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ASUS P5WD2 Premium (WiFi-TV Edition) — a Motherboard Based on Intel 955X

August 1, 2005



  • Intel 955X chipset (i955X northbridge and ICH7R southbridge)

The motherboard we review today belongs to top (at present) ASUS models — Premium. Moreover, our sample is a special modification - WiFi-TV Edition. Designers tried to provide all the functions of a computer in a modern digital house. Due to a WiFi-TV expansion card, your computer will make a step towards an entertainment center, which aside from obvious computer applications, allows to receive and translate digital and analog TV and FM radio, to watch and create DVD, and to organize Wi-Fi wireless network. As performance characteristics of the P5WD2 Premium are up to the mark, the new motherboard from ASUSTeK merits the High-End title.

Speaking of integrated functionality of the ASUS P5WD2 Premium, in addition to functionality of the top chipset from Intel, this model features additional IDE and SATA (II) controllers, FireWire, and a couple of gigabit network adapters. We were also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the integrated audio solution based on a HDA codec that demonstrated excellent quality of the analog audio output and has interesting software support. Another obvious advantage of this motherboard is its bundle. It contains everything, from various instructions and necessary cables to CDs with drivers and software (for example, WinDVD Suite with four programs, which will help you use your DVD recorder to full extent). Getting back to WiFi-TV Edition, the bundle even contains a remote control that provides comfortable operations with your multimedia center based on a home PC.




It's hard to find any faults in the PCB layout, advantages of passive cooling are all the more evident. Sidelong IDE connector and a well thought-out arrangement of memory slots have a good effect on the assemblage convenience. Two Serial ATA connectors, based on an additional Silicon Image controller, are placed in unusual places: one of them is placed at the rear panel near the CPU voltage regulator, the second one is installed on the rear panel. You will gradually get used to it, its usability is still on the level. Access to the only jumper is not hampered even when the motherboard is in a case. There is no description of its functionality on the PCB.

The 4-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates eleven 820 uF capacitors and six 1000 uF ones. The board also contains a voltage regulator for memory consisting of six 1000 uF capacitors. In general, critical circuits incorporate electrolytic capacitors from Sanyo and United Chemi-Con (high quality and reliable components). The board has empty seats for fan headers and the second COM port, but there is currently no modification of the motherboard that would use these elements. The line of motherboards on i955X, except for the P5WD2 Premium, is represented by just one model - P5WD2. It is based on the same PCB, but it lacks FireWire and an additional SATA II controller, as well as a gigabit network adapter connected to the PCI Express bus. It also has more unassuming HDA codec and bundle. Motherboard dimensions — 305x245 mm (full-sized ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed).

System monitoring (Winboard W83627EHG-A, according to BIOS Setup)

  • CPU voltage, +3.3, +5 and +12 V
  • RPM of 4 fans
  • CPU and board temperatures (by the corresponding embedded sensors).

Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors

  • Processor socket (Socket 775, 533/800/1066 MHz FSB, compatible with all existing (at the time of this review) top processors from Intel: Celeron D (351), Pentium 4 (570J, 571 and 670), Pentium D (840), Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (3.73 GHz), Pentium Extreme Edition (840));
  • 4 x DDR2 SDRAM DIMM (up to 8 GB DDR2-400/533/667 with/without ECC; it supports dual channel mode, but the total memory size in both channels must be the same)
  • 2 x PCIEx16 (the second slot operates in x2/x4 mode, it's intended for an additional video accelerator to organize SLI or for any other PCIE device)
  • PCIEx1 slot
  • 3 x PCI
  • Power connectors: standard ATX 2.2 (24 pins, you can plug a regular 20-pin connector, but you had better avoid using such powerful modern components as top PCIE video cards. Otherwise, you should use an additional connector that will be described below), 8-pin EATX12V connector to power a processor (you can plug the standard 4-pin ATX12V connector (providing no less than 13 A for Pentium 4/EE and no less than 16 A for Pentium D/EE). PSU with an 8-pin connector may be required for future processors), 4-pin (peripheral) additional connector in case of a PSU with a 20-pin connector (mandatory for SLI mode)
  • 1 x FDD
  • 3 x IDE (Parallel ATA) for two ATA100 devices (chipset based connector) and four ATA133 devices (based on the additional ITE controller), the latter can form RAID 0, 1, and 0+1. You are not recommended to connect optical storage devices to these connectors
  • 5 x SATA II (Serial ATA II) for five SATA300 devices, hard disks connected to the four chipset-based connectors, can form RAID 0, 1, 10(0+1), 5, and Matrix RAID. The connector based on the Silicon Image controller, has a pair connector on the rear panel. Corresponding hard disks can form RAID 0 and 1
  • 2 connectors for brackets with 4 additional USB (2.0) ports
  • Connector for a bracket with an additional FireWire port
  • 1 x CD/DVD audio connector
  • Connectors for analog audio ins and outs on the front panel
  • Connector for Game/MIDI port on a bracket
  • Connector for a COM port on a bracket
  • Connector for a chassis intrusion sensor
  • 4 x fan headers (all with rpm control, CPU cooler header and one of the additional ones also allow automatic rpm control).

Back panel (left to right, blockwise)





Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard
  • 1 x LPT, 1 x e-SATA (for SATA devices with internal power supply), S/PDIF-Out - Coaxial and Toslink
  • 6 x analog audio jacks (Center/Sub, Side, Rear, Line-In, Front, Mic-In)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 2 x USB and 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 1 x FireWire

Package Contents




  • Package: a nicely designed standard box (AI Life series) with a flip cover listing motherboard's features
  • Documentation in English: User's manual, SATA RAID Guide, WiFi-TV Guide
  • Cables: 5 x SATA (with a power converter for five devices), 2 x ATA66 (black, with a company logo), 1 x ATA33 (for optical storage devices), 1 x FDD cable (blue, with a company logo)
  • Rear panel bracket with 2 x USB and 1 x Game/MIDI
  • Rear panel bracket with 1 x FireWire
  • Rear panel bracket with 1 x COM port





  • WiFi-TV PCI expansion card that combines 802.11a/b/g adapter, TV tuner that can receive analog (PAL/SECAM, as well as NTSC via an adapter) and digital (DVB-T) TV, and an FM radio (read the documentation for details, the link is published above)





  • Antenna for a wireless adapter (only for WiFi-TV Edition)
  • Flexible antenna for FM radio stations (only for WiFi-TV Edition)
  • Proprietary remote control with two AAA batteries (only for WiFi-TV Edition)
  • USB IR receiver for the remote control (only for WiFi-TV Edition)
  • Combined audio/video cable with S-Video, composite, and two audio outs (only for WiFi-TV Edition)
  • Flexible cable (instead of a regular SLI bridge in motherboards on NVIDIA chipsets) to connect two video cards in SLI mode
  • Rear I/O shield
  • Compact discs with drivers and proprietary utilities from ASUS, InterVideo WinDVD Suite (software bundle to watch and create DVD: PhotoAlbum 1.0, WinDVD Creator 2, DVD Copy 2.5, Disc Master 2.5), as well as CyberLink PowerCinema 4.0 and PowerDirector (a similar bundle, only for WiFi-TV Edition).

WiFi-TV expansion card (which is not part of the model under review, but can be purchased separately) is an excellent addition to the ASUS P5WD2 Premium functionality. It delivers not only a basis for a powerful computer with excellent expansion features, but also all necessary elements to work with DVD and a wireless network. ASUS P5WD2 Premium WiFi-TV Edition merits our Excellent Package award:




Integrated Controllers

  • Audio, based on the HDA codec Realtek ALC882D (7.1+2) supporting 7.1 surround sound audio with front line-in/out and S/PDIF-Out jacks
  • 2 x LAN, both supporting 10/100/1000 Mbit/s, based on the Marvell 88E8001-LKJ1 (PCI Gigabit Ethernet) and Intel PC82573V (PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet) chips
  • IDE controller, based on the ITE IT8211F chip, supporting four ATA133 devices
  • An additional SATA II RAID controller based on the Silicon Image SiI3132CNU chip, supporting 2 SATA300 devices that can form RAID 0 and 1
  • FireWire, based on the Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip, supporting 2 x FireWire.

The integrated audio quality was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.5 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0,14, -0,25
Very good
Noise level, dB (A):
-90,8
Very good
Dynamic range, dB (A):
90.3
Very good
THD, %:
0.0047
Very good
Intermodulation distortion + Noise, %:
0.0095
Very good
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-85,1
Excellent
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.0098
Very good

General performance: Very good (details). The motherboard demonstrates almost record-breaking (for integrated audio) quality of the analog audio output. Interestingly, the codec chip is located in the very corner of the board, being rather far from the analog output — the high quality of the PCB layout as well as expertly selected parameters of electrolytic capacitors are obvious.

The ALC882D audio codec is essentially no different from the ALC882, but its drivers offer support for some Dolby technologies (including Dolby Digital Live — encoding audio stream into AC-3 on the fly to be output via S/PDIF).

Proprietary technologies

  • Stack Cool 2 - passive cooling of electronic components in the CPU voltage converter circuit, heatsinks on both sides of the PCB
  • AI Quiet (including Q-Fan 2) — automatically changes the rotational speed of fans depending on a temperature
  • AI NOS (Non-Delay Overclocking System) — dynamically overclocks CPU clock (to be more exact, FSB) depending on the current load and returns to the initial state in idle mode
  • AI Net 2 — the network controller automatically detects a damaged cable even without booting into OS
  • CrashFree BIOS 2 - to restore BIOS automatically from a floppy or bootable CD even when the data in the flash-chip is damaged
  • EZ Flash and LiveUpdate — these utilities can flash a new BIOS version without booting a computer from a floppy
  • MyLogo 2 - to display your own logo at system startup.

Settings

Jumpers and switches Clear CMOS jumper  
In BIOS v2.53 from AMI Memory timings + CAS# Latency, RAS# Precharge, RAS# to CAS# Delay, RAS# Activate to Precharge Delay, Write Recovery Time, Hyper Path 3, Performance Mode
Memory frequency selection + Frequency dividers to set the standard frequencies of DDR2-400, DDR2-533, and DDR2-667 for any standard FSB clock (DDR2-667 — only for FSB above 800 MHz), as well as DDR2-600 and DDR2-800 for 800 MHz FSB (more dividers are available for higher FSB clocks)
Peripheral bus frequency control + PCI-E = Auto, 90—150 MHz at 1 MHz steps
PCI = Auto (increase proportionally to PCI-E clock), To CPU (increase proportionally to FSB clock), 33.33 MHz
PCI IRQ manual assignment -  
FSB frequency setup + 100—450 MHz at 1 MHz steps
CPU multiplier + If a processor does not allow CPU multiplier control, it's fixed at the minimal value for the series (x14)
CPU core voltage control + Auto, 1.275—1.7 V at 0.0125 V steps
Memory voltage control + Auto, 1.8—2.3 V at 0.05/0.1 V steps
Chipset voltage control + Auto, 1.5—1.65 V at 0.05 V (MCH) and Auto, 1.05, 1.2 V (ICH) steps
FSB voltage control + Auto, 1.2—1.5 V at 0.1 V steps
PCI-E bus voltage control -  

We used BIOS 0205, the latest available BIOS version at the time of our tests. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested.

Preliminary test results

Testbed configurations:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46 GHz
  • Memory: 2 x Corsair XMS2-4300 CM2X512A-4300C3PRO (DDR2-533, 3-3-3-8)
  • HDD: Samsung SP1213C (SATA), 7200 rpm
  • OS: Windows XP SP2

The table below compares the results of ASUS P5WD2 Premium with the results of another motherboard on i955X (Gigabyte 8I955X Royal) and the fastest (according to the roundup of six motherboards on Intel 925XE) representative of the i925XE — Gigabyte 8AENXP-D. i925XE and i955X are different chipsets, but their performance should be essentially the same (it really is). It goes without saying that we shall publish the i955X roundup after we review a certain number of motherboards on this chipset.

Test Gigabyte 8AENXP-D (i925XE) Gigabyte 8I955X Royal (i955X) ASUS P5WD2 Premium (i955X)
Archiving with 7-Zip, min:sec 7:18 7:12 7:07
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 5:15 5:15 5:14
Processing images in Photoshop, min:sec 33:05 32:32 32:16
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Lowest@640x480x32), fps 72.6 72.6 73.5
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Medium@800x600x32), fps 68.0 67.7 68.6

Note that ASUS P5AD2-E Premium used the slow BIOS version in the above mentioned i925XE roundup. At least, that model was the slowest among the tested mobos. According to our readers, its performance grows in the next BIOS versions. In this case, P5WD2 Premium is certainly the fastest model, but the difference of 1-1.5% cannot be considered significant. The overall conclusion about the performance of this model: it's "on the proper level".

Conclusion

On the whole, ASUS P5WD2 Premium left a nice impression on us. It bears the Premium title by right, having decent state-of-the-art functionality and well thought-out bundle. It demonstrates excellent quality of the integrated audio with Dolby Digital Live support and very good preliminary results of performance tests. We should also note a special modification of this model — WiFi-TV Edition. We have often come across simple wireless adapters included into bundles, but we have never seen such a feature-rich expansion card in a motherboard package. We have found no flaws in this motherboard during our tests. But the only drawback was obvious even before we opened the box — the price… Unfortunately, this splendor, especially under the ASUS trademark, costs dearly.


This model on the manufacturer's web site (Russian mirror)

The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer





Vladimir Senchihin (sench@ixbt.com)
July 27, 2005.


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