With the CUSL2, ASUS also introduces another new innovation for their motherboards, known as the ASUS iPanel. It sits in an external 5.25" drive bay and provides access to the onboard audio ports, an infrared module, and front panel I/O ports, all while leaving room for an internal 3.5" device inside the iPanel so that 5.25" bay is not completely wasted. The exact specs of the iPanel have yet to be determined so they are subject to change. It will be an extra cost option not included with the motherboard.

Like all recent ASUS boards, the CUSL2 uses Award's Medallion BIOS 6.00, which looks a lot like the old Phoenix BIOS, most likely due to the merger between Phoenix and Award last year. While the Medallion BIOS looks and operates like a Phoenix BIOS, it offers all the tweaking options we've come to expect from the standard Award setup found on virtually all other boards out there. When it comes to BIOS support, ASUS is quite possibly the best manufacturer, with constant BIOS updates and betas available seemingly every week. In the past, they've continued that support with fixes and new features even after the board has been discontinued.

Within the BIOS, you'll find ASUS's JumperFree CPU Setup under the "Advanced" menu. For those of you that prefer a hardware CPU setup, DIP switches are available on the board, although not all the FSB speeds of JumperFree are available. The rendition of JumperFree on the CUSL2 is one of the most flexible CPU setup we've ever seen, at least in terms of available FSB speeds where it has more than any other board, including the previous champ ABIT BE6-2. ASUS allows independent selection of the FSB:SDRAM:PCI ratio and the actual FSB speed. Available options for the FSB:SDRAM:PCI ratio include 133:133:33, 133:100:33, 100:100:33, and 66:100:33. Each ratio includes its own set of FSB options, which are shown in the table below since it's a bit more complicated than most motherboards.

FSB:SDRAM:PCI Ratio

Available FSB Speeds
133:133:33
133 / 166
135 - 160 (in 1 MHz increments)
133:100:33
133 / 203 / 205 / 210 / 216
135 - 200 (in 1 MHz increments)
100:100:33
100
102 - 132 (in 1 MHz increments)
66:100:33
66 - 97 MHz (in 1 MHz increments)

Interestingly enough, additional FSB speeds are opened up for 133 MHz CPU's when the memory clock is turned down to 3/4 of the FSB speed. Those FSB speeds reach up to a phenomenal 216 MHz, although it's unlikely that anyone will be able to use such high speeds, especially with all Intel CPU's multiplier locked. However, the flexibility of FSB speeds available in 1 MHz increments in most cases is very useful for tweaking the most out of your CPU, regardless of what type of CPU you're using. The independent selection of FSB:SDRAM:PCI ratio certainly comes in handy when you're exploring the limits of your CPU and RAM simultaneously.

In fact, ASUS even has a recommendation in the right hand panel of the BIOS that suggests using the 133:100:33 ratio with FSB speeds above 145 MHz since that will be pushing the limits of most PC133 SDRAM. If you try to overclock your CPU too far and the system fails to POST, the next time you try to boot up, the motherboard defaults to fail-safe settings. Next, the CPU configuration screen in the BIOS pops up letting you know that you need to choose new CPU settings. Nice to see that ASUS is looking out for all the overclockers out there ;)

Speaking of overclocking, ASUS hasn't forgotten some of the other little tricks that let us tweak our CPU's to the limit. That means we get core voltage tweaks in the BIOS, up to 0.30V over the default voltage in 0.05V increments. Along the same lines, ASUS was one of the first to offer I/O voltage adjustments on the CUSL2 continues that support via jumpers on the motherboard - options include 3.30V, 3.40V, and 3.60V with 3.40V the default. Direct control over SDRAM timing is included as well. Although not specifically labeled in the BIOS, the AGP:FSB ratio is automatically set based on the FSB:SDRAM:PCI ratio to keep things within spec at 66 / 100 / 133 FSB speeds and as close as possible when overclocking.

To help ensure stability, ASUS has included eleven 1500uF capacitors around the Socket-370 interface. And it seems to have worked as the CUSL2 was rock solid in both overclocked and non-overclocked situations, matching our experience with most ASUS boards in the past. Hardware monitoring is provided by a custom ASUS AS99127F ASIC that can monitor 3 temperatures, 3 fan speeds, and 6 voltages. In the case of the CUSL2, CPU temperature is read from the on-die thermal diode found on all Socket-370 Intel CPU's. An external thermistor header, designated for power supply temperature, but could really be used for anything, is located between the third and fourth PCI slots.

ASUS manuals have always been some of the best in the industry and nothing has changed with the CUSL2, which ships with the usual high quality ASUS manual as well as a helpful CD that contains all of the necessary drivers and utilities to get your system up and running reliably. They even let you know exactly which slots share IRQ's with other slots or devices. Nothing but the best, which is what we've come to expect from a company like ASUS.

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