Asus P5E3 Premium X48 DDR3 Motherboard
Board Layout & Features
Board Layout & Features
On the surface, the P5E3 Premium looks to have exactly the same layout as its elder brother the P5E3 Deluxe (and indeed a lot of the P5* series). However, a little birdie at Asus tells me that there's more to this board than meets the eye, so let's take a closer look.
Both the P5E3 Premium and Deluxe
follow exactly the same black, orange, red, blue and white colour scheme, with the only recognisable difference between the boards being a change in colour for the Northbridge and Southbridge heatsink covers.
As per usual for Asus, the 8-Pin EPS-12v connector is located on the top-left of the board, keeping any cables trailing across the board to a minimum. Over on the right side of the board, the ATX connector sits just below the floppy disk connector and allows for easy routing of the PSU's ATX cable around the top of the motherboard without interfering with the CPU socket area.
The board features two PCI slots, three PCI-E x16 slots and one PCI-E x1 slot. In most scenario's you will have access to at least two PCI slots (or one PCI slot and one PCI-E x1 slot) for expansion cards. However when running any kind of Crossfire setup this will be reduced to only one PCI slot.
In terms of connectivity, the P5E3 Premium is fully loaded. The rear I/O panel features 8-channel audio, six USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA ports, two WiFi antenna jacks and an IEE1394 port. At the bottom of the board you will also find six SATA ports, one legacy PATA port, one IEE1394 header and two USB 2.0 headers.
No expense has been spared on the 8-Phase VRM power circuitry; with Asus opting for low RDS (on) MOSFETs, Ferrite chokes and Japanese made conductive polymer capacitors. All of this should ensure extremely stable and clean voltage being provided to the CPU while also maintaining around 95% efficiency.
Clearance around the socket area is also very good despite the close proximity of three aluminium heatsinks. During our testing we were able to use several large CPU coolers including the Sycthe Infinity and various models from OCZ.
While most motherboards (including Asus' high-end ROG series) implement 2-phase power system for the memory modules, the image above-left shows that Asus have gone above and beyond the call of duty by installing a 3-phase solution on the P5E3 Premium. This should provide the DDR3 slots with rock solid, droop-free voltages essential for successful memory overclocks.
Over to the right of the DDR3 modules are two jumpers labelled OV_NB and OV_CPU. Disabled by default, these two jumpers open up a whole range of dangerous Northbridge and CPU voltages in the BIOS which would otherwise be hidden. While most users on air/water cooling will more than likely kill their hardware by using these options, the extreme cooling enthusiasts amongst us will probably be grinning from ear to ear.
Just when you thought the power delivery orgy was over, Asus have also implemented a 2-phase system for the X48 Northbridge. While a lot of overclocking issues are often blamed on vdroop of the Memory and CPU, the stability of voltage supplied to the Northbridge often goes hand in hand with the boards ability to reach high FSB's.
Also seen in the images above is the Realtek RLT8110SC chip responsible for the on-board gigabit ethernet.
Sandwiched in between a PCI and PCI-E slot is Asus' latest invention, the "Express Gate". Essentially a USB stick hard wired to the motherboard, the Express Gate features bootable operating system that can be invoked during system startup. Some screen shots of the OS can be found on the next page.
As the X48 chipset doesn't provide native support for IDE, Asus have installed a JMicron JMB363 controller. The JMB363 connects to the PCI Express bus and provides support for a single PATA device and two SATA II devices. Similarly, support for IEE1394 (Firewire) is provided via Agere's FW3227 controller.
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