Asus P5B-E Review

Author: William Henning
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, December 18th, 2006
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/asus_p5b-e/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Today we take a look at the latest P965 based motherboard from Asus.

The P5B-E follows up the extremely successful Asus P5B Deluxe WiFi, which was known to be an excellent overclocker. Will this board live up to the high expectations set by its close relative?

Will it allow us to reach new heights in overclocking?

I for one can't wait to find out.

By this time the P965 chipset is well known - it is a solid chipset for Core 2 Duo (and now Core 2 Quad) systems, and while it does not quite match the memory performance of its bigger brother - the 975X - it does quite well; and it is known to be easy to overclock - basically the P965 chipset is a very good match for the Core 2 Duo.

The P5B-E is a middle-end motherboard; not quite a high end multi-GPU monster, but definitely above the cut of the average white box motherboard.

Let's take a look at the P5B-E's specifications:

CPU
Intel® Quad-core CPU Ready
LGA775 socket for Intel® Core™2 Extreme / Core™2 Duo / Pentium® Extreme / Pentium® D / Pentium® 4 / Celeron® D Processors
Compatible with Intel® 05B/05A/06 processors
Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology ready
* Refer to usa.asus.com for Intel CPU support list
* Please update the latest BIOS to support Intel Quad-core CPU
Chipset
Intel® P965 / ICH8R with Intel® Fast Memory Access Technology
Front Side Bus
1066 / 800 / 533 MHz
Memory
4 x DIMM, max. 8GB, DDR2 800 / 667 / 533 MHz, non-ECC, un-buffered memory
Dual channel memory architecture
* Refer to www.asus.com or user manual for Memory QVL (Qualify Vendor List)
Expansion Slots
1 x PCI-E x16
3 x PCI-E x1
3 x PCI 2.2
Storage
Southbridge
 - 6 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
 - Intel Matrix Storage Technology supports  RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10.
JMicron® JMB363 PATA and SATA controller
 - 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 for up to 2 PATA devices
 - 1 x Internal SATA 3.0 Gb/s port
 - 1 x External SATA 3.0 Gb/s port (SATA On-the-Go)
 - Support SATA RAID 0, 1 and JBOD (by 1x External SATA & 1x Internal SATA)
LAN
Attansic® L1 PCI-E Gigabit LAN controller
Audio
ADI® 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC
 - Support Jack-Sensing, Enumeration, Multi-streaming and Jack-Retasking
 - Coaxial / Optical S/PDIF out ports at back I/O
 - ASUS Noise Filter
IEEE 1394
VIA® VT6307 1394a controller suppotys 2xIEEE1394a ports (one at midboard; one at back panel)
USB
10 x USB 2.0 ports (6 ports at mid-board, 4 ports at back panel)
ASUS AI Lifestyle Features
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution:
 - ASUS AI Gear
 - ASUS AI Nap
 - ASUS Q-Fan 2
ASUS Crystal Sound:
 - ASUS Noise Filter
ASUS EZ DIY:
 - ASUS Q-Connector
 - ASUS O.C. Profile
 - ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
 - ASUS EZ Flash 2
Overclocking Features
Intelligent overclocking tools:
 - AI NOS™ (Non-delay Overclocking System)
 - AI Overclocking (intelligent CPU frequency tuner)
 - ASUS AI Booster utility
Precision Tweaker:
 - vCore: Adjustable CPU voltage at 0.00625V increment
 - vDIMM: 4-step DRAM voltage control
SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection)
 - FSB tuning from 100MHz up to 650MHz at 1MHz increment
 - Memory tuning from 400MHz up to 1066MHz
 - PCI Express frequency tuning from 90MHz up to 150MHz at 1MHz increment
Overclocking Protection:
 - ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x Parallel port
1 x S/PDIF Out (Coaxial + Optical)
1 x External SATA 
1 x IEEE1394a
1 x RJ45 port
4 x USB 2.0/1.1
8-Channel Audio I/O
Internal I/O Connectors
3 x USB connectors support additional 6 USB ports
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector
1 x COM connector
7 x SATA connectors
1 x CPU Fan connector
2 x Chassis Fan connector
1 x Power Fan connector
1 x IEEE1394a connector
Front panel audio connector
1 x Azalia Digital Header
1 x S/PDIF Out Header
Chassis Intrusion connector
CD audio in
24-pin ATX Power connector
1 x 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector
System Panel
BIOS
8 Mb Flash ROM, AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.3, ACPI 2.0a, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
Accessories
UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
FDD cable
SATA cables
SATA power cables
I/O Shield
User's manual
USB2.0 port module
3 in 1 Q-connector
Support CD
Drivers
ASUS PC Probe II
ASUS Update
ASUS AI Suite
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor, 12"x 9.6" (30.5cm x 24.5cm)

As you saw on the first page, the Asus P5B-E has a nice clean layout - however the color scheme is muted, dominated by greens and copper - not exactly fancy looking.

With the motherboard, you get a user manual, driver CD, I/O plate cover, IDE and floppy cable, two four pin Molex to SATA power connector splitters, four SATA cables and a dual USB slot cover round out the accessories.

The processor socket is surrounded by solid state capacitors, and I was pleased to see that there was enough room to easily mount even large coolers like the Noctua-12 we use for testing.  You'll notice in the pictures that not all the capacitors are solid state, compared to Gigabyte which uses all solid state capacitors in its impressive overcloker boards such as their superb GA-P965-DS3 and higher end "DQ6" board.. To the left of the processor socket, the Northbridge is passively cooled by a large aluminum heatsink, and a smaller heatsink graces the Southbridge to its left.  Passive coolers are very good, but after seeing the monstrous heatpipe setups on high end boards, these small passive coolers look rather insignificant.  Don't worry though, as you'll see later they do not inhibit overclocking performance.

The two banks of DRAM slots below the processor socket and the Northbridge are thankfully color matched to dual channel pairings; making it very clear where pairs of memory ought to be plugged. This is the logical coloring scheme, and I often wonder what possesses some motherboard designers to try to go back to a "color by channel" scheme?

For I/O, we have six SATA-2 sockets and an IDE connector to the left of the Southbridge, a right angle floppy connector below it, and on the left side of the board we have plenty of connectors for additional USB ports.

Above the Southbridge, we see the PCIe 16x slot, three PCIe 1x slots, and three PCI slots - however if your video card has a large cooler, you will lose access to one of the PCI slots. You can see a seventh SATA port in the upper left corner of the board.

The I/O panel is quite well appointed - we have the standard PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors, a parallel printer port, SP/DIFF and optical audio outputs, an eSATA port, four USB ports, a firewire port, a gigabit Ethernet jack, and six regular audio jacks.

 

The Asus P5B-E comes with a standard AMI BIOS.

The main menu makes lets you change the date and time, choose a "Legacy Diskette A" (and they are right! Floppy drives are basically obsolete now that some BIOS); configure the SATA channels or IDE channels, and examine the system information. 

  

The SATA configuration screen show a lot of detail about the drive on the chosen channel, and allows setting its more common configuration parameters

The IDE Configuration also controlls the eSATA port and SATA7, as well as the single IDE channel available for an optical drive and/or older hard drive.

The System Information screen shows the AMI BIOS version, processor type and speed, and total system memory.

The Advanced menu is where all the enthusiasts will be tweaking their system - and it gives us plenty to tweak.

Under the JumperFree Configuration menu is the majority of the parameters used to overclock systems! After we turn off the "AI Tuning" we can manually set the CPU FSB, the memory frequency, PCIe frequency and PCI fequency as well as disable Spread Spectrum and control important voltages - Vcore, Vram, FSB termination, NB, SB and ICH voltages too!

The USB configuration screen lets us set USB compatibility modes.

  

The CPU configuration menu lets us modify the CPU multiplier - while it does not unlock the multiplier upwards, it did unlock our E6400 downwards, allowing us to choose between 6x, 7x and 8x; it also lets you control VT and SpeedStep.

The Chipset menu has only one entry, one that takes you to memory timing control options.

The Onboard Devices menu lets us enable/disable the on-board peripherals such as audio, firewire, lan, eSATA, serial port and parallel port.

The PCI/PnP menu lets us control the PnP settings presented to the operating system as well as change default interrupt allocations.

The Power menu lets us control suspend modes, go to the APM configuration, and look at the Hardware Monitor.

The APM menu lets us configure power loss and wakeup events.

The Hardware Monitor lets you control fans, and shows the current Vcore and current values for the 3.3, 5V and 12V rails.

  

The Boot menu lets us control boot priority and security

The Boot priority lets us configure four levels of boot devices.

The security settings allows us to set a user and a supervisor password for the BIOS.

The Boot Settings menu controls the quick boot, logo, numlock and error options.

The Tools menu lets us go to the excellent EZ Flash utility or to the overclocking profile management.

EZ Flash is a tool for updating the BIOS - and it can read USB drives! No floppy needed!

The OC Profile configuration lets us save two BIOS profiles for different configurations - for example, you could use Profile 1 for "Fastest Stable Overclock" and Profile 2 for "Bleeding edge crashes sometimes but I want to show off" settings.

The exit menu just lets you save or discard your changes; or in a pinch, reload the default settings.

Whew... a lot of BIOS screens!


Test Setup 

Hardware for testing of the Asus P5B-E:

The Asus P5B-E will be duking it out with several other Core 2-compatible motherboards:

Benchmarks Used

For now, here is a listing of the tests performed:

Video drivers used were NVIDIA ForceWare version 84.97

 

Business Winstone

Running at stock speeds, the Asus P5B-E ended up dead last in the Winstone test - mind you, there was only 8.6% performance differential between first and last place.

Content Creation

The P5B-E did much better in the Multimedia Content Creation test, ending up in the middle of the pack, and only 0.8% slower than the top score.

WinRAR

The P5B-E did very well in WinRAR, taking second place, and only losing to the first place winner by one percent.

RightMark Read Bandwdith


For RightMark Real Read bandwidth, the Asus P5B-E placed in the middle of the pack.

It was about 500MB/sec slower than the leading 975X based Abit AW9D, but it was also about 500MB faster than the last place FoxConn 975X7AB.

RightMark Write Bandwidth


For the Real Write bandwidth, again we find the P5B-E in the middle of the pack - but this time the race is much closer; only 143MB/sec separate first place from last place!

RightMark Latency


The P5B-E could use some work on memory latency, it finished third from last; however the only board that really shone here was the 975X based Abit AW9D.

RightMark Bandwidth

For RightMark Bandwidth, we once again get a result that I find impossible to explain - the P5B-E did not win any of the individual tests, yet it gets the best overall bandwidth figure!

Sandra CPU

We have outgrown our old friend, Sandra 2004, so we have switched to the new Sandra 2007!

Unfortunately this means that until we build up a database of results, we will not have many results to compare with; however I suspect it won't take too long to start to build up a nice database of results.

For the CPU test, the Asus P5B-E beat the Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3; with a larger margin for integer code than for floating point code.

Sandra MMX

The MMX tests have the GA-965P-DS3 winning for the integer SSE test, but losing to the P5B-E in the floating point contest.

Sandra Bandwidth

For bandwidth, the P5B-E wins.

Sandra Latency

The P5B-E also shows lower latencies, winning that test as well.

Sandra 2004

Here is the old Sandra 2004 Memory Bandwidth chart - as you can see, the results are almost identical to the Sandra 2007 memory bandwidth chart.

HDTach SATA

For SATA burst performance, the ASUS P5B-E was only 1.3MB/sec slower than first place, and 11.2MB/sec faster than last place. Not bad at all. For average performance, only 0.1MB/sec slower than first place.

HDTach IDE

Frankly, the P5B-E did poorly for the IDE burst test, it was dead last. It did MUCH better for average transfer rate, only 0.2MB/sec less than the best result - but the icing on the cake is that it had the lowest CPU utilization, at one percent!

HDTach USB

The P5B took second place for average USB transfer rate, but it had a very high 16% cpu utilization doing that.

LAME

The Asus P5B-E turned in good MP3 encoding result, only once second out of second place.

TMPGEnc

The P5B-E did quite well with the multi-threaded TMPGenc test; it came in second place, two seconds (about .6%) behind the FoxConn 975X7AB

XviD

The P5B-E also takes second place in XviD, this time with a 30 second (6%) advantage!

Call of Duty

Well, the Asus P5B-E did not do that well here; it was a full 21.3fps behind first place, and 18.5fps ahead of last place.

Comanche 4

The P5B-E does much better at Comanche; it ends up right in the middle of the pack, and only 0.74fps behind first place.

Doom 3


The P5B-E does better at Doom 3 - it is still in third place, but only 5.5fps out of first place, and a very decent 26.7fps ahead of last place.

Quake 4

Sorry, we only recently started using Quake 4 for benchmarking motherboards - so I only have one motherboard to compare to for now; and the Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 beat the Asus P5B-E by 0.9FPS (less than once percent).

Halo

Well well.. what do we have here?

Looks like Halo likes the Asus P5B-E!

The P5B-E takes first place - mind you, only by 0.87fps (less than 0.5%) .

Jedi Knight

The P5B-E does almost as well in Jedi Knight, taking second place, losing by only 4.5fps to the MSI-965P.

UT 2004

The P5B also takes first place for Unreal Tournament 2004!

Overclocking

I spent far too much time trying overclocking experiments on this board.

Why?

Because it is amazingly good at overclocking.

Here are the overclocking charts, comparing the Asus P5B-E against the overclocking results from the previous Core 2 Duo motherboard reviews such as the Abit AB9 Pro, Abit AW9D Max, Asus P5W DH Deluxe, Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3, MSI P965 Platinum, MSI 975X Platinum, and the  FoxConn 975X7AB.Please note, not all motherboards have all the results, as we only ran the full test suite on the best overclocking boards.

In Business Winstone, we see that for business applications processor speed matters more than FSB - as the results are strictly ranked according to CPU speed.

 

For Content Creation, we get a repeat performance, however note how little difference 160MHz makes between the top two results.

For RightMark read bandwidth, low latency and high bus speed is not enough - you also need the processor power to crunch all that data; so the overall winner was the Asus P5W DH Deluxe running at 3.64GHz - however you can see that the Asus P5B-E did quite well especially with a 500MHz FSB as it was using the less memory optimized 965P chipset.

For RightMark Write Bandwidth, the Asus P5B-E blew away all the other boards when running with a 500MHz FSB. It was not even close!

As we would expect, RightMark Latency is dominated by the best 975X based boards, however the P5B did not do too badly.

The high FSB result allowed the Asus P5B-E to dominate the RightMark Bandwidth benchmark even with the 5-5-5-15 memory timing it needed at 1000MHz.

Our old friend, Sandra 2003 memory bandwidth did well by the P5B-E, however the lower memory timings of the Asus P5W DH, a 975X based board, had it take first place.



The more up to date Sandra 2007 memory bandwidth benchmark also pretty good, however the Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 did take first place - mind you it was running the CPU faster.

And the latency figures from Sandra 2007 are also quite good; the 500MHz FSB / 1000MHz DDR2 helped :-)

 

The Sandra 2007 CPU benchmark results were - not surprisingly - ordered strictly by final processor speed.

 

The Sandra 2007 MMX results also were ranked by processor speed.

!

WinRAR is dominated by a combination of memory latency and processor speed, so the P5B-E did not do that well here.

LAME MP3 encoding is basically a pure CPU problem, so the results are ordered by processor clock speed.

TMPGEnc is also basically a processor benchmark.

 

XviD also scales nicely with processor speed.

 

Call of Duty is also very CPU bound at this low resolution.

 

Comanche is also quite processor speed dependant at low resolution.

 

Doom 3 is sensitive to not only processor speed, but also memory performance - so the P5B-E relatively well here.

 

Quake 4 seems to scale with processor speed.

 

Halo is also quite processor speed dependant.

 

Jedi Knight results are also ordered by processor speed.

 

As are Unreal Tournament results.

   

Using one of our E6400's, both of which are known to run at up to at least 3.6GHz under ideal circumstances, I tried two main series of experiments.

At first, I tried to find the maximum stable FSB. I did this by lowering the multiplier to six (why does not every motherboard manufacturer unlock the multipliers???) and going up 10MHz at a time until I could no longer get the system stable enough to run Quake 3. This let me identify the maximum potentially usable FSB for this board as - are you ready for this? - 505MHz!

I was able to run WinRAR, multi-threaded WinRar, Doom 3, Sandra 2003, Quake 4, and RightMark memory benchmark at this speed, with the memory running at 1010MHz with 5-5-5-15 timing.

Unfortunately I could not get the system stable at 505x7 - it would have been amazing had it run at 3.535GHz on air cooling alone.

My next series of tests involved lowering the bus speed to find the maximal processor speed that the system was stable at with the highest FSB that was stable with the processor at a 7x multiplier.

It initially looked very promising - it looked like 500x7 would work - however the system kept rebooting due to overheating. I suspect with a good active cooling system 500x7 or even 505x7 would be achievable.

490x7 went even further... but no cigar.

480x7 turned out to be the sweet spot. It had one small remaining issue, sometimes the system would not warm boot - basically it needed time to cool down - however the system did not generate any "blue screens of death".

480x7 is "only" 3.36GHz, on a chip that I know will do 3.6GHz, however the being able to run at a 480MHz was so gratifying, I left it there instead of going for a lower FSB and an 8x multiplier.

Conclusion

The last motherboard I reviewed, the Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3, reached a record stable 3.64GHz (455x8) overclock for us with our Conroe E6400 - however the Asus P5B-E just blew past it, setting a whole new stable FSB record - 480MHz with a 7x processor multiplier - heck, it ran at 505MHz FSB with a 6x processor multiplier.

Reaching a stable overclock with a 480FSB is not easy; the best we've stably managed before was 455MHz. We could actually go into windows at up to 490MHz x 8, or run almost totally stably at 500MHz x 7 and post even higher, but frankly, I am only interested in stable overclocks that can endure our stress tests and complete benchmark suite while getting the maximum overall performance out of the system. Please note that 3.64GHz (455MHz * 8) is quite doable on this board, but I wanted a higher FSB :)

As always, there were four parts to the successful overclock:

  1. Figuring out the fastest stable memory speed
  2. Figuring out the fastest stable memory timing
  3. Setting the FSB speed and multiplier
  4. Getting the right Vcore

In order to run at 3.36GHz (480MHz x 7) we:

While this is unusual, I feel that I have no choice other than to award the "Overclockers Award" for the second motherboard review in a row.  If I had much better cooling available, I have no doubt that I could have gotten 480MHz x 8 running... perhaps even 505MHz x 8 - so given that this motherboard is an excellent platform for FSB based overclocks, I just have to give it the award :)

Frankly, the best match for this board may be the low end E6300 processor - it is limited to a 7x multiplier, but we've seen that this board can reach stratospheric FSB speeds; so I have little doubt an E6300 could reach 3.5GHz on it with excellent cooling. I can't wait to see how well future 45nm parts will perform on such high FSB boards...

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