ASUS comes from the last four letters of the word Pegasus. A mythical winged horse that they have chosen for their company name; it represents Strength, Creative Spirit and Purity. Flying Horse Experience is not something you will find in droves here at TechREACTION, but rigorous testing and evaluation of manufacturers PC related products is. Strength is definitely an attribute ASUS brings to the table, being the largest motherboard manufacturer in the world. Creative Spirit is epitomized both by being early to market with new exciting technologies as well as the aesthetics that they put into their product designs. Purity is exemplified by the total package experience. Products that go above and beyond what one expects, and a knowledgeable staff to help get you working and playing beyond your expectations.
The P8P67 Deluxe is a LGA1155 Socket motherboard supporting Crossfire and SLI in a x8/x8 configuration, or a single GPU with up to 16 Lanes of PCIE 2.0 bandwidth at its disposal. 16+2 phase power supplies more than enough clean power to the CPU to max out the capabilities of the Sandy Bridge architecture, and 4 additional phases will handle the DRAM slots for pushing modern 2000+ MHz DDR3. The board features a UEFI BIOS, Bluetooth, Power Over E-SATA, and an Intel Network IC. Two integrated USB 3.0 ports with 2 more added through the included front panel expansion device, and 4 SATA 3 (6 Gbps) ports provided by the PCH and Marvell controller.
Digi+ Power Dual Processor enhancements allow the motherboard to both overclock, and enhance low power capabilities of the architecture, through use of the EPU and TPU processors. ASUS again institutes the Mem Ok! feature to enhance memory compatibility. Firewire is included on the IO panel, as well as up to 10 channel audio by mixing the 7.1 rear connections with concurrent 2 channel front panel audio.
LEDs abound with post indicators for Memory, CPU, VGA, Boot devices and RAM. (Dubbed the QLED Diagnostic system).Decorative LEDs, a 2 digit post code display and lit on-board power and reset buttons round out the illumination fixtures.
In an effort not to put the cart before the horse, the full feature portion of the P8P67 Deluxe review will follow an introduction to the new Sandy Bridge CPUs and Cougar Point based motherboards.
Sandy Bridge is the newest “tock” architecture from Intel. Based on the popular Westmere chips of 2010, the CPU has been redesigned with multiple new features. Ring bus topology has replaced QPI with bandwidth up to 96GB/s, new 256 bit AVX instructions for improved FP operations, an improved GPU with turbo feature, and 32nm design for lower power usage. The Sandy Bridge CPU is more efficient than previous generation CPUs. Sandy Bridge will also include a Video Transcoder on-die, as well as a new cache for micro-ops.
Sandy Bridge uses an LGA1155 socket for mounting, and is not compatible with the previous generation LGA1156; neither CPU or Motherboard. The heatsink mounting pattern, however, is 1156 compatible. So a new HSF will not need to be purchased if you are upgrading from a P55 platform. While certain features remain the same, (IOH and ICH have been replaced with a singular PCH, like LGA1156) other improvements have been made. In lieu of using an MCM design of CPU and NB on silicon, the LGA1155 is a true on-die chip with IMC and GPU included as a single unit.
The GPU shares L3 cache with the CPU and will come in one of two styles, single or dual core (referred to as GT1 or GT2), which will have 6 or 12 Execution Units respectively. The 12 unit GPU is reported to be equal to or better than a Radeon HD 5450 Discrete GPU, and slightly more than twice as powerful as the old LGA1156 GPUs. The GPUs will also feature Turbo mode, much like the CPUs do today. A special motherboard (dubbed H67, with H61 available at a future date) will be needed to use the integrated graphics core.
With the abolition of QPI and UnCore, the L3 Cache will now run at CPU speed. When CPU turbo is initiated, L3 Cache speed will also increase. However, CPU and GPU Turbos are mutually exclusive, and only one item can use the Turbo feature at a time. The L3 Cache being tied to CPU means that when the GPU cores increase in speed, the memory speed does not. This may not be an issue at all as the amount of memory is very small to begin with, however on memory deprived discrete GPUs, memory speed often has a very limiting effect on performance.
DMI 2.0 will provide x8 PCIE 2.0 lanes operating at 5GT/s (full speed PCIE 2.0). This doubles the bandwidth of the the LGA1156 DMI bus and is a much needed change, as USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbs drives are becoming more common, it will be easier to saturate the old standard. Providing 4GBs in one direction provides future scalability for multiple drives in RAID arrays, USB 3.0 Ready Boost devices and Gigabit Ethernet.
The Sandy Bridge platform will have minimal Bus Clock adjustment capability in an effort to reduce overclocking. However, to offset this, Intel has also lowered their prices on the “K series” CPUs, which are multiplier unlocked. Unfortunately, at this time even the unlocked multiplier CPUs have an upper limit. Theoretically 57x, in practice however this number is often much lower.
Not all “chipsets” are created equally. At launch time, manufacturers released P67 and H67 motherboards. The main difference according to Intel specification is access to the integrated GPU via the Flexible Display Interface (FDI). H67 also does not natively support dual 8/8 PCIE 2.0 slots, but only a single x16 Lane slot. However, Manufacturers will be free to make changes to these specifications based on 3rd party hardware as will be commented on in the following review.
H61 will be a low cost motherboard solution. Removed features will be RAID support, 2 less PCIE lanes for the DMI Bus, and 4 less USB 2.0 ports. None of the chipsets feature USB 3.0 support, so manufacturers will include them using chips from VIA or NEC (now called Renesas Electronics Corporation).
Another important note is that H67 and H61 at this time feature locked memory multipliers. The P67 does support unlocked memory multipliers. Combined with the poor BUS speed adjustments available on the Sandy Bridge platform, this could result in a lack of high-end memory sales for the H series chipsets.
As mentioned previously, Intel has decided to limit overclocking on the Sandy Bridge platform. However, with the 2500K and 2600K bringing unlocked multiplier goodness to the masses at a reasonable price, the limitation to manipulate the BUS speeds will effect those purchasing the lower tier CPUs more than anyone. The flexibility to control memory speeds will also be hindered without the ability to control the BCLK beyond a few points, unless manufacturers offer greater control over memory multipliers than what is present on current gen motherboards.
The limitation of the overclocking ability is tied to the fact that Intel has one clock generator for every bus on the CPU. Be it USB, SATA, PCIE or CPU. It remains to be seen if motherboard manufacturers will be able to implement a work around as they have done in the past with PCI/AGP locks, or more recently with PCIE.
ASUS has been great with Intel BUS speeds in the past, root for their R&D team to figure out this dilemma.