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Sandy Bridge, Part 5: Asus P8P67 and P8P67 Pro Motherboards

Asus P8P67 & P8P67 Pro

January 31, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Asus P8P67 LGA1155 ATX Motherboard Asus P8P67 Pro LGA1155 ATX Motherboard
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$160 US$190

Sandy Bridge chips have quickly become the CPUs of choice thanks to their superb performance and energy efficiency. For enthusiasts, the best windfall from Intel's launch has been the new "K" series CPUs which feature unlocked multipliers for almost effortless overclocking. Best of all, these chips do not demand much of a price premium over the rest of the lineup, although they require a more expensive P67 chipset motherboard to unleash their full potential. So far we've looked at such boards from Intel and Gigabyte boards recently, and now it is Asus' turn on our test bench.

Asus currently has seven boards in their mainstream P67 lineup, all graced with a variant of the model number "P8P67". They support CrossFireX (to varying degrees), have an EFI BIOS, the Asus EPU energy saving chip, and the new version of the Asus AI Suite utility. The top four boards have advanced features including a digital power regulation scheme, USB 3.0, and something you won't find on the vast majority of boards: Bluetooth connectivity.




The DIGI+VRM feature is a new digital voltage regulation system that supposedly makes power delivery to the CPU faster, more accurate, with higher energy efficiency and less heat. An analog controller, in contrast, has to convert PWM signals from the processor, causing a delay and power transfer loss. In theory this reduces the differences between the voltage the motherboard is supposed to give the CPU and how much it actually ends up delivering, as well as minimizing fluctuations. This should make for a better overclocking experience in particular, one of the main benefits of the P67 chipset.

Asus has provided us with a pair of boards to look at, the P8P67, a midrange offering retailing for approximately US$160, and a more premium model, the US$190 P8P67 Pro. The P8P67 is an ATX board with DIGI+VRM, a whopping eight SATA ports (four of the 6Gbps variety), Bluetooth, internal/rear USB 3.0, FireWire and eSATA via an included adapter bracket. It also has two PCI-E 16x slots, but they run at 16x/4x which isn't ideal for CrossFire/SLI. The Pro version is better in this regard, running its slots at 8x/8x, and its other advantages are a dedicated JMicron eSATA controller, an Intel gigabit ethernet controller (rather than Realtek) and FireWire.



The P8P67 and P8P67 Pro boxes.



P8P67 Pro accessories.

The P8P67 Pro ships with four SATA cables, a USB/eSATA bracket, and CrossFire bridge along with the usual assortment of documentation, drivers, and software. The P8P67 comes with the same package but without the CrossFire connector.

Physical Details

The Asus P8P67 & P8P67 Pro are essentially the same save for a couple of features. As a result there are a variety of minor layout and placement differences with regards to connectors, chips, and capacitors. Rather than bore you with nearly identical pictures of both, we present to you images of just the P8P67 Pro. Notable differences are noted in the captions in bold.



The P8P67 Pro features three PCI-E 16x slots, with the top two running at 8x/8x when used in a dual video card configurations (16x/4x for the P8P67). The third one runs at 4x but shares bandwidth with the two 1x slots as well as the USB 3.0 and eSATA controller. The non-Pro version has a third PCI slot instead and no dedicated eSATA.



The board has eight SATA ports sitting on their side, four of which are of the 6 Gbps variety (the two white ones are native, while the dark blue ones are powered by a Marvell controller). It also has an internal USB 3.0 header which is rare. The PCH heatsink is the most massive we've seen, but its odd shape lacks the total surface area of simpler designs.



The area around the socket is incredibly tidy with neat rows of capacitors and inductors to the side. The VRMs are kept cool by large, angled heatsinks held by spring-loaded pushpins. The coolers are 28 mm tall at their highest points, so they shouldn't cause any difficulty for third party coolers.



The P8P67 Pro back panel ports: optical/coaxial S/PDIF, Bluetooth, 2 x eSATA (one of which is powered), FireWire, 6 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0, RJ45, and a standard set of six analog audio ports.



The P8P67 back panel is slightly different, lacking a coaxial S/PDIF port and eSATA connectivity (a SATA to eSATA bracket is included instead). Also the gigabit ethernet is provided by a Realtek rather than Intel controller.

UEFI

For enthusiasts, the options available within the UEFI/BIOS can turn
a good board into a great one. The ability to manipulate frequencies, voltages,
and fan control settings vary depending on the hardware and the amount of trust
placed in the users' hands by the manufacturer. The P8P67 and P8P67 Pro have identical UEFI menus with the same settings offered.



AI Tweaker menu.



Voltage controls.



Monitor menu.



Manual fan control settings.

The P8P67/Pro BIOS has plenty of voltage options (we imagine that most P67 boards are similar in this regard), but you shouldn't have to tweak much other than the CPU voltage to get your overclock, as increasing the multiplier is really the only way to get a substantial increase in clock speed.

Fan control is offered on three of the four fan headers, with separate customizable settings for the one CPU and two Chassis fan headers. Our only criticism is that Chassis fans cannot be set below 60% speed in the UEFI which might not be enough — depending on the fans and the noise tolerance of the user. The CPU fan can be set to a minimum of 20%.

UEFI Summary: Asus P8P67 & P8P67 Pro
Setting
Options
BLCK/PEG Frequency 80.0 to 300.0 MHz
Load-line Calibration (VDroop) Regular, Medium, High, Ultra High, Extreme
VRM Fixed Frequency 300 to 500 KHz in 10 KHz increments
CPU Current Capability 100%, 110%, 120%, 130%, 140%
CPU Offset Voltage
+/- 0.635V in 0.005V increments
VCCSA Voltage 0.80V to 1.70V in 0.00625V increments
VCCIO Voltage
0.80V to 1.70V in 0.00625V increments
CPU PLL Voltage 1.20V to 2.20V in 0.00625V increments (1.80V default)
PCH Voltage 0.80V to 1.70V in 0.01V increments (1.05V default)
Memory Frequency
800, 1066, 1333, 1600, 1866, 2133, 2400 MHz
DRAM Voltage 1.20 to 2.20V in 0.01V increments
Memory Timing Control Intermediate
Fan Control
CPU Fan Lower-Upper Temperature 20 to 75
CPU Fan Min-Max Duty Cycle 0% to 100%
Chassis Fan Lower-Upper Temperature 40 (fixed) to 90
Chassis Fan Min-Max Duty Cycle 60% to 100%

TEST METHODOLOGY

Test Setup:



Asus P8P67 testbed device listing. The Pro version has an Intel gigabit ethernet controller (instead of Realtek) and an additional JMicron controller powering the eSATA ports on the back panel.



Measurement and Analysis Tools

Video Test Clip


1080p | 24fps | ~22mbps

H.264: Crash is a 1080p x264 clip encoded from the
Blu-ray version of an science fiction film. It features the aftermath
of a helicopter crash. It has an unusually high bitrate for video of this type.


Estimating DC Power

The following power efficiency figures were obtained for the
Seasonic SS-400ET used in our test system:

Seasonic SS-400ET Test Results
DC Output (W)
21.2
41.6
60.2
81.9
104.7
124.1
145.2
AC Input (W)
32.0
58.0
78.0
102.0
128.0
150.0
175.0
Efficiency
66.3%
71.7%
77.1%
80.3%
81.8%
82.8%
83.0%

This data is enough to give us a very good estimate of DC demand in our test
system. We extrapolate the DC power output from the measured AC power input
based on this data. We won't go through the math; it's easy enough to figure
out for yourself if you really want to.

Testing Procedures

If available, the latest motherboard BIOS is installed prior to testing. Certain services/features
like Indexing, Superfetch, System Restore, and Windows Defender are disabled
to prevent them from causing spikes in CPU/HDD usage. We also make note if energy
saving features like Cool'n'Quiet/SpeedStep or S3 suspend-to-RAM do not function
properly.

Our main test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power consumption
at various states (measured using a Seasonic Power Angel). To stress CPUs we
use either Prime95 (large FFTs setting) or CPUBurn depending on which produces
higher system power consumption. To stress the IGP, we use FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility. Power consumption during playback
of high definition video is also recorded.

Operating Voltage

Comparable motherboards, even from the same chipset, often apply different operating voltages to the CPU which can have a big effect on overall power consumption.

Before we jump into our test results, please note the operating voltages
of the processors tested today as sort of a disclaimer. Different samples of
the same processor often run at slightly different operating voltages which
can affect energy efficiency. Different motherboard models do not apply the exact same core voltage either.

TEST RESULTS

The Asus P8P67/Pro were compared with other LGA1155 boards using a Core i5-2500K processor at stock settings, with energy saving features enabled, and overclocked. As P67 requires a discrete graphics card, we used an AMD Radeon HD 5450, which has a fairly low power draw.

Power Consumption: Core i5-2500K

The P8P67 used approximately the same amount of power as the Gigabyte's P67A-UD4, while the Pro version used 3~4W more on load. This was likely caused by the higher core voltage assigned by the Pro. Despite the similarity of the two boards, for whatever reason (perhaps simple sample variance), the non-Pro gave the chip about 0.016V less by default. In any event, the Intel DP67BG retains a slim edge in P67 energy efficiency.

The Asus EPU feature lowered the core voltage by a healthy 0.064V resulting in moderate power savings, though only on load. Of course you can mimic EPU's effect by setting a CPU offset voltage in the BIOS manually.

We measured a surprisingly low amount of energy being drawn from the AUX12V connector from both Asus boards, suggesting that the two pull more power from the ATX12V port than other boards. They apparently have a similar power regulation design to the H67 based Asus P8H67-M EVO which exhibits similar behavior, though the H67 model uses more on load, possibly due to the higher efficiency DIGI+VRM of the P67 boards.

Power Consumption: Core i5-2500K, +0.12V above stock, 4.0 GHz (with Turbo Boost on four core load)

When overclocked by 700 MHz and overvolted by 0.12V, both P8P67 and P8P67 Pro used a bit more power on load than the Gigabyte P67A-UD4. The Intel DP67BG once again came out on top in this test, drawing about 5W less on average across the board.

Perhaps the most interesting implication from these results is that even if the P67 board in question uses offset overvolting (overvolting both at idle and on load), as the P8P67 series and P67A-UD4 do, it doesn't affect idle power consumption. So even if you overclock to gain performance, there is no extra power penalty at idle.

ASUS AI SUITE

Like the P8H67 series, the P8P67 boards are equipped with a souped-up version of the AI Suite utility. It offers a wide assortment of tweaks all from the comfort of the Windows desktop.



EPU menu.

The EPU settings allow users to perform quick undervolt to the CPU and affect other minor system changes to save power.



"DIGI+VRM" menu.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, overclockers will appreciate "DIGI+VRM" which can change BIOS VRM settings to improve stability at higher clock speeds.



PC Probe's history recording function.

The PC Probe utility also received an upgrade with full monitoring/recording capabilities. Our only complaint is its sensor page can't be displayed outside of AI Suite, the utility has be loaded and you have to click to the right tab to check voltages and temperatures, etc.



Fan Xpert: manual user settings.

Fan Xpert has a nice graphical interface that lets users adjust the fan speed curve of the CPU fan and two Chassis fans by plotting three points on the graph.

Fan Control

The board supports control for three fans in total, with PWM-only control on the CPU fan header, and DC voltage control on a pair of Chassis fan headers. Both the settings in the BIOS and Asus' Fan Xpert utility work as prescribed, though Fan Xpert is better in that it can set a lower minimum fan speed for the Chassis fans (20% rather than 60%). The current version of SpeedFan is not compatible the two boards, only displaying temperature readings and no speed controls.

We encountered an odd problem with Asus' Fan Xpert utility in that it would always set fan control to "Disabled" the moment it loaded up with AI Suite. This resulted in the fans spinning at 100%. We spent a few hours troubleshooting this problem with different fans, various versions of the software and BIOS upgrades, but couldn't come up with a solution. Surprisingly, we did not encounter the problem when using Windows XP instead of Windows 7. We have notified Asus of this bug... but in the meantime, if you encounter this issue, we recommend just using the BIOS fan controls.

COOLING

To test the boards' heatsinks, we stressed the CPU for 15~20 minutes with Prime95. The only extra cooling was provided by a Scythe Kabuto heatsink with its stock fan spinning at approximately 800RPM. Temperatures of the boards' chipset and VRM heatsinks (if applicable) were monitored using a spot infrared thermometer. The highest temperatures were taken for comparison.

Among the P67 boards we tested, the P8P67 series' heatsinks ran hottest when overclocked, but only by 2°C for the VRMs. The Gigabyte P67A-UD4 has a superior heatpipe cooling system, and the Intel DP67BG uses less power, thereby running cooler. The Intel DP67BG showed the greater increase in temperature from stock to an overclocked state, though, so it stands to reason that for higher overclocks, its simplistic VRM heatsinks may be outperformed.

Despite its size, the Asus PCH cooler doesn't distinguish itself. It takes up a large portion of the board, but lacks the surface area of the many-finned Intel DP67BG PCH heatsink which ran 6°C cooler.

Boot Time

Switching from BIOS to UEFI is supposed to cut down boot times, but we didn't see any substantial improvement with the UEFI-equipped Intel DP67BG and Asus P8P67/Pro. The Asus boards got to the Windows loading screen only 1.5~1.7 seconds faster than the P67A-UD4 which has an old school BIOS. The DP67BG on the other hand was significantly slower because our sample always went through a power cycle when it was cold booted, costing it about seven seconds. It has a HyperBoot feature which skips certain startup procedures, but that only shaved off 1.4 seconds.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Asus P8P67 and P8P67 Pro did not distinguish themselves with regards to energy efficiency, posting results more or less on par with Gigabyte P67A-UD4, and a few watts higher the Intel DP67BG. The DP67BG remains our top recommendation if want to pull as little power from the wall as possible. The P8P67 used slightly less energy than the Pro model, but the main factor seemed to be the CPU voltage assigned by each board, with the P8P67 mysteriously giving a little less juice to our test CPU (something that can easily be changed in the UEFI). The sophisticated DIGI+VRM power regulation feature didn't help the Asus boards in our tests, but perhaps it would be better appreciated by hardcore overclockers pushing higher overclock speeds and voltages.

In our opinion, features are the biggest selling points of the two boards. Pitted against Gigabyte's comparably priced offerings, Asus has a distinct advantage in this area. The P8P67 offers everything the P67A-UD3P does, plus two more SATA 6 Gbps ports, FireWire, and Bluetooth connectivity. The P8P67 Pro stacks up even better against the P67A-UD4, boasting the same advantages plus an Intel gigabit NIC and a powered eSATA port. Based on features alone, the Pro version seems to offer the best value, but it is overpriced if you only need the basics.

The user interface of the Asus UEFI and software package are friendly and pleasing to the eye, especially compared to what Gigabyte has presented so far. However, the P8P67 series earns a couple of small demerits in its Fan Xpert utility. The feature does work wonderfully, with intuitive controls, and the capability to bring the speeds of three fans down to 20%. However, the CPU fan header can only control a 4-pin PWM fan, which is a shame for users who already have a good 3-pin fan on their heatsink. The other issue is that we could not get Fan Xpert to remember its fan control settings on either board, causing the fans to run at full blast after a reboot until settings were re-entered. The BIOS can set only one fan that low; the other two can be slowed to only 60%. This might not be enough for some of our more silence-oriented readers. Hopefully these are minor issues that will be corrected quickly in the next version of the software or in a BIOS update.

Our thanks to Asus
for the P8P67 and P8P67 Pro motherboard samples.

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Articles of Related Interest

Sandy Bridge, Part 4: Core i5-2400, i5-2500K and i7-2600K CPUs

Sandy Bridge, Part 3: Gigabyte P67A-UD4 & Intel DP67BG P67 Motherboards

Sandy Bridge, Part 2: Intel DH67BL & Asus P8H67-M EVO H67 Motherboards

Sandy Bridge, Part 1: Intel GMA HD 3000/2000 Graphics [Updated: 05 January]

Gigabyte H55N-USB3: De Facto LGA1156 Mini-ITX Board?

Zotac H55-ITX-C-E: Stacked LGA1156 Mini-ITX Motherboard

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