Introduction

ASUS P5WD2 Premium

Today, Legit Reviews takes a look the latest high performance board from ASUS, the P5WD2 Premium. Featuring a wide variety of benefits including support for dual core processors, Native DDR2 800, Intel's Memory Pipeline Technology, HD Audio, as well as ASUS' proprietary Stack Cool 2 and AI Quiet, the ASUS P5WD2 Premium promises to be a popular choice for those wanting to take advantage of Intel's dual core processors.

Retail Box

 

CPU Support

Chipset

Front Side Bus 

Memory

Expansion Slots

Storage

Audio

ASUS AI Life & Overclocking Features 

Back Panel I/O Ports

 

 

Accessories

1 x IEEE1394 port module

Form Factor

Warranty

Board Layout

ASUS P5WD2 Premium

Though not as flashy as some boards from DFI or ABIT, the P5WD2-Premium features a very clean and well organized layout.

CPU Area 

Starting with the area around the CPU socket, you will see a well planned design that leaves plenty of room for a wide variety of cooling solutions. I had no problem mounting a Zalman CNPS-7700, a Thermalright XP-90C, or a Prometiea Mach II on my board.

The passive cooling solutions for the northbridge chipset and mosfets are placed well outside the mounting assembly on the socket LGA 775 board. Also of note is the orientation of those heat sinks. Both are mounted in such a way that air drawn over your CPU's heatsink also flows through them, dissipating heat without moving parts of their own.

Top left corner

The upper left side of the board houses the 4 pin 12V power connector, notice the four extra pins sealed off with a plastic cover, this supports botyh the standard ATX 12V 4 pin power connector as well as Intel's 8 pin 12V power connector. Also of note is a single SATA port stuck in the strangest of places. You might ask why ASUS stuck a single SATA port here, in the middle of nowhere just like I did..... In fact this Silicon Image SATA port can be used either as the external SATA connector on the rear I/O port, or as part of a RAID 5 or 10 configuration with the boards internal SATA connectors.

Top right corner

Moving over to the upper right side of the board finds the four 240 pin DDR2 memory slots which support up to 8 Gb of 240 pin DDR2 memory at up to 800MHz (Though Nate was able to achieve speeds over 1 GHz utilizing Corsair's DDR2 5400UL, the boards 24 pin power connector, an additional 4 pin molex power connector, and the boards floppy disk drive connector.

Lower left corner

Moving on to the PCI-E/ PCI slots there are a few things of interest here. First, upon opening the box, right there on top of everything else, ASUS included an SLI bridge. Before you get your hopes up, Intel's 955X chipset does not currently support SLI. There are rumors that once ATI releases their Crossfire solution, that it might be supported by this board. As it stands now, the second PCI-E slot only supports additional displays. 

Lower right corner

The lower right section of the board features four SATA ports  which support the full range of RAID options, as well as a pair of PATA ports which also support RAID 0 and RAID 1. You might also notice that ASUS included passive cooling for the southbridge chipset, something you don't see on many boards.

bottom of board 

ASUS chose to place all of the USB, 1394, and external connectors along the very bottom of the board, further minimizing wires and clutter. Notice how aall the boards wiring, except the SATA connectors, are placed along the edges of the board. 

What should be obvious by now is that ASUS placed all of the emphasis on cooling. From passive cooling all over the board to an extremely clean and well thought out layout, this board seems optimized for the enthusiast crowd.

Board Layout continued

NB cooler 

Looking a little deeper into ASUS' emphasis on cooling, they bypassed active cooling for the 955X board and instead focused on a variety of passive cooling solutions. While this will undoubtedly bother some, I think with people using 92mm to 120mm high flow fans for cooling their processors, ASUS simply devised a simple yet a great idea. Why chance an active cooling solution that could fail, taking your whole system with it. Instead, why not use a more powerful and efficient cooling fan from the CPU's HSF?

Quiet Cool

ASUS joins the growing list of companies adding heatsinks to the boards mosfets. With systems drawing more power and enthusiasts pushing these boards to the limit, cooling the mosfets improves the systems stability as well as its longevity. Again, the orientation of the cooling solution allows it to use air circulated from the CPU fan to cool the mosfets as well as the capacitors behind it. Simple but ingenius design.

Stack Cool 2

Continuing on the cooling topic, the ASUS P5WD2 Premium includes ASUS's new Stack Cool 2,  much like ABIT's "O/C strip technology, Stack 2 is ASUS' concept that further cools the board by wicking heat away from key components by using solder points and a very thin heatsink layer which draws the heat away from the key components, through the stack cool, to the back of your case.

Stack Cool 2    Rear I/O port

Overall, the layout of the ASUS P5WD2 Premium is as close to flawless as I have seen. I was extremely impressed by the clean, uncluttered layout that ASUS devised. It is obvious that this board was built with an incredible amount of flexibility. as well as built around the feature rich 955X chipset, and topped off by an extensive cooling system, anyone and everyone should be happy with this board. Lets check out the BIOS before we move on to the actual performance.

BIOS

ASUS P5WD2 Premium BIOS chip

I wish motherboard makers would put more time into explaining different settings within their BIOS'! Although there are great sites around the web (Adrian Rojaks Pot is a great example) that help users get the most out of their BIOS, with so many different explanations and customizations available, its hard for a user to actually get the most out of their board, an easier than you might think to damage or ruin a component.

All I ask is for a more in depth description than " enables or disables the setting"....what setting? Please, either have a section on your website, or in the users manual that describes exactly what each setting affects!

Image Description

Now that I'm done griping, lets move on. We'll focus on the most important BIOS screens and skip the ones most everyone has seen and knows.

Of course the first screen any overclocker is going to visit is the ADVANCED screen. Here you will find the most important setting to include your CPU and RAM frequencies, PCI and PCI-E frequencies, and your voltages.

The P5WD2 Premium includes a wide variety of choices for overclocking  to include AUTO, MANUAL, EXTREME, AI NOS, and PROFILE.

Image Description

When it comes to voltages, the P5WD2 Premium has a wide variety. With the CPU you have the ability to use AUTO, or define your own voltage. I tried the AUTO setting and found most moderate overclocking experiences to be hassle free, and the voltages were more than fine. By selecting manual, you have the ability to go anywhere between 1.225 and 1.700V, more than plenty for any current CPU. One word of warning, make sure you monitor your voltages closely. Using ASUS's Probe (their system monitoring program) my voltages fluctuated a bit, sometimes  as much as .5 more than what I set them to. 

Image Description

Next on the voltage tour is the RAM voltage. Here some boards really skimp, and this is what seperates the decent boards from the great boards, as DRAM voltage usually affects the board greatly during overclocking. With manual settings between 1.800V and 2.20V, the P5WD2 Premium should be more than adequate regardless of what memory you use. I chose to use Corsair's excellent XMS 5400UL memory with this board, with timings up to 3-2-2-8 at 667MHz, the 5400UL needs every bit of the 2.3V this board allows.

Image Description

Image Description 

Much has been made of the memory frequencies on this board. I had a few issues when overclocking my corsair memory. A some points the memory frequencies are right on using CPU-Z 1.29, but other show the wrong frequencies. My board was correct up to about 900MHz, after that, it continued showing the proper increase, only the tactual timings in CPU-Z were much lower, and strangely they would clock to different speeds at different times.

Image Description  

As far as the memory timings went, ASUS' system is much simpler thann that of companies like DFI, here you only have to worry about the main memory settings, the board itselfd controls the rest through its "Hyper Path 3" setting and of course the "PAT" found under the main "Advanced" menu.

Image Description

Within the CPU screen you will find a bevy of customizations available. If you have an unlocked CPU you are able to adjust the CPU ratio to maximize your systems overclock. Here you can also set your advanced features like EIST, and No Execute, found on the 6XX series and newer processors.

Image Description

One thing that baffled me was after installing ATITool, I noticed my card would freeze up during games or my screen would go black, after using ATITool, I realized my card was being aggressively overclocked on its own. The culprit? The "PEG Link Mode" has a series of settings from Auto to Slow, to Faster, the board adjusts the cards frequency. Auto tended to set my card to Faster, while Normal set my cards frequencies to the default levels.... make sure you check this out and adjust it accordingly before playing any games.

Image Description

 

Image Description

Software and Testing

Testing

For testing I used the following system

CPU Testing
3DMark 05 CPU Test
3DMark03 CPU Test
Sisoft Sandra 2005 CPU Test
AquaMark 3 CPU Test
PCMark05
Super Pi mod 1.4
Sciencemark 2.0
Cinebench

Memory Testing
Sisoft Sandra
Rightmark
Everest V1.51

Graphics Testing
3DMark05
3DMark03
Doom 3 Time Demo 1
Far Cry V 1.41

 

 

CPU Testing

 

CPU Tests

3DMark03

The 3DMark03 CPU test is a convenient way to measure the performance of the CPU for typical 3D usage. The feature tests isolate the performance of key 3D features primarily relating to shader technologies.

3DMark03 CPU

3DMark05

3DMark05 is a premium benchmark for evaluating the latest generation of gaming hardware. It is the first benchmark to require a DirectX9.0 compliant hardware with support for Pixel Shaders 2.0 or higher. Resolution was set to 1024x768.

3DMark05 CPU

PCMark05

PCMark05 supports the complete benchmark cycle ? allowing you to benchmark your PC, view the resulting benchmark details, compare your results to those of others, and finally analyze how to improve your PC performance.  PCMark04?s system score is a single, globally recognized number that represents the overall PC performance for home usage.

PCMark05

AquaMark3

AquaMark3 executes a complete state-of-the-art game engine and generates 3D scenes designed to make the same demands on hardware as a modern game. The utilized game engine, the krass's Engine, has been used in Aquanox and AquaNox 2: Revelation as well as in the upcoming RTS Spellforce by Phenomic Game Development. AquaMark3 utilizes recent hardware features of the new DirectX 9 API, such as PixelShader 2.0, while staying fully backward compatible to DirectX 8 and 7 graphics hardware.

Aquamark3

Super Pi

SuperPi calculates the number Pi in this raw number crunching benchmark. The benchmark is fairly diverse and allows the user to change the number of digits of Pi that can be calculated. In this benchmark we ran SuperPi to one million places.

Super Pi

Sisoft Sandra 2005

SiSoft Sandra 2005 is a synthetic benchmark for testing primary components.
The tests can stress a system's CPU, Memory, or Multimedia capabilities.
Sandra 2005 supports X86 (32-bit) and X86-64 (64-bit) hardware and OS's.

Sisoft Sandra ALU

CINEBENCH 2003

CINEBENCH 2003 is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D R8. The tool is set to deliver accurate benchmarks by testing not only a computer's raw processing speed but also all other areas that affect system performance such as OpenGL, multithreading, multiprocessors and Intel's HT Technology. CINEBENCH 2003 includes render tasks that test the performance of up to 16 multiprocessors on the same computer

Cinebench Multi CPU cinebench Single CPU

ScienceMark 2.0 Final:

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, ScienceMark 2.0 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. Lower results (time in seconds) represent better performance. All of our testing was completed on the 32 Bit Final benchmark version that is dated March 21st 2005

Sciencemark

Theres a lot of data to look over here, but one thing was clear to me during the course of testing. the ASUS P5WD2 Premium delivers some great performance no matter what processor is sitting on it. during all of my testing, my system was completely stable and ran every test without any issues at all.

Memory Testing

Memory Tests

Sisoft Sandra

SiSoft Sandra 2005 is one of the leading providers of computer analysis, diagnostic and benchmarking software. SANDRA is used by almost 400 world-wide IT publications, magazines, review sites to analyse the performance of today?s computers. Over 4,000 on-line reviews of computer hardware that use SANDRA are catalogued on the company?s website alone. SiSoft Sandra benchmarks show the power of emerging new technologies like multi-core, Wireless MMX, AMD64/EM64T, IA64, NUMA, SMT (Hyper-Threading), SMP (multi-threading), SSE2, SSE, 3DNow! Enhanced, 3DNow!, Enhanced MMX and MMX.

Sandra Memory Tests

Everest 2.0

Everest 2.0 is a professional system information, diagnostics and benchmarking program for Win32 platforms. It extracts details of all components of the PC. It also tests the actual read and write speeds of your memory to give a fairly accurate look of true memory performance.

Everest Memory Tests

ScienceMark 2.0 Final

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, ScienceMark 2.0 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. All of our testing was completed on the 32 Bit Final benchmark version that is dated March 21st 2005.

Sciencemark 2.0 Memory Test

I chose to run a couple of memory test at different timings. One major bonus of this board is the available memory voltages, I could push the memory voltage up to a robust 2.3V, quite a contrast from the 1.95-2.0V found on other boards. The ability to use 2.3V came in handy pushing the PC5400UL memory from Corsair to its limit. For some more results using this memory and motherboard, make sure you check outs Nate's review of this fantastic Corsair memory.

Graphics Testing

Doom 3

Doom 3 is one of the most system taxing games available. Its popularity also makes it a great choice for system benchmarking. I like to use Time Demo 1 with resolution set to 1024x768 with detail set to high.

 

Doom 3

Far Cry- Volcano

Far Cry is another super popular FPS title that seriously taxes your systems graphics. HardwareOC developed this specialized benchmarking utility that automatically runs the test twice and averages out the score. V 1.41 was used here, with a resolution of 1024x768 and detail levels set to high.

Far Cry

 

3DMark05 Overall Score

3DMark05 is best suited for the latest generation of DirectX- 9.0 graphics cards. It is the first benchmark to require a DirectX9.0 compliant hardware with support for Pixel Shaders 2.0 or higher! By combining high quality 3D tests, CPU tests, feature tests, image quality tools, and much more, 3DMark05 is a premium benchmark for evaluating the latest generation of gaming hardware.

3DMark05 Overall Score

3DMark03 Overall Score

3DMark03 is a collection of four 3D game based tests. Each 3DMark03 game test is a real-time rendering of a 3D scenario. It is important to note that these renderings are not merely animations or a set of recorded events; they are designed to function like 3D games work. As with 3D games, all computations are performed in real time. This is a critical part of FutureMarks philosophy of 3D graphics benchmarking.

3DMark03 Overall Score

Again, the Pentium d 840 EE beats the 920 across the board, but again the Pentium D 820 is no slouch. The 820 is not a great choice for a pure gaming rig, but for those of you who do more than play FPS all day, the Pentium D 820 is an adequate gaming processor that offers much more.

Final Thoughts

Overclocking

Overclocking with the P5WD2 Premium and the ECT Mach II turned out to be a frustrating, but productive experience. First, the board suffers from a slight flaw with the chipset voltage. When the board is overclocked past a certain point, it will no longer warm boot, instead shutting itself down for 2-3 seconds before rebooting. This causes a serious problem for the Mach II in that its sensor sees the board shut down, and then tries to shut down the cooler. What ends up happening is that the Mach II suffers an error. By resetting the board, it blows the fuse in the Cooler......whew......big headache. I came across a solution on another forum where a user soldered a 6.3 capacitor on the board. This actually worked for me to a point, but even then, this didn't totally remove the issue. After hitting about 250-255 on the FSB, the warm boot issue reappeared.

For all the cooling and great layout and options of this board, this flaw is really irritating. I'm positive that before releasing this board to the public ASUS did extensive testing, which leads me to ask "If this board is marketed as an extreme enthusiast board, why in the world would ASUS release it to the public with a flaw that can cause serious issues?" .Even then, the board has an incredible range of voltages which should allow a moderate overclock without any problems. Using an unlocked ES 840EE, I was able to run it completely stable at 19x200 (3.8GHz), dropping the multiplier to its stock 16x multiplier, I was able to achieve 3.84GHz completely stable, and was able to do modest testing within Windows all the way up to 4.1Ghz. Dropping the multi to 14x I was able to achieve an overclock of 3.84 stable. I think all of this can be attributed to a combination of a great board and some incredible Corsair memory.

Rich's Thoughts

I was a little skeptical about the P5WD2 Preium when I first purchased it. First, I was pretty unhappy with Intel after recently buying a 925XE board and finding out it didn't support dual core! Oh well, after a few weeks playing with this board, I'm a happy camper.

CPU support aside, my second issue was the passive cooling ASUS employed on this board. Again, my concerns were unfounded. The combination of ASUS's "Stack Cool 2" and mosfet cooling performed superbly, even under the heaviest load and overclock, the P5WD2 Premium performed incredibly.

I did not care for the board overclocking my video card on its own. The first few times I used it for gaming, I couldn't understand why my system froze after a few minutes. Only after downloading ATI Tool did I realize that my card was overclocked a great deal, obviously more than it could handle.

All in all, my gripes were few and far between, the P5WD2 Premium is one of the best boards I've ever used. Coupled with Intel's newest dual core processors, this board performed extremely well regardless of what I threw at it.

 

The ASUS P5WD2 Premium

 

Bundle

Though I bought the leanest bundle available, ASUS includes some pretty nifty items in their more expensive packages. I had one complaint. If you are going to pay a premium price for a motherboard like this, would it kill ASUS to include some rounded cables?

SLI Bridge

Although it is well documented that the 955X chipset does not support SLI (Only Nvidia's NF4 boards do at this time), ASUS included an SLI bridge in the bundle with the P5WD2 Premium. Is SLI compatibility in the future?

The Legit Bottom line

The P5WD2 Premium stands alone as the top dog in the 955X market. With a good bundle and the ability to buy different packages with the same board, ASUS should smooth over some of the hard feelings caused by Intel's lack of dual core support with the 925 chipset.

Retail package