Like all of ASUS’s newer motherboards, the P4PE supports Serial ATA storage devices via the Promise 20376 controller. Serial ATA storage devices consume less power, offer data transfer rates up to 150MB/sec, and utilize much thinner cables than their parallel ATA counterparts. This feature in particular is probably the most forward-looking aspect of the P4PE, as Serial ATA hard drives won’t make their debut until early 2003 and ASUS does not include a Serial ATA-to-Parallel ATA adapter in the P4PE’s packaging.
Two Serial ATA connectors are provided on the P4PE, each located on opposite ends of the Promise controller itself. With each connector supporting one Serial ATA hard drive, the P4PE supports up to two Serial ATA drives. ASUS has also integrated a third IDE connector that is tied to the Promise controller, for those of you who would like to connect an additional hard drive to the four drives supported natively by the 845PE chipset. The third IDE connector can also be used in a RAID 0+1 configuration.
Serial ATA controller and connectors
Another feature looking towards the future is the P4PE’s built-in BroadCom 5702 Gigabit LAN controller. With Gigabit LAN offering transfer speeds up to 10 times faster than conventional 10/100 Ethernet connections, the P4PE is a networking powerhouse.
Like Serial ATA, Gigabit LAN hasn’t quite taken off but it is being offered in an increasing number of motherboards these days and we definitely see it becoming more popular in the future. Those of you who transfer large amounts of data such as audio and video files will probably take advantage of this feature as soon as possible to cut down on data transfer times.
Although the 845PE chipset doesn’t natively support it, the P4PE supports IEEE1394 (Firewire) devices through its VIA Technologies VIA Fire IIM VT6307 controller. Personally, we find it a bit ironic that a motherboard based on an Intel chipset utilizes a VIA controller to provide Firewire support, but until Intel jumps onboard with Firewire support we expect a lot of motherboard manufacturers will continue to utilize the VT6307 chip for Firewire functionality.
Onboard Gigabit LAN, 5.1 audio, and Firewire controllers
SoundMAX 5.1 audio
In the 845PE preview, we mentioned how we were huge fans of Analog Devices SoundMAX audio, so we were thrilled to see their 1980 CODEC present on the P4PE. One upcoming game title that we’ve witnessed taking advantage of Analog Devices SPX technology is Planetside, and we wouldn’t be surprised if more game developers have jumped onboard since we last met with Analog Devices last year. SoundMAX audio erases all the preconceptions we’ve held towards previous audio solutions that were offered in the past on motherboards. Its audio quality definitely rivals that of today’s discrete sound cards from the likes of Creative Labs.
SoundMAX CODEC up close
ASUS Q-Fan/EZ Plug
Q-Fan and EZ Plug make their return on the P4PE. These are two popular features that have earned ASUS a loyal following among enthusiasts. With Q-Fan, the P4PE actively monitors the CPU’s current temperature. If the temperature begins to increase as the system comes under heavy load, Q-Fan kicks in and bumps up the RPMs on the fans within the system. Once things settle down a bit, Q-Fan slows the fans down, reducing the PC’s noise level. EZ Plug is for end users with older non-ATX12V power supplies. Thanks to EZ Plug these consumers won’t have to go out and upgrade their power supply, saving them a little bit of money.
EZ Plug connector