Summary: Based on the 845PE chipset, ASUS's P4PE supports DDR333 SDRAM and Intel's Hyper-Threading technology. But that's not all, ASUS also includes Gigabit LAN, Firewire, Serial ATA, and SoundMAX 5.1 all onboard. When you combine this with bus speeds up to 200MHz in 1MHz increments, you've got one powerful Pentium 4 motherboard. See how it performs in today's review!
Intel’s dominating chipset presence
When Intel launches a new chipset, everyone jumps onboard. The reasoning behind it is simple, as the world’s largest microprocessor manufacturer, Intel has an overwhelming share of PC’s equipped with Intel processors inside them. And with the majority of Pentium 4 systems being sold based on one variant of the 845 chipset or another, it’s no surprise that motherboard manufacturers were proud to announce their products based on the 845GE/GV and 845PE chipsets that were launched last week.
ASUS: Motherboard manufacturer extraordinaire
Based on reader response we’d be willing to guess that you’re probably pretty familiar with ASUS. They’ve been in the motherboard business for over a decade and command the stop spot in the motherboard market. Their products have traditionally appealed to enthusiasts as well as more mainstream consumers thanks to their excellent combination of features, reliability, and performance. The P4PE in particular has quite a few features that stand out from typical motherboards, and as you’ll see in our benchmark results, it’s quite an impressive performer. But first lets take a look at what makes it so special.
SIDEBAR: ASUS P4PE Product Webpage
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.
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.
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.
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.
SIDEBAR: The P4PE also supports ASUS’s CrashFree BIOS technology. If your BIOS becomes corrupted, end users can restore their BIOS via a floppy diskette.
ASUS’s engineering team is well known for its unique board designs. When most motherboard manufacturers are implementing the same basic layout, it’s not uncommon to see ASUS come out with a board design that is totally out of the ordinary.
Some capacitors on the P4PE appear to be dangerously close to the Socket 478 interface, but in practice this is not the case. The 20-pin ATX connector is located on the right edge of the motherboard, so it doesn’t interfere with airflow near the CPU. The ATX12V connector is just below the CPU interface, which is a bit inconvenient but shouldn’t be a problem since the cable itself isn’t very large.
For troubleshooting, the P4PE features a green power LED on the lower portion of the motherboard. This is helpful for diagnosing dead motherboards. If the green LED doesn’t shine when you connect the power cable to the motherboard, you know that the motherboard isn’t receiving power and is likely dead. A red LED is placed just below the AGP slot, this LED only shines when you install a 3.3V AGP card in the AGP slot. When this occurs, the system cannot be turned on to prevent damaging the AGP slot.
The sixth (blue) PCI slot is known as the BlueMagic PCI slot. It’s unique from the others because it’s designed to support wireless LAN cards. ASUS will be introducing its own wireless LAN solutions later this year that ASUS hopes will make a perfect companion for the BlueMagic slot.
Overall the P4PE’s layout is well implemented. We just wished it stood out from the crowd like ASUS motherboards frequently do.
SIDEBAR: The board revision of our P4PE board was 1.02.
While we’ll be the first to admit that we prefer the Award interface used on most other motherboards, ASUS still implements a powerful BIOS setup on the P4PE. For starters we’ve got bus speeds available from 100MHz-200MHz in 1MHz increments, which should allow for quite a bit of flexibility if you plan on overclocking your CPU. CPU voltages up to 1.85V are available (in 0.025V increments), as well as DDR voltage adjustment.
The P4PE is loaded with all kinds of goodies for squeezing even more performance out of your system if the bus adjustments aren’t enough for you. Also present are settings for tweaking memory timings as well as enhancing performance. Two settings that stand out are System Performance Mode (with options of “Auto”, “Optimal”, and “Turbo”) and Memory Turbo Mode (which can be toggled on and off), even a CAS latency setting of 1.5 is available! As an added bonus, the P4PE also offers a 355MHz memory setting for consumers with ultra fast memory, with the system bus at 150MHz that equates to a 400MHz memory bus!
Therefore, as you can expect we were quite pleased with the P4PE’s BIOS. We have a feeling that the enthusiasts and overclockers out there will enjoy it as well.
SIDEBAR: C.P.R. has been a standard feature on ASUS motherboards for quite awhile, its just that this is the first time that we can recall ASUS has given it a name.
Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz
ABIT IT7-MAX2 (845E)
ASUS P4PE (845PE)
Intel D845PEBT2 (845PE)
MSI 648 MAX-F (SiS 648)
256MB Corsair XMS3200 DDR400 CAS2 SDRAM
NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600 reference board
Driver version Detonator 40.41
30GB IBM Deskstar DTLA 307030 ATA/100 Hard Drive
AFREEY 12X DVD-ROM
Windows XP Professional
Desktop Resolution: 1024x768x32
3DMark 2001 Second Edition - 32-bit color, 32-bit textures
3DMark 2001 - DirectX 8
Serious Sam 2 - OpenGL
Quake III - High Quality
Jedi Knight II
Unreal Tournament 2003 demo - flyby
Content Creation Winstone 2002
Business Winstone 2001
Intel 845PE chipset: Unfortunately, all of Intel’s DDR chipset offerings have been short on features, and offered even shorter lifetimes. And while 845PE won’t live as long as 845D or 845E in the enthusiast segment, it’s still Intel’s best DDR offering to date.
Short lifetime: With dual-channel DDR chipsets in the works from Intel, SiS, and VIA arriving later this year, the 845PE chipset the P4PE is based on will be outdated very quickly. If you must purchase a Pentium 4 system right now, the 845PE chipset would be the best way to go, but enthusiasts who aren’t as rushed should wait a little longer and see what kind of performance these chipsets will bring.
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