Asus P6T Deluxe

Overall Score

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Today we take a look at the Asus P6T Deluxe from Asus.  We at XCPUS.com know that these boards have been available for some time, but we hope that this review, and the X58 Roundups to follow, offer more information about the boards contained in each review than previously available articles and reviews.  A main focus on our X58 motherboard reviews is how each board works with synthetic and realworld benchmarks, like many other’s available.  We also take a look at multi gpu scaling on each board on an individual basis.  The information gathered in each review done this week will be collected and analyzed into a comprehensive review at the end of the week.

While reading through this review, please take note that some of the drivers used in each test might not be the most current available.  The reason being is that some of the boards had to be returned or let go and our time with each was limited.  To keep the test results consistent, we used the same setup throughout each motherboard review.  Even though the reviews are being posted this week, the testing began about a month ago, or before catalyst 8.12 drivers were available.  When comparing multi gpu scaling we keep the results within each company, i.e. ATI/AMD and nVIDIA, so no comparison between which card(s) is better or worse.  Our goal is to give you the results and let you decide which hardware you are going to pair with which motherboard based on our reviews and your personal preference.

Future motherboard reviews will be updated with current drivers and although the results will be compared to results obtained with older drivers, we will adjust the results previously found by using nVIDIA and AMD/ATI’s projected increase in performance based on the newer drivers.  Our X58 roundup will include all motherboards reviewed within the week specified.

Now that we’ve given you are reasoning behind this review, let us take a look at the first motherboard in this weeks roundup.

 

The Asus P6T Deluxe motherboard, priced at $299.99, was the first one out of the gates when Core i7 was released.  This motherboard carries on with Asus’ excellent quality and attention to detail as far as motherboard layout and component choices are concerned.  If you are purchasing this motherboard, please remember to check the BIOS that is installed.  If it is the release BIOS, you will need to flash the BIOS first thing in order for this motherboard to work properly.  You find the most recent BIOS release for the Asus P6T Deluxe here.  We will show you how to flash the BIOS on the P6T before we launch in to testing.

Asus has historically chosen color schemes for their motherboards that do not overwhelm ones senses.  With its modest looks, the P6T does not break this trend.  The overall layout is done rather well.  If you are using dual slot video cards you will lose one PCI slot on the top card and the third PCIe x16 slot will also be useless.  Other than that, you have access to all SATA ports with little to no difficulty.

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The retail packaging is very appealing.  The blue P6T Deluxe box is littered with features and specifications.  

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On the inside, the motherboard is protected very well in a plastic casing and anti static bag.  The accessories are plentyful.  One major complaint we do have with this board is the lack of some kind of LCD poster, whether it be located on the motherboard or as an accessorie much like the LCD poster you get with the Rampage II Extreme.

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As far as the specifications go, here is a list of the most important ones:

  • CPU support for Core i7 and Core i7 Extreme processors, s1366
  • up to 12GB of DDR3 memory with support of single, dual and triple channel memory kits
  • supports Intel Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP)
  • up to 6.4GT/s QuickPath Interconnect
  • SLI, including Quad SLI, support and CrossfireX compatibility

For a complete list of specifications and technical information, please visit here and download the PDF manual.  

 

Asus uses the AMI BIOS on the P6T Deluxe motherboard.  The Main menu lists date/time, and SATA HDD information as well as a Storage Configuration submenu.  In the Storage Configuration submenu you can set boot device prority and which HDD you want to boot from.

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Rather than listing all the other common and less interesting submenus, we will be focusing on how Asus prioritizes the overclocking menus on the P6T Deluxe.  Under the AI Tweaker menu you find the major overclocking settings.  Here you can adjust the Ai Overclock Tuner to allow for manual overclocking or preset overclocked settings.  All the other CPU and DRAM specific settings are located in this menu.  What is nice about both Asus boards we are reviewing today is that the DRAM Frequency is adjusted based on the other settings you have previously changed.  So, if you change the BCLK Frequency, the DRAM Frequency BIOS setting will show the resulting overclock on memory.

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The DRAM Timing Control submenu has every DRAM setting you could imagine listed.  Asus organizes the timings settings into information categories to make adjusting lower level settings less confusing.

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The other important menu we want to pay close attention to is the Advanced menu.  Under the Advanced menu you can select the CPU Configuration submenu where you will be able to adjust what CPU settings you want to enable/disable.  You can also adjust the CPU Ratio here as well as in the Ai Tweaker menu.

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If you do not know how to flash the BIOS of a motherboard, do not worry.  Asus makes it real easy for users to perform the update.  There is one way we will recommend to update the BIOS on an Asus motherboard.  Use the EZFlash utility that is located in the BIOS configurations.  To enter the BIOS menu hit Delete while the motherboard is booting up for the first time.  Once you are in the BIOS menu, TAB over to the TOOLS menu.  In the TOOLS menu will see the EZ Flash 2.0 utility.  Start it up and insert a flash drive with the newest BIOS for the P6T Deluxe on it into a USB port.  The EZ Flash Utility will automatically recognize the drive and locate the file.  Follow the onscreen instructions to flash the BIOS.  If you need more help on this ask us in the forums or visit www.asus.com for instructions on how to flash the BIOS.

One interesting aspect of the P6T Deluxe is the very simple yet useful Express Gate OS that is preinstalled on a small SSD located on the motherboard.  Asus’ Express Gate boots rather quickly, in about 5 secs.  Once you get into Express Gate, you are required to run through a simple setup and then you are in.  It is great for browsing the internet right out of the box and a few other useful things.  This is not a fully capable OS and is intended as a way to get you right on the World Wide Web.

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On hand for testing we have the following hardware:

Core i7 Setup

  • Intel Core i7 940 B0 ES
  • Asus P6T Deluxe
  • Corsair DDR3 1333 1GB x 3 DIMMS
  • 3 x Western Digital Raptors, 74GB each in RAID 0
  • PC Power and Cooling 1KW SR and Silencer 750W
  • 3 x eVGA GTX 280’s
  • 2 x ATI Radeon 4870X2’s
  • Cooling: Stock Intel fan

Socket 775 Setup

  • Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650
  • Asus Striker II Extreme
  • DFI Lanparty Jr P45 T2RS
  • OCZ DDR2 800 1GB x 2 DIMMs
  • Patriot Viper Series DDR3 1600 LL

In order to test the hardware you need to run some benchmarks.  For all games tested today we will be running them at a screen resolution of 1680×1050.  There are two reasons for using that resolution.  The first is that we are currently limited by the monitor on the testbed, and the second is that most gamers use this resolution or lower.  Multi GPU setups work great on large monitors but they also work really well on 22" and smaller ones.  It is also a great feeling to be able to run Crysis, or any game, at maxed out settings!

For the software side of our test setup, we will be using the following programs:

Games

  • Unreal Tournament 3 with maxed out in game settings
  • Crysis with maxed out in game settings and AA set to 8x
  • GRID with maxed out in game settings and AA set to 8x on the 4870X2’s and 16XQCSAA on the GTX 280’s
  • FarCry 2 with maxed out in game settings and AA set to 8x

Synthetic Testing

  • Sisoft Sandra Processor Arithmetic and Multimedia tests
  • wPrime 32M
  • SuperPi mod v1.5 1M
  • 3Dmark Vantage
  • 3Dmark06
  • Everest Cach and Memory Benchmark

The first tests we ran on the P6T Deluxe are 3dmark Vantage and 3dmark06.  We are using the s775 system for comparison in each individual motherboard review and will be comparing all boards together in the roundup at the end of the week.

3Dmark06 and 3Dmark Vantage are great videocard benchmarking programs.  These programs are mainly used in the overclocking world.  A mixture of CPU tests and graphics tests are scored and combined to give you a total score.  Vantage is Futuremarks latest test suite and is geared towards Directx 10 and Windows Vista only.

Our first comparison is designed to look at the scaleability of nVIDIA’s GTX 280 cards in single card and SLI configurations as well as ATI’s 4870X2 in single card and dual 4870X2 CrossFireX configurations.  Stock CPU and GPU speeds were used for all of these comparisons.

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The Core i7 940 manages to outmuscle the QX9650 by 809 3Dmarks, an 18% advantage.

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In 3Dmark Vantage we see a difference of 5675 3Dmarks, or an increase of 45% over the QX9650.

There is no doubt that Nehalem is faster clock for clock when comparing the CPU results in 3Dmark06 and Vantage.  But does Nehalem impact the GPU in both single card or multi-GPU setups?  Let’s find out…

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With SLI utilitzing dual GTX 280s, we can see a noticeable increase in going from one card to two on the X58 platform compared to the 790i.  The increase is not earth-shattering, but nearly 2000 3Dmarks is nothing to sneeze at.  And the X58 boasts an 1100 3Dmark point advantage on the single card front over the 790i platform.  That’s an 11% advantage in SLI mode, and a 7% advantage in single card mode.  Multi-GPU scaling is also better on the X58 platform.  Going from one to two cards on the X58 system yields an advantage of 9% almost double the 5.5% increase seen with the 790i platform.

With the 4870X2’s you actually see a slight drop in 3Dmarks when going from one 4870X2 card to two cards on the X58 platform.  This result is quite surprising and we hope represents a driver glitch for the CrossFireX multi-GPU implementation.  What is nice to see is the improvement in the overall score on the X58 compared to the P45 system.  On a single 4870X2 you see a nice jump of 13.5% on the X58 system compared to the P45.

[img]3dmark vantage scaling.jpg[/img]

In 3Dmark Vantage, the difference in scaling is much larger.  Here we can see that 3Dmark Vantage takes advantage, pun intended, of multi-GPU setups much more efficiently than 3Dmark06.  On the single card side, the GTX 280 sees no improvements, but the 4870X2 sees a nice increase of 14% on the X58 platform.  When we move from a single GTX 280 to two, the performance increase is 63.5%.  With the 4870X2 , moving from one to two cards yields a 29% improvement.  Compared to the 790i and P45 scaling results of 48% and 21% respectively, the X58 gives you an additional improvement of 15.5% on the 280’s and 8% on the 4870X2s. 

The gains from the X58 platform range from moderate to substantial, but the most important finding is that the X58 platform out-performs the older platforms in both 3Dmark06 and 3Dmark Vantage in just about every configuration.

The first game we decided to take a look at was UT3.  UT3 has been around for awhile now, but still offers stellar graphics, physx enhancement, and is absolutely a blast to play.  The physx side will not be in this article, but results will be provided on the impact of GPU performance in later reviews.

[img]UT3 X58 vs 790i_P45.jpg[/img]
 
A single 4870X2 on the X58 platform was 37% slower than on the P45.  We ran the test a few times to make sure we weren’t doing anything different but we came up with the same results.  As you can see, there is a 20fps advantage on the X58 with dual 4870X2’s.  There is also a significant increase of 50fps when moving from one to two 4870X2’s on the X58 system.  The reason for the substantial loss of performance when running a single 4870X2 on the X58 platform is currently unknown, but our suspicions are that it is driver-related.  We will monitor the situation and report further developments.
The GTX 280’s offer similar gains in UT3.  A single GTX 280 gives you a 36fps increase over the 790i platform.  SLI GTX 280’s shows a similar 38fps increase over the older system. 
 
GRID is an excellent racing game delivering beautiful graphics.  For this test we used all in game settings set to max with AA set to 8XMSAA on the 4870X2’s and 16XQCSAA on the GTX 280’s.  Those are the max AA settings available on each card.
 
[img]GRID X58 vs 790i_P45.jpg[/img]
With these results, you can conclude that Core i7 and the X58 motherboards have little impact on overall performance compared to both the 790i and P45 systems.  Scaling on the GTX 280’s is along the same lines as UT3.  Moving to a dual card GTX 280 solution gives you an average of 117fps, almost double the 60fps on a single GTX 280.  The same results can be seen on the 790i platform.  A single 4870X2 offers similar performance to a dual GTX 280 setup.  Moving to dual 4870X2’s yields an overall framerate increase of 11fps, hardly worth the additional cost of a 4870X2 if you are planning on playing only this game and no others.
Crysis has long been a hardware hog, and even today with the mighty 4870X2’s and GTX 280’s you cannot max out AA at resolutions of 1680×1050 and above.  8x AA is playable at 1680×1050 and the more gpu’s you can throw at it, the better.  That’s an 8x AA setting with all other in game settings set to Very High.  In our opinion, Crysis still offers the most visually stunning graphics to date, regardless of whether or not it was coded poorly.
[img]Crysis X58 vs 790i_P45.jpg[/img]
Looking at the results, you can see that moving from one GTX 280 to two of them yields the greatest gains on either the X58, 790i or P45 systems.  There is a very small 2fps increase that the X58 system offers over the 790i in either single card or SLI setups.  Moving to the 4870X2’s you can see that going from 2 GPUs to 4 GPUs offers a 15fps increase and much more playable framerates.
FarCry 2 was the long anticipated sequel to FarCry.  It has been received with mixed reviews.  Some reviewers and gamers have claimed it has unbelievable graphics while others have simply not been impressed.  In our experience with the game, FarCry 2 offers beautiful graphics and stunning scenary that is playable at decent in game settings on many video cards, whether single or multi-GPU solutions.  All in-game settings were set to MAX, including AA which was set to 8x on both ATI and nVIDIA setups.
[img]FarCry2 X58 vs 790i_P45.jpg[/img]
Just as we observed in Crysis, the performance when moving from one GTX 280 to two yields almost double the framerate you get on a single GTX 280.  On the 4870X2 the difference is less dramatic, but the results are still impressive.  An increase of 19fps is a tremendous step up from a single 4870X2.  When comparing the results of the X58 set up to the 790i and P45 systems, you can see a small, but still significant increase across the board in fps.  The only instance where there is no difference is on a single 4870X2.

In our synthetic testing we will first take a look at wPrime 32M and SuperPi 1M.  wPrime is basically the same as SuperPi in that both programs are aimed at producing the number Pi to a certain amount of decimal points.  The difference is that wPrime is multithreaded while SuperPi runs only one instance on a single thread.

[img]wPrime_superPi.jpg[/img]

In wPrime 32M we see the amazing power of Nehalem and 8 threads.  The Core i7 940 is able to complete wPrime 32M 35% faster than a QX9650 clocked 70MHz faster.  While the single-threaded performance noted in the SuperPi 1M results are not quite as impressive, the Core i7 940 still managed to complete the test almost 2 seconds faster than the QX9650, a full 20% faster.

Moving on to Sisoft Sandra, we are looking at the CPU Arithmetic and Multi Media performance tests.

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[img]sisoft_multi media.jpg[/img]

Glancing at the Arithmetic tests, we can see an increase of 40-56% over previous generation architectures in Dhrystone and Whetstone test results.  The Multi Media tests result in a gain of 6.5 and 20% respectively with the Core i7 940 over the QX9650.

After taking a run through some synthetic CPU tests we can now move on to some memory benchmarks and see what kind, if any, performance gains are to be had with Core i7 and X58.  We will also explore the increased bandwidth of moving from single to triple channel on the X58 platform.

Let’s look at latency on the X58 compared to the 790i and P45 systems.  Please note that the P45 system uses dual channel DDR2 memory at 800MHz while the 790i uses dual channel DDR3 at 1600MHz.  For these tests we used Everest.

[img]Comparison of Latency Across Platforms.jpg[/img]

With Intel moving the memory controller on the CPU die, we are greated with terrific latency results on the triple channel DDR3 X58 setup that scales as the DDR3 frequency climbs.

 

Taking a closer look at latency on the X58, we can see the performance increases or decreases as related to the number of dimms used and the speed at which the memory is run.

[img]Latency on the X58.jpg[/img]

The above graph is a little busy, but we start to see some patterns emerge as we increase in the number of DIMMs used.  Going from single to dual to triple channel configuration results in increased memory latency.

Moving on to read, write and copy performance, we can see the benefits of moving beyond 1 dimm.  What is interesting is the performance similarity of read, write, and copy at dual and triple channel settings.  Of course, triple channel offers more memory bandwidth, but dual channel memory will suffice for the vast majority of users out there.

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[img]single_dual_triple_write.jpg[/img]

[img]single_dual_triple_copy.jpg[/img]

The good news is that if you have a dual channel DDR3 memory kit on a previous generation platform, you will see a noticeable difference when using it on an X58 platform.  The need to move to triple channel is not really necessary unless you feel inclined to squeeze every last percentage of performance out of the system, but you should know in advance that you diminishing returns for your investment.

Finally, we wanted to compare the old gear to the new gear.

[img]triple channel vs dual channel.jpg[/img]

Performance on a triple channel memory system is nearly double that of the aging 790i and P45 systems running dual channel configurations.

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The conclusion for this review is that the Asus P6T Deluxe is a very solid performer.  Some of the information in this review you might have seen in our Nehalem article since this is the board we used to test the initial release of Core i7.  As of now, we have seen some very impressive results compared to the s775 systems used for comparison in this review.  One minor or major drawback we have seen in the P6T Deluxe concerns the SAS RAID controller.  You cannot boot from the SAS RAID array while the Intel RAID is being used.  Actually, you can only view a single SAS device from windows with the Intel RAID controller enabled.  The ability to have both recognized and enabled is possible as seen in the workstation P6T motherboard, so Asus can do it, they just haven’t enabled it.  We have contacted Asus about this issue and hopefully await a BIOS fix.

We are not going to give out an award for this motherboard just yet.  There are 3 others in the X58 roundup that all offer different pricing and other tweaks and gadgets that you might find more or less useful.  What we will say is that Asus continues to produce quality motherboards that perform up to spec.  Stay tuned to the Front Page for the next article on eVGA’s X58 motherboard!!

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