Based on Intel's P965 chipset, the Asus P5B Premium board suits any of the current generation, LGA775 socket-based CPUs and can also handle an ATI CrossFire dual graphics card configuration. It comes with some features that aren't found on most motherboards and performed reliably in our tests.
The P5B Premium is a solid foundation for any Windows Vista-based PC. Vista automatically recognised all of the board's components, save for the audio chip, which we had to install from the driver disc.
Physically, the board is well built. The spacing of the components allowed us to easily install our Core 2 Quad QX6700 CPU with a standard heat sink, 1GB of DDR2 800MHz RAM and a GeForce 7600GT-based graphics card. Along with a 150GB Western Digital Raptor hard drive, this configuration propelled the board to a score of 101 in WorldBench 6, which is a few points shy of what we were expecting.
In the Cdex encoding test, where we convert 53 minutes worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files, the board took 1min 49sec. This is an expected result for our configuration. Preset overclocking options are available in the Bios, which allow the system to be overclocked dynamically (up to 20 per cent), but you can also manually adjust the front side bus speed and the clock ratio of the CPU. We overclocked the CPU to 3.3GHz, and the Cdex encoding time was reduced to 1min 35sec.
Heat sinks and a heat-pipe keep the chipsets cool, while the CPU fan is controlled by Asus' Q-Fan 2 technology. The board proved to be reliable throughout our tests and we didn't experience any instability problems during multiple 24-hour test periods. All of the board's added features - ScreenDUO, an array microphone and AI Remote - worked fine, but we had to install updated drivers for ScreenDuo to work.
The ScreenDuo feature is something we haven't seen on other boards. It's a separate LCD screen that plugs into a USB port and can display system information, photos or text notes or to control music. We found it useful for monitoring CPU temperature and fan speed.
The AI Remote works via infrared and can be programmed to launch applications and control the playback of videos and music. It's a little fiddly, but useful.
The P5B comes with an abundance of USB and SATA ports, two FireWire ports, two gigabit Ethernet ports and one eSATA port, but it only has one IDE port. It has three PCI slots, one PCI Express (PCIe) x16 slot, one full-size PCIe x4/x2 slot and one PCIe x1 slot. That's one PCI slot too many and one PCIe slot too few for our liking.