ http://us.msi.com/index.php?func=proddesc&maincat_no=1&cat2_no=170&cat3_no=&prod_no=2070

Testing:

Testing this group of P67 based motherboards will include running them through the OCC test suite of benchmarks that include both synthetic benchmarks and real world applications to see how each of these boards perform. The gaming tests will also include a couple of synthetic benchmarks and actual game play to see if similarly prepared setups offers any performance advantages. Each board received a fully updated fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64bit edition and used the latest drivers for each board and the latest AMD Catayst drivers for the HD 5870. In light of the recent announcement from Intel, each board has been re-tested using the SATA 6Gb/s ports.

Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1155


 

Comparison Boards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked Settings:

Bumping the clock speeds up on the new second generation Core i7 is quite a bit different than what we have been used to with the last generation processors. With the Sandybridge processors, BCLK overclocking is pretty much a thing of the past with very little flexibility left above the 100MHz BCLK. Even so, a range of 100 to 108Mhz is possible depending on the CPU. Even so, overclocking the P8P67 WS Revolution could not have been easier. For the most part adjusting the CPU vcore, DIGI+ VRM switching frequency and adjusting the Load Line Calibration will get you most of the way to your goals. There is one setting that will help drive the clock speeds higher if you have a chip that is Turbo Boost Multiplier limited (like my Core i7 2600K). This is the PLL overvoltage option that allowed the test CPU to move from a 44 multiplier limit to a 50 multiplier limit. This opened up a whole new realm of possibility. By manually configuring the BIOS, I was able to net a clock speed of 4966Mhz by using a 48 multiplier and a 103.5 BCLK. This is all well and good but ASUS has a strong contender with its AI Suite II software package that allows the uninitiated into the world of overclocking by using its auto tuning feature. By using this utility I was initially a little disappointed with the 3811MHz clock speed that I reached on an earlier BIOS but that when tested on the Maximus IV, paid huge dividends. When it comes down to it though, a 1.5GHz overclock on a workstation board is nothing to sneeze at. That folks is about a 45% increase in performance for a few minutes of your time minus the stability testing of course.

 

The overclocking on the Pro gives you many options as to how you would like to go about it. There are software based options, BIOS based automatic options and manual BIOS options to choose from. We chose the manual BIOS based option to fine tune the overclock for our tests. The i7 2600K in the ASUS Pro overclocked with relative ease to a mind bending 4.951 Ghz clock speed with a controllable heat output. The vcore voltage was elevated to 1.48v in the BIOS and the core temperatures never exceeded the low 60's during the testing. This is quite remarkable seeing as how the last generation of Intel processors were known for their enormous heat output that required high-end cooling solutions when overclocking, not even to their maximum potential.

 

 

 

Testing the overclocking out on the Maximus IV was really a page out of the playbook of the P8P67 WS but with more options to play with. What I found was that with high-end air or a capable water cooling setup, you can get just about all that your CPU has to offer without resorting to dry ice or more extreme options. Where the P8P67 WS was a little disappointing up front with the results of the auto tuning, the Maximus IV delivered the goods with an overclock of 1.1GHz over the factory 3.4GHz by only starting the Auto Tuning feature in AI Suite II , letting the TPU go to work. Anything higher than 4500MHz with Auto Tune resulted in a lock up or BSOD when a load was placed on the processor. That still is a huge bump in clock speed and where I left off with the Auto tune testing. By staying with the AI Suite for the rest of the manual overclocking, I was able to boost the overclock up another 455MHz to 4955MHz in the operating system and have this clock speed Prime 95 and 3D stable for over seven hours. That's with all of the overclocking done in the operating system. One advantage of the ROG platform are the additional software utilities that allow overclocking from a cable connected netbook with ROG Connect and now an even cooler (read geekier) method that involves using your smartphone to overclock your PC via a Bluetooth connection. I was able to use my Android powered HTC Incredible with the RC Bluetooth application to manipulate the clock speeds and voltages to change the overclock on the fly. So with this handy little tool you no longer need the netbook to do your remote overclocking. On your next visit to a LAN party, just pull out your Android or Apple smartphone and gain that edge with a few quick swipes on the screen. That's all it takes to get big time performance. The maximum speed reached was 4955MHz while overclocking in the OS for roughly the same 45% bump in clock speed as the other two ASUS motherboards in this roundup giving you a realistic expectation of performance with a weak multiplier handicapped CPU.

 

 

The ECS P67H2-A was an easy overclocker as well with it going right up to the 44 Turbo Boost multiplier limit of my CPU when the PLL overvoltage option is not enabled in the BIOS. The problem is that this option was not available in the BIOS at the time of my testing so a maximum speed of 4400MHz was the limit. What also was a surprise is that with this BIOS, I was not able to increase the Bclock over the 100MHz default setting, limiting the overclocking potential of my CPU. As an overclocking utility, ECS supports the use of Intel's own Extreme Tuning utility that is a functional utility allowing for some serious overclocking potential. While I was only able to reach 4400MHz with this board it was a stable clock speed reached with a minimum of effort. A 1GHz overclock or 30% increase is the most likely minimum you will see with this board but that will of course depend on an updated BIOS or a better CPU to realize the potential of this board. For those of you with better CPUs, the sky is the limit.

 

 

MSI hands down has the easiest way to overclock without touching the BIOS. MSI's OC Genie one touch overclocking is a button on the motherboard that is pushed before starting the system and it delivers a good solid 25% clock speed increase on the first boot. That 25% is equivalent to an 800+MHz bump in clock speed on my 2600K processor. Your results may vary depending on the strength of you CPU. This solution is faster so far than using the Auto Tune on the ASUS boards. And even though they are getting better, you can't beat pushing a single button and starting the system. No reboots, just a good solid OC. That part aside, Option 2 is that MSI has also revamped their Control Center application to make it more user friendly and functional. Now instead of the lockups and failed starts I used to get, the application let me overclock with impunity in the OS. A huge improvement over the past versions of this application. Option 3 is overclocking in the BIOS. This was an easy chore once the locations for the settings that needed to be changed were located and adjusted. By using the Click BIOS, I was able to bump the BCLK up to 103.7MHz x 47 to reach a speed of 4875MHz. Not quite as high as some of the boards but within 80MHz of the top clocks and an improvement of over 43% above the base clock speeds. 4875MHz will offer a substantial improvement in performance any which way you cut it.

 

 

Maximum Clock Speed:

Each CPU has been tested for stability at the clock speeds listed when in an overclocked state. These clock speeds will be used to run the test suite and will provide the performance difference increase over the stock settings in the overclocked scoring.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. Bibble 5
  3. WinRAR
  4. Geekbench
  5. Office 2007
  6. POV Ray 3.7
  7. PCMark Vantage Professional
  8. Sandra XII
  9. ScienceMark 2.02
  10. Cinebench 10
  11. Cinebench 11.5
  12. HD Tune 4.60
  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  3. Batman Arkham Asylum
  4. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's 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 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

   

   

Lower is Better

 

 

RAR:

   

   

Lower is Better

 

Geekbench:

Geekbench 2.1 is a benchmark that tests CPU and memory performance in an easy to use tool. The measure used for comparison is the total suite average score.

   

Higher is Better

 

Bibble 5:

This test consists of converting 100 8.2MP RAW images to jpeg format. The file size is 837MB. The measure used for comparison is time to convert the file in seconds.

   

Lower is Better

 

In Apophysis the time to complete the Fractual flame file rendering shows that at stock speeds the boards perform almost identically. When overclocked you get some stratification of the results. This scenario plays itself out across all four tests where the stock speeds are similar while the overclocked score show some slight differences.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Lower Is Better

 

POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for quicker completion.

   

Higher Is Better

 

The results do not stray far from the average scores across the board in each category. Overclocking shows nice gains in performance with the majority of these boards having a maximum clock speed just shy of 5GHz.

Testing:

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 functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

   

   

Multi-Core Efficiency

   

   

 

Memory Bandwidth

   

   

 

Memory Latency

   

 

Cache and Memory

   

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

   

 

Although the synthetic scores show a point of difference between these boards, you would be hard pressed to "feel" the difference in day-to-day operation.

Testing:

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.

 

   

 

   

Higher is Better

Cinebench 11.5

 

   

Higher is Better

 

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

 

   

 

   

Higher is Better

 

   

 

   

Lower is Better

 

In Sciencemark, the scores are all very similar again as expected. The Cinebench testing shows this similarity in results at stock and overclocked speeds. Where there are some performance differences are with the HDTune Burst speeds. The average read speeds, access times and CPU utilization are all similar with the exceptiion of the access time on the Intel board.

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and is a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based off the two popular sci fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species, the Alien, the Predator, and the Human Colonial Marine. The Game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine that supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems, and Physics. To test this game I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

When it comes to gaming performance, all of these boards deliver similar performance when equipped with the same hardware, a not unexpected consequence. By changing the video card you can scale performance up and down.

Testing:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is an iteration of the venerable first person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking. You start off the single player missions playing as Private Allen and jump right into a serious firefight. This is the point where testing will begin. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The boards all scale similarly with the HD 5870 as the video card. In this game the CPU is less of an impact player than the motherboard or video card.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter rivals, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to become the Dark Knight.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

Across all three resolutions, the MSI P67A-GD65 and P8P67 WS Revolution offered the highest scoring in both the stock and overclocked scenarios.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024 x 768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920 x 1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

The Maximus IV Extreme delivers a higher average performance at stock speeds than the field while the MSI P67A-GD65 does the same when overclocked.

Testing:

Several of the boards in this roundup have the ability to use up to three or four video cards in a multi-GPU setup using both NVIDIA and AMD based cards. So what better time to see just how well a socket 1155 Sandybridge based system does with this type of graphics setup. Sure it's overkill as most people will not step up to the plate and purchase a system of this caliber but inquiring minds would like to know. For this comparison I will be using both 3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11, Lost Planet 2, Metro 2033 and Aliens vs. Predator as my benchmarks of choice. The video cards used are three ASUS GTX 570s and three Sapphire HD 6970s. Scaling will be tested going from one to three cards at resolutions of 1680 x 1050 to 2560 x 1600. The control panel settings for each manufacture will be left at the default settings with the exception of the application of anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering listed for each test. PhysX is disabled for 3DMark Vantage. The processor will be overclocked to 4.5GHz (100x 45) to try and eliminate any CPU bottlenecks from occurring in these benchmarks.

Testing Setup:


 

Aliens vs. Predator:

   

 

3DMark Vantage

   

 

Lost Planet 2:

   

 

3DMark 11

   

 

Metro 2033:

 

   

 

First off this test was not about seeing which card offers higher performance, but to show how well the scaling is when you add video cards to the system to create a dual or triple card setup as this is one of the features of most of these boards. Throughout the benchmarks, the addition of another card created scaling in almost every instance. The exceptions were adding a second HD6970 in Metro 2033 where the single and dual card AMD setup resulted in identical performance while three cards did scale. Whichever multi-GPU setup you choose, you will see linear scaling in almost all instances with both AMD and NVIDIA cards.

Conclusion ASUS:

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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