Asus is definitely one of the most respectable motherboard makers and this time we are about to look a bit closer their lastest offer using i865PE chipset: Asus P4P800. As we know Asus was first to introduce "PAT" enabled i865PE motherboard (which was supposed to be only i875P feature) and that makes this particular board a very interesting product. However Intel is not very happy about a situation so it's quite possible that next revisions of the i865PE chipset are hard locked and motherboard makers are not able to turn "PAT" on anymore. But that is not a case today so cheap and rich featured i865PE boards are very attractive alternative to a high end P4 system.
I875P chipset was introduced few months ago and at the time it was first chipset supporting new 800MHz P4's, dual channel DDR etc. Little later Intel introduced i865PE chipset along with 800MHz HT enabled 2.4GHz, 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz P4's. Only things that separates those two chipsets is ECC memory support and feature that Intel calls Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT). And after Asus solved how to enable PAT on i865PE chipset, ECC is only technical difference between those two. So it is quite obvious that because i875P is somewhat 50% more expensive than i865PE, there is no clear reason to choose i875P chipset instead of i865PE.
Intel still claims that it is not possible to enable PAT on i865PE chipsets and don't allow motherboard makers advertise PAT on their i865PE boards. So PAT is called Memory Acceleration Mode (Asus), Game Accelerator (Abit) or something else. I have included few other "PAT" enabled i865PE boards on benchmark sections so we can inspect if there are any differences among i865PE motherboard and of course how P4P800 performs compared to it's competitors.
|CPU:||- Socket 478 for Intel Pentium 4/Celeron up to 3.2GHz+|
- Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology ready
|Chipset:||Intel 865PE MCH|
|Front Side Bus:||800 / 533 / 400 MHz|
|Memory:||- 4 x 184-pin DIMM Sockets support max. 4GB PC3200/2700/2100 non-ECC DDR SDRAM memory|
- Dual Channel Memory Architecture
|Expansion Slots:||1 x AGP8X (1.5V only)|
5 x PCI
1 x ASUS Proprietary WIFI Wireless Lan Connector
|Storage:||2 x UltraDMA 100/66/33|
2 x Serial ATA, RAID 0 (Microsoft WinXP only)
|Audio:||ADI AD1985 SoundMAX 6-channel CODEC|
S/PDIF out interface
|LAN:||3COM Gigabit Lan PCI Controller supporting 10/100/1000 BASE-T Ethernet|
|USB 2.0 (optional):||Integrated 8 USB2.0 ports|
|Special Features:||Power Loss Restart|
Support S/PDIF out interface
ASUS Q-Fan technology
ASUS EZ Flash
ASUS CrashFree BIOS 2
ASUS CrashFree BIOS
|Overclock Features:||- ASUS JumperFree|
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
- CPU, Memory, and AGP voltage adjustable
- SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection) from 100MHz up to 400MHz at 1MHz increment
- Adjustable FSB/DDR ratio, Fixed AGP/PCI frequencies.
Specifications are quite impressive. Asus has, for example, included Intel ICH5R southbridge which supports SATA RAID 0 and Raid 1, 3Com 1Gigabit LAN and very nice ADI AD1985 SoundMAX integrated audio. If this is not enough, Deluxe model comes with IDE Raid, Firewire and ASUS POST Reporter. Only thing that this board is lacking is Intel Gigabit LAN featuring new CSA connection.
Hardware bundle shipped with P4P800 is somewhat ordinary.
- Three black Parallel ATA ribbon cables
- Two Serial ATA data cables
- One floppy cable
- I/O shield
- Bag of extra jumper caps
- "Instant Music" keyboard template
- Manuals and driver CD
- InterVideo's WinDVD Suite
Nothing special here, no rounded IDE cables, no power adapters for SATA drives and my tenth copy of InterVideo's WinDVD Suite. Bundled software is always nice, but little imagination here, I'm definitely not needing same software every time I change my motherboard.
I bought this board from a local computer store so this is retail board instead of press review board. There is lot's of differences between retail and sample boards. Power Circuitry is much simplier, lots of capasitors are missing and there is no AGP warning led on retail board. If these changes affect stability, overclocking or something else is still unclear.
In my, opinion color of the PCB is somewhat boring. Asus doesn't seem to pay attention to external attractiveness and that is quite acceptable since it really doesn't matter. So we have here boring motherboard with good layout? Not exactly. Top of the motherboard is packed really tight and because of that I found few problems. North bridge is at very narrow space between CPU socket and AGP slot. This is going to be problem if you are about to install active NB cooling or something more efficient. Fortunatelly big passive NB cooler is very sufficient even for some overclocking if case cooling is ok.
AGP slot & dimm's
So there is empty slot between AGP slot and first PCI slot leaving room for your 5800 Ultra cooling but it comes with penalty. Installing RAM to first two dimm slots are almost impossible without removing AGP card first. Very common problem and it seems that MB makers doesn't care about it. The AGP retention mechanism is however easy to use.
IDE- and floppy connectors are nicely placed behind color coded memory slots which leaves bottom of the board almost empty. Only little SATA connectors and few USB connectors are present on this model. Nice and clean. Rounded PCB corners and color coded connectors for power-on, hdd-led and so on would have been nice too.
Three phased power circuitry is controlled by ADP3180 which is compatible with Intel's VRD/VRM 10 specifications (Prescott compability). Despite of this it is still unclear do P4P800 really supports upcoming Prescott processor or not since Asus removed "Supports Intel Prescott" announcements on their website. Changes are that high-end models of Prescott consume so much power that P4P800's power circuitry is not able to provide that. So only low-end models which consume less power are officially compatible.
Power is drawn directly from the 12V rail like we are used to see on most P4 boards. 12V input is located near power circuitry and ATX connector is far away behind DIMM slots. I find this to be the most satisfying arrangement.
So the three phased power circuitry consist two mosfets, two KZG 6,3V 1500uF and one 16V 1200uF electrolyte capasitors per phase. Review samples sent by Asus are quite different since there are three mosfets per phase instead of two and totally 4 extra electrolyte capasitors. More parts more power? At least little more and cooler power circuitry. I also did little modification to power circuit to gain more stable voltage but more about that at overclocking section.
Layout is satisfactory, could be better but it also could be much worse. One thing. That strange black connector at bottom of the PCB is ASUS WiFi slot which is supposed to be used with upcoming ASUS wireless modules.
i865PE & ICH5R is feature rich combo indeed and Asus has packed P4P800 full of nice features. So we have to look a bit closer few key features.
With P4C800 and P4P800 series Asus introduced so called Artificial Intelligence which stands for AI Net, AI Audio, AI Overclocking and AI BIOS. AI Net simply means that integrated 3Com LAN comes with autodiagnostics. These diagnostics can for example check cable and notify if cable is faulty. Nice features but I find them quite needless.
AI Audio senses if something is plugged in to the audio port and notifies which port was used and what should have been plugged to it. Few other motherboards also have this "Jack Sensing" and although this might be handy feature at first I switched it off right away.
AI Overclocking is not very intelligent. First you have to manually set 10%, 20% or 30% OC option an then AI is supposed to automatically set best settings. This didn't work very well. My system didn't even boot except at 10% setting. If you are serious about overclocking manual controls are the only way.
AI BIOS is only AI feature which I find necessary. If something goes wrong and BIOS flash fails options are usually quite few. With an AI BIOS Asus provides us easy way to recover BIOS. In a case of bad flash you simply have to boot system driver CD in a CD-rom and AI flashes correct BIOS to a flash rom. This is not new feature but with older Award or AMI biosses you had to make bootable floppy to recover BIOS. I have done that few times and Asus CD is much simplier and better way. However I have heard that sometimes AI BIOS randomly recovers BIOS even if there is nothing wrong. So remember to take driver CD out of your CD-rom when you don't need it.
IDE and SATA controllers:
ICH5R provides us two IDE channels and two SATA channels. No IDE raid on standard model of P4P800 because ICH5R RAID 0 and 1 are only available by using SATA. As you can see Asus P4P800 BIOS offers quite many settings concerning IDE and SATA.
I found that acceptable IDE performance is only achieved when you turn "32-bit data transfer" on. Without this setting SiSoft Sandra 2003 and few other programs indicated very low file system performance. I do not have SATA drives at the moment so I couldn't test SATA and Raid performance but I drove comparable IDE test. Next graph shows how well IBM 80GB 120GXP performs on different IDE controllers. ICH5R seems to be fastest.
SiSoft Sandra 2003 HDD performance
P4P800 features Analog Devices Company's AD1985 audio codec. I have tested many integrated audio solutions and AD1985 is clearly one of the best if not the best. It supports 6-channel audio and sound quality is very good. Analog outputs are usually very weak point on integrated audio solutions but AD1985 makes an exception.
AD1985 SPDIF and analog outputs
So I could not think using add-on audio card if mainly use is listening mp3's or light gaming. However 3D sounds still sounds better with dedicated sound cards like Audigy 2 and CPU load is lightly lower. I tested few integrated sound solutions and add-on sound cards with Righmark Audio Analyzer 5.1 and here are the results.
|Terratec SoundSystem DMX 6Fire 2496 (dedicated sound card)||Excellent||Very good analog outputs|
|Philips Acoustic Edge (dedicated sound card)||Good||One of the best sound cards when using digital output|
|CMI9739A (integrated)||Average||Listening experience was better than test results|
|Soundmax AD1985 (integrated)||Good||probably best integrated audio device.|
Tests are droven by using analog output and input (16-bit 44KHz).
Asus P4P800 features 3Com 3C940 network adapter which supports 10/100/1000 connection speeds. I would have liked to see Intel CSA LAN but for some reason Asus has decided to use PCI bus instead of better CSA. Probably CSA solution would have been too costly compared to benefit it provides to home users. 3Com is fine with me and at 100Mbps speeds it definitely is not hooking whole PCI bus and CPU load is also very low.
As usual I tested 3Com on my 100Mbps LAN and made few benchmarks. Maximum transfer rate was tested using SiSoft Sandra 2003 and CPU load test was performed by transfering big file from machine to machine at the same time as I manually monitored CPU load. Transfer rate is limited by another system which I use on the tests.
|Transfer rate||CPU load|
|Nvidia MCP 10/100 (AMD)||9692kB/sec||10-20%|
|RTL8101L 10/100 (AMD)||9692kB/sec||30-40%|
|VIA VT6103 10/100 (AMD)||9692kB/sec||20-30%|
|3Com 3C940 10/100/1000 (P4)||9692kB/sec||4-10%|
|BroadCom BCM5705 10/100/1000 (P4)||9692kB/sec||4-10%|
|Intel 82547EI ET LAN (CSA)(P4)||9692kB/sec||2-15 %|
For a some reason Asus use AMI bios instead of Award. This is not problem since BIOS settings are easy to find and all necessary adjustment are included. One strange problem still occured as with my Radeon 9700 Pro BIOS was extremely slow. I updated my 9700 Pro BIOS and motherboard BIOS now act at normal speed. Very strange indeed. Let's look setting little closer.
On the main screen there is usual date/time settings and very important IDE configurations. To achieve normal filesystem performance I recommend using "Enchanced mode" and "32Bit Data Transfer".
Overclocking options nicely gathered to a one page. Frequency and voltage settings are quite comprehensive:
- FSB: 100-400MHz
- DRAM frequency: depends CPU FSB, 3:4, 4:5, 1:1, 5:4 and 3:2 multipliers available
- AGP/PCI frequency: Didn't work
- Vcore: default-1.95V
- Vmem: 2.55V-2.85V
- Vagp/chipset: 1.5V-1.8V
I made few interesting observations during tests. AGP/PCI frequency adjustment didn't work at all, no matter the settings, AGP/PCI was 66.6MHz/33.3MHz. Vagp is also important as i865PE uses it too. Rising it helps to gain higher FSB's out of the board. I found Vcore settings satisfying but Vmem range is little too narrow. And what is most suprising is that 2.55V and 2.65V settings result exactly same voltage that 2.75V. So motherboard gives quite high voltage even at default settings.
Whole page is dedicated to one setting. No comments ;)
Advanced chipset settings provides us memory latency settings and few other interesting adjustments like "Memory Acceleration Mode" which enables PAT. AGP 4x/8X switch is missing, otherwise good enough.
Hardware monitor shows most important voltages and temperatures. What I really miss are Vmem and Vagp voltages. It should be also noted that P4P800 BIOS displays CPU temperature measured at the geometric top center of the IHS (compensation added). So core temperature is somewhat 20C higher.
I tested various memory modules and to my suprise very few of them worked flawlessly. Corsair PC3500, Kingston HyperX PC3500 and mTec PC2700 modules refused to boot at all. It seems that Winbond CH-5 memory chips won't work very well if not at all and some other chips have problems too. Winbond BH-5 and BH-6 chips worked very well however. So be extra carefull when choosing RAM for your system.
Overclocking new P4's is quite a challenge to a motherboard. Some 2.4GHz 800Mhz P4's can easily clock as high as 3600Mhz (12x300MHz) or more and that is really something that older chipsets cannot do. So I tested P4P800 with my 2.4GHz and highest stable FSB was around 309MHz. Quite good achievement. During the tests I noticed that Vagp seemed to affect how high board would go and little investigation exposed that i865PE chipset uses Vagp as operating voltage.
309MHz was highest FSB when I used 3:2 memory multiplier and after I did Vmem mod I tried how high my two Kingston HyperX PC3000 would go. This time I noticed that when I used 1:1 memory multiplier and "Memory Acceleration Mode" motherboard booted itself around 220MHz no matter the memory timings. So obvious conclusion is that "PAT" definitely strain chipset a good deal. 5:4 async mode seemed also much straining than 3:2 mode and 285MHz was best achievement. I was little dissapointed because most review samples have been much better.
These modifications will void motherboard's warranty and could destroy your motherboard if wrongly done
I wasn't very happy how P4P800 performed so I made a few modifications to a motherboard. First I did Vmem modification.
- Voltage regulator: LM358M
- 50Kohm variable resistor between sixth leg and ground
- 0Ohm gives 0.15V less than 3.3V line.
- Vmem max 3.17V althought it can be raised by adjusting 3.3V line
I have adjustable 3.3V line so very high voltages are not problem and HyperX PC3000 modules can easily take around 3.3V-3.6V. This mod didn't help me very much because chipset was limiting factor so I had to do little better chipset cooling. Problem was that installing better cooling is not easy because passive heatsink is mounted with springs and I had to make adapter to mount heavy duty cooling. Here is picture of an adapter.
Last mod was vcore mod. 1.95V is maximum Vcore, but idle and load voltage difference is quite big. This is normal and follows Intel specs but overclocking is much easier with stable Vcore. Solution is to add ~250Kohm variable resistor between CSCOMP and CSSUM pins. (Datasheet of ADP3180 can be found here) This adjust droop voltage. I didn't solder mod straigh to the legs but to easier locations.
Droop voltage mod
It's important that you know what you are doing so no too detailed pics and instruction. If you have any questions ask it in our forums.
|Processor||Intel Pentium 4 2.40GHz 800MHz HT|
|RAM||Kingston HyperX PC3000 2x256MB|
|Hard Drive||IBM Deskstar 120GXP 80GB|
|Graphics Card||Sapphire Radeon 9700 Pro 128MB|
|Graphics Driver||Catalyst 3.6|
|Chipset Driver i865PE||5.0.1015|
|WinRAR 3.10,||Best compression|
|CDex 1.50||High Quality, 256kbps|
|SiSoft Sandra 2003||Default tests|
|Quake III Arena||Version 1,17, demo001, Highquality|
|Unreal Tournament 2003||Version 2225, HardOCP UT2k3 Benchmark utility v2.1, CPU test|
I included few other i865PE results on graphs as well as an AMD result. All test are driven at default clocks. Memory settings are set to 2-2-2-5 and "PAT" features are turned on (exept on Albatron which refused to set "PAT" on on this system". As promised I also drove benchmarks using Async settings. Next list shows accurate FSB's of test boards.
- Asus P4P800: 199.9MHz
- Epox PDA2+: 199.5MHz
- Albatron PX865PE ProII: 200.0MHz
SiSoft Sandra 2003
Unreal Tournament 2003
Quake III Arena
Asus P4P800 is clear winner here. Memory performance is just superior compared to other i865PE boards. Even at 5:4 settings P4P800 showed very impressive results and managed to beat Albatron 865PE ProII few times. Because "PAT" is not working on async settings it is evident that root of the fastness is somewhere else.
+ Solid layout
+ Passive cooling on north bridge
+ Good OC settings
+ Impressive audio solution
Asus P4P800 is probably fastest i865PE motherboard around. Performance is extraordinary compared to other i865PE solutions and easily reach i875P levels. Overclocking features are rich excluding somewhat low Vmem setting. I also really liked integrated AD1985 audio, it's features and sound quality are exceptional good.
This is a budget model so some of the features are missing, but I still found that P4P800 quite suitable for general use. And there is always Deluxe model for those who want IDE raid and Firewire. Layout is generally good, only with few minor problems and AMI BIOS is easy to use. It seems that Asus P4P800 is very solid product and deserves my recommendations.
Missed Overclocking results? Don't worry I will do big overclocking report to a Epox PDA2+ review. Then we will see how these marvelous motherboards work at extreme clocks and of course wich one is the fastest and most overclockable.