P5E3 Premium: Board Layout
The P5E3 Premium currently represents Asus' premiere desktop motherboard for Intel processors. As such, the board is very feature rich and sports an oversized cooling solution comprised of multiple copper heatsinks linked together via a complex heat-pipe system to appease harcore enthusiasts.
The area around the CPU socket on the P5E3 Premium is surrounded by copper heatsinks on all four sides. One of the heatsinks is mounted atop the X48 Northbridge, while the other three are mounted to various components in the board’s voltage regulation circuitry and power array. This heatsink arrangement may pose a problem for some oversized aftermarket CPU coolers, so take note. There is also a fourth heatsink affixed to the ICH9R Southbridge on the board. It, however, is a low-profile design that won’t interfere with any expansion cards.
Other than the board’s heatsink arrangement, the P5E3 Premium has a good layout. All of the board's various sockets, ports, and headers are color coded and easy to identify, and strategic connectors like the IDE port and four SATA ports are mounted to the board at right angles to make them easier to access when a long, double-wide graphics card is installed. Power connectors are all situated around the edge of PCB, which prevents the thick power cables from hindering air circulation over hot running components.
As you can see, the P5E3 Premium has a trio of PCI Express x16 slots, a pair of PCI Express x1 slots, and a single standard PCI slot. The blue PEG slots on the board both have a full 16 lanes of PCI Express connectivity, while the black slot is powered by only 4 lanes. If you look close, nestled between the second blue PEG slot and its adjacent PCI slot, you can see a small card mounted vertically that houses a bit of flash memory. This card is where the Express Gate OS resides. More on that on the next page.
Thanks to the P5E3 Premium’s ICH9R Southbridge, the board supports multiple RAID modes and it has six internal SATA ports. There are another two eSATA ports in the board’s external I/O cluster, along with six USB 2.0 ports, analog and digital audio jacks, a PS/2 keyboard port, dual GigE LAN jacks, dual WiFi antenna jacks, and a single Firewire port. The P5E3 Premium’s audio support comes by way of an ADI1988 HD coded and Firewire by way of an Agere controller. Finally, an Ralink RT2770F chip powers the integrated 802.11n WiFi NIC.