P45 Showdown - Asus P5Q Deluxe vs MSI P45 Diamond Page: 1
Introduction
 
Today we will be pitching two hardware heavyweights against one another in the first head to head between two motherboards based on Intel's new 'Eaglelake' P45 chipset.
 
Being the direct replacement/refresh for its highly praised and successful predecessor, the 'Bearlake' P35 chipset, the P45 is pitched to be the logical evolution for enthusiasts, providing an increase in FSB support to a now official 1600mhz. PCIe 2.0 is now supported too, along with the incorporation of an updated Southbridge to the ICH10/10R.
 
ATI's CrossfireX is now also supported, albeit in an 8+8 configuration, reserving the higher bandwidth 16+16 for the X38/48-based motherboards. While 8+8 lanes have been seen before on certain variants of P35 (Asus Blitz), this was done by the use of a separate Crosslinx bridging chip and these boards were as rare as hen's teeth. Most P35 based boards were in a 16+4 configuration with the 2nd PCIe slot gererally crippling a dual card setup. With the P45, CrossfireX is supported natively and will be widely available upon release rather than just limited editions. This could give ATI a leg-up in helping them crack Nvidia's current stranglehold on the GPU market. If I was a cynic I might think that Intel may also be paving the way for their own 'Larabee' GPU's...but that's another story.
 
Intel P45 Specs 
 
So in the red corner, representing the tried and tested DDR2 format, we have the Asus P5Q Deluxe. With a thoroughbred pedigree and being widely regarded as one of the best manufacturers of P35 & X38 based boards, it is of no surprise that Asus are seen as the dominant force in motherboard production.
 
In the blue corner we have the MSI P45 Diamond, which has taken advantage of DDR3 support. While this is a bold move considering the much cheaper DDR2 prices at the time of writing this review, it makes sense in that a high end board should make use of the latest technology. As MicroStar International is hardly a lightweight when it comes to hardware, this should make an interesting battle of silicon and copper, and with both manufacturers taking a different approach to cooling methods, this will hopefully make for an interesting read.
 
During this review I intend to perform a direct comparison of both boards rather than review each board separately. I will, however, be going into detail showing each motherboards own attributes and possible downfalls. While the Asus P5Q Deluxe is not from the pinnacle of Asus' P45 releases, not being labelled as a ROG (Republic of Gamers) board, it is pitched as a high end board aimed squarely at the overclocking enthusiast. The MSI on the other hand is at the top of the pile, being labelled as a Diamond Gamers board, hoping to lure you in with its premium features. So please, make yourself a brew and sit back while I put these two boards through their paces and see who can go the distance and be crowned the winner in this OC3D exclusive knock-out match.


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Specification
 
With both motherboards squaring up at the pre-fight weigh in, we can now take a look at the specs of these two refined fighters.
 
Specification Comparison
 
It is clear that both boards are fairly evenly matched. Asus have opted to go with more PCIe ports than the MSI but have also opted to stay with DDR2 (although a DDR3 version is to be released in tandem with this version) however they do support up to 1200mhz DDR2 speed to compensate. How this will compete with MSI using the higher performing but more expensive DDR3 remains to be seen but its clear MSI intend to go all out for raw performance and not bang per buck as they are claiming official support of up to 2000mhz! MSI also lands a pre-match blow by making use of Creatives X-FI chipset which should also give them the edge in the audio stakes.
 
Asus P5Q Deluxe MSI P45 Diamond
 
While the boards prepare to do battle lets take a closer look at each of them to see what features each camp has to offer...


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Asus P5Q Deluxe
 
The P5Q Deluxe, as with all Asus boards lately, arrives extremely well packaged. The box itself is a very fetching metallic blue affair, detailing the various features the P45 board has to offer. On the front of the box, the main features advertised are the EPU-6 Engine, DDR2-1200, and FSB 1600 support along with Asus' Express Gate, all of which I will cover later in the review. The feature list is further advertised both inside the flip up lid and on the rear of the package, which also goes on to give a full run down of the specification.
 
Asus P5Q Deluxe Box Open Asus P5Q Deluxe Box Back
  
Here we see the board itself. Asus have begun to use blue metal covers on the copper coloured aluminium heatsinks which are then attached to the copper heatpipe assembly. I'm not completely sold on the colour scheme, but no one can accuse the board of looking bland. A plus point for watercoolers is that the heatsink assembly is part screw-down (mosfet area) and part push-pin style. However, I fail to see why Asus didn't use the screw down fixings to hold down the NB/SB assembly and not just the mosfet area.
 
 Asus P5Q Deluxe Board Top   Asus P5Q Deluxe Contents
 
Solid Japanese capacitors are used throughout (despite Gigabytes recent claims) which should make for a very durable board, and with a wealth of connectivity ports you shouldn't be left wanting for anything. Onto the accessories we find that although the offering is sparse, everything you need to get up and running is included. Of notable interest are the Q-shield (a 'cushioned' I/O backplate), Q-connectors that are now making a regular appearence and the optional mosfet cooling fan, again, now a regular among Asus accessories.
 
Asus P5Q Deluxe CPU Area Asus P5Q Deluxe Backplate
 
Asus P5Q Deluxe Northbridge Asus P5Q Deluxe Southbridge
 
Above left we see the CPU and mosfet area. Count them Ferrite chokes guys! There are 14 to be exact (plus another 2 for the memory) making this motherboard a 16 Phase power design, which should allow for extremely clean power delivery to the CPU and memory and hence allowing for the highest possible overclocks. Advertising a power efficiency reading of 96%+,  the 16 phase VRM design should also keep the temps down on the MOSFETs and send the tree huggers back to terminal 5.
 
Above right, we see that backplates are also attached to the rear of the board around the mosfet area to allow high tension (and therby great contact/cooling) around that area. Below left is the oversized Northbridge P45 cooler. It is clear by this design the P45 chipset is still going to need some serious cooling. Once more the actual fin design appears to be a copper coloured aluminium type metal rather than pure copper and is emblazoned with the blue Asus insignia. Following on with the same theme is the southbridge below left, also attached via heatpipe. As previously stated the NB and SB areas are both held down by traditional push pins rather than screws but even so the heatsinks feel solid enough. We shall see how well they perform later in the review.
 
Asus P5Q Deluxe I/O Ports Asus P5Q Deluxe PCIe
 
Connectivity is an area where Asus have always shined and the P5Q Deluxe does not disappoint. With 6 USB ports (expandable to 10), eSATA, Firewire, Dual Gigabit ethernet ports, S/PDIF and a mouse/keyboard PS2 port, everything is there that you should need for a modern day multimedia PC. Above right we see the various expansion slots of the board, featuring 3 x PCIe x16, 2 x PCIe x1, and 2 standard PCI ports. The blue and top black PCIe x16 ports are the main interfaces used for a CrossfireX setup. When CrossfireX is detected, the ports drop down to PCIe x8 and the bottom most slot then becomes PCIe x4. We shall see how PCIe x8 performs when we test it with our Quadfire dual 3870x2 setup. Also worthy of note is the onboard power and reset switches allowing the board to be powered on and reset without the use of case buttons. This feature is usually only seen on ROG motherboards, so it is nice to see them being incorporated across the range.
 
That pretty much rounds up the P5Q Deluxe's physical attributes, so let me indulge you with a brief run down of the motherboard's feature set...


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Features
 
Most of the features of this board have been covered elsewhere in previous reviews, so I won't dwell on them. Rather, I will briefly cover the newer features of the P5Q Deluxe that may be of interest to you.
 
Asus Express Gate
Fancy getting on-line within 5 seconds of booting your system up? With Express Gate you can! In addition to having a quick browsing session, you can also perform basic tasks like picture viewing and using a messenger service such as MSN or Skype.
 
Asus P5Q Deluxe Express Gate  Asus P5Q Deluxe Express Gate
 
Asus P5Q Deluxe Express Gate Asus P5Q Deluxe Express Gate
 
While this is a very handy little tool, I can't help feel it could have also been used to test for system stability when overclocking. I appreciate that not everyone is an overclocker, but this board is clearly aimed at the enthusiast market and as such, this just seems like a missed opportunity to me. However I'm sure it's useful for those in a rush who cannot be bothered to wait for the main OS to boot up just to check email or the weather.
 
Asus EPU-Six Engine
The new Asus EPU engine (now upgraded to a 6 engine version) provides total system power savings by detecting what load your system is under and then adjusting the power as required in real-time. This can be done automatically or manually, depending on your preference.
 
Asus DieHard BIOS
Updating a BIOS is always a nerve jangling affair, so what this has to do with Det. John McClaine (AKA Bruce Willis in the Die Hard series of films) I don't know, but thanks to Asus you can now rest easy in that they are now providing 2 BIOS chips, one primary and one backup. Should your BIOS flash go wrong, the backup BIOS chip will restore the primary chip's corrupt BIOS with a clean version, enabling you to try flashing again. I won't be trying this feature out as this could bring an abrupt end to the review, so I will just take Asus' word on it. I did, however, use another feature which I find very reliable..
 
Asus E-Z Flash
This is a DOS based semi-automated BIOS flashing utility that can be either initiated on POST (ALT+F2) or in the BIOS section itself.
 
Asus P5Q Deluxe EZ Flash Asus P5Q Deluxe EZ Flash
 
This is a much safer alternative to using Windows-based flashing utilities. I have never had a problem using E-Z Flash in the past, so when I needed to upgrade the P5Q's BIOS, I had no fear of using this nifty little utility. You can use most formats be it floppy, USB drive or CD to transfer the BIOS, which is a much better idea than expecting everyone to have access to the now near-obsolete floppy drives. This brings me neatly onto the BIOS itself:
 
 
BIOS
 
Rather than bore you with the usual BIOS settings I'll jump straight in with the main reason you will be entering the BIOS: the overclocking 'AI Tweaker' section.
 
Asus P5Q Deluxe BIOS Asus P5Q Deluxe BIOS
 
As you can see, all of the main voltage adjustments are there and can be increased further by the use of an onboard jumper for those wishing to indulge in a little extreme cooling. The voltages are set by directly typing them in rather than choosing from a set value. The '+' and '-' keys can be used to set values and cycle through them, but with the amount of adjustments available, it can take an age to get to the setting you wish to input. While the direct type method is a quicker way of setting voltages, I urge people to be careful when setting them, as a typo could easily fry your hardware! Asus in their wisdom have coloured the BIOS settings blue(safe), yellow (mid), red (madman) as a gentle reminder of the level of voltage your are intending to pump through your hardware.
 
The memory section is once again very thorough, with varying clock skews and nominal/sub timings, and provides everything you need to get the memory subsection of your PC setup to its most efficient. The usual load line calibration feature is there to help prevent Vdrop, which will please overclockers. This is something I will be looking into to see how much Vdrop and droop there is with this board.
 
If you are not as clued up with the inner workings of the BIOS, then Asus have kindly provided a software-based overclocking suite that will squeeze a little extra performance from your CPU. However, I would advise giving the manual a good read as with this BIOS you will be missing out on a key component of the board if you don't make the best use of it.
 
Now that we've taken a brief look at the Asus offering, let's head on over to the MSI stable and take a peek at the Diamond...


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MSI P45 Diamond
 
In stark contrast to the P5Q Deluxe, the MSI box dwarfs that of its Asus rival: the package is twice as thick! The front of the box signifies that this is without doubt a board directly aimed at the gaming enthusiast, with a picture of some sort of alien being. If that wasn't enough to give you a hint of the potential, then the 'G' - Gaming series emblem is also printed next to a '45nm ready' logo.
 
 MSI P45 Diamond Box Front MSI P45 Diamond Box Open
 
The box itself is not in a 'chrome-esque' style like the Asus, but is reflective and very well presented. Popping the lid via Velcro fasteners we see what features MSI want us to know about including Green Power, Xpress Cool and Rapid Boost, which make up the second generation 'DrMOS'. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect besides being P45 is the inclusion of a watercooled Northbridge, which the inside panel explains in detail (and which I will cover later). Below this is a cut out section showing the Circu-Pipe block and South bridge cooling. Last of all, MSI show off their X-FI based sound card which is a huge advance from onboard audio and a great inclusion to a motherboard directed at gamers.

MSI P45 Diamond Board MSI P45 Diamond Accessories
 
Top left we see the mainboard itself. When unpacking the box, I was shocked to see that the mainboard sat inside a plastic cradle, but the 'lid' was simply a piece of foam. Even though the board reached us in perfect condition, I would like to have seen some better protection for the hardware than this. The board itself has the usual array of MSI colouration, which isn't very well coordinated and, dare I say it, quite gaudy looking. Looks aren't everything though, and despite the technicolour board your eyes will be immediately drawn to the Circupipe cooler on top of the Northbridge.
 
Along with the waterblock itself, there is also an extended section to further dissipate heat that is once more attached via heatpipe to the Mosfets and Southbridge, making for a very efficient cooling setup presuming the waterblock is up to the task. MSI have not included a third PCIe x16 slot, which makes sense as there is little need for more than two currently on a Crossfire board, that is unless you fancy a dabble with say a dedicated RAID card.

Now here was where I was impressed. Inside the box was a separate box, and at first I thought MSI had sent us two motherboards. However, on opening this second box I was greeted with a whole host of goodies (above right). Here is where the MSI has put the Asus to shame. The multitude of manuals, driver disks, and connectivity, not to mention the riser X-FI sound card makes the MSI immediately appealing, but I am not going to be swayed by bribes just yet so I will swiftly move onto the board in detail.
 
MSI P45 Diamond CPU Area MSI P45 Diamond Circu-pipe
 
Above left we see that MSI have chosen not to cram the CPU socket area with chokes, using just a 6 power phase design. The uppermost mosfet heatsink is also not connected to the mean heatpipe assembly, but the area is less cluttered than the Asus so there should be no trouble for fitting a large HSF. However, I somewhat doubt that a HSF would be used on the CPU if you intend on watercooling the NB, which brings me onto the jewel in MSI's crown. The bizarre roller coaster CircuPipe designs previously had to rely on good airflow in a case, but MSI are now introducing a watercooling block which comes pre-attched to the Northbridge. I'll cover this in greater detail when we get to the features section but it certainly looks the business.
 
MSI P45 Diamond I/O Ports MSI P45 Diamond Switches
 
Above left we see the backplate area. While not as tidy as the Asus, there are an additional 2 USB ports and an extra eSATA compared to the 6+1 Asus provide, so MSI are forgiven in that respect.  Interestingly there is a CMOS clear button on the backplate, which should be standard on all enthusiasts boards now in my humble opinion, so credit to MSI for this inclusion and shame on you Asus for its omittance. Following on from the back plate we see the addition of a few more 'buttons', 2 of which I know are a power on/off and reset switch. The third? Well, there is no description of it in the motherboard manual apart from SW2, so maybe it's a self destruct button, maybe powers a GPU ejector seat...I'll give it a go later in the review and let you know if our testing rig survives the ordeal. 
 
Let's move on to the features of the MSI P45 Diamond...


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Features
 
One of the major attractions of an Asus board is the vast array of features they have, some of which you may find useful, others seem to be more inclined to sell the board rather than to be made use of depending on your main intentions. MSI seem keen to push DrMOS, which holds a trio of functions.
 
Green Power
Similar in task to the ASUS EPU chip, the MSI variant claims an efficiency rating of 93.1% giving -6w loss compared to legacy mosfets. This figure is lower than the Asus equivalent 96%+ rating, but those of us non-politically correct overclockers tend to care little about how 'green' our boards are and are much more interested in how cool and stable the power delivery system is.
 
XpressCool
Because of the above GreenPower, both variants of this serve to run the mosfets cooler due to this higher efficiency with the MSI, reporting a 16c drop in temps due to the new design over the older legacy design.
 
Rapidboost
Again MSI and Asus have taken similar directions with power delivery, but MSI are calling their variant RapidBoost. With a higher power density in the VR, the potential for overvoltage is increased. Along with a dedicated chip that switches the power load in response to processing conditions, this makes for a very efficient performance enhancer.
 
OC Jumper & Hi-C Cap
 
The two little green OC jumpers (above left) allow you to instantly overclock the FSB to 5 different levels: 200 (default), 266, 333 and 400mhz, depending on their orientation which, as it is hardware set, will provide greater stability according to MSI rather than just BIOS settings alone.
 
MSI P45 Diamond OC Jumper MSI P45 Diamond Hi C
 
They are, however, in a very awkward position and will be difficult to use with even a double slot card above, never mind a CrossfireX solution, so I can't help feeling these might not be made use of too often. Above right we see the Hi-C Cap (capacitors). Due to the higher heat resistance, MSI inform us that high overvoltage and therefore high overclocks should be possible, and due to the reduced heat these types of capacitors should also be more durable, lasting 1000hrs @ 85c according to MSI.
 
Circu-Pipe Liquid
Rather than air cool the Northbridge, MSI have given the user the option to use a watercooling solution - testament to the fact that the P45 chipset is most likely just as hot as its predecessor, the P35. The Circu-Pipe waterblock is innovative in that it uses a 2 in / 2 out design.
 
MSI P45 Diamond Backplate MSI P45 Diamond Circu pipe exposed
 
Flipping the board over we see the backplate design, which is always welcome. This also signifies that both the CircuPipe waterblock covering the Northbridge and the left most heatsink covering the mosfets are screw down variants. Again, MSI opted for pushpins on the remaining motherboard heatsinks.

I couldn't resist taking a closer peek at the waterblock itself and I was shocked to see that the inlet/outlets were tiny. Reducing down from the most commonly used 1/2" tubing to what appears to be less than 5mm inside diameter will massively restrict flow and therefore provide a less than ideal cooling solution. That said, the heat dissipation from water exceeds that of air, so if you plan on having a separate loop for the NB, then this block should provide the cooling necessary with its relatively tall, albeit widely spaced, fins.

I am unsure whether the mid-plate is copper or Aluminum, and one can only hope that it is the former as mixing metals in a waterloop is seen as a big No-No in the watercooling fraternity. Maybe in later revisions MSI engineers would do well to take a few ideas from current aftermarket chipset waterblocks, as I feel any serious watercooler will most likely replace this block with their own choice. The block is not even of a solid design, being 'welded' to the baseplate, which will further decrease cooling capacity. The heatpipes are then threaded between the midplate and baseplate to assist with the cooling of the Southbridge and mosfets. I do wish manufacturers would get the design right the first time rather than making what appears to be a hash of it and charging us for the privilege of removing it to attach our own preferred waterblocks. It is, however, creditable that MSI have acknowledged the widespread and increased use of watercooling in today’s enthusiast market, and the design is not much worse than that of the Asus ROG SE waterblocks. Although it is of a poor design, it is better than air cooling and will give the watercooler the option of watercooling the NB without having to void the warranty by ripping off the heatsink assembly.
 
 
BIOS
 
Jumping straight in at the deep end and into the 'Cell' section (which to you and me is the overclocking section), we see the layout is vastly different from the Asus BIOS. I was puzzled at first as to how to change the more common settings such as Vcore since they were greyed out. They are changed via the + and - keys and cannot be directly typed in nor will a drop down list be available for you to choose your selection. There are, however, a fair amount of settings available, and once you spend some time getting to grips with the BIOS, it becomes pretty straight forward.
 
MSI P45 Diamond BIOS MSI P45 Diamond BIOS
 
Once more the voltage options will glow angrily should you exceed the recommended settings, but personally I feel that the red warnings are a little on the conservative side as 1.5v on a Q6600 is hardly going to kill it anytime soon (but don't quote me on that!). All the memory options you could wish for are also in there should you wish to get the absolute maximum performance out of your DDR3, as are numerous dividers. I feel this is a good time to point out that if you don't set the jumpers on the motherboard to the correct position (i.e removed) you will have a hard time getting any where past 250FSB as I found out to my displeasure. MSI claims that hardware jumpers will give more stability to an overclock, but personally I found it to be a very big inconvenience when trying to test out the overclocking on this board, which I shall explain in more detail after I take you through our testing setup and procedures...


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Test Setup
 
As both motherboards make their way to the ring, I'll give you a brief rundown of the test setup I intend to use to best stress the two components. Obviously, with one board being DDR2 and the other DDR3, it was impossible to follow strict controlled hardware balancing.  If nothing else, this sub test will show the reader whether it is yet worth the jump to go for the decreasing price of DDR3 or stick with the still cheaper DDR2.
 
Specs
 
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 leftover drivers from the previous motherboard install.
 
As the OCZ memory only runs at 1600mhz when overclocked, the stock setting of 1066mhz was used throughout the non-3D tests.
 
For the 3DMark and gaming tests, both single card and CrossfireX configurations were used for the purposes of testing the scaling of the P45's 8x8 configuration. 

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
• 3DMark 05
• 3DMark 06

3D Games
• Oblivion
• F.E.A.R
• Call of Duty 4
 
 
Overclocking
 
First we shall give the Asus board a chance to throw some punches and see if it has the power to match its snazzy packaging.
 
 Asus FSB Asus Max OC
 
Well, there is no doubting now that the Asus certainly can walk the walk, pulling a whopping 4ghz and a max FSB of 513mhz. Again, only the Vcore adjustment (1.45v for FSB - 1.5v for max overclock) was needed to achieve this, and with everything else set on Auto this was perhaps the quickest and easiest overclock I have ever had the pleasure to witness. Sadly, without delving further into the BIOS settings and playing around with the GTL's I couldn't get any further, but a 1.6ghz overclock is certainly nothing to be sniffed at. Let's see how the MSI fairs.
 
 MSI FSB MSI Max OC
 
Sadly the MSI didn't fair as well as the Asus, but still has nothing to be ashamed of with a very respectable overclock. There is, however, a very important factor here. In order to get to that overclock on the MSI, I spent a whole day adjusting settings and resetting the CMOS, chasing my tail and going around in circles. Have no doubts here: the MSI will bite you if you try and push things too far. Perhaps the most ridiculous feature of the MSI is the jumper settings. Not only are they positioned very badly (directly under the top most PCIe slot), but the motherboard manual is very vague about the use of them. It was only when I found out that I couldn't exceed 233 mhz in the BIOS that I realised something was desperately wrong. 
 
I scoured the motherboard manual and found these jumpers. You have to set them correctly depending on your prospective overclock ambitions. If you don't, then you can get ready for some heartache and lots of BIOS resets. Luckily the BIOS reset switch is on the rear panel so it's relatively easy to reset; however, you then have to go through the BIOS setting it all up again for prefered boot drives, time, date, etc, and then try an alternative overclock. This was very frustrating as the BIOS is very thorough and shouldn't require the use of jumper settings to 'aid' you. It's not since the days of old AMD T-birds that I have had to use jumpers to overclock, and I certainly don't miss it after the trials this board has put me through.
 
Having said all that, the board does have potential and I'm sure the overclock could be increased given more time (and patience) to familiarise oneself with the quirkiness of the board. Sadly, due to time constraints this was the best I could do. 


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SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three. 

Sisoft Sandra Dhrystone

Sisoft Sandra Whetstone

Sisoft Sandra Multimedia Int

Sisoft Sandra Multimedia float

Sisoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth int

Sisoft Sandra Memory Float

 


 
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. Each of these benchmarks were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average calculated from the remaining 3.
 
Everest Memory Read
 
Everest Memory Write
 
Everest Memory Latency
 
 
Result Observations
 
The scores are pretty evenly matched with the MSI just barely taking the lead in the majority of tests due to the extra bandwidth provided by DDR3.


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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 raw video into Windows Media, Quicktime, AVI and Gif formats. As always, a total of 5 benchmark runs were performed with the highest and lowest scores removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 scores.

Vi Mark Media

ViMark Quicktime

Vimark gif

 


7-Zip is an open source Winzip-style file compression utility that has the ability to compress and decompress many file formats including its 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.

7-zip compression

7-Zip Decompression

 

Result Observations

Here we see the MSI starting to pull away with its DDR3 muscle. While some may view these benchmarks an unfair comparison, I think it shows how little difference there is between DDR3 and DDR2. DDR2's bang-for-the-buck is certainly still the way to go.



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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. The "Long bench" was run a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
HD tach Burst speed
 
HDTach read speed
 
HDTach Random Access
 
HDtach CPU%
 
 

 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three. 
 
Sisoft Sandra Disk index
 
Sisoft Sandra Disk access
 
 
Result Observations
 
As you can see, there is nothing to differentiate between the two motherboards with respect to hard disk performance, which was to be expected


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Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to guage the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.
 
Cinebench 1x
 
Cinebench 4x
 
Cinebench Open GL
 
 
   
 
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 a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results. Also included are the CrossfireX results to give an indication of how 8x PCIe lanes perform.
 
3d05
 
3d06
  
CrossfireX Enabled
 
3d05 Crossfire X
 
3d06 CorssfireX
 
 
Results Observations
 
As expected, the CPU is bottlenecking the GPUs in 3DMark05, with hardly any difference between single and dual card setups. 3DMark06 shows a bigger gap due to the higher resolution, a gap that would no doubt widen if the resolution was increased further. It's clear to see that those with a bigger screen will benefit more from a dual card setup than those on a smaller resolution. One point of interest was that the P5Q Deluxe seems to take the advantage in 3D applications. This could be down to the tighter memory timings.


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The 'must have' online multiplayer FPS of 2007/8. This is the fourth incarnation of Infinity Wards best-selling series and is set to become a stalwart of the FPS genre. The training sequence was run 5 times with the fps being recorded via Fraps and the average fps then deduced. All settings were set to the maximum possible for this test and were then run again with CrossfireX enabled (below).

Cod4 Single

cod4 crossfirex

 

 

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 a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being excluded and an average being calculated on the remaining 3 results. All settiings were set to the maximum possible for this test and were then run again with CrossfireX enabled (below).

FEAR single

FEAR CrossfireX

 

 

Oblivion from Bethseda is now an 'old' game by today's standards, but is still one of the most visually taxing games out there. The benchmark was run in the wilderness with all settings set to the maximum possible. Bloom was used in preference to HDR. The test was run five times with the average FPS then being deduced.

Oblivion

Oblivion CorssfireX

 

Result Observations

It is clear that CrossfireX has a distinct advantage when all the settings are maxed out. The most astonishing difference was to be had in F.E.A.R. in which the setup more than tripled the FPS! The CoD4 and F.E.A.R. engines seemed to favour the MSI board, yet Oblivion showed a greater bias towards the Asus board, with a 10fps difference when CrossfireX was enabled. It appears that the reduction to 8 PCIe lanes has little effect on the performance of the cards, so maybe there isn't a need to upgrade to X48 just yet.



P45 Showdown - Asus P5Q Deluxe vs MSI P45 Diamond Page: 13
Conclusion
 
MSI P45 Diamond vs Asus P5Q DeluxeWell, it has been quite a fight between the latest entrants into the motherboard arena. While no clear winner could be decided by knockout, I think that it is fair to say the Asus P5Q Deluxe is quite capable to punch above its weight. Lacking the extra bandwidth of the MSI didn't seem to affect the scoring too badly and the motherboard still showed there is still plenty of life left in DDR2.
 
The MSI, while a very capable board, was both disapointing and frustrating in the overclocking stakes. It was not so much the end result, but the effort it took to get there. While the Asus board was pretty much point and squirt yielding superior overclocks with minimal fuss, the MSI took much more effort to get any satisfactory results. Coupled with the awkward BIOS, poor overclocking recovery and silly jumpers, I feel this board is best left to those who either have the patience of a saint or the sado-masochists. I feel board has alot of potential, and in the right hands with a better laid out BIOS, could yield some fantastic results. Also, it is of little use planting fancy waterblocks (which are not of the best design either) to cool what is obviously an overclocker's chipset if the board simply refuses to budge high enough to warrant a watercooled solution.
 
Out of the two boards, the Asus performed better.  However, it lets itself down with regards to accessories, an area in which the MSI shines. The included X-FI riser card was a great addition and good enough to put any onboard sound to shame. The MSI board had that feeling of luxury to it (despite its horrid colour scheme) whereas the Asus was shiny on the outside but dull on the inside. The copper heatpipe assembly on both boards could have been better thought out with better materials used. I do wish all manufacturers would refrain from sticking emblems onto the heatsinks themselves as it may look pretty but will no doubt have a detrimental effect on the cooling properties. The MSI's many on-board LED's, while again looked pretty, were at times confusing and the poorly written motherboard manual did little to help matters. Still, it is better than not having any indication of failure at all (ASUS).
 
Regardless of the above statements, both boards, depending on your needs and demeanour, will no doubt serve you well, with the P45 chipset making them a force to be reckoned with. But for me, the Asus just snatches victory with the skin of its silicon. The simplicity with which it overclocks without any fuss (it either boots or it doesn't and then recovers if it doesn't) makes for an easy ride when attempting to push your hardware without having to absorb all the headaches that go with it. Considering the Asus board is not top of the line, I cannot wait to see what is in store for the near future. For now, though, the Asus Backstreet brawler has pipped the pretty boy from MSI in the first round of what I'm sure will be some knockout summer motherboard releases.
 
 
MSI P45 Diamond

 
 
Asus P5Q Deluxe

 
 
Thanks to Asus and MSI for making this review possible. Discuss in our forums.