Page 3 - A Closer Look, Board Layout, Test System
In classic ASUS style is the P8P67 PRO built on a beautiful black colored printed circuit board. Consisting primarily of blue, black, silver, and grey components, the end result is excellent as always. I have always been a big fan of the way ASUS motherboards look (Especially in my windowed case), and this one is certainly no exception. While aesthetics is not really an issue when it comes to internal components of a computer compared to the way the board is built and how well it performs, surprisingly it can be a deciding factor for some users. Of course, the comments on the look are just a personal opinion. As it has gained immense popularity for the last couple years, the ASUS P8P67 PRO, like many performance motherboards in the industry, features 100% Japanese manufactured solid state capacitors for maximum durability and energy efficiency. They make no mention of lower RDS(on) MOSFETS like the P8P67 WS Revolution, so we will assume there is nothing special going on here.
As you can see in the photo of the P8P67 PRO above, there are no heatpipes anywhere to be found. This job is carried forward by a series of passively cooled heatsinks; where the much more power efficient P67 platform controller hub is cooled by a large blue aluminum block near the bottom right. The remaining voltage regulator modules around the CPU socket has two separate heatsinks residing over top. We will take a closer look at those in just a short moment. ASUS' placement of VRM heatsinks are optimized heat dissipation out the back. This is done by taking advantage of airflow generated by the rear exhaust fan in a standard chassis, as well as the CPU cooler. During our tests, the heatsinks worked well and adequately cooled our P67 chipset even under overclocking scenarios in my low airflow silent setup.
As with all standard motherboards, the ATX 4-pin/EPS 8-pin power connector is located at the top left corner. However, the way it is implemented varies widely between manufacturers; and I believe ASUS has done a commendable job here. It is placed very close to the edge, with the clip facing down, and minimal amount of components around it. This creates adequate clearance around the socket, so the user can easily plug and unplug the power cable during the build process. Also located close within range is a 4-pin fan header in its southwest direction.
A shot of the back of the motherboard. A very clean design; for those who are going to install aftermarket heatsinks with proprietary backplates, rest be assured there is absolutely nothing to worry about. What you will find is the standard Intel backplate, but all heatsinks designed for LGA1155 should be designed to work with the backplate in its place. Unlike the higher end P8P67 WS Revolution we reviewed last week (And its main crosstown competitor, the Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD4-B3), ASUS does not advertise having two ounces of copper on the inner layers of the P8P67 PRO. The reason why I point this out is because this is normally used to improve its cooling efficiency by spreading the heat out more evenly, as well as delivering more power more efficiently to its components by lowering the PCB impedance. In my opinion, it is probably not a huge deal for casual enthusiasts, but just keep it in mind. Regarding the use of capacitors, the use of surface mounts is evident, as shown in the image above. Pins still stick out for other components, for example, the RAM socket pins and PCIe slots -- since SMT is not capable of withstanding higher mechanical stress required for this purpose.
Within close proximity of the LGA1155 processor socket is the usual array of items -- components relating to the CPU voltage regulator circuit, as well as the VRM heatsinks as aforementioned. These heatsinks have quite a unique design. Fundamentally stylish, although a bit hard to describe -- a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Other than that, all components used in general have a relatively low profile, so I have experienced no problems in installing large heatsinks such as the Noctua NH-D14. As shown in our photo above, you will see one of the biggest things ASUS advertises in their P8P67 line of motherboards. Rather than using traditional analog voltage regulation system, the company takes it a step further and uses an Intel VRD12 compliant digital 12+2 phase power design. Marketed as DIGI+ VRM, it allows a higher level of precision when it comes to power delivery, faster transient response, reduced power loss, and reduced electromagnetic interference with spread spectrum enabled. This works in conjunction with the Energy Processing Unit (EPU) ASIC and TurboV Processing Unit (TPU) hardware controller to mesh component monitoring, automatic power management, and accurate user control together. I think this is quite brilliant, because stuff like the EPU and TPU are nothing new to us -- but now they all work together on a hardware level. In the end, if all these terms mean nothing to you, it is okay -- all you need to know is we can now take a crack at better overclocks along with improved system stability.
The RAM slots are placed a reasonable distance away from the CPU socket, but since the CPU socket is shifted to the middle of the board rather than left biased like old LGA 775 boards, you may experience clearance issues with the inside slots if you have memory with tall heatspreaders in conjunction with a large CPU heatsink/fan. The ATX 24-pin power connector is placed along the side of the motherboard as far as standard design is concerned, along with an internal USB 3.0 header next to it. At the upper right hand corner of the P8P67 PRO is a 3-pin power fan header, MemOK! button, as well as the EPU switch.
The MemOK! button allows the user to auto start the system in working with the memory in the pre-post state by first attempting relaxing the timings, followed by adjusting frequency, and finally increasing the voltage to allow the system to POST. This is very beneficial, since there may be boot issues with higher voltage memory kits or otherwise problematic memory -- and users won't be stuck looking for standard voltage memory in order to modify settings in their BIOS just to start their system. Overclockers may also find this feature beneficial by using MemOK! to reset their memory settings only, rather than resorting to clearing the CMOS.
Eight color coded Serial ATA connectors are angled perpendicular to the motherboard for optimal cabling convenience. The first two ports in navy blue are provided by the Marvell 9120 PCIe SATA 6Gb/s controller. The difference between this one and the Marvell 9128 found on the P8P67 WS Revolution is this one does not support RAID, but I don't think the 9128 costs that much more to implement anyway. You can see the chip right next to the ports. The rest of the six SATA ports are native to the P67 chipset; and supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. The grey ports are SATA 6Gb/s ports, while the blue ports are SATA 3Gb/s ports. ASUS' P8P67 PRO motherboard does not feature any legacy PATA or floppy connectors, which in my opinion it is about time we got rid of them, haha.
The BIOS chip is situated on the right side of the Marvell SATA 6Gb/s ports in reference to our above photo. Meanwhile, the case I/O connector pin layout is standard amongst all ASUS motherboards, and out of the box it comes with ASUS' Q-Connector block to combine all the mess into a neat single block for maximum convenience. Good placement of connectors in this segment of the motherboard is usually very challenging, and ASUS has done an excellent job of organizing it in an efficient and user friendly manner.
The expansion slots, in order from the top, are: PCIe x1, PCIe x16, PCIe x1, PCI, PCIe x16, PCI, and PCIe x16 (I accidentally cut off the first PCIe x1 slot in my photo above, haha). This motherboard takes the best of both worlds and supports both CrossFireX and SLI. In the case of the P8P67 PRO, the first PCIe x1 slot is actually usable for sound cards, since no motherboard components such as chipset heatsinks will get in the way. The first PCI Express Graphics slot has 16 lanes allocated to it in single mode, but will split into x8/x8 with the second PEG slot in dual mode. The third PEG slot runs at x1 mode by default with the second PCIe x1 slot disabled, due to limited amounts of available lanes. If you want the second PCIe x1 slot enabled, it can be configured to take bandwidth from the internal USB 3.0 header instead. Additionally, it can allocate up to four lanes, but it will take its resources from the first PCIe x1 slot, internal USB 3.0 header, and rear eSATA ports in addition to the second PCIe x1 slot as aforementioned. This configuration is not too bad, consider the second PCIe x1 slot is most likely blocked off by your graphics card anyway.
An array of internal headers and switches can be found at the bottom of the P8P67 PRO. From the left, we have a front panel audio connector, Firewire provided by the VIA 6308P PCI based host controller, TPU switch, three USB 2.0 headers for up to six USB ports, clear CMOS jumper pins, and a 3-pin fan header.
Miscellaneous chips spotted in our photo above include a Nuvoton NCT6776F monitoring chip, TPU chip, and a CR2032 3V battery on the right of the second PCI slot. Along the western edge, from the top, we have an Intel 82579 Gigabit LAN controller, VIA VT6308P Firewire controller, ASMedia ASM1085 PCIe to PCI bridge (To enable the two PCI slots and Firewire controller). as well as the Realtek ALC892 audio codec. The NEC USB 3.0 controller is placed above the first PCIe x1 slot; not shown.
If you have been paying attention, the ALC892 codec is a slight upgrade from the ALC889 used in other ASUS P67 iterations such as the P8P67 WS Revolution. Since this is a consumer focused board, a better integrated sound solution makes a lot of sense. The company uses terms like "Absolute Pitch 192kHz/24-bit True BD Lossless Sound", "BD Audio Layer Content Protection", and "DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC" to promote this audio codec on their product page. Fundamentally, all this means is it has enhanced digital decoding and encoding capabilities; as far as actual performance is concerned, we will cover that in our RMAA tests later on in this review.
ASUS offers a reasonable amount of available external connectors at the back panel; pretty much everything you need are available. From the left, and ordering from the top in case of present adjacent connectors, we have two PS/2 ports for both your keyboard and mouse (Honestly though, I would much prefer an extra two USB ports -- I haven't used a PS/2 keyboard and mouse since the early 2000s), one coaxial and one optical audio output, Bluetooth module, two USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA port, two more USB 2.0 ports, one VIA VT6308P powered Firewire connector, eSATAp port, a further two USB 2.0 ports, Intel Gigabit LAN jack, and two NEC powered USB 3.0 connectors in blue. That is six USB ports in total. The rest are audio connectors based off the Realtek ALC892 audio codec; both S/PDIF coaxial and optical outputs can be seen as aforementioned in addition to the six standard 3.5mm analog jacks. An EMI shielded I/O backplate, which ASUS calls the "Q-Shield", accompanies the motherboard.
The Bluetooth module enables ASUS' BT GO! on the ASUS P8P67 PRO. In addition to being a standard adapter for all your Bluetooth devices, it also provides seven services of which ASUS calls Folder Sync, BT Transfer, BT Turbo Remote, BT-to-Net, Music Player, Shot and Send, and Personal Manager. Some of these features can be posted as merely 'interesting', but lacks any surprise. Fortunately, the story does not end here. The interesting stuff comes in when you can use your smartphone as a remote for your PC. And that is not just any remote. Sure, you can do stuff like play or pause your music, but have you ever tried overclocking with your iPhone? Bet not. Well, you can do this on the P8P67 PRO. Now that is cool.
I am very happy to see the Intel Gigabit LAN port on the P8P67 PRO, rather than Realtek or Marvell based adapters we have seen on pretty much every motherboard for the last little while. There is only one port though -- although one may argue most people do not use more than one, as I never do either. ASUS' marketing material says Intel's solution provides lower CPU utilization, but from my perspective, I could care less -- a few extra clock cycles on my Sandy Bridge processor won't make a difference. What really gets me excited is the fact that Intel's Gigabit LAN controllers deliver significantly better performance than the competition, as I have discussed in my QNAP TS-559 Pro+ review last year. For network attached storage obsessed people like me, this makes a big different when you are moving hundreds of gigabytes through your network at a time.
Our test configuration as follows:
CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K @ 3.33GHz (Stock speed, Turbo Boost disabled)
CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-D14
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws F3-12800CL7D-8GBRH 2x4GB @ DDR3-1333 7-8-7-24 (Reduced frequency @ stock latencies)
Graphics: Gigabyte Radeon HD 6850 1GB
Chassis: Cooler Master 690 II Advanced NVIDIA Edition (Noctua NF-S12B FLX, NZXT Sleeved LED Kit)
Storage: OCZ Vertex 2 60GB; Western Digital Caviar Blue AAKS 500GB
Power: NZXT HALE90 750W
Sound: Onboard Integrated
Optical Drive: LiteOn iHAS224-06 24X DVD Writer
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64
1. Introduction, Features, and Specifications
2. Bundle, Chipset, BIOS
3. A Closer Look, Board Layout, Test System
4. Benchmark: AIDA64 CPU
5. Benchmark: AIDA64 FPU
6. Benchmark: AIDA64 Memory
7. Benchmark: PCMark Vantage
8. Benchmark: 3DMark 11
9. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 7.0
10. Benchmark: SuperPI 1M, Cinebench R11.5
11. Onboard Sound (RMAA 6.2.3) Analyzation
12. Overclocking and Conclusion