ASUS P5W DH Deluxe (Intel 975X Express - Core 2 Ready)


P5W DH Deluxe Examined

Features

The new P5W DH Deluxe is essentially an upgraded P5WD2-E Premium motherboard (check out our review here ) when it comes to their basic features. Both are Intel 975X Express boards with the ICH7R Southbridge, native CrossFire support, Core 2 processor family support up to 1066MHz FSB and DDR2-800 capable. Take note that Core 2 processor support is applicable only for the latest 1.03 board revision of the P5WD2-E Premium (with a beta BIOS), but is native to the new P5W DH Deluxe. Both boards make use of Realtek's ALC882M 8+2 channel HD Audio CODEC with Dolby Master Studio technology and optical/coaxial S/PDIF connections. The Texas Instrument's TSB43AB22A FireWire-400 and dual Marvell 8838053 Gigabit Ethernet controllers are also nothing new, making the P5W DH Deluxe just as powerful a motherboard as the P5WD2-E Premium in terms of graphics, networking, storage and audio capabilities. So what are these upgrades that we're talking about?

Intel 975X Express promises dual x8 CrossFire capabilities. Also notice the expansion slot design and spacing.

DH for Digital Home?

You've probably noticed by now that the P5W DH Deluxe uses the ICH7R (RAID) Southbridge instead of the ICH7DH (Digital Home) variant, so the board doesn't have digital entertainment features at least not as far as Intel's Viiv standards are concerned, but the P5W DH Deluxe does come with extensive multimedia capabilities. Besides having a high-end audio and graphics setup, the Deluxe board is packaged with InterVideo's all-in-one MediaOne Gallery software.

There is also the ASUS DH Remote that comes bundled with the board. The physical remote control interfaces with a special DH Remote software and allows users to control PC functions like power on/off, sleep/wake states, launch and control media applications and its WiFi operation. There is also one button on the remote called 'Noise Off', which actually toggles all the fan connectors on the board to low speed. Not recommended if you're using automatic fan speed regulation though (ASUS Q-Fan) and it has a nasty habit of sticking a small OSD display that cannot be removed when enabled.

DH Remote setup software. Allows you to configure the media keys to work with various media player software.

Firing up your media applications. Notice the little opaque 'Noise Off' OSD to the top right? Unfortunately, that is a permanent display on your monitor whenever you activate the low fan speed feature of the DH Remote. We've found no way of disabling it short of toggling the fans back up.

Wireless LAN features a 54Mbps IEEE 802.11a/b/g WiFi-AP Solo setup controlled by a Realtek RTL8187L chipset. The WiFi card connects to the board through a USB interface in the same way it did on the M2N32-SLI Deluxe and still sports the same funky antenna. WiFi-AP Solo can be configured for both client mode or as an Access Point, plus it will continue working when the PC is in sleep mode (but not if it's shut down though).

ASUS DH Remote and WiFi-AP Solo antenna.

Remember ASUS InstantMusic feature that allowed users to play audio CD/DVDs when your PC was off? Well, the P5W DH Deluxe has a more advanced feature that works instead with mp3 and other portable media players.

The ASUS MP3-In connector turns your PC into a speaker system for portable mp3 players even after it has been shut down.

Advanced Storage

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the P5W DH Deluxe is the storage capabilities of the board. On the basic level, the ICH7R Southbridge provides up to four SATA 3.0Gbps ports, a single IDE connection and Matrix Storage Technology for RAID. The board also sports an additional Jmicron JMB363 controller for a secondary IDE and two more SATA 3.0Gbps ports, one of which is dedicated for eSATA connections.

EZ-Backup using a Silicon Image SteelVine SATA processor. To use its features, you simply plug in two SATA drives to the orage SATA ports. Take note of the two jumpers to the far right. They are used to set EZ-Backup to RAID 1, RAID 0 or JBOD modes.

Most importantly, there is a third storage related ASIC on the board, which ASUS labels as EZ-Backup. On closer inspection, it turns out to be a Silicon Image SteelVine SATA RAID processor. The SiI 4723 isn't a SATA controller by itself, but a SATA bridge instead, offering 2-port SATA 3.0Gbps RAID processing over a single SATA host and is 100% hardware controlled � No complex configuration, no messing with BIOS, no software and no drivers are needed. This allows everyday users to benefit from data protection, speed and volume management from RAID configurations without the need for manual setup or a high level of technical know-how. The SiI 4723 supports plug and play RAID 0, 1, JBOD and drive spanning configurations. Also, since it uses one SATA port from the ICH7R as its host port, it is also possible to cross configure RAID 10 on the ICH7R and SiI 4723.


Layout

The design of the P5W DH Deluxe is in between the extreme cooling of the M2N32-SLI Deluxe and the contemporary P5WD2-E Premium. As an enthusiast board, it does come with a heat-pipe cooling, but only a simple one that caters to the Northbridge. The Southbridge is passively cooled through a standard heatsink. The P5W DH Deluxe also benefits from an updated 8-phase power array (up from the standard 4-phase design on the P5WD2-E Premium), which should make the board more stable under load (and operate cooler).

975X Express Nothbridge is cooled using a heat-pipe. Take note of the 8-phase VRM surrounding the CPU socket.

ASUS then goes for staggered expansion slots, leaving plenty of room so that components generally have plenty of space between each other. There are some minor issues with connector placements like the extra JMicron SATA and IDE port locations, but nothing that should cause too much of a headache if you have proper cable management skills.

Good DIMM spacing with enough clearance to operate even with a full length graphics card. 24-pin ATX, primary IDE and floppy connectors are also located here.

Row of extra headers (FireWire, IDE, USB) 'hidden' away towards the back of the board. Regular users might not require these functions, but if you do, they might be hard to reach.

One one of two SATA ports from the JMicron controller is used for eSATA, and the second one practically inaccessible this far into the board.