P35 "Bearlake": Asus P5K Deluxe and Gigabyte P35-DS3R Preview - PAGE 1

- Friday, May 4th, 2007 Like Share






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engrish May 12, 07
"Whet your appetite" not "wet"

me fail english? that's unpossible
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Stele May 13, 07
That was a great preview, with good close-up pics to highlight some of the interesting features of the board.

As for the mystery chip which you're wondering about on the Asus boards, there are some useful clues in the form of silkscreened labels on the PCB outlines near that area of the motherboard: notice "EZRAID_SET" on what looks like the PCB pads for a jumper block, as well as "SATA_E2" on what looks like the pads for another SATA port, next to "SATA6/SATA_E1", the bottom left-most SATA port.

I'm guessing, therefore, that the mystery chip is a SATA to 2-port SATA port replicator with software RAID or a SATA to 2-Port SATA storage controller with hardware RAID. You would have encountered once such example of the latter before: the Asus P5W-DH's Silicon Image 4723 hardware RAID controller, also known as ASUS EZ-Backup. The mode of operation is the same: take one SATA line from the ICH9 (SATA6 on the P5K) and split it into two, adding RAID features as well. That's why SATA6 was labelled as "SATA6/SATA_E1" on the motherboard - with the controller installed the SATA6 channel from the ICH9 would be rerouted to the controller which would then output to SATA_E1 and SATA_E2.

Going one step further, I'm guessing that the mystery chip might be a Silicon Image SiI5723 storage processor http://www.siliconimage.com/products/product.aspx?id=103. It's originally designed for eSATA, but that just means that its signal drive is sufficiently strong to span the 2m eSATA cables, and has hot-plug support; certainly can be used for internal SATA as well.

I made this guess based on several clues:

  1. the PCB footprint for the mystery chip on the P5K seems to fit the package of the SiI5723 (QFN or Quad Flat No-lead)
  2. the P5K's jumper block's complexity - a normal "Enable/Disable" block would only require a 3-pin jumper. Instead, a 3x3 block is seen here, which may be used for the "mode jumpers" referred to in the SiI5723's block diagram on its product page.
  3. there seems to be a small SO-8 footprint between the jumper pads and the mystery chip, which would be just right for the "serial flash" firmware chip also referred to in the SiI5723's product page
  4. Asus has a strong relationship with Silicon Image, having used their storage processors for a long time now, including the SiI3114 way back on the A7N8X Deluxe, the SiI4723 on their Digital Home series and currently the SiI3132 PCIe-to-2-port SATA for eSATA functionality on the high-end boards.


IMHO, Asus probably designed the option to have that controller in so that some RAID functionality can still be offered on a lower-end version of the board using the vanilla ICH9 (non-R) and/or to allow for a Digital Home edition that provides for one more SATA port and one more RAID subsystem (instead of depending wholly on the Intel Storage Matrix).

That's about it I guess, but can't wait to see how DDR3 performs compared to DDR2, especially clock-for-clock... by all accounts the DDR2 performance of the P35 and P965 have been virtually identical since P35 was more about bringing more features - FSB1333, ICH9 and DDR3 - than performance to the table.

Thanks again for the nice preview!
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bhenning May 15, 07
You are most welcome!

At least you noticed the intent of the article, instead of the purloined letter 'h' :-)

As for performance, I can tell you that the GA P35-DS3R performed [****CENSORED DUE TO NDA****] except for [****DON'T YOU HATE NDA's?****] and most people [****YES I'M HAVING FUN WITH THIS****]

You'll see plenty of benchmark results as soon as I am allowed to publish them :-)

quote Stele
That was a great preview, with good close-up pics to highlight some of the interesting features of the board.

As for the mystery chip which you're wondering about on the Asus boards, there are some useful clues in the form of silkscreened labels on the PCB outlines near that area of the motherboard: notice "EZRAID_SET" on what looks like the PCB pads for a jumper block, as well as "SATA_E2" on what looks like the pads for another SATA port, next to "SATA6/SATA_E1", the bottom left-most SATA port.

I'm guessing, therefore, that the mystery chip is a SATA to 2-port SATA port replicator with software RAID or a SATA to 2-Port SATA storage controller with hardware RAID. You would have encountered once such example of the latter before: the Asus P5W-DH's Silicon Image 4723 hardware RAID controller, also known as ASUS EZ-Backup. The mode of operation is the same: take one SATA line from the ICH9 (SATA6 on the P5K) and split it into two, adding RAID features as well. That's why SATA6 was labelled as "SATA6/SATA_E1" on the motherboard - with the controller installed the SATA6 channel from the ICH9 would be rerouted to the controller which would then output to SATA_E1 and SATA_E2.

Going one step further, I'm guessing that the mystery chip might be a Silicon Image SiI5723 storage processor http://www.siliconimage.com/products/product.aspx?id=103. It's originally designed for eSATA, but that just means that its signal drive is sufficiently strong to span the 2m eSATA cables, and has hot-plug support; certainly can be used for internal SATA as well.

I made this guess based on several clues:
#

#the PCB footprint for the mystery chip on the P5K seems to fit the package of the SiI5723 (QFN or Quad Flat No-lead)

#the P5K's jumper block's complexity - a normal "Enable/Disable" block would only require a 3-pin jumper. Instead, a 3x3 block is seen here, which may be used for the "mode jumpers" referred to in the SiI5723's block diagram on its product page.

#there seems to be a small SO-8 footprint between the jumper pads and the mystery chip, which would be just right for the "serial flash" firmware chip also referred to in the SiI5723's product page

#Asus has a strong relationship with Silicon Image, having used their storage processors for a long time now, including the SiI3114 way back on the A7N8X Deluxe, the SiI4723 on their Digital Home series and currently the SiI3132 PCIe-to-2-port SATA for eSATA functionality on the high-end boards.

IMHO, Asus probably designed the option to have that controller in so that some RAID functionality can still be offered on a lower-end version of the board using the vanilla ICH9 (non-R) and/or to allow for a Digital Home edition that provides for one more SATA port and one more RAID subsystem (instead of depending wholly on the Intel Storage Matrix).

That's about it I guess, but can't wait to see how DDR3 performs compared to DDR2, especially clock-for-clock... by all accounts the DDR2 performance of the P35 and P965 have been virtually identical since P35 was more about bringing more features - FSB1333, ICH9 and DDR3 - than performance to the table.

Thanks again for the nice preview!
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red16546 May 22, 07
when is the NDA lifted?
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bhenning May 23, 07
Two days ago

quote red16546
when is the NDA lifted?
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