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[nextpage title=”P5E3 Premium”]

At CES 2008 ASUS showed us two high-end motherboards based on the forthcoming Intel X48 chipset: P5E3 Premium and Rampage Formula. In this article we will show you pictures and the main specs from these two motherboards.

The main new features of Intel X48 include support to PCI Express 2.0, support to DDR3 memories up to DDR3-1600 (Intel X38 only supports up to DDR3-1333), support for the new 1,600 MHz external bus and support for the new Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Profile) memory standard, which competes with NVIDIA’s EPP (Enhanced Performance Profile). Just like Intel X38 and P35, X48 will be paired with ICH9 family of south bridge chips.

P5E3 Premium will be basically an updated version of ASUS P5E3 Deluxe using Intel X48 chipset instead of Intel X38.

The most distinct feature from P5E3 Premium will be its on-board WiFi access point, similar to what happen to other high-end motherboards from ASUS. Like other high-end motherboards, it will have a copper-based passive cooling solution.

ASUS P5E3 PremiumFigure 1: ASUS P5E3 Premium.

ASUS P5E3 PremiumFigure 2: WiFi access point.

This access point will be probably the same used on ASUS P5E3 Deluxe/[email protected], supporting 802.11n standard (transfer rates of up to 300 Mbps) keeping compatibility with 802.11g (54 Mbps) and 802.11b (11 Mbps), with the following ranges:

  • IEEE 802.11n: 980 ft (300 m) outdoor or 330 ft (100 m) indoor.
  • IEEE 802.11g: 200 ft (60 m) outdoor or 100 ft (30 m) indoor.
  • IEEE 802.11b: 1000 ft (310 m) outdoor or 130 ft (40 m) indoor.

P5E3 Premium will have four DDR3-DIMM sockets, supporting up to DDR3-1800 (i.e., in overclock mode, as X48 officially supports only up to DDR3-1600), three PCI Express x16 slots supporting CrossFire, two PCI Express x1 slots and two regular PCI slots.

Using Intel ICH9R south bridge chip, this motherboard will have six SATA-300 ports supporting RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. An additional JMicron JMB363 brings two eSATA-300 ports located on the rear panel of the board and one ATA-133 port.

Even though the south bridge chip provides 12 USB 2.0 ports, only 10 of them are available (six on the rear panel and four through headers located on the motherboard), as the other two are used by an on-board 32 MB USB drive used for increasing performance on Windows Vista through its ReadyBoost feature, just like motherboards from the “Vista Edition” series (ASUS calls this feature “ASAP” or “ASUS Accelerated Propeller”).

ASUS P5E3 PremiumFigure 3: ReadyBoost USB drive.

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This motherboard will also have two FireWire (IEEE1394) ports controlled by an Agere FW3227 chip, one located at the rear panel of the board and another available through a header located on the board.

The audio section of this motherboard will use an Analog Devices ADI1988B codec, producing 7.1 audio with a 92 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its inputs and 101 dB SNR for its outputs and a maximum sampling rate of 192 kHz for both inputs and outputs. This is perfect for the average user but users willing to professionally working capturing and editing analog audio (converting LP’s and tapes to CD or MP3, converting VHS to DVD, etc) will need to find a motherboard with a better input signal-to-noise ratio (at least 95 dB) or to install an add-on sound card.

This board has one coaxial and one optical SPDIF output soldered directly on the motherboard, which is great as you can easily connect it to your home theater receiver.

P5E Premium will have two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by a Marvell 88E8056 controller, which is connected to one PCI Express x1 bus, and the other controlled by a Realtek RTL8110SC controller, which is connected to the PCI bus.

In Figure 4, you can see the connectors that will be found on the rear of this motherboard: PS/2 keyboard, six USB 2.0 ports, coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one FireWire port, two eSATA-300 ports, full 7.1 analog audio outputs and connectors for the omni-directional antennas that will come with the product.

If you pay close attention you will see that this motherboard doesn’t have a PS/2 mouse connector, so you will need to use a USB mouse with this board. It also doesn’t have serial or parallel ports on the rear panel, even though one serial port is available through a header on the motherboard and you will need to install an I/O bracket to use it.

ASUS P5E3 PremiumFigure 4: Rear panel.

This motherboard will use only solid aluminum capacitors, which is great to prevent the infamous capacitor leakage problem, and ferrite coils on the voltage regulator circuit, which provide a lower power loss compared to traditional iron coils.

ASUS P5E3 PremiumFigure 5: Ferrite coils and solid aluminum capacitors on the voltage regulator circuit.

P5E3 Premium will also feature ASUS EPU (Energy Processing Unit), which according to ASUS provides up to 58% power savings when the computer is idle and up to 7% when the computer is working on its maximum performance, and Express Gate, which allows you to browse the Internet without loading the operating system (this is accomplished by loading a Linux-based browser stored on the motherboard BIOS).

[nextpage title=”P5E3 Premium Main Specifications”]

ASUS P5E3 Premium main features will be:

  • Socket: 775.
  • Chipset: Intel X48 Express.
  • Super I/O: Winbond W83627DHG
  • Parallel IDE: One ATA-133 port controlled by JMicron JMB363 chip.
  • Serial IDE: Six SATA-300 ports controlled by the south bridge chip (ICH9R), supporting RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 plus two eSATA-300 ports controlled by JMicron JMB363 chip.
  • USB: Ten USB 2.0 ports (six soldered on the motherboard and four available through I/O brackets).
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394a): Two ports controlled by Agere L-FW3227 chip, one soldered on the motherboard and another available through an I/O bracket.
  • On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with Analog Devices AD1988B codec (eight channels, 24-bit resolution, up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, 92 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the inputs and 101 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the outputs). Coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs.
  • On-board video: No.
  • On-board LAN: Two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by a Marvell 88E8056 chip connected to one PCI Express x1 bus and the other controlled by a Realtek RTL8110SC chip connected to the standard PCI bus. One IEEE 802.11n/g/b WiFi access point controlled by a Ralink RT2770F chip, with two omni-directional antennas.
  • Buzzer: No.
  • Power supply required: ATX12V 2.x (24-pin), EPS12V optional.
  • Slots: Three PCI Express x16 slots (working speeds not revealed yet), two PCI Express x1 slots and two standard PCI slots.
  • Memory: Four DDR-DIMM sockets up to DDR3-1800/PC3-14400.
  • Extra features: Web browsing and Skype without entering the operating system or even without a hard disk drive attached (Express Gate), passive cooling, aluminum solid capacitors, Q-Connector for the case frontal connectors, remote control (AI Remote), on-board flash drive for ReadyBoost (32 MB controlled by Phison PS2135 chip) and EPU (Energy Processing Unit).

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Rampage Formula will be an X48-based motherboard targeted to gamers. One of the main differences between Rampage Formula and P5E3 Premium is the use of DDR2 memories, which are cheaper and we can find far more models targeted to overclocking on the market.

ASUS Rampage FormulaFigure 6: ASUS Rampage Formula.

Rampage formula will have “only” two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots truly working at x16 and supporting CrossFire, two PCI Express x1 slots and two standard PCI slots.

It will have four DDR2-DIMM sockets, supporting up to DDR2-1600 memories (in overclocking, as DDR2 standard officially only goes up to 1066 MHz).

This board will use Intel ICH9R south bridge chip and will have six SATA-300 ports supporting RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. A JMicron chip will provide one ATA-133 port, but no extra SATA or eSATA ports.

Rampage Formula will have 12 USB 2.0 ports controlled by the south bridge chip and two FireWire (IEEE1394) ports controlled by a VIA VT6308P chip, one located at the rear panel and another available through a header on the board.

It will feature two Gigabit Ethernet ports each one controlled by a Marvell 88E8056 chip, each one connected to the system through a PCI Express x1 bus.

In Figure 7, you can see the rear panel from this motherboard: PS/2 keyboard, six USB 2.0 ports, coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs, clear CMOS switch, FireWire ports and two Gigabit Ethernet ports.

ASUS Rampage FormulaFigure 7: Rear panel.

If you pay close attention you will see that this motherboard doesn’t have a PS/2 mouse connector, so you will need to use a USB mouse with this board. It also doesn’t have serial or parallel ports on the rear panel, not even through a header located on the motherboard.

Also as you can see this motherboard does not provide analog outputs for audio, only digital (SPDIF) outputs, provided by the south bridge chip. Analog audio is available through an add-on sound card (installed on a PCI Express x1 slot) called SupremeFX II that will come with the motherboard. This sound card is based on Analog Devices ADI1988B codec, producing 7.1 audio with a 92 dB signal-to-noise ratio for its inputs and 101 dB SNR for its outputs and a maximum sampling rate of 192 kHz for both inputs and outputs. This is perfect for the average user but users willing to professionally working capturing and editing analog audio (converting LP’s and tapes to CD or MP3, converting VHS to DVD, etc) will need to find a motherboard with a better input signal-to-noise ratio (at least 95 dB) or to install a better add-on sound card.

What make this product really attractive to gamers are the small details. Besides the external clear CMOS switch – which is pretty handy for hardcore overclockers – you can find on-board power and reset switches (see Figure 8) and several other features found on other “Formula” motherboards from ASUS like:

  • ASUS EPU (Energy Processing Unit): according to ASUS this feature provides up to 58% power savings when the computer is idle and up to 7% when the computer is working on its maximum performance.
  • Voltiminder LED: LEDs that indicate the voltage status of your CPU, chipset and memories using a color-code scheme.
  • External LCD POST diagnostics display: The traditional POST display allows you to know through a two-digit code what is wrong with your computer if it doesn’t turn on. The problem is that you need to check on the motherboard manual what each code means. This external LCD display shows you a message instead of a two-digit code, making it easier for you to know what is wrong if your computer is dead.
  • Several overclocking options on setup, of course.

ASUS Rampage FormulaFigure 8: On-board power and reset switches.

This motherboard will use only solid aluminum capacitors, which is great to prevent the infamous capacitor leakage problem, and ferrite coils on the voltage regulator circuit, which provide a lower power loss compared to traditional iron coils.

ASUS Rampage FormulaFigure 9: Ferrite coils and solid aluminum capacitors on the voltage regulator circuit.

[nextpage title=”Rampage Formula Main Specifications”]

ASUS Rampage Formula main features will be:

  • Socket: 775.
  • Chipset: Intel X48 Express.
  • Super I/O: Winbond W83627DHG
  • Parallel IDE: One ATA-133 port controlled by a JMicron chip.
  • Serial IDE: Six SATA-300 ports controlled by the south bridge chip (ICH9R), supporting RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10.
  • USB: 12 USB 2.0 ports (six soldered on the motherboard and four available through I/O brackets).
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394a): Two ports controlled by VIA VT6308P chip, one soldered on the motherboard and another available through an I/O bracket.
  • On-board audio: Coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs controlled by the south bridge chip. This motherboard comes with an add-on sound card called SupremeFX II, which is connected to a PCI Express x1 slot. This card is based on an Analog Devices AD1988B codec (eight channels, 24-bit resolution, up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, 92 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the inputs and 101 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the outputs).
  • On-board video: No.
  • On-board LAN: Two Gigabit Ethernet ports, controlled by two Marvell 88E8056 chips, each one connected to one PCI Express x1 bus.
  • Buzzer: No.
  • Power supply required: ATX12V 2.x (24-pin), EPS12V optional.
  • Slots: Two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots truly running at x16 and supporting CrossFire, two PCI Express x1 slots and two standard PCI slots.
  • Memory: Four DDR-DIMM sockets up to DDR2-1800/PC2-14400.
  • Extra features: Passive cooling, aluminum solid capacitors, Q-Connector for the case frontal connectors, external clear CMOS switch, on-board reset and power switches, external POST diagnostics LCD display, Voltiminder LEDs that indicate voltage status from the CPU, chipset and memories, and EPU (Energy Processing Unit).