915P Chipset Roundup: ABIT AG8, ASUS P5GD2 Premium, and Foxconn 915A01-P
Benchmark Analysis & Conclusion
The benchmarks clearly point to ASUS' P5GD2 Premium as the fastest 915P board in our roundup, and that's with ASUS' extra optimizations (except for Hyper Path) disabled. Using the AI NOS dynamic overclocking feature and PEG Link Mode BIOS setting, it's possible to procure even more performance from the P5GD2 Premium. The other good news is that, despite slightly lower scores in some tests, ABIT's AG8 puts up a real fight using conventional DDR400 memory. Thus, if you already have a respectable 865P system and would like to adopt PCI Express graphics, it's entirely reasonable to recycle your old dual-channel memory subsystem and still get great performance. Finally, while the Foxconn 915A01-P is up against two very established manufacturers, it holds its own in all of the real-world benchmarks, though its behavior in the synthetic tests is certainly odd. Even still, Foxconn turned in a very respectable performance with its 915A01-P.
Keeping in mind that all three motherboards – ASUS' P5GD2, ABIT's AG8, and Foxconn's 915A01-P – are all members of the same chipset family, it's crazy to think that they are all separated by $100 and range from $130 to $230. With relatively similar performance characteristics by virtue of the same platform, your choice will almost certainly depend on the features you need. The top contender is naturally ASUS' P5GD2 Premium with its almost unending bundle of goodies and extreme integration. Then there's ABIT's AG8, which also comes with its share of value-added features, though it lacks the reference high-definition audio codec, a fairly glaring omission for what is otherwise a high-end motherboard. Finally, Foxconn's 915A01-P comes with relatively little in the way of extra features or useful software. (There isn't much use in a bundled name-brand antivirus app that only lasts for three months.) However, at its target price inflection, the board still offers plenty in the way of performance and platform utilization.
We didn't encounter any stability problems with the AG8, making it the most reliable board of the bunch. Coming in at roughly $135 online, it might be a surprise that the AG8 is also the cheapest board, too. A combination of solid overclocking features, low price, and great performance weigh in to shine some good light on the board. It's missing Intel's HD audio, an integral component of the 915P chipset, though. As a result, the AG8 comes across largely as an average board at an awesome price.
ASUS P5GD2 Premium:
Remember the beginning of the piece, when I was talking about the finer things in life? Beluga caviar, Benz SLR,Clos du Mesnil. Ring a bell? Well, ASUS' P5GD2 Premium comes in just shy of those luxuries, mostly because it's a 915P board and not the pricier 925X-based P5AD2. It's hard to tell, though, judging by the board's packed PCB, enormous bundle, and noticeably faster performance numbers. The addition of Intervideo's WinDVD suite is solid, as are the other bundled extras. It's also nice that ASUS took the route of elegance with passive cooling on the P5GD2's MOSFET's, 915P MCH, and ICH6-R.
Not surprisingly, luxury comes at a price. If you want the privilege of owning a P5GD2 Premium, you'll need to shell out $230 – equivalent to four ounces of Royal Sevruga. No, it's not cheap, but what else did you expect? Just shy of perfection, our P5GD2 Premium wouldn't cooperate with Corsair's 667MHz DDR2 modules, failing to even POST.
Foxconn's offering falls right between ABIT's inexpensive AG8 and ASUS' feature-laden P5GD2. Priced at about $150, the 915A01-P includes the Intel High-Definition audio that ABIT's board lacks and DDR2 memory support to boot. Its BIOS isn't much to look at, and the included software bundle is par for the course. Don't expect much in the way of extra hardware features, either. However, the 915A01-P does make for an excellent platform on which to build an enthusiast machine on a budget. It comes with all of the features relevant to Intel's 915P chipset and procures respectable performance at the same time. There's no worrying about stability, as the 915A01-P didn't crash at all during testing. Just don't expect much in the way of overclocking; both the AG8 and P5GD2 are still miles ahead in that regard.