Articles: Mainboards

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Testbed Configuration

All performance tests were run on the following test platform:

  • Asus P8P67 Pro mainboard (LGA1155, Intel P67 Express, BIOS version 1204);
  • Intel Core i5-2500K CPU (3.3 GHz, Sandy Bridge, LGA1155);
  • 2 x 2048 MB Patriot Extreme Performance Viper II Sector 5 Series PC3-16000 DDR3 SDRAM, PVV34G2000LLKB (2,000 MHz, 8-8-8-24 timings, 1.65 V voltage);
  • HIS HD 5850, H585F1GDG graphics card (ATI Radeon HD 5850, Cypress, 40 nm, 725/4000 MHz, 256-bit GDDR5 1024 MB);
  • Kingston SSD Now V+ Series (SNVP325-S2, 128 GB);
  • Scythe Mugen 2 Revision B (SCMG-2100) CPU cooler;
  • Zalman CSL 850 thermal interface;
  • Cooler Master RealPower M850 PSU (RS-850-ESBA);
  • Open testbed built using Antec Skeleton system case.

We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7600) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version, ATI Catalyst 11.1 graphics card driver.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

ASUS P8P67 Pro is the most exciting mainboard to deal with thanks to its rich and flexible settings. We are especially pleased with the power-related options which can now not only enable power-saving technologies without any additional tools but also allow you to control their operation. Everything is very visual: you enable EPU Power Saving Mode and see right away how the CPU voltage decreases. You use the Phase Control option to allow the dynamic adjustment of the number of active power phases and you can see then how the system's idle power consumption lowers. Of course, not all of the EFI BIOS settings produce such a clear and easily observable effect, yet you do get a nice feeling of full control over your system. Unfortunately, the longer we used the mainboard, the more small defects and downsides we spotted about it. We don't really mind them considering the completely new BIOS interface but hope that ASUS won't take too long to fix them.

Here is one such problem, for example: when you reach the Boot Override page of the Boot section after checking out and changing some other settings, clicking on any of the available disks will make the mainboard instantly boot from that device. The problem is that the mainboard, as opposed to an MSI mainboard we saw, will not ask whether you want to save your previously made changes or not. It will just boot without saving any changes.

When starting up, the mainboard shows a picture that doesn’t have any practical meaning but you won't see much information if you turn it off. The mainboard displays the memory clock rate correctly whereas the CPU clock rate is always reported to be the default 3.3 GHz irrespective of its real frequency. There is no hint that pressing F8 opens up a menu for choosing the device you want to boot from. This is a handy option and it really works, but the mainboard just doesn’t care to mention it.

If the P8P67 Pro cannot start up for some reason, after several attempts, it automatically starts in safe mode and suggests that you enter its BIOS and change the incorrectly specified parameters. In this case the mainboard stores all the BIOS settings you have selected but always disables the EPU Power Saving Mode. Of course, we could select the necessary setting again or use a previously saved profile with BIOS settings but in the latter case the CPU voltage could be much higher than the specified one. We had to correct it manually but later we found out that by selecting the CPU voltage option and pressing Enter we could make the mainboard recall the correct CPU voltage.

So, these are examples of a few small issues that will surely be fixed by ASUS. The only serious problem we found with the mainboard is that it does not start up at a memory frequency of 1600 MHz. Whatever memory timings, voltage or modules we used, the mainboard could only start at a memory frequency of 1067 or 1333 MHz. When it's already running, you can set memory frequency to 1600 MHz, choose minimum timings, and the mainboard will pass all the tests and reboot successfully but the next start will be a failure again. Hopefully, this is a problem of our particular mainboard sample, and the off-the-shelf products won’t be affected.

As for overclocking, our new Intel Core i5-2500K processor is formally clocked at 3.3 GHz but its frequency actually varies from 3.4 to 3.7 GHz thanks to Intel Turbo Boost technology. We can set any other frequency, though, because its frequency multiplier is not locked. The new Intel CPUs are in fact very easy to overclock. You just keep on increasing the multiplier and voltage and monitoring the temperature. You should not be baffled by the numerous user-definable parameters available in the BIOS as the mainboard sets most of them in automatic mode just fine. We also saw that Asus mainboard BIOS had the Internal PLL Overvoltage parameter which was supposed to help during overclocking. This option has also become available in the BIOSes of Gigabyte and MSI mainboards, so it must be a really useful parameter, although we could not see its effect during CPU overclocking.

The clock rate of 5.0 GHz looks pretty but we could not keep our Core i5-2500K stable at such settings. By the way, while the new CPUs are easy to overclock, it may be difficult to confirm their stability. When overclocked, our CPU could work for a very long time in extreme conditions created by LinX. This might be considered a 100% stability guarantee, but Prime95 proved capable of crashing the system in just a few minutes under the same conditions.

Our CPU could run at a clock rate of 4.9 GHz but this achievement had little practical value. Although it passed our stability tests, including Prime95, its temperature was as high as 90°C on an open testbed. The temperature is going to be even higher in a closed system case, which may lead to performance deterioration or even cause the system to shut down as a result of overheating. Fortunately, as soon as we set the clock rate to 4.8 GHz, the CPU temperature dropped below 80°C even under high loads. This overclocking is quite practical in long-term prospective.

By the way, we did not use any special overclocking methods or tools and did not limit the mainboard’s capabilities. Particularly, we did not disable any controllers or power-saving technologies.

As for bus overclocking, ASUS P8P67 Pro, like many other mainboards, can work at a base clock rate of 105 MHz. You can use this overclocking method with ordinary CPUs that have a locked frequency multiplier. In this case you will add extra 200 MHz to your CPU frequency, which is quite a decent performance boost.

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