Logo   Banner   TopRight
TopUnder
Transparent
Asus P5W64-WS Professional Motherboard
Transparent
Date: Sep 12, 2006
Section:Motherboards
Author: Dave Altavilla
Transparent
Intro, Specs, and Bundle

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.

Asus P5W64-WS Specifications & Features
Geared for High-Powered Workstations

CPU

  • LGA775 socket for Intel Pentium 4/Celeron CPU
  • Support Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition & Intel Pentium D Processor
  • Support Intel 65nm, Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme
  • Support Intel next generation Multi-Core CPU
  • Intel EM64T / EIST / Hyper-Threading Technology
  • Intel Hyper-Threading technology ready

Chipset

  • North Bridge: Intel 975X (support ATi CrossFire dual Gfx technology)
  • South Bridge: Intel ICH7R
  • IDT 89HA0324PS PCI Express Switch

Front Side Bus

  • 1066/800 MHz

Memory

  • 4 x DIMM, max. 8GB, DDR2 800/667/533, ECC and non-ECC un-buffered memory
  • Intel MPT (Intel Memory Pipeline Technology)
  • ASUS Hyper Path3

Expansion Slots

  • 4 x PCI-E x 16 slots
    (configurable in X8, X8,X4,X8 or X16, X0, X4, X0)
  • 2 x PCI 2.2

Storage/RAID Intel ICH7R controller:

  • 4 x SATA 150/300 (RAID 0,1,10,5) w/ Intel Matrix Storage Technology
  • 1 x UltraDMA 100/66/33

Marvell 88SE6145 controller:

  • 3 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s
  • 1 x External Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s

Audio

  • ADI1988B, SoundMax 7.1 Audio codec Multi-Streaming Jack Sensing and Enumeration Jack Re-tasking S/PDIF Out interface
  • Coaxial and Optical S/PDIF out ports

LAN

  • Dual Gigabit LAN controllers
  • Marvell 88E8052+88E8001 Dual Gigabit LAN
    Supports teaming functions

Asus Special Thermal Features

  • Stack Cool 2
  • 8-Phase Power Design
  • Q-Fan 2
  • Asus Heat-pipe thermal Solution

Back Panel I/O Ports

  • 1 x Serial Port
  • 1 x Optical + 1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Output
  • 1 x PS/2 Keyboard
  • 1 x PS/2 Mouse
  • 2 x RJ45
  • 4 x USB 2.0/1.1
  • 1 x External SATA port
  • 8-Channel Audio I/O

Internal I/O Connectors

  • 2X USB 2.0 connectors supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • 2 x IEEE1394a connector
  • 1X CPU Fan /  2 x Chassis(system) connectors
  • Front panel Audio connector
  • ASUS EZ-Backup jumpers
  • Chassis Intrusion connector
  • CD audio-in connector
  • 24-pin ATX Power connector
  • 4/8-pin EATX12V Power connector

BIOS

  • 8Mb flash ROM, AMI BIOS, Green, PnP, DMI, Wfm2.0, ACPI v2.0a, SMBIOS v 2.3, EZ flash, CrashFree BIOS2

Manageability

  • WOL by PME, WOR by PME, PXE & RPL, Chassis Intrusion

Support CD

  • Drivers
  • Make RAID driver Disk for Intel ICH7R
  • ASUS PC Probe 2
  • ASUS LiveUpdate Utility
  • InterVideo Media Launcher (OEM version)
  • Anti-virus software (OEM version)

Accessories

  • 1 x ASUS Q-Connector set (USB, 1394, system panel; Retail version only)
  • InterVideo MEDIA LAUNCHER Suite (OEM version)
  • 1 x Optional Fan
  • 1 x IEEE1394a port module
  • 4 x SATA cables
  • 4 x SATA power cable
  • 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 cable
  • 1 x FDD cable
  • 1 x I/O Shield
  • 1 x 2-port USB2.0 module
  • User's manual

Form Factor

  • ATX Form Factor, 12"x 9.6"(30.5cm x 24.5cm)

    

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.

Transparent
The Asus P5W64-WS

 

The P5W64 WS Professional is definitely a header-turner for the performance computing enthusiast.  With its passive heat-pipe thermal solution on the chipset to its 8 total SATA ports and 4 PCI X16 slots, it's clear this board is a top shelf offering from Asus. 

    

    

Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, 4 USB, 8-channel surround sound, SPDIF and optical, even an external SATA port -- the P5W64's IO panel is populated with all the right options and then some.  The board comes equipped with four standard ICH7R SATA ports (RAID 0,1, 5,10 supported) and an additional three internal and one external SATA port hosted by a Marvell SATA controller (supporting RAID 0,1,10).  Also, in addition to Asus' proven chipset heat-pipe design, Asus employed their patented "Stack-Cool 2" technology which adds a metal layer on the underside of the PCB in the CPU socket area, providing significant heat transfer from top side critical components to the  back side of the board.

    

Obviously the major differentiating feature of the P5W64 WS motherboard versus other motherboards based on Intel chipsets currently, is its additional 24 lane, 3-port PCI Express switch that Asus used to bring out additional PCIe connectivity for the chipset.  The IDT 89HA0324PS PCI Express switch utilizes a single X8 connection to the 975X Northbridge and then in turn fans-out a pair X8 PCIe connections downstream to the expansion slots. So, in total, this chip takes the already existing 22 lanes within the 975X to a full 30 available for graphics and PCIe expansion. 

The four full-length slots on this motherboard can be configured in either an X8,X8,X4,X8 configuration or X16,X0,X4,X0 (slots 1-4 consecutively).  So in short, in addition to a standard dual graphics ATI CrossFire setup in the first two slots, you also get an additional X8 enabled full-length slot available for higher function cards like video cards, RAID controllers etc.  On a side note, Asus retains two of the available PCI Express lanes for the dual PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controller that is on this board, thus only the remaining 28 lanes are configured in expansion slots. 

Of course you could populate all four slots with graphics cards but one of those cards will have to auto-negotiate down to a X4 connection in the third slot, which is driven by Intel's Southbridge.  Regardless, support is there for quad graphics and up to 8 simultaneous independent displays.  No word of quad CrossFire yet, sorry. However we did find a much more compelling use of that additional X8 slot (in our not-so-humble opinion) with a new PCI Express-based hardware RAID controller card.  We'll cover that configuration and its performance in more detail on the pages ahead. 

Transparent
BIOS and Overclocking

The Asus P5W64 WS BIOS menus are a mirror image of the BIOS we found in the Asus P5W DH, with one small additional feature providing a level of control over the board's PCI Express switch configuration.

Asus P5W64-WS: Exploring the BIOS
Asus Goodness

     

      

The board allows users to tweak memory, processor core, FSB, Northbridge and Southbridge voltages. The memory voltage can be set as high as 2.4v, the Vcore as high as 1.7v, FSB as high as 1.5v, and the Northbridge and Southbridge voltages can be set as high as 1.65v and 1.2v, respectively. Since the P5W64 WS is targeted at enthusiasts and power users, Asus incorporated a host of overclocking tools into its system BIOS as well. With the P5W64 WS, users have the ability to alter their processor's front side bus frequency in 1MHz increments, between 100MHz and 450MHz. And they can also set the memory to run at an assortment of frequencies, including 1066MHz when using a processor with a similar FSB. PCI Express and PCI clocks can also be altered, or locked in to their default values.

Finally, the BIOS image screen on the bottom row and far right is a setting for "High Priority Port Select" for PCI Express ports in the BIOS.  The settings speak to the selection of higher than VCO but below VC1.  The notion of VCs or "Virtual Channels" is being applied here, though frankly we're currently unclear as to what specifically this setting does and which devices might function on ports 1 or port 5 as is shown in the screen-shot.  Virtual Channels in PCI Express refer to the ability to maintain QoS  or "quality of service" levels for a specific port on a PCI Express enabled device.  Essentially this means traffic on a higher VC will be given priority over traffic on a lower specified VC.  The crux of our question to Asus is, which devices on the motherboard are affected by this setting?  Is the slot ordering affected or does it even prioritize things like the PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controller that is onboard.  We've asked Asus for comment and will follow-up with an update here as soon as information is available.

Asus P5W64 WS: Overclocking
Taking Core 2 Duo E6700 Conroe Higher

Armed with a Core 2 Duo E6700 processor, we set out to see how high we could overclock our CPU by altering the voltages and the FSB. We bumped our memory voltage to 2.3v and increased the processor core voltage by .1v.  Then we jacked up the FSB as far as we could, keeping memory speeds within reasonable limits, via the board's multitude of clock divisors.

 

When all was said and done, we were able to take our E6700 CPU to 3.5GHz, by raising its FSB to 350MHz and running our RAM at DDR2-1050MHz settings in the BIOS. This overclock was achieved with the help of one of our favorite standard LGA775 type HSF coolers from Arctic Cooling, the AC Freezer 7.  The Asus P5W64 WS is clearly a very capable overclocker.

Transparent
Test Systems and 3DMark06

How we configured our test systems: When configuring our test systems for the following set of benchmarks, we first entered their respective system BIOSes and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High-Performance Defaults." We then saved the settings, re-entered the BIOS and set memory timings for DDR2-800 at 4,4,4,12 1T latency.  The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows XP Professional SP2 was installed. When the Windows installation was complete, we installed the drivers necessary for our components, and removed Windows Messenger from the system. Auto-Updating and System Restore were then disabled, and we set up a 768MB permanent page file on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives, and ran all of the tests.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Intel Inside

System 1:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6700
(2.66GHz)

Intel D975XBX
(975X Express)

Asus P5W DH Deluxe
(975X Chipset)

Asus P5W64 WS Professional
(975X Chipset)

2x512MB Corsair PC-8500
CL 4-4-4-12-1T - DDR2-800

2xGeForce 7900 GTX
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD740 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
Intel INF 8.0.1.1002
nForce 4 Drivers v6.86
NVIDIA Forceware v91.28
DirectX 9.0c

System 2:
AMD Athlon 62 X2 5000+
(2.6GHz)

Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe
(NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI)

2x512MB Corsair PC-8500

CL 4-4-4-12-1T - DDR2-800

2xGeForce 7900 GTX
On-board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD740 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
nForce 4 Drivers v6.86
NVIDIA Forceware v91.28
DirectX 9.0c
Futuremark 3DMark06 - CPU Test
Simulated DirectX Gaming Performance

3DMark06's built-in CPU test is a multi-threaded "gaming related" DirectX metric that's useful for comparing relative performance between similarly equipped systems.  This test consists of two different 3D scenes that are generated with a software renderer, which is dependant on the host CPU's performance.  This means that the calculations normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the central processor.  The number of frames generated per second in each test are used to determine the final score.

Our initial synthetic CPU throughput testing with 3DMark06's CPU Performance Module shows the P5W64 WS on par with its Asus built counterpart and a small notch ahead of the Intel built D975XBX "BadAxe" motherboard. Asus has had a history for aggressively tuning their PLL circuits, even at stock processors settings in the BIOS, so that they tend to garner a slight lead in most standard benchmarks like this, versus conservatively tuned products from the likes of Intel.

Transparent
Office XP and Photoshop 7

PC World Magazine's Worldbench 5.0 is a new breed of Business and Professional application benchmark, that has replaced the aging and no-longer supported Content Creation and Business Winstone tests in our suite. Worldbench 5.0 consists of a number of performance modules that each utilize one, or a group of, popular applications to gauge performance.

Worldbench 5.0: Office XP SP2 & Photoshop 7 Performance
Real-World Application Performance

Below we have the results from WB 5's Office XP SP2 and Photoshop 7 modules, recorded in seconds.  Lower times indicate better performance here, so the shorter the bar the better.

 

In real-world desktop office applications and image processing there really isn't much of a spread performance-wise between any of the 975X-based motherboards including the Asus P5W64 WS.  Intel's D975XBX motherboard took more of a significant lead in the Photoshop test but with only a 5% variation, which is within this test's margin of error.

Transparent
Windows Media Encoder/Mozilla Multitasking

We continued our testing of Asus' P5W64 WS Professional motherboard with a Windows Media Encoder benchmark that is is also part of the Worldbench 5.0 suite, a video is encoded using Windows Media Encoder, while an instance of the Mozilla browser is also running and navigating through various cached pages. Because the system is multi-tasking with two different applications, this test is more taxing and representative of a common multitasking end user experience.

Windows Media Encoder and Mozilla Multitasking Performance
Converting a Large WAV To MP3

 

 

 

More nip-n-tuck for team Intel and the Asus P5W64 WS, sans the expensive Beverly Hills cosmetic surgery. It is amazing however, how the Athlon 64 X2 5000+ gets totally left behind here.  Intel's processor architecture has always had solid encoding performance and the new Core 2 Duo architecture is impressive in comparison to AMD's latest dual core platform, at least as far as Windows Media Encoder is concerned.

Transparent
Cinebench 3D Rendering


The Cinebench 2003 benchmark is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test, based on the commercially available Cinema 4D tools suite. This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders a single 3D scene and tracks the length of the entire process. The time it took each test system to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below (listed in seconds).

Cinebench 2003 Performance Tests
3D Modeling & Rendering Tests

 

 

Another photo-finish for the Asus boards including the new P5W64 WS.  At this point we can't even call this a trend per se.  The P5W64 WS has a processor complex, memory design and BIOS implementation that is identical to the P5W DH, so it's no wonder its performance profile is a carbon copy as well.  Later on we'll show you one way the P5W64 WS can really take flight however, so stay with us here through a few more repeat performances, just to dot our "I's and cross our "T"s. 

Transparent
Game Testing - CPU Limited With Quake 4

For our first gaming test, we benchmarked all of the test systems using a custom single-player Quake 4 timedemo. Here, we installed the v1.2 patch which is SMP capable, cranked the resolution down to 640 x 480, and configured the game to run at its "Low-Quality" graphics setting. Although Quake 4 typically taxes today's high-end GPUs, when it's configured at these minimal settings it too is more CPU and memory-bound than anything else.

Benchmarks with Quake 4 v1.2: Low Quality
OpenGL Gaming Performance

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, recently released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such, performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well.

 

 

 

It smells like the P5W DH, it walks like a P5W DH and runs like a P5W DH, but we all know it's very different under the hood. The P5W64 WS is right on top of its more mainstream targeted sibling here in our low res Quake 4 CPU tests. Both Asus boards are able to edge out Intel's own offering ever so slightly as well.

Transparent
High Res Game Tests With F.E.A.R.

Special note on testing methodology:  We performed our high resolution gamings test with F.E.A.R. and a pair of Radeon X1900 XTs graphics cards in CrossFire mode, just to show you the performance profile of the P5W64 WS in this type of setup.  Our two graphics cards were plugged into the first and forth X16 PCI Express slots which enables split X8 connections in each slot and in fact does invoke the IDT PCI Express switch that is on the board.  Theoretically this should tell us whether or not any inherent latency characteristics existing in the switch will affect dual GPU performance. 

Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R
More Info: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/


F.E.A.R

One of the most highly anticipated titles of 2005 was Monolith's paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. Taking a look at the minimum system requirements, we see that you will need at least a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 with 512MB of system memory and a 64MB graphics card, that is a Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-class or better, to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.04, we put the graphics cards in this review through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to the maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (Soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were then completed at a resolution of 1600x1200 with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

 

 

Once again, especially in this largely GPU-limited test, the P5W64 WS's performance is identical to the P5W DH, which is built on a standard 975X chipset configuration and without a PCI Express switch.  Thus not only is the IDT PCI Express switch that is on the P5W64 WS compatible with ATI's CrossFire configuration and drivers (as well it should be if it is PCI Express compliant of course), but its performance in a dual graphics setup is not a bottleneck in any measurable way for the end user.

Transparent
HD Tach PCIe RAID Testing

We've noted on a couple of occasions in this article that one of the X8 or X4 PCI Express slots on this new Asus motherboard could be utilized for something a bit more useful, in our opinion, than just a gaggle of graphics cards.  And here's what we think makes sense perhaps for some of you looking to explore new areas of opportunity for enhancing overall system performance, with a few extra PCI Express lanes at your disposal.

      
Areca's ARC-1210 - X8 PCI Express RAID Controller

  Specifications:

  • Intel IOP332 I/O processor
  • PCI-Express X8 interface
  • 128MB on-board DDR333 SDRAM with ECC protection
  • Write-through or write-back cache support
  • Supports up to 4 SATA II drives
  • Multi-adapter support for large storage requirements
  • Intel RAID 6 Engine to support extreme performance RAID 6
  • NVRAM for RAID event & transaction log
  • Redundant flash image for adapter availability
  • Battery Backup Module (BBM) ready (Option)
  • Street price currently = $315 - $350

The Areca ARC-1210 is a full "hardware RAID" solution based on Intel's IOP332 Storage Processor.  This processor comes with an integrated PCI-X to PCI Express bridge so it can be utilized in either PCI-X bus (64-bit, 66/133MHz) or serial PCI Express designs like the Areca ARC-1210 SATA RAID controller we are using in the benchmarks we'll show you next. 

Hardware RAID performance can be impressive under the proper conditions and in the right applications.  We'll give you a taste of how to put that extra PCI Express slot to good use, as you'll see shortly. 

HD Tach v3.0.1.0 PCIe RAID Performance Tests
Chock Full O' Bandwidth

First a few explanations on the graphs above.  We ran the ARC-1210 RAID card in different slots on the motherboard, to look at performance over a X8 or X4 PCI Express connection. Scores labeled with "X4 SB" were taken with the card in the third slot which is enabled with a X4 PCIe link off the Southbridge in the 975X chipset. Scores labeled with "X8 Switch" were taken in the forth slot with a X8 PCI Express connection driven from the IDT PCI Express switch on this motherboard. 

As you can see in our HDTach test results, the Areca RAID card in conjunction with the P5W64 WS outpaces the integrated Intel ICH7R software RAID controller on the motherboard by a significant margin, especially on burst reads and average write operations, which show over two times the available throughput with this PCI Express-based RAID controller, whether in an X8 or an X4 slot. Even on average read requests, the Areca card is nearly 15% faster. 

Another observation is that there isn't a large performance degradation with an X4 PCIe connection versus X8 performance but the variations are larger for a RAID 5 configuration, where parity calculations on a third drive are required and add to the processing workload and bandwidth utilization.  Another final observation would be that if you're considering running RAID 5 on a software-base ICH7R controller, you might want to seriously re-consider.  RAID 5 performance with Intel's ICH7R is just that bad in comparison.

Transparent
PCIe RAID Testing - PCMark05 HDD Tests

Next we'll look at more relative data- points perhaps with PCMark05's HDD test suite which measures things like application load time, Windows start-up and other common disk workloads. 

Futuremark PCMark05
Hard Disk Subsystem Performance In Various Windows XP Usage Models

Just as a reminder on the graph nomenclature below, we ran the ARC-1210 RAID card in different slots on the motherboard, to look at performance over a X8 or X4 PCI Express connection. Scores labeled with "X4 SB" were taken with the card in the third slot which is enabled with a X4 PCIe link off the Southbridge in the 975X chipset. Scores labeled with "X8 Switch" were taken in the forth slot with a X8 PCI Express connection driven from the IDT PCI Express switch on this motherboard. 

The ICH7R proves to be the fastest solution for Windows XP startup, at least as far as this test is concerned but by a very slim margin, and oddly enough the PCIe X4 configuration for the Areca RAID card is second fastest. Beyond that, things scale very similarly to our HDTach tests, when it comes to "general usage" performance with PCMark's HDD test.  Finally, application load time performance (reminder these tests are measure in MB/sec) is tightly grouped between the various configurations, again with the exception of the ICH7R RAID 5 performance.

Transparent
PCIe RAID Testing - PCMark05 HDD Tests (cont.)

More testing with PCMark05's HDD Performance module along with the P5W64 WS and the Areca PCI Express RAID controller is detailed below...

Futuremark PCMark05
Hard Disk Subsystem Performance In Various Windows XP Usage Models

We ran the ARC-1210 RAID card in different slots on the motherboard, to look at performance over a X8 or X4 PCI Express connection. Scores labeled with "X4 SB" were taken with the card in the third slot which is enabled with a X4 PCIe link off the Southbridge in the 975X chipset. Scores labeled with "X8 Switch" were taken in the forth slot with a X8 PCI Express connection driven from the IDT PCI Express switch on this motherboard.

 

The Areca RAID controller with the P5W64 WS shows a distinct advantage for write performance over a X8 PCI Express link with the on-board switch versus the X4 link on the Southbridge, whether in a two drive RAID 0 configuration or three drive RAID 5 setup.  Virus scan, which is virtually all read request workload, shows a similar but less pronounced performance scale between the setups.  And again the ICH7R is completely outclassed by the hardware-assisted RAID solutions listed above.  This is to be expected of course and it's important to remember that ICH7R RAID functionality is basically a free-bee with the 975X chipset.

Transparent
Benchmark Summay and Conclusion

Benchmark And Performance Summary:
The Asus P5W64 WS Professional offered virtually identical performance to its more mainstream counterpart, the Asus P5W DH and held a slight advantage in most of our benchmarks over the Intel BadAxe motherboard. In our testing with the P5W64 WS configured with the Areca Hardware RAID controller, the combination put up some of the fastest RAID performance numbers we've seen in our labs to date. 

The P5W64 WS Professional from Asus can be thought of as an extremely high-end solution for the workstation professional, enthusiast or power user.  The key feature this board offers over all other 975X chipset-based boards on the market currently, is its integration of the IDT 24 lane PCI Express chip in the design.  This switch offers an additional 8 lanes of connectivity in a full length X16 slot, beyond the 22 lanes offered in the 975X chipset.  Asus also populated these connections with four full-length X16 style slot connectors, so the potential for running up to four graphics cards is there.  However, we'd offer that there is a better use for this extra available bandwidth and connectivity.

Hardware RAID cards haven't become all that popular in the enthusiast or do-it-yourself market mainly because many of the more capable solutions have only been available in a PCI-X flavor.  While these slots can be found on many high end workstation and server boards, desktop boards rarely make use of them.  And obviously highly integrated software RAID solutions have made much more of an impact in the desktop motherboard market, where price points are critical. We'd suggest that moving forward the game could change somewhat with availability of PCI Express-based RAID cards in the market from the likes of 3Ware, Adaptec, Promise, Areca and others.  Frankly, in our opinion, a hardware RAID processor on board offers immediate and tangible performance gains in multi-drive configurations and let's not forget that the storage volume is still by far the slowest subsystem in your workstation, game rig or family computer. 

Yes it will run four PCIe graphics cards at once but unless you work on Wall St, what's the point?
Go RAID, Hardware RAID we say...

The Asus P5W64 WS professional we're told will have an MSRP of around $309. Hopefully street prices will fall somewhere south of this.  Obviously this is one of the more expensive motherboards on the market right now supporting Intel's Core 2 Duo processor family.  We think the cost is warranted somewhat when you consider that there are no other solutions like this motherboard on the market currently.  If you're an Intel chipset purist for Core 2 Duo, no other motherboard currently will provide the same expansion capabilities this motherboard does. That's not to say that motherboard manufacturers couldn't flesh out a similar offering based on NVIDIA's nForce 590 SLI Intel Edition or nForce 4 SLI X16 Intel Edition chipsets.  However, those boards don't exist on the market today, with anything larger than a X4 slot beyond a pair of X16 PEG slots.  Gigabyte's Quad Royal motherboard offered a similar configuration to the Asus P5W64 WS but currently doesn't support Core 2 Duo processors.  One other possible option would be Intel's D975XBX "BadAxe" motherboard.  This board comes equipped with three PCIe X16 slots and the third slot is connected with a X4 link electrically.  You could run either the ARC-1210 RAID card we tested or another PCIe RAID card in that slot and still have room for a pair of graphics cards if you so choose.

In terms of the P5W64's value/performance ROI, when you consider how fast true PCI Express-based hardware RAID is, it's hard not to be impressed regardless of cost.  That is of course if your looking for other areas of performance enhancement beyond just throwing more GPUs at your gaming requirements.  In the end we're going to give the Asus P5W64 WS Professional a solid 9 on the Heat Meter and our Editor's Choice award for innovation and product excellence but that's not without the caveat of cost in our finally analysis. 

  • Quad X16 PCIe slots
  • 8 additional lanes of PCIe
  • Great Core 2 Duo performance
  • Dual Gigabit Ethernet
  • Overclocking excellence
  • Performance potential with PCIe Hardware RAID is impressive
  • Expensive

 

Share your thoughts on this article with others in the HH PC Hardware Forum

Please Digg to share this HotHardware original content

Submit this article to Slashdot

 



Content Property of HotHardware.com