ASUS P5E3 Premium: One to Rule them All…by Kris Boughton on February 20, 2008 12:15 AM EST
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Board Layout and Features (Continued)
The hefty copper heatsink located atop the Southbridge is more than acceptable when it comes to controlling the temperature of the low-power ICH9R chipset; the Ai LifeStyle logo adorns the cover. As we mentioned earlier, the screw-mount system is great at allowing for maximum mounting pressure.
The battery is installed in an accessible location and the jumper seen below it can be used to reset the RTC (real time clock) without the need to remove the battery. The clear CMOS reset jumper is located right below the fan header, although the board is very capable of gracefully recovering should an overclock fail.
The single green LED is a power-on indicator, and the speaker pad seen just above it is empty as always - which makes us wonder why ASUS continues to design these into their boards but then never populates the area with a cheap buzzer. If not a cheap buzzer, then at least install the power on/off and reset buttons seen on the R.O.G. series of boards. We can also see two of the six fan headers, the other two being located along the middle horizontal axis of the board and the final two near the top.
All six of the SATA 3.0Gbps ports seen here connect to the Intel ICH9R. The two vertical headers are ports 0 and 1, the other four 90-degree headers are ports 2 thorough 5. The single PATA header comes courtesy of a JMicron JMB363 controller, which also provides the eSATA ports located on the I/O panel.
The two dark blue header shrouds are for connecting extra USB 2.0/1.1 headers to the board. The red header is another IEEE 1394a port (the first is located on the I/O panel), controlled by the Agere chip placed above the battery. The light green header to the far back is for connecting a COM port extender cable, for those that still need one.
The X48 chipset offers two full x16 PCI-Express 2.0 expansion slots (blue) supporting CrossFire technology. The third PCI-Express x16 expansion slot (black) is PCI-E 1.x compatible and is only capable of training either x4 or x1 link speeds even though it can seat up to x16 cards mechanically. With no word yet if NVIDIA's recent acquisition of AGEIA might allow the use of a third video graphics card (such as the single-slot 8800GT), for now this slot may not need a GPU. Seeing as how NVIDIA has always been rather selective when it comes to allowing competitors the use of any of their multi-GPU technologies we can only imagine the answer is negative, Ghost Rider (the pattern is full). Perhaps NVIDIA (or AMD or Intel) will prove us wrong.
As with most DDR3 motherboards, the memory slots are further from the top of the board, locating them closer to the MCH. As a result, there is just barely enough room to install two graphics cards with dual-slot coolers, and doing so renders the only PCI-E x1 slot completely inaccessible. Unlike the P5E3 Deluxe, which features two PCI-E x1 slots, the Premium version lacks the upper slot due to the redesign of the MCH power regulation circuit. Perhaps a better decision would have been to locate one of the standard PCI slots here; that way the single PCI-E x1 slot and one of the two PCI slots would be available when running CrossFire with full-sized card coolers. In any case, we can see the importance of carefully planning for any future system expansion.
ASUS' proprietary WiFi-AP@n (is that the best name they could come up with?) expansion card brings full draft-N wireless functionality to the motherboard, a rather considerable bonus considering the cost of add-in cards. The unit connects via a hardwired USB interface, which is why the dual-homed card (two antennas) reduces the motherboard's USB capabilities from the standard 12 ports offered by the ICH9(R) to just 10.
ASUS' Express Gate offers a unique quick-boot environment that allows you to almost instantly access commonly used functions like web browsing or communications applications without loading a traditional OS (operating system). We found the need to increase the selection timeout due to the long initialization time of our graphics card, without which we would usually miss the full screen logo display and our chance to invoke the option.
In our opinion though, Express Gate has one major flaw: while the included WiFi-AP@n connection can be used in this environment, it is only able to connect to WEP-encrypted networks and not the newer and much more secure WPA/WPA2 networks that should be used today. Not wanting to downgrade our network from WPA2 to WEP, we had to abandon hope of making normal use of this feature for now. However, it will do in a pinch in case you need to connect to the Internet for a BIOS update, driver download, or a quick check of the weather. Those that connect their system via Ethernet to a switch or router should not have any problems, as either LAN port can function in place of the wireless connection.