P45 Showdown - Asus P5Q Deluxe vs MSI P45 Diamond

Test Setup & Overclocking

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.
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
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark 05
• 3DMark 06

3D Games
• Oblivion
• F.E.A.R
• Call of Duty 4
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.
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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Most Recent Comments

27-05-2008, 09:11:35

Stellar review as always Jim. The ASUS P5Q appears to have the goods where it counts although the MSI P45 Diamond is well laid out - bar the colour scheme.

Well done Quote

27-05-2008, 10:32:12

good review

gotta love the mass of extra's you get with the msi

but i've worked with msi's before, they're great stable boards, at stock...or when overclocked, its just so frustrating if you want to overclock, hense why i left my proccy stock when i had my P975x platinum...lol

gotta love the ease of overclocking with asusQuote

27-05-2008, 14:21:42

Great review Rich

Not sure about the conclusion although I agree about the overclocking. If the MSI board is a good price then with the extra's it's a definate contender Quote

29-05-2008, 09:29:35

This board could be the new price performance king according to the early prices some shops got listed, espacially with the 2 x 8 Xfire implented this could be a great replacement for my current P5K Deluxe, temptingQuote

29-05-2008, 10:25:52

Good review. Does anyone know if the mid-range P45 boards will support x8 + x8 XFire or if it's just on the high-end ones? I'm glad P45 is coming out soon, hopefully be able to combine it with a good PCI-e 2.0 card once all the new ones come out and settle down in price.Quote

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