Environmentally aware, but also speedy
There's much to like about the P5Q3 Deluxe, which is a motherboard that makes use of Intel's P45 chipset. It's a fully-featured board that's perfect for a mid-level or high-end system, but it runs DDR3 memory, which means you probably won't be able to use your existing RAM if you're planning an upgrade. However, DDR3 isn't too expensive these days.
- Reliable performer, can be easily underclocked to save energy, plenty of connectivity (including eSATA), 802.11n Wi-Fi
- Splashtop doesn't really fit in with this board's overall image, but it's useful for getting online in a matter of seconds without booting into Windows
There's plenty of features to explore on this board, and it's also a good performer. We like its 'six engine' utility, which allows you to easily underclock the board in order to save power, yet also to put it into turbo mode and get a little extra out of your CPU.
The Intel P45 chipset gives this board the ability to run at front-side bus speeds up to 1600MHz, and it offers up to 32 PCI Express lanes. With three full-sized PCI Express slots (one x16 and two x8 slots) the board can be used for a CrossFire graphics configuration. The P45 is paired with Intel's I/O Controller Hub 10, which supplies the P5Q3 Deluxe with two more PCI Express x1 slots, two PCI slots, as well as six Serial ATA ports and 10 USB 2.0 ports.
We ran it with an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 CPU, 2GB of DDR3 1066MHz RAM, an ATI Radeon HD 2600XT graphics card and a Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drive. Set up proved to be a little tedious using the supplied CD-ROM and 'install all' option, as the CD is bootable; this meant we had to tell the BIOS not to boot from the CD-ROM. But once we were up and running, the board ran smoothly at the native speed of our CPU (3GHz) and even handled a bit of overclocking (up to 3.4GHz).
Using WorldBench 6, the board didn't crash at all while running the CPU at 3.4GHz; this overclocking improved its scores in the Photoshop and WinZip tests by 27sec and 22sec, respectively. In the Blender 3D test, a four-threaded 3-D rendering job took 32sec to complete at 3GHz and 28sec at 3.4GHz. These were expected results. The only test it couldn't run while overclocked was 3DMark06. Nevertheless, at 3GHz, 3DMark06 returned a fast score of 5217.
To overclock the board, we upped its front-side speed and the clock multiplier. You can also select the latency (referred to as the strap setting) of the chipset, depending on the front-side bus speed you choose. These are set values of 200, 266, 333 and 400, but there is also an auto setting. In our tests, we used a front-side bus speed of 340MHz and a clock multiplier of 10, as well as a strap setting of 400.
But as well as being able to supply fast bus speeds for your system, the P5Q3 Deluxe has also got one foot firmly planted in environmental consciousness. This is by way of its eco-friendly 'six engine' utility, which can save power by running the CPU and other system components at a rate below their default.
The 'six engine' utility runs in the background; its maximum power-saving setting reduces power consumption by up to 35 per cent compared to the default 'high' setting. Of course, this also means that performance is hindered, as the CPU is underclocked by 10 per cent. We measured this performance using Blender 3D to render a four-threaded job. At the 'high' setting, this took 34sec and our system consumed a maximum of 138W. At the 'max power saver' setting, the same job took 53sec and consumed a maximum of 102W.
Funnily enough, the 'six engine' utility also has a 'turbo' setting, which overclocks the CPU automatically by five per cent. It consumed about one Watt more than the 'high' setting and ran the Blender test in 30sec. If you don't want to get your hands dirty in the BIOS, this is a nice way to get some extra performance out of your CPU.
Another interesting feature of the board is its Splashtop interface, which is a Linux-based operating system that sits on a flash chip. You don't even need a hard drive to be connected to your PC in order to boot into Splashtop. Its inclusion on a board such as this one fits in with the overall theme of saving power; it's only really useful for when you just want to boot up your PC to browse the Web.
You can connect to a network without even purchasing any extra adapters, too, as the board ships with a built-in 802.11n wireless adapter. It picked up our wireless network without much fuss, and it even has a dual-antenna setup.
Other connectivity features include two Gigabit Ethernet ports (by way of Marvell controllers), 10 USB 2.0 ports, eight SATA ports (six via the P45 chipset and two via a Silicon Image controller), an External SATA port, an ADI AD2000B audio chip, and two FireWire ports.
The chipset's heat sink didn't get very warm during our tests (not nearly as warm as the nForce 750i SLI FTW ), and its copper piping and fins looks nice. We like the upright SATA ports, although two are also at right-angles — it's the best of both worlds really — and there are also dedicated buttons on the board for power and reset functions.
All up, this board is a great piece of work by ASUS. There is plenty to tinker with, and using its 'six engine' utility you can squeeze more power out of it reliably without getting your hands dirtied by the BIOS.
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