The call of most computing enthusiasts or workstation professionals has always been "more power, more bandwidth and more features, please". The advent of serial PCI Express-based computer architectures was the foundation of an enabling technology that provided a much needed solution to the bottleneck problems associated with the aging PCI bus architecture. Unfortunately, though NVIDIA heard the call and answered with their nForce 4 SLI X16 and nForce 590 chipsets recently, Intel hasn't yet seen fit to expand beyond the more limited PCI Express connectivity options in their 965 and 975X chipsets.
Asus recently saw this hole in Intel's chipset line-up and in typical fashion were the first to blaze a trail with a leading-edge PCI Express motherboard implementation. It's no wonder we evaluate so many new Asus products here at HotHardware. The company is often the first to market with something new and interesting for the power user. Today, we'll be taking you through the salient features and performance profile of the new Asus P5W64 WS Professional motherboard. This product targets the workstation professional and enthusiast segments by offering four X16 PCI Express slots through the implementation of a 24-lane PCI Express Switch along with the Intel 975X chipset. Versus the 40+ flexible lane configurations of NVIDIA's nForce line-up, Intel's meager 22 lane equipped 975X chipset looks a bit spartan. Not content to settle for these inherent limitations, Asus took the 975X chipset from Intel to the next level with their P5W64 WS Professional motherboard.
Front Side Bus
Storage/RAID Intel ICH7R controller:
Marvell 88SE6145 controller:
Asus Special Thermal Features
Back Panel I/O Ports
Internal I/O Connectors
A quick scan of the specs above shows this board as a full featured 975X offering with dual Gig-E, integrated 8 channel audio, Asus proprietary "Stack Cool" thermal management PCB design, as well as lots of the other integrated technologies associated with most higher end motherboards these days. Where the P5W64 WS sets itself apart is through the use of a PCI Express switch from IDT that bolsters the board's PCIe expansion potential significantly. We'll explore this particular feature in great detail in the pages ahead.
Beyond that, Asus nicely appoints the board with their usual connector and cable assembly flair providing the user ample access to all the board's integrated IO and storage functionality, in addition to their standard software bundle of WinDVD Creator and other Intervideo titles on the Asus Media Launcher CD.