Overclocker System Components
ASUS P6T Deluxe Mainboard
It is quite logical that one of the major factors for successful overclocking of Core i7 as well as any other CPUs is the right choice of high-quality components. Of course, a mainboard plays the determinative role in an overclocker platform as one of the most important system components tying together CPU, memory, graphics card and peripheral devices. For our tests we chose ASUS P6T Deluxe first of all because ASUS Company is a well-known manufacturer of high-quality overclocker-friendly solutions.
However, we can’t say that a quick look at ASUS P6T Deluxe made any peculiar impression. At first glance it looks like an ordinary board, nothing special. You may even start feeling a little disappointed, because P6T Deluxe sells for almost $300, but doesn’t strike you with its looks. Although it is important to understand that mainboards for Core i7 processors all based on the only compatible chipset – Intel X58 Express, cannot be cheap by definition. Intel set the tempo themselves by selling their Intel X58 for over $50 to the mainboard makers.
Nevertheless, ASUS P6T Deluxe is far not the cheapest Intel X58 based board. The thing is that ASUS engineers decided not to save on small things. For example, the board uses high-reliability electronic components, 8-layer PCB (instead of 6-layer one), and a number of interesting additional controllers. But let’s check out all the peculiarities of ASUS P6T Deluxe one by one.
First of all, I have to point out that this board has three PCI Express x16 slots (compatible with 2.0 protocol version) for graphics cards. These slots may work in two modes: x16/x16/x1 with one or two graphics cards, or x16/x8/x8 with three graphics cards. This way ASUS P6T Deluxe allows using dual-card graphics subsystems without any limitations. It is especially nice that P6T Deluxe was certified by Nvidia, so it supports not only ATI Crossfire technology, but also Nvidia SLI. So, this mainboard may be used as a base for a high-performance gaming platform equipped with any type of graphics accelerators.
Besides three PCI Express x16 slots, the mainboard also has an additional PCI Express x4 slot and two regular PCI slots. One of them, however, will most likely be blocked dead by the graphics card cooling system.
ASUS engineers decided to go with a traditional location for the DIMM slots, they are to the right of the CPU socket. By the way, the reference design suggests this particular placement, and not the one offered by Intel Smackover board. Moreover, unlike Intel board, ASUS P6T Deluxe has six DDR3 SDRAM slots – two per channel. It means that P6T Deluxe may accommodate up to 12GB of memory.
I would like to specifically stress the fact that ASUS engineers paid special attention to the quality of signal lines laid between the CPU and the memory. Take a look: the axis going through the center of the DIMM slots also goes through the center of the CPU. Leveling it out like that may add extra stability to the memory subsystem, for example, during overclocking. By the way, there is a triple-phase voltage regulator for DDR3 SDRAM instead of the dual-phase one like on many other mainboards.
As for the voltage regulator of the CPU itself, its circuitry consists of 16 phases and two additional phases for the North Bridge built into the processor. This circuitry is unprecedentedly complex, and theoretically it ensures extremely “pure” power signal. However, thanks to the traditional EPU controller, this circuitry enables only four phases if the electrical load is low. This makes the voltage regulator very efficient. No wonder that having implemented this complex circuitry ASUS decided not to save on the components. They used long-lasting capacitors with polymer electrolyte, ferrite core chokes and high-frequency Low RDS(on) MOSFET not only for the voltage regulator circuitry but for the entire mainboard.
Transistors surrounding processor socket are topped with ASUS’ traditional aluminum heatsinks of copper color. The chipset South Bridge is cooled with a low-profile heatsink topped with a decorative cover with a lit manufacturer logo that glows when the system is on. The North Bridge, on the contrary, has a massive aluminum heatsink with a lot of sophisticatedly shaped fins. According to ASUS engineers, this shape is ideal for a passive chipset cooler, because the fins go along the airflow created by the CPU cooling system. However, the developers have also made it possible to install a standard 40-mm fan onto this uniquely shaped heatsink. They included special retention stands with the mainboard accessories.
All above mentioned heatsinks are connected into a single cooling system with heatpipes, which is a typical solution for all mainboard from the upper price segment.
I have to say that this cooling system will hardly prevent you from using any massive processor coolers on ASUS P6T Deluxe. But it is not only because all mainboard heatsinks are relatively short, but because LGA1366 mainboards reference design allows moving the processor socket a little away from the upper edge of the PCB. This may be bad news for the owners of old system cases with an air duct leading to the processor cooler. However, the layout change at the top of the PCB frees some additional space that the mainboard designers could use as they see fit.
Speaking of distinctive peculiarities of ASUS P6T Deluxe mainboard, we should point out that this board has an additional SAS controller, which we have never seen before in platforms for computer enthusiasts. ASUS equipped its board with a dual-port Marvell 88SE6320 controller supporting SATA and SAS hard drives and RAID arrays 0 or 1.
By the way, since ICH10R South Bridge used on ASUS P6T Deluxe mainboard doesn’t support PATA devices, ASUS engineers installed an additional Marvell 88SE6111 controller. It provided P6T Deluxe not only with PATA-133 interface but also with an additional eSATA port laid out on the back panel of the board.
If you look at the connector panel of ASUS P6T Deluxe mainboard, you will see that it has two Gigabit network ports implemented via Marvell 88E8056 controller. These ports may be used separately or together – in Teaming mode. There is also an IEEE1394 port and 8 USB 2.0 ports. Another Firewire port and six more USB 2.0 ports are laid out as onboard pin-connectors. Besides the ports and connectors mentioned above, the back panel also bears a combination PS/2 port for keyboard or mouse and audio ports: six audio-jacks and two SPDIF ports – an optical and a coaxial one, that are implemented with ADI AD2000B controller.