07/05/2011 | 01:53 PM
When a new chipset comes out, we usually stop to review mainboards based on older chipsets, especially as we usually have published a lot of such reviews by that time already, and focus on new products. That’s out general strategy but there may be exceptions. Although we've already tested four Gigabyte mainboards based on the new Intel Z68 Express chipset, we want to return to the Intel P67 Express which is the core of the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe mainboard. We’ve already tested ASUS P8P67 Pro and Sabertooth P67 and know that ASUS products stand out among other LGA1155 mainboards. For example, the ASUS P8P67 Pro features an integrated Bluetooth module and EFI BIOS with new capabilities while the Sabertooth P67 is quite unique as it is clad in what is called TUF Thermal Armor and comes with a 5-year warranty. These two products illustrate that mainboards remain one of the top priorities for the company and we, in our turn, pay much attention to what ASUS has to offer. Moreover, the P8P67 Deluxe is not just a slightly improved P8P67 Pro, notwithstanding the similar names. It comes with more accessories, has more onboard controllers and features a different PCB design. So, let’s take a closer look at the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe starting from its packaging.
The ASUS P8P67 Deluxe comes in a standard-sized box with a front flap that can be flipped back to give you a view of the mainboard through the window. A picture of the product, a list of its specs and a brief description of its features can be found on the back of the box.
As an echo of the long-abated scandal, the mainboard is said to be based on the new, corrected version (B3) of the Intel P67 Express chipset. There can be some confusion about the revision numbers, by the way. The point that ASUS's marketing department wants to make it clear enough. Every ASUS mainboard based on the revision B3 chipset gets an appropriate addition to its model name (“rev 3.0” or higher) so that the buyer could see in the very name of the mainboard that the latter is based on the corrected chipset. On the other hand, when some minor changes are introduced into PCB design, this is indicated by a higher PCB revision. For example, the PCB revision of my sample of the mainboard is 1.03. So, I’m going to test an ASUS P8P67 Deluxe rev. 3.0 mainboard with a revision 1.03 PCB. It’s rather confusing, isn’t it?
The mainboard comes with a rather conventional set of accessories but the number of “special” SATA cables designed for SATA 6 Gbps devices is increased from two to four. Besides, there is a most helpful unit with two USB 3.0 ports which can be installed into a 3.5-inch bay of your system case.
Here is a full list of the accessories included with the mainboard:
Comparing the P8P67 Deluxe with the P8P67 Pro mainboard we tested earlier, we can see a number of common traits between them. The similarity might be expected since these are top-end and midrange products in the same series from the same manufacturer. On the other hand, we can see some significant differences in their PCB design.
The most notable difference is the additional heatsink in the middle of the P8P67 Deluxe. We’ve already seen LGA1156 and LGA1155 mainboards with this cooling system design which may be used for two reasons. One and the more rational reason is that there is some hot onboard controller, like an Nvidia NF200, underneath the heatsink. The second reason is that this is just a means of increasing the total heat dissipation area of the cooling system. Here, we've got the second reason because the heatsink is not installed above some chip. The only thing that strikes me as odd is that the presence of such a heatsink on the Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD5-B3, for example, can be explained by unification. Gigabyte's product range includes the GA-Z68X-UD7-B3 model which has the same cooling system and really needs the central heatsink to cool an Nvidia NF200 controller. So why not use the same cooling for the Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD5-B3, especially as the heatsinks are all fastened with screws, combined into a single whole with heat pipes and deliver high cooling performance? When it comes to ASUS, there is no other mainboard that would actually need that central heatsink. Moreover, it is securely fastened with screws right to the PCB whereas the two heatsinks on the CPU voltage regulator have spring-loaded plastic locks only. A heat pipe connects the central heatsink to only one of the additional heatsinks whereas the other ones have to do their duties on their own. Thus, the usefulness of the central heatsink is rather questionable even though it cannot be counted among the mainboard's shortcomings.
Going further in our comparison of the P8P67 Deluxe with the P8P67 Pro, we can see that the Deluxe version has a more advanced CPU voltage regulator. It represents a 16+2 formula instead of the Pro's 12+1. The memory subsystem specs seem to be identical: four slots, up to 32 gigabytes, dual-channel architecture. However, the available frequency range has been expanded in the BIOS and now stretches from 800 up to 2400 MHz. The selection of expansion slots is the same: two PCI, two PCI Express 2.0 x1 and three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots. The first graphics slot works in full-speed PCIe 2.0 x16 mode or shares the 16 lanes with the second graphics slot (8 lanes for each). The third graphics slot has only 4 PCIe lanes. The two mainboards have about the same number of onboard controllers but the controllers themselves are different. The P8P67 Deluxe has two Renesas (NEC) D720200F1 chips, one of which implements the two back-panel USB 3.0 ports and another allows to put two such ports onto the front panel of your system case by means of the included 3.5-inch unit. Besides the two SATA 6 Gbps and four SATA 3 Gbps ports provided by the chipset, there are two SATA 6 Gbps ports supported by a Marvell 88SE9128 controller. The two eSATA 3 Gbps ports on the back panel are based on a JMicron JMB362 chip. One of them is Power eSATA and can power up the connected device. A VIA 6315N chip is responsible for the mainboard’s two IEEE1394 (FireWire) ports. There is now a second LAN connector and a Clear CMOS button on the back panel.
Here is a full list of the mainboard’s back-panel elements:
We can spot a number of ASUS-exclusive features on the mainboard. For example, the highlighted Power and Reset buttons are complemented with a MemOK! button which ensures that your system boots up even if there are problems with your memory modules. There are handy and wide locks on the graphics slots whereas the memory slots have locks on one side only. The Q-LED system will indicate you the step on which the boot-up process has halted. The TPU switch (TurboV Processing Unit) serves to overclock the CPU automatically whereas the EPU switch (Energy Processing Unit) enables energy-efficient features. The P8P67 Deluxe also has a POST code indicator which is missing on the Pro version.
The capabilities of the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe are listed in the following table for your reference:
We’ve already talked about ASUS EFI BIOS in our reviews of the ASUS P8P67 Pro and Sabertooth P67 mainboards and found it to be a very good implementation of the UEFI standard (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). The ASUS P8P67 Deluxe doesn’t differ much in this respect, but offers a new and most convenient option for capturing screenshots. By pressing F12 you can save a BMP file with a screenshot of the current BIOS page to a connected drive. Therefore I can show you the true look of ASUS EFI BIOS without any distortions peculiar to photographs.
By default the BIOS opens up in EZ Mode which gives you a lot of information but offers almost no user-defined options. You can only choose one of three power-saving modes and define the boot device order by dragging the icons with your mouse.
You can make the BIOS open in Advanced Mode. In this case you will see the familiar Main section.
Most of the overclocking-related options are collected in the Ai Tweaker section. The new BIOS interface may seem unusual but its structure and setup options are quite recognizable as those of ASUS's older BIOS. There are a lot of new options, though, which are mostly related to power supply and the new digital power system called DIGI+.
Some of the setup options are available in individual subsections in order not to clutter the main section. One such subsection contains memory timings, for example.
CPU power supply options occupy a dedicated page, too. By the way, it is only mainboards from ASUS and Gigabyte that can automatically adjust to the user-defined settings and increase the allowable CPU power consumption range. This range has to be adjusted manually on other mainboards.
The options of the Advanced section should be familiar to you and their names are self-descriptive. I can only note that SATA disks work in AHCI mode on ASUS mainboards by default.
The CPU Configuration subsection reports you basic information about the CPU and allows to control some CPU-related technologies.
The Monitor section is where you can check out the current temperatures, voltages and fan speeds. You can select the speed regulation mode for the system fans: Standard, Silent or Turbo. The CPU fan can also be regulated manually.
System startup options can be found in the Boot section.
Next goes the Tools section.
The integrated BIOS update tool called EZ Flash 2 is perhaps the handiest and most functional among the utilities of its kind. It has changed with the transition to EFI BIOS. For example, the current firmware version is saved into the root directory of the connected drive by default.
Like on mainboards from many other brands, we can now see the information written into the memory modules' SPD unit.
ASUS mainboards allow you to store and load up to eight profiles with full BIOS settings. Each profile can be given a descriptive name.
The Drive Xpert subsection helps you set up the operation mode for hard disks connected to the onboard controller.
The Exit section goes last. It allows you to save your changes, load default BIOS settings, or switch back to EZ Mode.
ASUS EFI BIOS is an excellent example of how the capabilities of the old BIOS can be expanded without making it harder to use. I guess the biggest problem that this BIOS presents is the sheer abundance of settings. However, the mainboard sets most of them at optimal values by default, so you can leave everything as it is and have your system running smoothly. As for overclocking, the P8P67 Deluxe can overclock the CPU and memory automatically and I will check this feature out shortly.
All performance tests were run on the following test platform:
We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7601: Service Pack 1) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version 188.8.131.525, Nvidia GeForce/ION Driver 266.58 graphics card driver.
In an earlier review we talked about the difficulties we meet when assembling our test configurations, particularly when installing our Scythe Mugen 2 cooler on a CPU. Its wide back-plate often presses against the capacitor feet that stick out of the reverse side of the mainboard near the CPU socket, so the cooler has to be installed askew. However, this is just a small difficulty. The main problem with the P8P67 Deluxe is its central heatsink. One of its fastening screws prevented me from installing the CPU cooler altogether. Recalling that this heatsink didn't really cool anything and didn't need such secure fastening, I simply removed one of its screws and installed the cooler properly.
The mainboard worked flawlessly in its default mode, but provoked some difficulties when I tried to overclock the CPU and memory. I began my tests using BIOS 1703 beta which was supposed to ensure better compatibility with memory modules. However, my memory refused to work with that BIOS at 1866 MHz, so I installed BIOS version 1702 and used it for all the tests.
As opposed to many other mainboards which would issue errors or refuse to boot the OS up at a CPU frequency of 4.8 GHz, the P8P67 Deluxe started up normally but was not stable. It could work for an hour without a problem one time, but the next time it would produce a BSOD 15 minutes into a test. I was steadily increasing the voltage to achieve stability and the resulting power consumption grew up very high under load, so I decided to disable the option for counteracting the CPU voltage drop under load. This helped at first and the system began to pass the tests successfully, but the voltage lowered considerably when I additionally increased the memory frequency to 1866 MHz. So I had to lift the CPU voltage up more, losing in energy efficiency. When the stability and performance tests were passed and the screenshots captured, I only had to measure the power consumption of the system in idle mode and under load (while running the LinX utility). Unfortunately, the overclocked P8P67 Deluxe could only run LinX for a few seconds, hanging up quickly. We had used this utility to check out overclocked CPUs for stability and it is not supposed to be a test of memory modules, but this time around the problem was in the memory modules indeed: LinX would still hang the system up at a lower CPU frequency but ceased to do that after I had reduced the memory clock rate.
So once again I have to say that LGA1155 processors are easy to overclock but hard to test for stability. And without stability, there is no point in overclocking. We used to stress-test older CPUs with the LinX utility but it is not good for LGA1155 CPUs because it can run normally where Prime95 produces errors. Prime95 itself doesn’t guarantee anything, either. When we tested the Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD4 and GA-P67A-UD4-B3, they passed Prime95 successfully, but couldn’t then pass an Adobe Photoshop test. The ECS P67H2-A2 also passed every test except for the simple single-threaded SuperPi utility. And this time around, LinX reveals that the memory modules, rather than the CPU, are overclocked too much. I really wish there were a single program that would be able to quickly and reliably test an LGA1155 platform for stability.
As a result, I had to lower the memory frequency to 1600 MHz, which was partially made up for by lowered timings. The system was absolutely stable then at a CPU clock rate of 4.8 GHz.
We, at X-bit labs, do not overclock to set new records and capture pretty screenshots. Our goal is that the overclocked system were stable and could be used continuously without any problems. Therefore we do not turn off any components or technologies and do not fix the voltages, so the mainboard retains all of its features. All of the power-saving technologies keep on working, lowering the CPU multiplier and voltage in idle mode.
Overclocking the CPU and memory on the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe was not easy because the numerous interrelated parameters require a lot of testing and also some experience on the overclocker's part. However, the mainboard offers automatic overclocking tools which make the whole process much easier for beginner users, even though you can't expect to get maximum or optimal overclocking results with them. In order to enable automatic overclocking, you only have to change the position of the TPU switch on the mainboard. If you don't want to open up your system case, you can simply choose the OC Tuner option in the BIOS. In either case I got the same results after rebooting:
The system not only increases the CPU frequency multiplier to x42 but also lifts the base frequency up to 103 MHz, effectively overclocking the CPU to 4.33 GHz. The power-saving technologies keep on working at that:
Of course, the mainboard does not know the capabilities of the particular CPU sample, so the results are lower than what I got by overclocking manually. My CPU could work at 4.5 GHz without increasing the voltage, but manual overclocking takes a lot of time and testing whereas the automatic overclocking feature accelerates your system in just a few seconds, which is going to be perfect for inexperienced users.
As usual, we are going to compare the mainboards speeds in two different modes: in nominal mode and during CPU and memory overclocking. The first mode is interesting because it shows how well the mainboards work with their default settings. It is a known fact that most users do not fine-tune their systems, they simply choose the optimal BIOS settings and do nothing else. That is why we run a round of tests almost without interfering in any way with the default mainboard settings. For comparison purposes we are going to also include the results from our reviews of Asus Sabertooth P67, ECS P67H2-A and P67H2-A2, Foxconn P67A-S, Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD4-B3, four Gigabyte mainboards on Intel Z68 Express (Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3P-B3, GA-Z68X-UD4-B3, GA-Z68X-UD5-B3 and GA-Z68X-UD7-B3), Intel DP67BG and MSI P67A-GD80 (B3). The results are sorted out in descending order on the diagrams. The results of Asus P8P67 Deluxe are marked with darker color on the diagrams for your convenience.
We used Cinebench 11.5. All tests were run five times and the average result of the five runs was taken for the performance charts.
We have been using Fritz Chess Benchmark utility for a long time already and it proved very illustrative. It generated repeated results, the performance in it is scales perfectly depending on the number of involved computational threads.
A small video in x264 HD Benchmark 3.0 is encoded in two passes and then the entire process is repeated four times. The average results of the second pass are displayed on the following diagram:
We measured the performance in Adobe Photoshop using our own benchmark made from Retouch Artists Photoshop Speed Test that has been creatively modified. It includes typical editing of four 10-megapixel images from a digital photo camera.
In the archiving test a 1 GB file is compressed using LZMA2 algorithms, while other compression settings remain at defaults.
Like in the data compression test, the faster 16 million of Pi digits are calculated, the better. This is the only benchmark where the number of processor cores doesn’t really matter, because it creates single-threaded load.
There are good and bad things about complex performance tests. However, Futuremark benchmarking software has become extremely popular and is used for comparisons a lot. The diagram below shows the average results after three test runs in 3DMark11 Performance mode with default settings:
Since we do not overclock graphics in our mainboard reviews, the next diagram shows only CPU tests from the 3DMark11 – Physics Score.
We use FC2 Benchmark Tool to go over Ranch Small map ten times in 1920x1080 resolution with high image quality settings in DirectX 10.
Resident Evil 5 game also has a built-in performance test. Its peculiarity is that it can really take advantage of multi-core processor architecture. The tests were run in DirectX 10 in 1920x1080 resolution with high image quality settings. The average of five test runs was taken for further analysis:
Quite expectedly, we don’t see much difference between related mainboards in terms of performance. They all deliver the same speed in most of the tests.
Now let’s run the same tests with the CPU and memory overclocked. You can see the difference in the system parameters in the following table:
Again, the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe performs exactly as we might expect it to, considering its overclocking results.
We performed our power consumption measurements using an Extech Power Analyzer 380803. This device is connected before the PSU and measures the power draw of the entire system (without the monitor), including the power loss that occurs in the PSU itself. In the idle mode we start the system up and wait until it stops accessing the hard disk. Then we use LinX to load the CPU. For a more illustrative picture there are graphs that show how the computer’s power consumption grows up depending on the number of active execution threads in LinX (both at the default and overclocked system settings). The mainboards are sorted in alphabetical order on the diagrams.
The ASUS P8P67 Deluxe is average in terms of power consumption when working at its default settings. Its results are somewhat worse than average when it is overclocked, yet it doesn't join the ranks of the power-hungriest products.
The P8P67 Deluxe is the top-of-the-line model among ASUS's products based on the Intel P67 Express chipset. It offers everything the company endows its mainboards with, such as a deluxe accessories bundle, a reinforced CPU voltage regulator, an integrated Bluetooth module, eSATA and power eSATA ports, back-panel and front-panel USB 3.0 ports, IEEE1394 (FireWire), and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. ASUS EFI BIOS, a very good implementation of the UEFI standard, should also be commended for its abundant fine-tuning options. I didn’t have much luck overclocking my memory modules, but I did reach the maximum CPU frequency with this mainboard.
ASUS mainboards are usually criticized for being costlier than competitors, but the higher price seems to be justified in this particular case. Indeed, the P8P67 Deluxe costs more than average but it also offers higher quality and more features than you get with a regular mainboard. Besides, the GA-Z68X-UD5-B3 model from Gigabyte, which is comparable to the P8P67 Deluxe in features, turns out to be even more expensive.
And if you don't think you are going to need all the features of the top-of-the-line product, you can easily choose a less advanced model from the numerous LGA1155 models that ASUS offers.