Intel P67 Roundup - The Mainstream Invasion



Among the manufacturers that have released Sandy Bridge motherboards so far, ASUS is probably one of the more enthusiastic ones. We counted eight models in its P8P67 series, ranging from mATX to full ATX. And we haven't even started on its Republic of Gamers or TUF series yet. Or its H67 motherboards. The board we were recommended for this mainstream roundup, the ASUS P8P67 (without any suffixes) is the basic P67 ATX model from the vendor.

Even then, it's not exactly short of features, as besides the standard ones inherited from the P67 chipset, we found extra controllers that give more USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps ports. There are also the numerous ASUS proprietary features like its MemOK, EPU, TPU and a host of other acronyms that may or may not be useful. There's also support for a CrossFireX setup, though not for NVIDIA's SLI. However, with the minimal four PCIe lanes of bandwidth (and it's shared among other onboard devices like the second USB controller) for that second PCIe x16 slot, we don't think ASUS is expecting its buyers to have dual graphics cards.

As you can expect from a top tier vendor like ASUS, the components are among the best quality and with the new P8P67 series, ASUS is going with a digital power delivery design. With 12 power phases, it's more than most users will ever need, though the best part is that most of the work is done automatically if you're not the overclocking type. The new feature for this series is the integration of a Bluetooth wireless module, so that users can connect to the PC using a Bluetooth device. You'll need to install the application before it can be used as intended, though personally, we aren't big fans of this extra.

Keeping to its blue color scheme, the ASUS P8P67 reminds us a lot of the manufacturer's P55 series. This 'plain' P8P67, without any suffixes, is the most vanilla and basic of its ATX based P67 motherboards.

ASUS too has kept with both PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports. The new addition is its BT GO! feature, a Bluetooth module that allows functionality like the wireless transfer of files. There's a total of eight USB 2.0/3.0 ports, with the two blue ones being 3.0 capable. FireWire too maintains a spot, though there's only optical S/PDIF output.

Besides the four light blue SATA 3Gbps ports from the P67 chipset, the two gray ones here are SATA 6Gbps ports from the same chipset and the darker, navy blue SATA ports are 6Gbps ones from the additional Marvell controller.

ASUS has as usual gone with its single-lock DIMM slots, instead of having retention clips on both ends. Up to 32GB of DDR3 memory is supported, with a maximum overclockable frequency of 2400MHz.

Layout-wise, we encountered nothing that flagged our attention. There's plenty of PCB space and the PCIe graphics slots are spaced accordingly to support dual-slot graphics cards. The SATA ports too are aligned properly and located at the edge of the board and are unlikely to conflict with any cables or other expansion cards. The same can be said of board headers e.g. the USB headers or the front panel headers. There are no onboard power and reset buttons if you're wondering.

With a listed price of around US$155 (online retailers), the ASUS P8P67 is actually very competitively priced. The local retail price of S$279 unfortunately is less attractive, but given the prices quoted for its direct competitors, we weren't surprised that ASUS is able to get away with that price tag. For the features that we have seen so far, this ASUS P8P67 board is not a bad deal.

While there are two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots for graphics cards, and this board supports up to quad CrossFireX configs, the second, black slot runs at x4 and shares bandwidth with the two PCIe x1 slots and one of the two USB 3.0 controller. It's certainly a dampener if you're thinking of dual graphics cards, for which we would suggest investing in a higher-end model with more dedicated bandwidth.

There are two such NEC 3.0 controllers onboard, giving this board a potential four USB 3.0 ports. Of course, only two are at the rear, the other two are present as onboard headers and share bandwidth with the second PCIe 2.0 x16 slot.

Some of the onboard modules on the ASUS P8P67; note that FireWire (VIA VT 6308P) is still supported.

Two of ASUS' unique technologies, MemOK! and EPU. The former to ensure the best memory compatibility and settings and the latter to regulate the power consumption for higher power efficiency.

Besides the front panel connectors, we were rather surprised to find a COM port header.

While the passive heatsinks near the CPU socket are low enough, we found that the mounting hole at the top right corner in this image is a bit too close to the heatsinks. It makes it slightly harder to remove the CPU cooler.

ASUS has an EFI BIOS for its new P67 boards and from what we have seen, it's setting a high standard. The addition of mouse support has made it more convenient and user-friendly, but we were more pleased with how responsive the interface was. A reason could be that ASUS did not go overboard with the fancy icons and animations. There's also an auto-overclocking tool included, besides the usual BIOS flashing utility and of course, it was rather straightforward to increase the multipliers with our unlocked Core i7-2600K processor. One feature that didn't make the cut is ASUS' Linux-based, quick boot interface, ExpressGate. Perhaps ASUS feels the new generation hardware should boot systems fast enough to not warrant including this facility any longer.

 We have seen this very polished ASUS EFI BIOS on its Deluxe edition of this P67 series. It's similar on this non-Deluxe edition, with a responsive and easy to use interface. The relevant info can be taken in at a glance with the EZ Mode, while advanced users can play with more settings in the Advanced Mode.