ASUS P5E3 Deluxe (Intel X38)

Express Gate

Linux on a Motherboard!

At this point, the ASUS P5E3 Deluxe has already shaped up to be a pretty powerful motherboard, but theres more. The primary reason why this board will stand out among its peers is the Express Gate feature. What is Express Gate? Based on DeviceVM's Splashtop, it is basically an embedded lightweight Linux window manager integrated into the POST sequence of the board. The ASUS P5E3 Deluxe has the privilege to be the first and only (for now) product to feature the Splashtop desktop.

Slotted between the expansion slots, this is the little flash module that stores the Express Gate installation.

When you boot up the P5E3 Deluxe, the Express Gate menu pops up and you have the choice of loading normally into your installed OS (Microsoft Windows most likely) or enter the Splashtop interface. This is amazing because Express Gate (aka Splashtop) allows you to read email, check the latest news, chat with your friends and browse the latest YouTube videos, all in a few seconds flat, even faster than Windows can resume from suspend or sleep modes most of the time. You don't even need to worry about software installation or drivers as you'll find that audio, video and even LAN and WiFi are all setup by default. You may have to configure your network parameters for the first time, but Express Gate is more or less an instant-on environment. We were quite impressed that it automatically configured our office LAN and we basically didn't have to touch a thing apart from the power button to start using it.

This is the next screen you'll see after POST, letting you start go straight away into Splashtop or continue loading your regular OS.

Setting up your network is about the only thing you need to do within Splashtop before using it. And it can work with both LAN ports, WiFi on the board as well as connect via DSL through an Ethernet based modem.

Now before you start getting any ideas into your head, let's clarify that Splashtop is not an OS replacement. You cannot play games on Splashtop, you cannot install software, you cannot even save any files, work or access storage drives through Splashtop. It is purely a self-contained window manager running off a flash chip to enable web productivity – nothing more. What software is currently installed is all that can be used. The upside to this though, is that Splashtop is as secure as it gets.

So what do we need Splashtop for if it cannot do anything except surf the Net? For starters, surfing the Net can mean different things to different people. Splashtop has been designed to take advantage of the Web and the increasing Web-based applications and productivity suites. These days, one can virtually take their whole office on-line and work entirely through the Internet, from information creation to storage. Splashtop currently provides two tools: Skype and a Firefox-based browser to start off. The presence of Skype pretty much explains itself as a powerful communication tool, be it personal VoIP or conferencing. The Splashtop browser is the only other application you need. Through the browser, you can access full on-line productivity suites such as Google Docs or Zoho. Email, calendar, scheduling applications are all available online as well. Need instant messaging outside of Skype? There is the online multi-protocol IM tool called meebo that can be used. Adobe Flash is also natively supported so you can enjoy online entertainment such as YouTube.

Browser and Skype are the tools available in the Splashtop interface. Additionally, all other tools can be accessed through the Web, such as meebo for instant messaging, or Google docs for authoring.

Basically, if all you really do is surf the Net, or if you're in a hurry and need a quick 'fix', you can be up and running in 5-seconds from a cold boot. You save time and power, as there really isn't any need to fully boot up into Windows in these situations. Of course, being unable to save anything locally or install software updates can be prohibitive, but the practical and functional usage of Splashtop as an everyday tool is incredible and like we said at the beginning of this article, Express Gate will rock your world.