ASUS P5K3 Deluxe

ASUS P5K3 Deluxe

The ASUS P5K3 Deluxe feature's Intel's new P35 chipset and Intel Controller Hub version 9 (ICH9). It also represents a shift in PC technology, as it's one of the first motherboards on the market to ship with DDR3 memory slots, and it can handle a front side bus speed of up to 1333MHz. This front side bus speed makes it capable of handling Intel's next-generation CPUs--codenamed Penryn--which will be released sometime in the second half of 2007.

The front side bus is the link between the CPU and the memory controller, and the faster the frequency is, the faster the CPU can be fed with data from the memory modules. Current Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Extreme CPUs have a native front side bus frequency of 1066MHz, but DDR2 is officially only meant to run at 800MHz (any higher and it's technically overclocked). The extra speed of DDR3 memory can finally match this front side bus speed and can even go further--we tested with DDR3 memory rated at 1333MHz. All this extra speed of DDR3 should theoretically bring better performance to the desktop.

We tested the P5K3 Deluxe with 2GB of Kingston HyperX DDR3 1333MHz memory, an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 CPU (1066MHZ FSB), an ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics card and a 500GB Western Digital Caviar hard drive running Windows Vista Ultimate.

We tested the board with our WorldBench 6 benchmark suite, which runs through a workload using everyday applications. With the memory speed set to 1333MHz, the benchmark returned a score of 101. This is slower than what we expected, considering that an Intel P965 chipset-based ASUS P5B Premium motherboard managed 101, using a similar configuration and only 1GB of DDR2 800MHz memory. Gigabyte's P35-DS4 board, which also uses the P35 chipset, but with 2GB of DDR2 800MHz memory, was able to score 103.

Nevertheless, we soldiered on and tested the board at some other memory speeds. Running the memory at 1066MHz, which is the native speed of the CPU, the board managed to hit 106 in WorldBench 6, which is a more respectable score.

This shows diminishing returns when the memory speed runs at a faster speed than the CPUs native front side bus speed and means that the true benefit of DDR3 1333MHz memory won't be seen until CPUs with a native 1333MHz front side bus are released. In the meantime, if you consider this board, look for DDR3 that's rated at 1066MHz, unless you want to do some serious overclocking.

Indeed, one of the strengths of this board is its overclocking potential, and with the Kingston memory we used, we were able to squeeze a little bit more performance out of it while retaining a reliable system. Overclocking the 2.66GHz CPU to 3.3GHz while using a 1333MHz front side bus and memory speed, we were able to get an overall WorldBench 6 score of 111. This isn't the fastest score we've ever seen, but it's an improvement of around 10 percent, which is nothing to scoff at. It just goes to show how important CPU speed when processing heavy loads of data, such as in Adobe Photoshop.

Aside from the latest memory and CPU support, a slew of modern connectivity accompanies the new chipset on this motherboard and this is clearly reflected on the rear I/O panel. On this panel alone there are six USB 2.0 ports, two gigabit Ethernet ports, two eSATA ports and a FireWire port. You'll also find analogue and optical audio ports and, unlike many other boards on the market, the P5K3 Deluxe ships with a built in 802.11g wireless adapter and an antenna. The antenna's base could be heavier (it tends to sit in the air slightly due to the stiffness of its wire), but it did the job and was able to connect to our WPA-enabled 802.11g wireless network without a fuss.

To use the eSATA ports, your drives will need to have an external power connection for your hard drive, as the eSATA port only provides the data connection. ASUS doesn't supply any eSATA data cables in the box, so these will need to be obtained at an extra cost if you don't have any. Testing with a 2.5in external hard drive, we were able to copy data onto the drive at a rate of 18MBps.

The only legacy interface on the rear panel is a PS/2 port. ASUS also supplies a bracket that has two more USB 2.0 ports and one more FireWire port. Optical drives can be connected to the motherboard's sole IDE port, while hard drives can be plugged in to any of the board's six SATA II ports, which also support RAID 0 and RAID 1 modes.

Physically, the board is equipped with a hefty heat sink and heat-pipe array that cools the P35 chipset and the ICH9 chipset (which is the chipset that controls the USB, networking, SATA and IDE ports). These pipes can also make CPU heat sink removal a little awkward. Conversely, we didn't face any problems while building up the board and its components are well laid out and easy to access. Its two PCI Express x1 slots are located above the x16 graphics slot, so that they don't get impeded by thick graphics cards. Our Radeon HD 2900 XT did make the PCI slots beneath it unusable due to its thick cooler, but as more devices are now coming in PCI Express x1 format (digital TV tuners and wireless networking cards, for example), the older PCI slots probably won't need to be used for much longer. A PCI Express x4 slot is also present, and this can either be used on its own to plug in x1 or x4-sized expansion cards, or it can be used to plug in a second graphics card for an ATI CrossFire configuration.

All up, the P5K Deluxe represents the dawning of a new memory standard and faster throughput between Intel CPUs and their memory controller, but it's not ready for primetime yet. Our performance tests returned results that were slower than a comparable motherboard running DDR2 800MHz RAM and the same CPU speed. However, we're pleased with the board's reliability, especially when overclocking. If you're looking for the latest in tech gear and want guaranteed support for future Intel CPUs that will feature a 1333MHz front side bus, with memory that will run reliably at that speed, then this is a worthy upgrade.

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