Asus P5N-T Deluxe 780i Motherboard Page: 1
Introduction
 
Asus are really pumping out the motherboards recently and introducing a fair few boards to their range.  We seem to be seeing a lot of 780i boards coming through the OC3D labs currently and the P5N-T is another that is of that ilk.
 
As a successor to the 680i platform, the 780i is a board built for the gaming enthusiasts in mind. Featuring "Tri-SLI" along with normal SLI and a whole host of other features you would expect of a high-end board, the P5N-T Deluxe is a board that should be able to do the business.
 
Despite not being shipped with all of the awesome features we saw on the AI Lifestyle board, the P5E3 Deluxe, the P5N-T Deluxe looks to have a nice set of specs that should ensure most enthusiasts are dribbling in their energy drinks.
 
Let's take a look at the specs of the board from the Asus website.
 
Specification
 
CPU
Intel Socket 775 Core™2 Quad/Core™2 Extreme/Core™2 Duo/Pentium® Extreme/Pentium® D Processors
Compatible with Intel® 05B/05A/06 processors
Support Intel® next generation 45nm CPU
Chipset
NVIDIA nForce 780i SLI
Front Side Bus
1333/1066/800 MHz
Memory
4 x DIMM, Max. 8 GB, DDR2 1066*/800/667 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
Expansion Slots
3 x PCIe x16 (blue @PCIe2.0 x16 mode, black @PCIe x16 mode) supports SLI Technology
2 x PCIe x1
1 x PCI
Storage
Southbridge
1 xUltraDMA 133/100/66
6 xSATA 3 Gb/s ports NVIDIA® MediaShield™ RAID
Support RAID 0,1,0+1,5,JBOD configuration across Serieal ATA drives
Marvell 88SE6111
1 xExternal SATA
Scalable Link Interface (SLI™)
Support three identical NVIDIA SLI-Ready graphics cards (all at x16 mode)
LAN
Marvell88E1116 PCIe Gigabit LAN PHY featuring AI NET2
Audio
ADI® AD1988B 8 -Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Coaxial / Optical S/PDIF out ports
ASUS Noise Filter
Support Jack-Sensing, Enumeration, Multi-streaming
AI Audio 2
IEEE 1394
VIA6308P controller supports 2 x 1394a ports
USB
10 USB 2.0 ports (6 ports at mid-board, 4 ports at back panel)
ASUS AI Lifestyle Features
ASUS Power Saving Solution
- ASUS EPU (Energy Processing Unit)
- ASUS 3rd Generation 8-phase Power
- ASUS AI Nap
ASUS AI Lifestyle
- ASUS AI Direct Link
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution
- ASUS Fanless Design: Stack Cool 2
- ASUS Q-Fan 2
- ASUS Optional Fan for Water-cooling or Passive-Cooling only
- ASUS Fanless Design: Sophisticated Heat-pipe solution
ASUS Crystal Sound
- ASUS Noise Filter
- ASUS AI Audio 2
ASUS EZ DIY
- ASUS Q-Connector
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS O.C. Profile
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 2
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
Overclocking Features
Intelligent overclocking tools
- ASUS AI Booster Utility
Precision Tweaker 2
- vDIMM: 64 -step DRAM voltage control
- vCore: Adjustable CPU voltage at 0.00625V increment
- vChipset (N.B.) 64-step voltage control
- vChipset (S.B.): 16 step Chipset voltage control
- vHT (Hyper Transport): 41-step Hyper Transport voltage control
SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection)
- FSB tuning from 133MHz up to 800MHz at 1MHz increment
- Memory tuning from 400MHz up to 2600MHz
- PCI Express frequency tuning from 100MHz up to 200MHz at 1MHz increment
Overclocking Protection
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Special Features
Multi-language BIOS
ASUS MyLogo 3
Back Panel I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x External SATA
1 x S/PDIF Out
1 x IEEE 1394a
1 x LAN(RJ45) port
4 x USB 2.0/1.1
8 -Channel Audio I/O
Internal I/O Connectors
3 x USB connectors support additional 6 USB ports
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector
6 x SATA connectors
1 x IEEE 1394a connector
1 x CPU Fan connector
1 x Chassis Fan connector
2 x Power Fan connector
1 x S/PDIF Out connector
1 x8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
24 -pin ATX Power connector
1 x COM connector
20 Pin Panel connector
Front panel audio connector
Chassis Intrusion connector
System Panel Connector
CD audio in
BIOS
8 Mb Flash ROM
DMI 2.0
AMI BIOS
PnP
WfM 2.0
SM BIOS 2.3
Multi-language BIOS
Manageability
WOL by PME,WOR by PME,Chasis Intrusion,AI NET2 PXE
Accessories
User's manual
1 x 2-port USB2.0 module / 1-port 1394 module
1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
1 x Floppy disk drive cable
6 x SATA cable
1 x SATA power cable for 2 devices
3 in 1 Q-connector
1 x Optional Fan for Water-Cooling or Passive-Cooling only
1 x 3-Way SLI bridge card
1 x 2-Way SLI bridge cable
ASUS Q-Shield
Support Disc
Drivers
ASUS PC Probe II
ASUS AI Suite
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
ASUS Update
Image Editing Suite
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
 
3-way SLI and a few other highlights means that there's something for most people to chomp into. Now let's get onto the good stuff.


Asus P5N-T Deluxe 780i Motherboard Page: 2
Packaging
 
As usual, Asus have done a decent job of packing the P5N-T Deluxe. Their AI Lifestyle range are a little more subtle in the approach to box art than a lot of other manufacturers and everything looks professional and informative.
 
asus p5n-t deluxe  p5n-t deluxe
 
Plenty  of detail and information has been put onto the box to ensure that you know what you're buying before you pick it up off the shelves...if indeed you physically pick it up!
 
inside box
 
Inside the packing is a little haphazard with a not much protection from the elements going on. The board should be absolutely fine in there but it's just not quite as good as some of the top-line boards in that respect.
 
Package
 
The P5N-T Deluxe is pretty well catered for as far as the package is concerned. You get:
 
* User Manual
* Driver CD (not shown)
* Fan for heatpipes
* IO Backplate
* Molex to Dual-SATA power converter
* Asus EZ Motherboard Connecters
* 3-way SLI bridge
* Extra long SLI bridge
* 6 x SATA cables
* HDD IDE cable
* FD IDE cable
 
bundle
 
tri-sli  tri-sli 2
 
The package is nice, but falls a little short of the extras packaged with the P5E3 Deluxe, which is a little disappointing. Still, I did mention that you may not use some of these bits and pieces last time, and the cost does seem to reflect the slightly reduced bundle.
 
Onto the board itself.


Asus P5N-T Deluxe 780i Motherboard Page: 3
Asus P5N-T Deluxe - a close up
 
The Asus P5N-T Deluxe is again a well laid out and well thought out board from Asus. It seems boards nowadays have less and less of the niggles that we used to see, and didn't want to, and have more and more of the features that we do want to see. As on the P5E3, there are no waterblocks (a good thing in my opinion) and again we see a large heatsink configuration on the board.
 
100% solid conductive polymer capacitors are used throughout the board and Asus have again used their excellent 8-phase power management.
 
asus p5n-t deluxe board  asus p5n-t full board pic
 
The black PCB is again used by Asus and you cannot complain about that. The colour layout of the board is again easy to use and clear, although I would have liked to see just blue, white and black used as in some of Asus's better looking boards. Again though, Asus have put some nice design ideas in there with flipped 90° SATA connecters and everything close onto the edge of the board. The only thing different to the P5E3 in this respect is the lack of 90° flipped IDE connector, but I guess this isn't a real big issue.
 
I would also have liked to see some sort of onboard power and reset buttons and a POST readout LED of some description, although those sort of things tend to be restricted to Asus's RoG boards.
 
cpu area  cpu area 2
 
The CPU area isn't as packed as that of the P5E3 and the right-hand PWMs only have a heatsink on, not plugged into the heatpipe cooling system. As usual, Asus have supplied a fan to go over the top heatsink in the heatpipe array, although you should not need this if you have decent airflow and a fan on your CPU cooler that can cool them. There's also plenty of room for manouvering with a large cooler and the Noctua I installed on the board went on without a hitch.
 
RAM area 1  ram and cooler area
 
The RAM area is kitted out with all of the connectors at the side, although the IDE connector has a particularly bad position which could be hard to get to as the main ATX 24PIN cable is right in front of it. This is the worst niggle on the board and could be a bit of a hassle. On the upside, the RAM slots are easily far enough away from the CPU socket to make sure you should be able to install any RAM there and not have to worry about clearance.
 
stack-cool
 
Asus have again used their stack-cool PCB feature to make sure that the heat goes away from the problem areas and have also added an extra heatsink on the edge of the board to make sure that the PWMs get cooled effectively.
 
PCI layout
 
The place where the board really steps up is in the PCI-e department. With 3 x PCI-e 2.0 slots, you can put 3 x high-end graphics cards in there and have yourself an SLI monster. Asus have also supplied an extra-long SLI connector to make sure that you use the two blue slots for SLI, which is good as it also frees up the PCI slot for use with that all-important sound or physics card.
 
BIOS and CMOS
 
Here you can again see the general layout of the board is pretty good, although as I have stated previously, it would have been nice to see a Power/Reset switch and perhaps an LED POST readout.
 
Overall the P5N-T has a few niggles but doesn't do too badly for board layout.


Asus P5N-T Deluxe 780i Motherboard Page: 4
Input/Output Panel
 
The I/O panel on the P5N-T has a good range of outputs and caters for modern enthusiasts.
 
* PS/2 keyboard connector
* PS/2 mouse connector
* 1 x SP/DIF Optical digital audio output
* 1 x SP/DIF Coaxial digital output
* 1 x e-SATA ports
* 1 x Firewire ports
* 4 x USB ports
* 1 x RJ45 LAN Port
* 8 channel analogue sound output
 
IO panel
 
Not a bad selection, although again it's just not quite as good as the P5E3 Deluxe's outputs.
 
BIOS
 
As is usual with Asus, the P5N-T Deluxe features a Phoenix BIOS. This is a little changed from the usual Intel Phoenix BIOS but everything you need is basically there ready to go. The BIOS is fairly simple to use and the board can be set up with minimal fuss, changing very little.
 
However, we're not interested in minimal setup, so let's take a look at what you can tweak.
 
OptionAvailable Range
CPU Multiplier
x6 - x50
LTD Frequency
1x - 8x
FSB Frequency
200-800mhz (Keyable - 1mhz steps)
PCI-E Frequency
100-150mhz (1mhz steps)
RAM Frequency400-2600 (Keyable - 1mhz steps)
 
 bios settings  bios settings
 
bios settings  bios settings
 
bios settings  bios settings
 
bios settings  bios settings
 
 
Asus offer a good range of adjustments with FSB, Multi and RAM options being very full and really nothing to complain about at all here.
 
OptionAvailable Range
CPU Voltage
0.8v-1.7v (0.0500v steps)
Memory Voltage
1.850v-3.11v (0.02v steps)
NB BRO4 CHIP Voltage1.2v-1.35v
Northbridge Voltage
1.20v-3.00v (0.02v steps)
Southbridge Voltage
1.55-1.85v (0.05v steps)
1.2v HT Voltage
1.20v-2.0v (0.02v steps)
CPU VTT Voltage1.2v-1.55v (0.5 steps)
GTLVREF0.569x - 0.684x
 
bios voltage  bios voltage
 
bios voltage  bios voltage
 
bios voltage  bios voltage
 
bios voltage  bios voltage
 
bios voltage
 
A good array of voltage options gives the P5N-T a nice looking set of BIOS adjustments that are far beyond what most overclockers will be willing to put into their components. However, the options are there so Asus can be comended for that.
 


Asus P5N-T Deluxe 780i Motherboard Page: 5
Test Setup
 
To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configuration used in this review can be seen below:
 
 
Asus Maximus Formula (X38)
 Asus P5E3 Deluxe
Asus P5N-T Deluxe
DFI LANPARTY UT P35-T2R (P35)
ProcessorIntel Core 2 Quad Q6600 "G0" 2.4GHz 2x4MB
Memory Cellshock PC2-6400 DDR2-800 (4-4-4-12)
Graphics Card  Sapphire Ultimate X1950 Pro 256mb PCI-E
Hard Disk Hitachi Deskstar 80GB 7K80 SATA2 7200RPM 8mb
CPU Cooling Noctua NH-U12P
Operating System Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate (Latest Updates)
Graphics Drivers ATI Catalyst 7.4.44981
Motherboard Drivers Intel INF 8.300.1013
 
Unfortunately I could not include the results from the Asus Striker II in this review as it was being completed concurrently.
 
During the testing of the boards above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used between switching boards, preventing any possible performance issues due to left-over drivers from the previous motherboard install.

To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:
 
Synthetic CPU & Memory Subsystem
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c
• Lavalys Everest 4.0

File Compression & Encoding
• 7-Zip File Compression
• River Past ViMark

Disk I/O Performance
• HDTach 3.0.4.0
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark05
• 3DMark06

3D Games
• Quake 4
• Bioshock
• F.E.A.R
 
test rig 
 
Overclocking
 
Overclocking was something I always look forward to with a certain amount of both excitement and trepidation. Sometimes boards give an easy, trouble-free overclocking experience and sometimes it really is quite a chore. With Nvidia's 680i  in mind I was a bit uneasy of the prospects of the P5N-T Deluxe. Let's see how the board does.
 
maximum oc
 
To ensure that every motherboard was given an equal chance to show how far it could overclock our Intel Q6600 "G0" retail processor, a standard VCore of 1.5v was set on all three of the boards. In addition to this, the memory divider setting was also adjusted to ensure that the Cellshock kit used in today's review would not hinder the results in any way.
 
The P5N-T Deluxe was a little disappointing in the results it achieved on the 780i motherboard. Clocking in at around 200MHz lower than the competition it doesn't stand out for overclocking. I have to also add that overclocking was only achieved once the boards BIOS had been flashed to the latest beta BIOS on offer from Asus and that the board would not achieve an overclock over 3100Mhz beforehand.
 
max fsb
 
The maximum front-side bus speed for all three boards was obtained by dropping the CPU multiplier down to x6 and slowly increasing the FSB speed from within the BIOS. With each increment in speed, the PC was booted into Windows and tested for stability. As with the "Maximum Overclock" testing, the memory divider setting was also adjusted to ensure that memory stability did not factor in the results.
 
Again the Asus P5N-T Deluxe failed to deliver in the overclocking department, managing only to boot at 420MHz. This is well below the 475Mhz achieved with the P5E3 and below most boards we've taken a look at since Core2 came out.
 
Note on Overclocking Experience
 
I have to add as an addendum that the P5N-T Deluxe was very unstable throughout the overclocking process. Often after a bad overclock I would have to reset CMOS two or three times before I managed to get the motherboard to boot into the BIOS and flashing did not help. This was an experience I am not used to with most boards, never mind Asus. Whilst everything is stable at stock, this is disappointing in an enthusiast board.
 
Asus - Manufacturers reply
 
As always on Overclock3D, manufacturers have 8 UK working hours to respond to reviews (essentially 24 hours on a working day) and Asus asked us to test a new BIOS they had for the P5N-T Deluxe. This BIOS unfortunately did not help in my quest to overclock, but please bear in mind that further BIOS updates may improve performance. I'll make the point later on again, but I have to state now that the boards "foibles" don't seem to be the fault of Asus, rather of the chipset manufacturer, Nvidia.


Asus P5N-T Deluxe 780i Motherboard Page: 6
sisoft
 
Sisoft Sandra is a synthetic benchmark utility capable of reporting and benchmarking a wide range of system components. For the three motherboards we run both the CPU and Memory benchmarks three times to ensure accuracy of results.
 
sisoft cpu arith dhrystone
 
sisoft cpu arith whetstone
 
sisoft cpu multimedia int
 
sisoft cpu multimedia float
 
sisoft memory bandwidth int
 
sisoft memory bandwidth
 
sisoft memory random
 
The Sisoft results are fairly random for the P5N-T Deluxe. It's basically sitting in the middle ground as far as the boards featured go.
 
everest
 
Everest is in many ways similar to Sisoft Sandra. Focusing mainly on Software and Hardware information reporting, Everest also comes with a benchmark utility suitable for testing the read, write and latency performance of the memory subsystem.
 
everest memory read
 
everest memory write
 
everest memory latency
 
Everest is again a mixed bag although a small pattern emerges: the 780i is good when it comes to read performance but lacking in write and latency performance.


Asus P5N-T Deluxe 780i Motherboard Page: 7
vimark
 
ViMark is the latest addition to the OC3D motherboard testing process and a relatively new benchmarking application in general. Designed to take the inaccuracies and guesswork out of measuring the time taken to encode video files, ViMark produces easily comparable and consistent results for encoding Windows Media, Quicktime, AVI and Gif files.
 
vimark - wmedia
 
vimark - quicktime
 
vimark avi
 
vimark gif.
 
The encoding ViMark results bring out the 780i P5N-T Deluxe on an equal par with all of the other boards.
 
7zip
 
7-Zip is an open source winzip-style file compression utility that has the ability to compress and decompress many file formats including it's own .7z compression scheme. 7-Zip also comes complete with its own benchmarking utility for gauging the compression and decompression speed of the system that it is installed on.
 
7zip compression
 
7zip decompression
 
Again 7Zip is a slightly mixed bag of results with the P5N-T Deluxe. One result is down on the other board but generally the P5N-T Deluxe is in the mix with all of the other boards featured.


Asus P5N-T Deluxe 780i Motherboard Page: 8
HD tach
 
HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. This benchmark is not only capable of producing results on hard disk access times but also CPU usage required during disk access.
 
hd tach avr read
 
hd tach avr read
 
hd tach random acces
 
hd tach cpu util
 
Burst speed is slightly down on the other boards and CPU utilisation up to 3%, but the I/O performance is fairly decent on the P5N-T.
 
sisoft sandra
 
Sisoft Sandra is a synthetic benchmark utility capable of reporting and benchmarking a wide range of system components. For the three motherboards we run the Disk Read & Access benchmarks three times to ensure accuracy of results.
 
 sisoft disk read index
 
sisoft disk read access
 
Again, I/O on the P5N-T Deluxe can be viewed as average at best between the boards tested.


Asus P5N-T Deluxe 780i Motherboard Page: 9
cinebench
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using Cinebench carry significant weight when analysing a computer’s performance in everyday use.
 
cinebench cpu 1 x
 
cinebench cpu rendering multi cpu
 
cinebench opengl
 
Perhaps surprisingly, the P5N-T Deluxe shows as being the lowest scoring board out of the three in two out of the three boards tested. I was expecting this to be higher in all honestly.
 
3dm05  3dm06
 
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed 3 times with averages being calculated from each of the results.
 
3dm05
 
3dm06
 
Again the P5N-T Deluxe is consistantly the lowest in GPU related tasks, very disappointingly so.


Asus P5N-T Deluxe 780i Motherboard Page: 10
quake 4
 
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording along with 0xAA, 0xAF settings at a resolution of 1024x768.
 
quake 4
 
Quake 4 sees the P5N-T Deluxe finishing on the bottom of the pile.
 
FEAR
 
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. Included in the game is a benchmark facility that taxes the entire PC system. This benchmark was run 3 times to ensure uniformity of results.
 
FEAR
 
FEAR again shows the P5N-T Deluxe lagging behind by a surprising 3 frames per second.
 
bioshock
 
Bioshock is a recent FPS shooter by 2K games. Based on the UT3 engine it has a large amount of advanced DirectX techniques including excellent water rendering and superb lighting and smoke techniques. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S with several identical runs through the same area of the game.
 
bioshock
 
Again a disappointing gap of over 1.5FPS for the P5N-T Deluxe. Whilst this may seem small, for a board set up with exactly the same system, it stands for a margin.


Asus P5N-T Deluxe 780i Motherboard Page: 11
Conclusion
 
Asus have aimed this AI Lifestyle board at the home lifestyle choice user but it seems they've missed out a lot of the extra features they had added into their P5E3 Deluxe board. The BIOS is extensive and features in general are fairly generous but it feels there's something missing from this package.
 
Performance-wise the board is a mixed bag. Whilst general computing gives some results up there with the fastest on the market, I/O performance lets it down a little and gaming/3D rendering is frankly below par.
 
The problem I have is that Nvidia have failed to deliver a chipset that matches up to the market. Sure there's some pretty cool gimmicks such as Tri-SLI available on the board, but this doesn't really appeal to the mid-high range user, especially as that's around £900 of graphics hardware before you even think about the board. Add to this the underwhelming gaming performance, awkward overclocking and slightly disappointing overclocking results of the chipset so far and it all leaves you feeling a little empty.
 
If you're after Tri-SLI, then get the feature-rich Striker II we have just reviewed. If you're after a decent mid-range motherboard there's a few boards out there that do the job very nicely and some nice DDR3 boards too. I simply can't recommend you get the P5N-T Deluxe which is a shame as I don't think it's Asus's fault. Asus are certainly hell bent on getting the best out of this board that they can and future BIOS updates may well improve the situation somewhat.
 
 
The Good
+ Decent general performance
+ Decent hardware bundle
+ Generally well laid out
+ Nice looking

The Mediocre
* Some layout niggles
* Average at best I/O performance
 
The Bad
- Awkward and slightly disappointing overclocking
- Less than average 3D performance
 
 
reviewed
 
Thanks to Asus for the review sample. Discuss in our Forums.