Asus P5W DH Deluxe, 975X Core 2 Duo Ready Motherboard
Asus EZ-Backup RAID, Wifi AP Solo, and DH Remote
Next we'll cover some of the features that are unique to this new high end Motherboard from Asus. Asus coins the culmination of these various features as the "Digital Home" experience. Here's a quick-take on a few key salient points.
EZ-Backup is probably one of the more interesting features built into this bundle and we think it has universal applicability for the type of end user that is likely to put together a system with a high-end motherboard like the P5W DH Deluxe. Simply put, EZ-Backup is a two-port SATA RAID solution powered by an on-board Silicon Image SATA controller, that provides full Hardware-level RAID 0 and 1 functionality for the user, without the need for configuration in a RAID BIOS or with drivers in the OS.
Silicon Image "SteelVine" Processor/System Block Diagram
The beauty of this solution is its driverless and configuration free installation. Unfortunately, EZ-Backup, at least for us, wasn't as "EZ" as we would have liked. In fact, we were able to configure a RAID 1 array but RAID 0 took a bit of work to get running. The motherboard's setup manual instructs you on the jumper configurations for a RAID 0 (RAID 1 is the board's default setting), along with a mode-change toggle in the BIOS. Unfortunately no matter what we did, we couldn't get the machine to set the array to RAID 0 mode at first but with some help from Asus support and a BIOS update, RAID 0 was possible. Although we didn't have time to run RAID 0 tests for you, we did run through some testing with a RAID 1 setup.
Asus EZ-Backup Manager
EZ-Backup Manager makes quick work of array status and health monitoring. You can also update Controller Firmware with this utility.
HD Tach EZ-Backup RAID1 Results
As a reference data-point, we've listed what a standard ICH7R RAID1 setup can do on this motherboard versus the HD Tach scores you see in the above graph. In short, RAID 1 performance of the SteelVine chip is on par with ICH7 RAID performance and at slightly less CPU utilization of 2% or so. Finally, one downside to the board's Storage configuration (recall the JMicron controller for External SATA as well) is that there are only 3 SATA ports off the board's ICH7R Southbridge. Frankly, we prefer the traditionally available 4-port ICH7R setups that are on other Intel chipset based motherboards from Asus, rather than this two-port Silicon Image/EZ-Backup controller in conjunction with only three ICH7R ports, especially since it does add cost to the board. Maybe a BIOS revision or two down the road and things will smooth out for the Silicon Image solution on this motherboard. Success with decent performance in a RAID 0 configuration may have colored our opinion a bit differently here.
Wifi AP Solo:
The P5W DH Deluxe's WiFi AP Solo feature, just as the name implies, allows you to configure your machine as an Wireless Access Point within a given network configuration, with the help of the motherboard's on-board WiFi NIC.
WiFi AP Solo - 802.11g Network Monitoring Utility
Just for some rough baseline testing, we ran SANDRA's Network Bandwidth test on our 54Mbps 802.11g connection with the P5W DH Deluxe and then again on the board's Gig-E wired port.
802.11g WiFi Performance
As you can see, though we certainly wouldn't expect it to stand up to the board's Gig-E link, the WiFi throughput here is just slightly lower than SANDRA's 54Mbps WiFi reference system. We should note we performed this test about 30 feet away from our lab's 802.11b/g/n Netgear Wireless Router with no large walls or obstructions in the way and a signal strength of 84% noted in the WiFi AP Solo utility.
The included "DH Remote" in the Asus P5W DH bundle was frankly a little too "gimmicky" for us. Though in theory this nice little add-on should provide at least some level of convenience, we found ourselves struggling with it a bit too often.
The transmitter in the DH Remote's package is an Infrared-type unit rather than RF, so you need to be directly in front of the USB receptor unit for it to work reliably and we do mean d-i-r-e-c-t-l-y in front of it. The software and remote control functionality does add some usefulness to the package, however, with the ability to put the machine into "Noise Off" mode (fan throttling), "EZ-WiFi" mode (sleep mode with WiFi support) and even run a multimedia application like Windows Media Player (user configurable) at the touch of a single button. Standard system Hibernate, Volume, Play, Skip, FF and RW functions are available on the remote as well.