Intel P35 Express Comparison: ASUS & Gigabyte

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The P5K3 Deluxe is dressed in ASUS' standard black PCB and from a distance it looks just like any other mid to high end ASUS motherboard from the last couple years. When you get up close and personal, it's obvious that the P5K3 Deluxe is nearly the same board as the P5K Deluxe, except the former supports DDR3 while the later uses DDR2. Another difference is that the P5K3 Deluxe sports a slightly larger heatpipe system; there are now two heatpipes connecting the heatsink above the CPU socket to the northbridge cooler. Lastly, the color scheme of the RAM slots has changed from yellow/black to orange/black. Besides that, the two boards are near identical in appearance.

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Overall, the P5K3 Deluxe has a decent layout, free of major show stoppers. The massive heat-pipe system completely surrounds the LGA775 socket and there is at least one heat-pipe on each side of the socket. While ASUS has left plenty of room on all four sides of the socket for the CPU cooler, some people with especially large coolers may encounter installation issues. The two heat-pipes connecting the north bridge to the heatsink above the CPU socket passes by the RAM slots, leaving little room for clearance. While this shouldn't be a problem for most users since RAM cooling tends to be of the low-profile heat-spreader variety, those who intend to use custom aftermarket cooling on their memory should take note.

Like many other modern motherboards, the P5K3 relies on airflow within the case to help cool down its elaborate heat-pipe system. Residual airflow from the CPU heatsink is a key component for keeping the large heatpipe system cool which means heat problems could arise when a passive cooler or water-cooling is used to keep the processor cool. ASUS successfully addresses this potential problem by including an optional blower style fan with the P5K3 Deluxe. The fan can be attached to either the heatsink near the I/O panel or the one at the top of the board to provide much needed additional cooling for passive setups. All of our testing and benchmarks were done without this fan installed, however we did try the fan for a short period of time and we found it to be relatively quiet, although it was definitely not silent.

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A 24-pin ATX power connector and an 8-pin 12V power connector supply the board with power. The power connectors are backwards compatible with older 20-pin and 4-pin power connectors but it's highly recommended that a modern power supply with the correct 24-pin and 8-pin power connectors be used. As is common for ASUS boards, the P5K3 Deluxe does not have an optional molex power connector for additional power, which makes it even more important that a modern power supply with 24 and 8 pin connectors be used. Also note that the board will not boot unless a 4 or 8 pin power connector is plugged in.

The P5K3 Deluxe has one of the best rear I/O arrays we have seen in a while. Many manufacturers have adopted a legacy-free approach for their motherboard which frees up a lot of room on the I/O array for additional ports, however most manufacturers don't make use of the extra space. One gripe we have always had with legacy-free I/O arrays is that while they get rid of PS/2 connections, they don't make up for it with extra USB ports, often including the standard four, or even worse, only two .

ASUS is not one of these manufacturers and the P5K3's I/O array is absolutely packed with a large amount of modern ports. There are two gigabit LAN ports, two eSATA ports (with RAID support), a Firewire port, optical and coaxial SPDIF connections and six USB ports. When just about everything connects via USB, it's nice to have six USB ports on your I/O array. However the P5K3 isn't an entirely legacy-free design. While you won't find any old fashioned parallel or serial connections, ASUS has wisely included a single PS/2 connector for those of us who still love our PS/2 keyboard or mouse (ie. IBM Model M fans).

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The P5K3 Deluxe has total of six fan connectors; a CPU fan connector, a power supply fan connector and four case fan connectors. The fan connectors are spread out along the edges of the board. The CPU and power supply fan connectors are located at the top of the board while three of the case fan connectors can be found on the right edge of the board. The last case fan connector is on the right edge of the board, right next to the I/O array which makes it a good choice for the included optional blower fan. Located at the bottom of the board are two USB header ports and a single Firewire header port. The pins of the header ports aren't color coded or labeled which makes connecting your case's front USB/Firewire ports much more tedious since you must constantly refer to the manual for the pin-out. Luckily, ASUS provides a Q-Connector set with this board, which greatly simplifies the process. You simply plug your front panel connectors into the labeled USB/Firewire Q-Connector, then when everything is hooked up, connect the Q-Connector to the motherboard's header port .

The two PCI-E x16 slots are separated from each other by two PCI slots. This is desirable since the extra space will allow your video cards to breath better. Both of the PCI-E x1 slots are located above the first PCI-E x16. This means that if two double-height video cards are used, only one PCI slot will be available, although the PCI-E x1 slots will be unaffected. Right above the first PCI-E x1 slot is the Wi-Fi card. Thankfully this card has been soldered to the board instead of requiring its own expansion slot like in several other boards which feature Wi-Fi .

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Unfortunately, the P5K3 Deluxe's layout is not perfect. During our testing we noticed two frustrating layout issues that result from the lower than usual location of the first PCI-E x16 slot. Usually, the first PCI-E x16 slot, the only one with a full compliment of 16 PCI-E lanes on boards based on the P35 Express chipset, is the second slot from the top. The first slot is often a PCI-E x1 slot. However, the memory slots on the P5K3 Deluxe are unusually low on the board which makes it necessary for the first PCI-E x16 slot to be lower on the board too and ASUS moved it to the third position from the top. Unfortunately, this will result in serious complications when a double-height video card is used. Specifically, when a double-height video card is used in the first PCI-E x16 slot, the CMOS reset jumpers and the onboard audio's CD-in internal audio connector are both covered and very tough to access. The CMOS reset jumper can still be accessed by removing the video card, although this is extremely annoying and should be unnecessary , the onboard audio's CD-in port is rendered completely useless by a double-height video card. There is simply not enough clearance when a double-height card is installed for the appropriate cable to plug into the port without really mashing it down.

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The P5K3 Deluxe comes with a healthy serving of accessories. In the box, you'll find the general user manual, Wi-Fi user manual, driver/utility CD, I/O shield and an ASUS case badge. Also included is a Q-Connector set, which consists of Q-Connectors for USB, Firewire and the system front connectors. The bundled accessories include an IDE cable, FDD cable, a 2xUSB + 1xFirewire header, six SATA cables, two molex-to-SATA power cables, a blower style fan, and a Wi-Fi antenna. We found the accessory bundle to be quite adequate and it should have everything you need and more to get started.

The driver/utility CD includes drivers for the chipset, audio codec, USB 2.0 ports and a variety of proprietary utilities including ASUS PC probe II, ASUS Update and ASUS AI Suite. Adobe Reader 7.0, DirectX 9.0c, InterVideo MediaOne Gallery, WinDVD Copy5 Trial, Ulead PhotoImpact 12 SE, CyberLink PowerBackup, Corel Snapfire Plus SE and Norton Internet Security 2006 are also included on the CD. The CD can also be used to create 32-bit as well as 64-bit SATA RAID driver disks. Overall, the accessory and software packages are more than acceptable, with nothing essential left out.

Tags:  Intel, Asus, Gigabyte, Pre, XP, son, express, AR, COM

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