Summary: Looking for a relatively inexpensive alternative to the $300+ X58 motherboards but don't want to give up the expansion of six DIMMs or the flexibility or SLI and CrossFire? If so you may want to check out the ASUS P6T. The board sports all the aforementioned features and also manages to be quite the overclocker. Check out our latest review for the full scoop!
In addition, unlike their most recent quad-core Kentsfield and 45-nm Yorkfield launch in October 2007, Intel offered Core i7 at a wide variety of price points on launch day. At the low end of the spectrum resides the $284 Core i7-920 clocked at 2.66GHz, while the Core i7-940 is priced at $562 and runs at 2.93GHz, and finally, for the hardware enthusiast who must have the very best, Intelís flagship CPU offering is the Core i7-965 Extreme Edition which runs at 3.2GHz with faster QPI link and an unlocked clock multiplier for improved flexibility when OCíing. This processor runs rings around Intelís fastest Yorkfield-based Penryn Core 2 Quad QX9770 processor and officially costs $400 less
As hard as Intel has tried to make their Core i7 processor itself affordable though, the costs for the rest of the platform are harder for them to control. The cheapest triple-channel DDR3 memory kits can now be found online for less than $90 on Newegg, but this is still over two times higher than high-end DDR2 kits can be found for. At launch most X58 motherboards were also priced in the stratosphere, hitting the $300 mark and up. Even X48 motherboards can be found for considerably less than that.
These prices created a stigma early on that the X58 platform was ridiculously expensive, and while that was definitely true back in November and part of December, newer X58 motherboards have hit the market with more affordable price tags. Some X58 boards can even be found for less than $200 today.
But usually with the lower-end sub-$200 X58 motherboards you have to give up a lot. These boards usually ship with just four DIMM sockets, limiting the max amount of RAM you can affordably house inside the motherboard, and they also lack SLI certification and ship with just two PCI Express graphics (PEG) slots. Sure, in some cases you can hack the motherboard to support SLI, but you canít get around the hardware limitations present on these cheaper X58 motherboards.
Fortunately for the user who doesnít want to fork over $300 or more for a high-end X58 motherboard but still wants an affordable feature-packed solution with 6 DIMMs, SLI, and 3 PEG slots there are newer motherboards hitting the market. ASUS is one of the latest manufacturers to jump into this space with their P6T motherboard. The P6T has all the features most users would need, yet it costs just $250.
While the P6T is ASUSí entry level X58 offering, itís by no means what youíd expect from an entry-level motherboard. The board comes equipped with six DIMM slots and three PEG slots, just like the latest ultra high-end X58 motherboards. The ASUS P6T is also SLI-certified and supports ATIís CrossFireX, making it multi-GPU ready for either GeForce or Radeon users. Finally, the P6T also features built-in power and reset buttons, as well and heatpipe cooling for the North Bridge and MOSFETs. These are all features you expect on high-end motherboards.
Despite its name, the P6T is also based on a completely different board design than previous ASUS X58 motherboards like P6T Deluxe and Rampage II Extreme. ASUS has incorporated so many changes to the design, the P6T almost deserves its own name; for instance we actually prefer the layout ASUS has implemented on the P6T for the PCI Express graphics slots. Because of its layout, the P6T Deluxe couldnít house three GeForce GTX 260 cards for 3-Way SLI.
Letís go over more of the P6Tís featuresÖ
ASUS Express Gate
The Splashtop browser itself is pretty good, while you canít open multiple windows at once it does supports features like tabbed browsing and it can save all your passwords if youíd like. The browser supports Adobe Flash natively as well. Resolutions supported range from 800x600 up to 1440x1050, making max resolution support arguably one of the bigger limitations of Splashtop, particularly if you have a 24Ē or greater monitor.
Besides the built-in browser, Express Gate also has programs for games, chat, Skype, and viewing photos. The photo program is just that, a small application for viewing photos stored on your hard drive or external storage, while the chat program supports AIM, Google Talk, Tencent QQ (popular in China), Yahoo Instant Messenger, and MSN. The games program actually is nothing more than an extension of the browser, taking you to DeviceVMís game page where you can play a pretty decent selection of casual online games.
Overall we really like the Express Gate feature, even if it is a little slower to initially boot up on the P6T than the hardware-based solution found on previous ASUS motherboards weíve tested. Fortunately once you boot up the apps all load rather quickly, the OS itself is rather lightweight and you can easily scroll back and forth among open programs. A small red dot at the bottom of the main Express Gate navigation menu lets you know which programs are currently open.
Express Gate loads automatically every time you boot your PC. This Express Gate splash page can be used to launch any of the aforementioned programs, load BIOS, or boot into the main OS. By default if the user doesnít respond the motherboard will automatically boot into the OS after 10 seconds of inactivity, so technically Express Gate adds 10 seconds to the overall system boot time unless you manually select ďload the OSĒ by hand each time on boot up, or you adjust the Express Gate OS timer within BIOS, with settings ranging from 1 second up to 30 seconds. You can also disable Express Gate entirely from within BIOS.
Once inside Express Gate you can also restart your PC, turn off system, or boot into the main OS.
TurboV is ASUSí new Windows-based utility for overclocking. The program can be used to adjust clock speeds, voltages, and other settings all from within Windows. This is handy if youíre a little intimidated by overclocking via system BIOS, and the TurboV settings provided directly correspond to what ASUS also provides in BIOS.
If youíd like to fine tune settings even further, TurboV also has an advanced mode which can be opened by clicking the ďmore settingsĒ button. Here youíll find options for adjusting chipset voltages, PCIe voltages, and CPU PLL voltages. ASUS also includes options for tweaking DRAM reference voltages on each of the boardís three memory channels as well.
Finally, you can setup and save custom OC profiles with TurboV as well.
The only feature missing from TurboV is hardware monitoring, but as most ASUS loyalists should know by now the company provides PC Probe software for this. With PC Probe II you can monitor CPU and motherboard temperature as well as voltages.
We do think TurboV should show you before/after clock speeds though. As it stands now youíll have to whip out the calculator to figure out how far youíre actually OCíing the processor with TurboV.
ASUS EPU (Energy Processing Unit)
EPU is energy-saving feature ASUS has included with all of their latest motherboards. With EPU the motherboard can dynamically turn on and off power phases as needed depending on workload. Say for instance youíre browsing the internet, or idling at the Windows desktop. Under this environment you donít need to run all eight power phases on your motherboard. EPU can turn off phases to conserve power.
The P6T supports ASUSí newer 6-engine EPU. In addition to dynamically adjusting power phases and CPU voltage on the fly, this utility can be used to conserve power of the entire system. ASUS mentions other system components such as the CPU, VGA card, memory, chipset, hard drive(s), and CPU/system cooling. You can actually see the fans spin down at the more aggressive power saving settings. Of course youíll also need an ASUS video card thatís EPU-6 certified in order to fully take advantage of this latter feature.
With EPU-6 ASUS provides four basic power profiles: Turbo, High Performance, Medium Power Saving, and High Power Saving modes. Finally thereís an auto mode setting that will dynamically adjust amongst the four modes depending on system usage.
Under each of the four power modes you can go in and manually tweak power profiles. Under the High Power Saving mode setting for instance you may not want to shut down your hard drive at all; this can be adjusted however youíd like. Or you may not want the motherboard to lower your chipset voltage. You can even adjust how far EPU-6 underclocks your CPU or undervolts. With the Turbo Mode setting, you can actually use EPU-6 to overclock your processor, and thus use more power. EPU isnít compatible with TurboV however, so you will have to choose which program youíd rather run since they canít be open simultaneously.
As we stated earlier, the P6T features an entirely different board layout than the P6T Deluxe and P6T Deluxe V2. We actually like the layout of the P6T vanilla better than the Deluxe model. Why? 3-Way SLI.
While the P6T Deluxe physically features 3 PCI Express Graphics (PEG) slots, because the second and third PEG slots are so close to each other on the P6T Deluxe, you canít house three dual-slot cards like the GeForce GTX 260 together for 3-Way SLI. There simply isnít enough space between the PEG slots.
ASUS has resolved this issue on the vanilla P6T, with a PCI slot separating the second and third PEG slots from each other. An x1 PCIe slot separates the primary PEG slot from the secondary PEG slot.
Because of these changes, this gives you just enough room for 3-Way SLI.
Another change that separates the P6T from the P6T Deluxe is the removal of the two Marvell-powered SAS ports on the P6T motherboard. Fortunately, two SATA 3Gb/s
ports are retained thanks to the use of JMicronís JMB322 controller. These two ports are used for ASUSí Drive Xpert features which include EZ Backup and Super Speed. These are the two orange SATA ports you see in the pictures. The other six SATA ports are powered by the ICH10R chipset.
For those of you with parallel ATA (PATA) DVD-ROM drives, a JMicron JMB363 controller chip is used to support up to two devices, as well as providing eSATA support.
The other major change is the adoption of an 8+2-phase power subsystem versus the 16+2-phase power used on the P6T Deluxe.
With less power phases the P6Tís headroom for OCíing is technically lower than the Deluxe model, although in our OCíing tests we found the 8-phase system ASUS has implemented is pretty effective. For the record, ASUS claims 96% efficiency.
In addition to fewer power phases, ASUS also uses tamer cooling for the chipset and MOSFETs. A single heatpipe is used for the North Bridge and MOSFETs, and unlike the P6T Deluxe the heatpipe isnít made from copper. The South Bridge is then cooled by a simple aluminum heatsink.
The final changes between the P6T and P6T Deluxe are less dramatic. Instead of shipping with dual GigE networking controllers like the Deluxe board, the P6T ships with one GigE controller powered by Realtekís 8111C chip. Audio duties switch from the Analog Devices AD2000B to Realtekís ALC1200 8-channel audio CODEC.
Those of you with high-end LGA-775 coolers will be glad to hear that ASUS provides mounting holes for both LGA-775 and LGA1366. You probably should stick with an LGA1366 cooler though for optimal cooling performance.
While itís supposed to be their budget X58 motherboard, ASUS provides a wealth of options for tweaking the P6T inside BIOS. In fact, its BIOS offerings are pretty comparable with the P6T Deluxe. As a result, if youíre already familiar with the P6T Deluxeís BIOS, you may as well just skip to the next section, as functionality between the P6T Deluxe and P6T is similar.
As usual with ASUS motherboards, most of the BIOS settings youíll want can be found in AI Tweaker section of BIOS. Here youíll find BIOS settings for clock multiplier adjustment, base clock frequencies, PCIe frequency, memory frequency, etc, etc.
In terms of base clock (bclk) speeds available, ASUS provides settings ranging from 100-500MHz in 1MHz increments. If youíd prefer to simply type in your bclk speed manually, you can do that too. DRAM speeds of 800MHz and 1066MHz are the only settings provided for Core i7-920 and 940; youíll need an Extreme Edition CPU to unlock memory speeds of 1333MHz, 1600MHz, 1800MHz, 1866MHz, and 2133MHz.
Of course, these settings are simply memory multipliers that are tied to the current bclk setting, so as you crank up the base clock, the memory speeds will go higher as well. When an Extreme Edition CPU is installed, the uncore clock ratio (uclk) and QPI link data rate settings are also adjustable in BIOS, and finally, PCIe speeds range between 100-200MHz in 1MHz increments.
This is the exact same functionality ASUS provides on the more expensive P6T Deluxe.
In terms of voltages, once again the BIOS settings are similar to the P6T Deluxe. One thing we should also note here is that the voltage selections available in BIOS for key settings such as CPU voltage, QPI/DRAM core voltage, and DRAM voltage, are variable depending on jumpers.
In other words, ASUS provides additional voltage options in BIOS for these key settings if youíre willing to pull some jumpers located on the motherboard. The default settings provided inside BIOS are more than enough for 95% of users who would like to OC their processor, but that 5% who will be using extreme cooling measures such as liquid nitrogen will want to use the jumpers to expose the additional voltage options hidden inside the P6Tís BIOS.
Again, this is the same system ASUS employed with the P6T Deluxe.
By default, CPU voltages provided inside the P6T BIOS range from 0.85V-1.7V in increments of 0.00625V. Once the OV_CPU jumper is enabled though, the max voltage goes up to 2.1V. CPU PLL voltage values range from 1.8V-2.50V with a 0.02V interval.
For adjusting QPI link voltage, options range from 1.20V-1.70V by default; once the OV_QPI_DRAM jumper is enabled, that ceiling climbs to 1.90V.
Chipset voltages are also adjustable. IOH voltages range from 1.10-1.70V in 0.02V increments, while the IOH PCIe voltage settings range from 1.50V-2.76V in 0.02V increments. For the South Bridge, ICH voltages range from 1.10V-1.40 with a 0.10V interval, while ICH PCIe voltage range from 1.50V-1.80V in increments of 0.10V.
For memory OCíing, DRAM voltages range from 1.50V-1.90V in 0.02V increments. Here again ASUS provides additional voltages if you enable the OV_DRAM_BUS jumper. Once this jumper is set to on voltage options go up to 2.46V. Here we should note that unlike previous Intel CPUs, starting with Nehalem Intel states that memory voltages beyond 1.65V could potentially damage the processor. So if youíre going to crank up the memory voltage to a really high level, youíll want to ensure that the processor has very good cooling. For even further fine tuning of memory voltages, the P6T provides settings for adjusting DRAM data and control reference voltages on all three channels of the memory controller. Values range from 0.395x to 0.630x with a 0.005x increments. According to ASUS, adjusting these ratios may enhance DRAM overclocking ability.
ASUS also provides BIOS settings for adjusting CPU VDroop directly as well as CPU differential amplitude, IOH clock skew, and CPU clock skew. These settings are provided in order to enhance bclk overclocking.
Like previous ASUS motherboards, the P6T BIOS also provides Q-Fan settings for adjusting CPU/system fan speeds by predetermined amounts, as well as the ability to save BIOS profiles, which is helpful if youíd like to run different OCíing settings for certain games (say for instance, your system can run Far Cry 2 OCíed at 4.0GHz with complete stability, but you need to dial it down to 3.95GHz for Crysis) or underclocking.
So how far did we manage to OC our P6T motherboard? How does 210MHz sound! We were able to run our looped Far Cry 2 stability tests at this speed, but when we attempted the looped 3DMark Vantage run the system crashed. We think this was caused by excessive temperature, but even with repeated attempts to resolve the problem stability was iffy (for the record we used a Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 CPU cooler for all our testing). By the time we mounted additional system fans to the motherboard and were ready to boot back up for another stab at the Far Cry 2+3DMark Vantage looped combo, the system BSODíed shortly after the Windows Vista splash screen came up. At this point we had to give up so we could bring you an article today.
Ultimately in order to achieve complete 100% stability we had to settle for a base clock frequency of 197MHz. Not shabby at all for a $250 motherboard!
Intel Core i7-920
3GB (3x1GB) Qimonda 1067 CL7 non-ECC
EVGA X58 SLI
Intel X58 Smackover
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280
150GB Western Digital Raptor
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit w/Service Pack 1
Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark
World In Conflict Ė Direct3D
Company of Heroes Ė Direct3D
Crysis Ė Direct3D
Lost Planet Ė Direct3D
Price: Obviously the P6Tís number one positive is its price. While it certainly isnít the cheapest X58 motherboard on the market, priced at an MSRP of $250 it is one of the cheapest X58 boards to offer six DIMMs and support for both NVIDIA SLI and CrossFire. This makes it more flexible than some of the cheaper X58 motherboards, while the added DIMMs technically gives the board the ability to support up to 24GB of memory.
Motherboard cooling: In comparison to ASUSí more expensive X58 motherboards, the cooling on the P6T is obviously less exotic. Gone is the use of copper, with ASUS electing for a single heatpipe for the North Bridge of the chipset. In all honesty though this didnít affect the motherboardís performance or stability in any way, and obviously by not using elaborate cooling, that helps keep the production cost of the board down. Weíre only nitpicking here because we have to come up with something to fill this space.
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