ASUS P5LD2 Deluxe WiFi-TV Edition

Author: Tom K
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Friday, October 7th, 2005
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/asusp5ld2/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

With Intel's relative lack of fanfare upon the release of a chipset series, it's not difficult to forget that the world of chipsets is not limited to just NVIDIA/VIA. While Intel may not be too humble about new processors, their chipsets are usually released very quietly alongside a new processor, with no more talk about them beyond the initial reviewer's kits.

Such was the case with the i945/i955 chipsets. The true purpose of the i945/i955 chipsets is to provide Intel with a stepping stone on to greater things, all the while adding support for Intel's latest creation -- the dual-core "Pentium D". These two chipsets also add official support for 1066 MHz FSBs, as well as DDR2-667 memory. The come bundled with Intel's ICH7R south bridge, which packs a very nice feature punch.

The feature list of Intel's ICH7R includes:

Today we look at ASUS' high-end Intel 945-based motherboard, the P5LD2 Deluxe. You may recall our review of the ASUS P5WD2 from around two weeks ago, and you should not be surprised to learn that these two motherboards are close to identical in every aspect but chipset used. While the P5WD2 utilized Intel's highest-end enthusiast-oriented Pentium 4 chipset, the 955, the P5LD2 Deluxe makes use of Intel's "mainstream" 945P. In practice, these chipsets are identical to each other, with only an artificial limitation built into the 945: It does not support Extreme Edition dual-core Pentium 4s.

In either case, both of these motherboards are targeted at Media Center PC/HTPC/multimedia types. As if the included Media Center PC remote was not enough of an indication, the P5LD2 Deluxe ships with ASUS' Wifi-TV add-in card, which provides both 802.11b/g wireless and a TV tuner.

ASUS' raw specifications list for the P5LD2 is as follows:

CPU

Socket 775 for Intel Pentium D / Pentium 4 / Celeron
Intel EM64T / EIST
Intel Hyper-Threading Technology ready
New power design supports Intel® next generation 04B/04A & 05B/05A CPU

Chipset

Intel 945P
ICH7R

Front Side Bus

1066/800/533 MHz

Memory

4 x DIMM, max. 4GB, DDR2 667/533/400, non-ECC, un-buffered memory
Dual Channel Architecture

Expansion Slots

2 x PCI-E x16
- Default (single VGA): x16, Auto Select
1 x PCI-E x1
3 x PCI
PCI 2.2,

Storage/RAID

Intel ICH7R South Bridge:
1 x UltraDMA 100/66/33
4 x Serial ATA (3Gb/s)
RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 and Intel Matrix Storage technology.
ITE 8211F controller:
2 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 support two hard drives
Silicon Image 3132 Controller:
1 x Internal Serial ATA (3Gb/s
1 x External Serial ATA (3Gb/s)
RAID 0, RAID 1, JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 with Additional Port Multiplier

Audio

Realtek ALC882M, 8-ch High-Definition Audio CODEC
Dolby Master Studio
Jack Sensing and Enumeration
Universal Audio Jack
S/PDIF out interface

LAN

Marvell 88E8053 PCI-E Gb LAN controller

IEEE 1394

TI 1394 controller with 2 1394a ports

USB

8 USB2.0 ports

ASUS AI Life Features

WiFi-TV (optional)
-Digital TV(DVB-T only), Analog TV, FM
-WiFi@home 802.11a/b/g
ASUS AI Quiet
ASUS Stack Cool 2
"SATA on the Go" External SATA connector

Back Panel I/O Ports

1 x Parallel
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x Audio I/O
1 x External SATA
1 x RJ45
1 x S/PDIF Out (Coaxial+Optical)
4 x USB
1 x IEEE1394

Internal I/O Connectors

2 x USB connector supports additional 4 USB ports
CPU / Chassis *2 / Power FAN connectors
24-pin ATX Power connector
4-pin EZ Plug
8-pin EATX 12V Power connector
IDE LED connector, power LED connector
Chassis Intrusion
CD audio in
1 x IEEE1394 ports
GAME/MIDI connector
5 x SATA II ports
COM2 connector
Front panel audio connector

BIOS

8 Mb Flash ROM, AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.3, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 2

Manageability

WOL by PME,WOR by PME, Chassis Intrusion

Support CD

Drivers
ASUS PC Probe II
AI Booster
Anti-Virus Software
InterVideo WinDVD Suite
ASUS LiveUpdate

Accessories

User's manual
UltraDMA cable
IDE cable
FDD cable
COM cable
2-port USB / Game module
I/O shield
SATA cable
GT Soft Bridge
1 port 1394 module

Form Factor

ATX, 12" x 9.6" (30.5cm x 24.5cm)

I have no doubt in my mind that most of you skip over that specifications section, but this time around I urge you to take a look. I'd like to point out three features of the P5LD2 that I find particularly interesting - the first of which is the Wifi-TV card.

Rarely have I seen a multi-function PCI card, and even rarer is the bundling of such a card with a motherboard. The Wifi and TV tuner components of the card also have one unexpected feature each. The Wifi portion supports 802.11a as well as the more common 802.11b/g, while the TV tuner portion supports digital TV. I'm not much of an HTPC/TV kind of guy, but this added feature could be of some use to readers out there. As I mentioned above, this motherboard package is definitely being targeted at the HTPC crowd. The motto here seems to be "Buy a motherboard, get Wifi and a TV/radio tuner too". I can't complain.

The other two features that I found intriguing were the external SATA port and ASUS' "Stack Cool 2" passive cooling solution. The ability to connect a SATA hard drive to this motherboard without having to fiddle around in your chassis is a definite plus to anyone who runs around swapping hard drives between machines. Of course, this feature really is of use only if your power supply also features an external Molex connector - something which I'm seeing more of lately.

Finally, ASUS' "Stack Cool 2" is a method of cooling that I have yet to see on any other competitor's motherboard. What ASUS has done with Stack Cool 2 is covered the entire motherboard's PCB with an additional layer of metal which aids in dissipation of heat. Such a uniform, board-wide system ought to help every heat-generating component on the board. Keep in mind, though, that recent Intel chipsets are notorious for running scorchingly hot, as well the fact that LGA775 motherboards are responsible for delivering copious amounts of power to the equally-notorious-for-consuming-lots-of-power Pentium 4s. An all-passive (and silent) design is much-appreciated, but could lead to some very high temperatures in an enclosed chassis.

With that, let's open the book and see what the P5LD2 Deluxe has in store for us.

Reviewing the P5LD2 Deluxe and leaving out bundle discussion would be equivalent to writing about major events in world history and leaving out all mention of religion - in other words, the P5LD2 thrives precisely because of its bundle. Let's take a look.

On the hardware side of things, you can expect to find the following:

That's definitely a complete hardware bundle. You can make use of all of the P5LD2 Deluxe's features right out of the box - and that Wifi-TV card is an awesome addition. Let's now see where ASUS has gone with the software/documentation side of things.

Included are the following items:

While the pickings are a little slimmer than what we've seen with some other motherboards, the full InterVideo suite is a nice addition that is well-suited to the target HTPC/multimedia audience of the P5LD2 Deluxe.

The Board

The ASUS P5LD2 Deluxe follows a very typical nForce 4-like layout, with a few differences here and there. Before I get picky, I'd like to point out a number of features that I like about the P5LD2.

Firstly, the all-passive cooling design of this workhorse-motherboard is a most-welcome feature. I can not tolerate any form of constant noise coming from my computers, and the ultra-quiet Mac Mini being the only computer in my room should be proof of that statement. I've spent years working on noisy computers, and it has come to the point that I get irritable and "headachey" when I have to work in a noisy room. Enough said - a point for the P5LD2.

Another aspect of which I am most fond is the completely packed rear I/O panel. Featuring four USB 2.0 ports, a Firewire port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, 6 analog audio connectors, optical and coaxial digital audio connectors, and an external SATA port, the rear I/O panel covers almost all ground for expansion. While it's true that most higher-end boards would feature a similar collection of ports on the rear, I have yet to see another board actually provide SATA on this same panel.

Lastly, the dual PCI-Express x16 slots are a most unexpected feature for an Intel chipset-based motherboard. While ASUS has supplied a flexible SLI bridge connector, the official word on these two slots is that they allow the user to connect two PCIe x16 video cards to the motherboard, allowing for quad-head display. SLI will be a viable option once NVIDIA decides to release ForceWare drivers which support SLI on non-nForce 4 chipsets.

So what is there not to like about the ASUS P5LD2 Deluxe's physical incarnation? In reality, that's left up to the user, but there are two things that I would like to shine the spotlight on.

That's really it. I can't find anything else to complain about, and that's a testament to ASUS' experience in motherboard design. The area around the LGA775 socket is free of occlusions, and even the DDR2 memory slots have been placed in such a way that there is just enough room to work the latches with a long video card installed.

So far things are looking pretty optimistic for the P5LD2 Deluxe. Continuing on, let's investigate the motherboard's BIOS.

The ASUS P5LD2 Deluxe makes use of a fairly standard AMI BIOS - think navigation tabs, as opposed to the AWARD BIOS menu system.

At first glance, things appear to be somewhat bland, but upon closer inspection we can see that ASUS has packed away most of the goodies under the "JumperFree Configuration" option.

I won't go into excruciating detail about each of these BIOS screens, as any seasoned PC user will be quite familiar with them. Along with the JumperFree Configuration screen, the other two screens which the tweaker will find are interesting are the "Chipset" and "CPU Configuration screens". For now, however, let's start with the JumperFree Configuration screen.

The overclocking details of this particular panel are straight-forward. ASUS provides one or two of their "automatic" overclocking modes, as usual. The real enthusiasts, however, are interested in the "Manual" mode. Once we enable said mode, we are presented with frequency adjustments and voltage adjustments. FSB, memory, and PCI-Express frequency adjustments are provided, along with memory, CPU, FSB, MCH, and ICH voltage adjustments.

Advanced CPU Features is where you will find CPU multiplier adjustments, along with the ability to toggle HyperThreading, thermal control features, and various other Pentium IV-related knick-knacks. I find the information section above handy, as I find myself hitting PAUSE at the POST screen in some BIOSes in order to determine some of the details that are instead being presented here.

Finally, Advanced Chipset Features is where you will find the memory-related tweaking options you didn't see in JumperFree Configuration. Upon enabling the Manual mode, we are able to adjust CL-tRP-tRCD-tRAS, as well as the command rate. Overall, the tweakability of this board is sufficient enough to please most people who will lay their hands upon one. The DFI fans out there who expect to be able to twist and bend the BIOS into sick submission will be disappointed, however.

In general, I'm pleased with the abilities of this BIOS, though I wish it followed a more streamlined layout. I found myself hunting through menu upon menu to find specific options. It would make more sense to throw all of the tweaking/overclocking features into a single screen, seeing as how that's where most of us will be spending their time.

For now, here are the remaining screenshots for the curious.

Our benchmark system (and competitors) consisted of the following:

Driver versions used were Intel Chipset Software version 6.2.1.1001, NVIDIA nForce 4 version 6.53, and NVIDIA Forceware version 66.93.

A list of benchmarks performed follows:

Let's finally see some results!

Business Winstone 2004

The P5LD2 seems to be stuck in the middle of the pack here. The NVIDIA nForce 4 for Intel reference system has taken the lead, while the AA8XE brings up the rear. Our P5LD2 manages to out-perform the higher-end P5WD2 by about 0.5 points.

Multimedia Content Creation 2004

Our P5LD2 Deluxe manages to do quite well here, only falling behind the top-spot Gigabyte 8N-SLI Royal by a mere 0.2 points. Oddly enough, the P5WD2 is last on the list.

SiSoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth

The P5LD2 has an obvious disadvantage here. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Intel is keeping memory timings a tad tighter on their higher-end 955 chipset as opposed to the 945, which today's motherboard is making use of. The highest and lowest scores differ by only 250 MB/s, but the placements are definite.

HDTach

There is nothing particularly interesting about the P5LD2's IDE performance scores. It seems to be about 2 MB/s behind most other competitors in burst read performance, though both the other two scores are what I expected.

SATA performance almost mirrors IDE performance identically. Again, the P5LD2 suffers a minimal ~1.5MB/s loss in burst read performance, while the other two numbers are within my expectations.

Intel chipsets have always had spectacular USB performance, and today's motherboard is no exception. Average read speeds are spot-on with the competition at an insignificant 1% CPU utilization.

LAME MP3 Encoding

Being a routinely unexciting benchmark, LAME MP3 encoding shows us that the P5WD2 has a slight advantage over the motherboards, with the P5LD2 only an inch behind it. Generally, these scores are meaningless, as the range between all six of our competitors is a measly 9 seconds.

RightMark Audio

Starting off with 2D performance, the P5LD2 is in second-last place at 3.3% CPU utilization. While generally not too high, the older brother of the P5LD2 scored a better 1.5%. Let's see what 3D and 3D EAX performance look like.

The P5LD2 has dropped even farther down now, placing last. Comparing its 6.7% to the AA8XE's 0.8%, or even the nForce 4 Intel reference platform's 3.3%, shows that it's possible to do better.

Not surprisingly, performance worsens on every motherboard once we add EAX into the 3D mix. This time around there is another shifting of the placings, and fortunately the P5LD2 does not end up placing last, but quite close to it anyway. CPU utilization simply doesn't seem to be a strength of the Intel HD Audio solution.

XviD Encoding

Our P5LD2 Deluxe seems to be stuck in the mid-performance pack. It does not stand out on either spectrum. A previous ASUS board, the P5ND2-SLI, takes the cake for XviD encoding performance.

TMPGEnc MPEG2 Encoding

TMPGEnc MPEG2 Encoding performance is eerily reminiscent of LAME MP3 encoding - in other words, somewhat boring. With a delta of only 9 seconds between the fastest and slowest motherboard, we can't really extract much useful information from this benchmark.

Call of Duty

Call of Duty performance is - need I say - uneventful. The P5LD2, while being only 3.0 FPS behind the champion places second-last. The nForce 4 motherboards seem to have an edge here.

When we throw EAX2 sound into the mix, things get scattered around a bit. The Abit AA8XE takes the most dramatic performance hit, while the nForce 4 boards take much lower ones. Our venerable ASUS P5LD2 Deluxe stays in the middle of the pack. The Intel HD Audio codec isn't as CPU-efficient as the nForce 4 audio codec, but it's not terrible either.

Comanche 4

I do not think that discussion of these results is warranted. One-and-a-half frames per second of difference are not going to be the end of the world.

Doom 3

We can finally see a real separation of scores with Doom 3. The nForce 4 for Intel reference board, along with the AA8XE, has quite an edge over the competition. Placing third is the P5ND2-SLI, and finally the back of the line is covered by the P5WD2, 8N-SLI Royal, and unfortunately, the P5LD2 Deluxe. With a full 12 FPS of difference between the nForce 4 reference board and our P5LD2, we can quite clearly see which board/chipset is showing tendencies for better gaming performance.

Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 seems to have mixed up the bag a little bit, with the AA8XE coming in dead last. Granted, the range of scores with this game are not as great as with Doom 3, but we can still see some separation. Our P5LD2 comes out just above the AA8XE, but not anything else. The P5WD2 is up there along with the better-scoring boards.

Halo

Halo loves the nForce 4 motherboards, and shuns the Intel chipset-based ones. Our P5LD2 is second-last once again, while the P5ND2-SLI and NVIDIA reference system take top spots.

Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Five of our six competitors seem to have formed a closely-knit group, while the AA8XE has been outcast. Our P5LD2 brings up the rear of this group, but it seems to stay within ~2.5 FPS of the leaders.

Unreal Tournament 2004

The P5LD2 is following its trend of low-placings in Unreal Tournament 2004 as well. Though again the range of scores is not great, I'm going to be honest and say that the P5LD2 hasn't been too well in our game tests.

X2 Rolling Demo

X2 Rolling Demo results lack any form of excitement. Our P5LD2 stays more or less in the middle of the pack, as far as you can pin-point the "middle".

Overclocking

The ASUS P5LD2 Deluxe has some overclocking headroom, but definitely not as much as some nForce 4 boards that have crossed our bench. I was able to reach a maximum FSB of about 971 MHz, which is just 9 MHz under that of the 955-based ASUS P5WD2. I would say that's not too shabby, but not particularly astounding either.

Fortunately, I did not experience any thermal shutdown while running some short tests on the overclocked P5LD2, unlike Bill when benchmarking the overclocked P5WD2. It seems luck was on my side this time around.

I do not have any formal charts made up for the overclocked results, but the results are very close to that of the overclocked P5WD2, which should be of absolutely no surprise. Doom 3 saw an ~8.0% bump in performance, while the very straight-forward Business Winstone saw about ~4.0%. This is more or less what I've come to expect from motherboards with this kind of overclocking headroom.

Final Thoughts

Admittedly, I tend to be a DIY kind of guy, and I've never been a fan of all-in-one motherboard bundles, but I must say that ASUS has put together a product that might compel me to go the easy and guaranteed way out. The P5LD2 Deluxe is definitely geared towards the HTPC/multimedia fans out there, and those fans will be very pleased with this product. Bundling together a robust TV tuner and equally robust WiFi adapter, along with a high-end motherboard that supports not only dual-core Pentium IVs but also two PCIe x16 video cards and a healthy load of tweaking features is a win-win situation for the consumer.

Unfortunately, the P5LD2 Deluxe is not well suited for high-end gaming/workstation applications. I wish I could say that this was an all-around solution, but it is not. The Intel 945 chipset is definitely not a champion when it comes to gaming performance, and that much is clear looking at our charts. The nForce 4-based motherboards give the P5LD2 Deluxe a quick slap whenever gaming comes into play, and for that reason I would recommend you look at an nForce 4-based motherboard if you're a gamer. That said, if you are a casual gamer, the P5LD2 Deluxe is as good a choice as any.

In closing, I would say that the P5LD2 Deluxe is very close to being an all-around solution, and if your computing tendencies are not focussed on one particular activity, then the P5LD2 Deluxe is a very smart choice for that multimedia box you've been wanting to build. While not being a top-notch performer, the P5LD2 Deluxe is heavy-weight enough to always stay with the group in the benchmarks that matter, and that's good enough for me. The features and bundled hardware out-do whatever frame-per-second loss the P5LD2 suffers in some of our games -- and that's my word on it.

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