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Appeared on: Thursday, February 03, 2005
Asus P5AD2-E Premium


1. Introduction

01 - Asus P5AD2-E Premium - Introduction

There is not much that we can say about Asus that hasn't already been said. It's been in the industry for a long time, manufacturing quality-based products. In 2003, Asus sold 5,000,000 motherboards which means one out of every 5 desktop computers was built using an Asus motherboard.

For this review, AsusTek has provided us with one of the most full-featured motherboards we've ever seen, the Asus P5AD2-E Premium for LGA775 socket-type processors.

The P5AD2-E is designed on a black PCB where its colorfull components create a very impressive result.

Northbridge/Southbridge

The northbridge on the P5AD2 is powered by Intel's latest chipset, the 925XE. The chipset is located under a black copper heatsink and is responsible for the board's support for the LGA775 Pentium 4 CPU, dual-channel DDR2 memory architecture and PCI Express x16 graphics card interface.

The Northbridge

In turn, the southbridge chipset which manages the USB, serial, audio, IDE and ISA I/O, is managed by Intel's ICH6R chipset.

As part of Asus' noiseless design philosophy, the two chipsets need no fans for cooling.

Packaging

The packaging for the P5AD2-E is similar to all other ai Proactive boards. The ai Proactive logo is splashed across the front of the black and silver coloured box.

As you open the box, you will notice one thing: The board ships with a lot of accessories. If you forget how the contents were laid out in the box, you will surely have a hard time putting them back in and then closing the box.

Accesories:
1 x Wireless LAN antenna (optional)
1 x 2-port IEEE1394b / 1-port RJ45 module
10 x Serial ATA cables
1 x SATA Extension module for external devices
4 x 2-port SATA power cable
1 x 2-port USB2.0 / Game module
1 x COM Port module
2 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
1 x IDE cable
1 x FDD cable
1 x I/O Shield
User's manual

Software included:
InterVideo WinDVD Suite (OEM version)
Asus Drivers CD
ASUS PC Probe
ASUS LiveUpdate Utility
Anti-virus software (OEM version)


2. Features

02 - Asus P5AD2-E Premium - Features

CPU - LGA775 socket for Intel Pentium 4/Celeron CPU
- Compatible with Intel 04B and 04A processors
- Intel Hyper-Threading Technology ready
Chipset Intel 925XE
Intel ICH6R
Front Side Bus 1066 / 800 / 533 MHz
Expansion Slots 1 x PCI Express x16 slot for discrete graphics card
2 x PCI Express x1
3 x PCI
Storage/Raid Intel ICH6R South Bridge:
- 1 x UltraDMA 100/66/33
- 4 x Serial ATA with Intel Matrix Storage Technology with RAID 0, 1 support
Silicon Image 3114R RAID controller:
- 4 x Serial ATA, RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 (RAID 5 software patch available, no WHQL)
ITE IDE RAID controller:
- 2 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 with JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 0+1 support
LAN Dual Gigabit LAN controllers
2 x Marvell PCIe 88E8053 Gigabit LAN Controller, features AI NET2
Wireless LAN: WiFi-g 54 Mbps IEEE 802.11g and backwards compatible with 11 Mbps 802.11b
- Access Point function (under WinXP, 2003)
- Bundle an external antenna
- One-touch wizard
- Wireless bridge, a.k.a. WDS or wireless repeater (under WinXP, 2003)
Audio - C-Media High Definition Audio 8-channel CODEC
- Coaxial, Optical S/PDIF out on back I/O port
- Features Dolby Digital Live technology
IEEE 1394b/a TI 1394b controller supports
- 2 x 1394b ports @ 800 Mbps speed
- 1 x 1394a ports @ 400 Mbps speed
USB Max. 8 USB2.0 ports
ASUS AI Proactive Features AI NOS (Non-delay Overclocking System)
AI NET2 network diagnosis before entering OS
WiFi-g powered by WiFi@HOME technology
Stack Cool patented fanless cooling system
Overclocking Features - AI NOS (Non-delay Overclocking System)
- AI Overclocking (intelligent CPU frequency tuner)
- CPU, Memory, and PCIe x16 voltage adjustable
- SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection) from 100MHz up to 400MHz at 1MHz increment
- Adjustable FSB/DDR ratio. Fixed PCI/PCIe frequencies.
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Other ASUS Special Features CrashFree BIOS 2
Q-Fan2
Post Reporter
Multi-language BIOS
MyLogo2
BIOS 8 Mb Flash ROM,AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.3
Back Panel I/O Ports 1 x Parallel
1 x WLAN antenna jack (optional)
1 x Optical + 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Output
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x RJ45
4 x USB 2.0/1.1
1 x IEEE1394a
8-Channel Audio I/O
Internal I/O Connectors 2 x USB 2.0 connectors supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports
1 x LAN connector
2 x IEEE1394 connectors
1 x COM connector
1 x GAME/MIDI connector
CPU / 2 x Chassis / Power Fan connectors
Front panel High Definition Audio connector
Chassis Intrusion connector
CD audio-in connector
24-pin ATX Power connector
4-pin ATX 12V Power connector
Support CD Drivers
ASUS PC Probe
ASUS LiveUpdate Utility
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
Accessories InterVideo WinDVD Suite (OEM version)
1 x Wireless LAN antenna (optional)
1 x 2-port IEEE1394b / 1-port RJ45 module
10 x Serial ATA cables
1 x SATA Extension module for external devices
4 x 2-port SATA power cable
1 x 2-port USB2.0 / Game module
1 x COM Port module
2 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
1 x IDE cable
1 x FDD cable
1 x I/O Shield
User's manual
Form Factor ATX Form Factor, 12"x 9.6"(30.5cm x 24.5cm)

The P5AD2-E Premium is one of the most comprehensive ASUS AI Proactive series motherboards. Featuring onboard wireless LAN, triple RAID systems, dual gigabit Ethernet LAN, 1394b, and the most advanced PC technologies from the Intel 925XE chipsets, the P5AD2-E Premium is the best choice to build a server at home. With its unsurpassed performance, the P5AD2-E Premium also works perfectly as a high-end gaming machine or a task-intensive workstation.

Some of the P5AD2-Premium's features deserve a little more attention:

DDR2 711 Native Support
Although Intel's 925XE chipsets claimed to only support DDR2 400/533, ASUS engineers successfully unleashed their true potential. This model offers native DDR2 711, eliminating the bottleneck when overclocking both the CPU and memory. With current processors supporting 1066MHz FSB, ASUS motherboards, the only solutions with native DDR2 711, will provide superior performance for the most demanding applications.

Hyper Path2 - Shorten Memory Latency
The innovative ASUS Hyper Path2 significantly shortens the latency time between the CPU and memory on 925XE chipsets and improves memory performance without sacrificing stability. Enabling both Hyper Path2 and Intel PAT (Performance Acceleration Technology) on the ASUS 925XE based motherboards, delivers powerful computing never seen before.

Intel 925XE chipset
The Intel 925XE Express chipset is a new breed of Intel's state-of-the-art desktop chipsets. It supports the latest PC technologies such as LGA775 Pentium 4 CPU, dual-channel DDR2 memory architecture, and PCI Express x16 graphics card interface.

Its PAT (performance acceleration technology) function boosts the system performance without sacrificing any system stability. Companioned with the ICH6R Southbridge chip to provide integrated 4-port SATA RAID controller, PCI Express x1 interfaces and 8 high-speed USB 2.0 ports, the Intel 925XE chipset is the best solution for high-end desktop system.
Intel LGA775 Pentium 4 CPU
This motherboard supports the latest Pentium 4 CPU from Intel in LGA775 package. With 800MHz FSB, 1 MB L2 cache, Hyper-Threading Technology and core-speeds up to 3.6GHz and beyond, Intel's LGA775 Pentium 4 is one of the fastest desktop processors to date.
Intel PAT
The Intel Performance Acceleration Technology (Intel PAT) delivers additional system-level performance by optimizing memory access between CPU and system memory, and allows increased performance at standard operating specifications.
PCI Express Architecture
PCI Express is the latest I/O interconnect technology that will replace the existing PCI. With a bus bandwidth 4 times higher than that of AGP 8X interface, PCI Express x16 bus performs much better than AGP 8X in applications such as 3D gaming. PCI Express x1 also outperforms PCI interface with its exceptional high bandwidth up to 500MB/s. The high speed PCI Express interface creates new usages on desktop PCs e.g., Gigabit LAN, 1394b, and high-speed RAID systems.
Cooler Overclocking and Quieter Operation!
Heat causes instability and shortens system lifecycle, and motherboard power circuitry is a major thermal source. The patented Stack Cool™ technology utilizes a mini PCB stacked against the main PCB to conduct heat away from power components, resulting in a 10° Celsius reduction. And voila! Cooler overclocking, quieter fan operation, greater stability and longer system life without you doing a thing.
Wireless setup made affordable and easy!
WEP? SSID? Building a home WLAN used to be a hassle with confusing acronyms and cryptic menus. With WiFi-g™ and its one-touch setup wizard, high-speed wireless network is just a few clicks away. WiFi-g™ serves as the access point of your network or if you already have an access point, it is also a wireless adapter for PCs to access existing WLAN.
(WiFi-g™ compliant to IEEE 802.11g 54 Mbps data transfer)
Boost performance when you need it the most!
Applications such as 3D games and video editing demand a huge chunk of system resource.
Inject "nitrous oxide" into your CPU! The patented AI NOS™ (Non-delay Overclocking System) technology intelligently detects system load and automatically boosts performance for the most demanding tasks. Unlike other dynamic overclocking techniques, AI NOS™ reacts much faster to satisfy your unending need for speeds.
Diagnose LAN connection before entering OS!
Network problems are often caused by bad cable connection.
AI NET2 remotely detects cable connection the second you turn on the system, and any faulty connections are reported back up to 100 meters at 1 meter accuracy.
High Definition Audio 
Enjoy high-end sound system on your PC! The onboard 8-channel HD audio (High Definition Audio, previously codenamed Azalia) CODEC enables high-quality 192KHz/24-bit audio output, jack-sensing feature, retasking functions and multi-streaming technology that simultaneously sends different audio streams to different destinations. You can now talk to your partners on the headphone while playing a multi-channel network games. All of these are done on one computer. The Dolby Digital Live technology from Dolby Lab encodes the multi-channel audio source into AC-3 bit-stream and outputs it to S/PDIF port in real time.

Stack Cool

Dual Gigabit LAN
The integrated dual Gigabit LAN design allows a PC to serve as a network gateway for managing traffic between two separate networks. This capability ensures rapid transfer of data from WAN to LAN without any added arbitration or latency. No more bottleneck to handle large amounts of data such as video, audio, and voice.

IEEE 1394b/a
1394b (FireWire 800) — with its higher bandwidth up to 800 Mbps, longer distances and much higher-powered bus — is more suitable for bandwidth-intensive applications like digital video (DV), professional audio, hard drives, which often consume hundreds or even thousands of megabytes of data per file. With backwards compatibility with 1394a, this motherboard provides 1 x 1394a and 2 x 1394b ports.

Serial ATA & IDE RAID
The onboard Silicon Image Sil3114R and ITE 8212F RAID controllers plus the Intel ICH6R southbridge provide the best solution to your RAID requirements on different storage standards. The Intel ICH6R supports RAID 0, 1 and Intel Matrix RAID Technology on 4 Serial ATA ports. The Silicon Image Sil3114R controller offers four additional SATA interfaces and allows RAID 0, 1, 10, JBOD, and a RAID software patch to support RAID 5. For IDE hard disk drives, the ITE 8212F controller provides RAID 0, 1 , 0+1 functionality for two ATA133 channels.

ASUS Q-Fan2
ASUS Q-Fan2 technology intelligently adjusts both CPU fan and chassis fan speeds according to system loading to ensure quiet, cool and efficient operation.

S/PDIF-out on Back I/O Port
This motherboard provides convenient connectivity to external home theater audio systems via an optical or coaxial S/PDIF-out (SONY-PHILIPS Digital Interface) jack. It allows to transfer digital audio without converting to analog format and keeps the best signal quality.

Max. 8 USB 2.0 ports supports
USB 2.0 is the latest connectivity standard for next generation components and peripherals. Backwards compatible with current USB 1.1 peripherals, USB 2.0 delivers transfer speeds up to 40 times faster at 480Mb/s, for easy connectivity and ultra-fast data transfers.

Multi-language BIOS
The multi-language BIOS allows you to select the language of your choice from the available options. The localized BIOS setup menu helps you configure your system easier and faster.

ASUS CrashFree BIOS2
The CrashFree BIOS2 feature now includes the BIOS auto-recovery function in a support CD. Users can reboot their system through the support CD when a bootable disk is not available, and go through the simple BIOS auto-recovery process.
ASUS motherboards now enable users to enjoy this protection feature without the need to pay for an optional ROM.

C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
When the system hangs due to overclocking failure, there is no need to open the case to clear CMOS data. Just simply restart the system, the BIOS would show the previous setting and then users can amend the CPU setting again.

WinDVD Suite (On Retail Version Only)
ASUS motherboards, intensifying leadership in the IT industry, now bundle the versatile InterVideo WinDVD Suite. This multifaceted software set includes the latest multimedia software(OEM version), bringing forth the multimedia features of ASUS motherboards to the best!


3. Board Layout

003 - Asus P5AD2-E Premium - Board Layout

CPU Socket

In the socket 775 architecture, the pins have moved from the processor and onto the motherboard socket. This way, breaking one of the pins no longer results in a destroyed processor but a destroyed motherboard, which is easier and cheaper to replace.

Memory Banks

The memory module slots come in two colors, yellow and black which highlights the mainboard's Dual Channel memory support and suggests the best way to place your memory modules. Furthermore, even if your memory parts have different MB capacities, the board still takes advantage of the dual channel and running under assymetry mode, it lowers the fetch time of memory data.

 

Back Panel

The rear panel input / output provides the following connections:

From left to right and top to bottom:

One thing to notice here is the lack of a serial COM port. However, if you are really in need of such a port, you can construct it yourself using a serial COM cable from an older computer and connecting it on the available pins located at the southeast corner of the motherboard.

 

Drive Connectors

As we mentioned earlier, the motherboard features 3 IDE connectors and 8 for Serial ATA drives.

The primary connector is coloured blue and located just below the floppy connector.

The remaining two connectors are supported by a RAID controller and can be set up to form RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 0+1 disk arrays. However, there is no problem if you try using them as regular IDE connectors for your drives.

The SATA connectors are divided into two sets of four. The first set is controllled by a Silicon Image chip and supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10 and software RAID 5.

The second set, being controlled by the ICH6 chipset on the southbridge, is only capable of supporting RAID 0 and RAID 1 disk arrays.

Slots

Below you can see the Extension slots for the P2AD2-E Premium. At the top you'll find the x16 PCI-Express slot intended for your VGA card. Below that, there are three PCI slots followed by two x1 PCI-Express slots.


4. Performance Part 1

04 - Asus P5AD2-E Premium - Performance Part 1

To test this motherboard, we used 3 benchmarks. One dealing with overall performance (PCMark04) and two for checking out the integrated graphics processor (Aquamark03 and 3DMark01). The latter two are known for their heavy dependence on the CPU and so provide a good balance between CPU and GPU testing.

PCMark04

PCMark04 is an application-based benchmark and a premium tool for measuring overall PC performance. It uses portions of real applications instead of including very large applications or using specifically created code. This allows PCMark04 to be a smaller installation as well as to report very accurate results. You may download a shareware version of PCMark04 from Futuremark.

 
P4 3GHz
w/ MSI 915G
P4 3GHz
w/ Asus P5AD2-E Premium
PCMarks
3949 4586
File Compression
4.1 MB/s 4.1 MB/s
File Encryption
55.0 MB/s 55.9 MB/s
File Decompression
35.9 MB/s 35.4 MB/s
Image Processing
14.6 MPixels/s 14.5 MPixels/s
Virus Scanning
2576.2 MB/s 2451.5 MB/s
Grammar Check
2.1 KB/s 2.1 KB/s
File Decryption
85.7 MB/s 86.3 MB/s
Audio Conversion
2340.6 KB/s 2353.1 KB/s
Web Page Rendering
5.3 Pages/s 5.1 Pages/s
WMV Video Compression
51.3 FPS 52.2 FPS
DivX Video Compression
65.6 FPS 67.9 FPS
Physics Calculation and 3D
80.6 FPS 164.4 FPS
Graphics Memory - 64 lines
680.5 FPS 2313.8 FPS

 

3DMark01

You may download a shareware version of 3DMark 2001 from Futuremark.

Aquamark03

Aquamark03 is availabe for download from Aquamark's official website.

 

Running the benchmarks using the same specs for our testing machine, we can see that the motherboard plays an important role in the resulting score. The Asus P5AD2-E Premium, yields generally higher results, mostly on graphic specialized tests. With PCMark we got 500 more PCmarks than the MIS 915G, even though the latter wasn't really that bad except for the "Graphics Memory - 64 lines" test.


5. Half Life 2

05 - Asus P5AD2-E Premium - Half Life 2

Half life 2 is no doubt the most anticipated pc game of all times. Gamers keeping the excellence of Half Life 1 in their mind as well as the remarkable E3 demo preview, have been anxiously waiting for the much delayed release of HL2.

Regarding the storyline, the player again picks up the crowbar of research scientist Gordon Freeman, who finds himself on an alien-infested Earth being picked to the bone, its resources depleted, its populace dwindling. Freeman is thrust into the unenviable role of rescuing the world from the wrong he unleashed back at Black Mesa. And a lot of people he cares about are counting on him.

To measure performance we used the Video Stress Test(VST) that is available in the CounterStrike:Source beta available through Steam. We set all the details to the highest level and each time changed the resolution from 800x600 up to 1600x1200.

 

 

Again, the Asus board seems much better suited as a game PC. The difference in frames per second varies from 5 to 14fps, more than you would get by overclocking an average VGA card.


6. Ground Control II

06 - Asus P5AD2-E Premium - Ground Control II

Ground Control 2 is an action-oriented game of tactics and warfare. As Captain Jacob Angelus of the Northern Star Alliance, you will command squads of infantry, artillery, and airpower against the might of the Empire of Terra. Base building and resource-collecting are replaced with unit control and combat tactics where your knowledge of the battlefield maneuvers will make the difference in your fight against a ruthless enemy. Position your troops on hilltops for better aim or inside buildings and forests for protection as you'll need to use every inch of terrain to your advantage. Call in air strikes or assault pods to bring the battle behind enemy lines. Send out scouts to locate the enemy and use spotters for your artillery with the 360° free-roaming camera. Experience the total immersion of futuristic warfare as you lead your forces to victory!

 

For our benchmarks, we used the highest possible settings on the first mission of the single player game.

Ground Control II offers really impressive graphics without requiring much GPU power. Click on the picture above to view a screenshot from the game. Check out these excellent water effects!

 

In this test, both motherboards offer approximately the same performance. The lead belongs to the P5AD2-E premium but the difference is not obvious at all when running the game.


7. Bios & Overclocking

07 - Asus P5AD2-E Premium - Bios & Overclocking

At the advanced chipset features tab of the P5AD2-E BIOS, you are presented with a list of on-board features like the WIFI controller or the Silicon Image controller for the Serial ATA raid. Disabling any unwanted features can reduce the boot time and prevent the operating system from detecting unused devices.

Overclocking is really easy with the Asus N.O.S. BIOS utility. As soon as you set the "N.O.S." value to the AI Overclocking option, there's nothing else to worry about. The next time the system boots into the operating system and the chipset detects heavy CPU load, it will automatically adjust the FSB clock and CPU core voltage and overclock your processor.

We used N.O.S to overclock our P4 3.0GHz processor. When idling, the processor settings are the following as detected by CPU-Z:

However, when running an application that required a little more CPU power, N.O.S. was activated and we had the following:

As you can see, the FSB speed increased to 236MHz. That resulted in an overclock of 15x236=3540MHz for the Core and 944MHz total Bus speed. The important thing to note is firstly that N.O.S. required no knowledge of overclocking and secondly that overclocking the CPU didn't affect its stability.

If you don't want to give full control for overclocking your system to N.O.S., the BIOS settings allow you to do the job manually. It provides you with all needed advanced settings from PCI-E frequency to FSB Voltage.

Another way to overclock your CPU is AiBooster. AiBooster provides you with the power to increase performance up to 10% choosing the appropriate overclocking level.


8. Software

08 - Asus P5AD2-E Premium - Bundled Software

The included CD-ROM, apart from the drivers, also contains some application as well as some software:

- PC Probe utility

ASUS PC Probe is a very simple utility that monitors vital information in the computer such as fan rototations, voltages and temperature. Thus, it gives system information about hard disk space, memory usage, CPU type and processor speed. It resides in the taskbar and provides audio warning through the PC speakers if certain thresholds such as temperature and voltage have been exceeded. If your system is overclocked, remember to raise the appropriate warning limits or face frequent warning pop-ups.

- Asus Update utility

This is also a very simple utility for updating the BIOS of your board.

You can also be informed about the the BIOS or Chipset version:


9. Conclusion

09 - Asus P5AD2-E Premium - Conclusion

Everything you ever asked for in a motherboard is supported by the Asus P5AD2-E Premium. Wireless LAN, PCI-Express, Gigabit LAN, HD-AUDIO, SATA RAID, Dual Channel, N.O.S. and lots of other features. As we mentioned earlier, about the only thing missing is a serial COM port.

Performance-wise, the P5AD2-E Premium did very well compared against the 915G-powered motherboard from MSI. All games seem to run better with the Asus board and in any benchmarks where it seemed to be lacking, the performance difference was too small to notice.

The BIOS settings will satisfy everybody, tweaking expert or not. Overclocking is made easy with N.O.S. and AiBooster, from 3.00Ghz to 3.53Ghz with just the single press of a button is absolutely great, but still, all the advanced options are there for anyone who feels like experimenting with the settings manually.

The motherboard costs aproximately $240. That's a large amount to pay for a motherboard, but the board's features, performance and the Asus product quality justify the price. This product is the richest feature-packed motherboard we have ever tested.

Pros:
Excellent features
Excellent performance
Monitoring utility from Windows

Cons:
Expensive solution
No COM port(?)

 

Features
Performance
BIOS/Overclocking
Value for money


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