You wouldn’t expect overclocking performance from the workstation-designated Asus P7F7-E WS SuperComputer motherboard, but once you dig deeper you begin to find all the goodies that have made Asus motherboards so popular with enthusiasts. Probably the single most attractive feature is the ability to run three way SLI or quad CrossfireX, but there is plenty more that makes this a premium board.
Specifications and Features
|CPU||Intel® Socket 1156 Core™ i7 Processor/Core™ i5 Processor/Core™ i3 Processor/ Pentium® desktop Processors
LGA 1156 socket for Intel® XEON 3400 series server processor
|Chipset||Intel® Ibex Peak 3450 Chipset
|Memory||6 x DIMM, Max. 16 GB, DDR3 2000(O.C.)*/1333/1066/800 ECC,Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
|Expansion Slots||2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (@ x16 or x8)
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (@ x8)
3 x PCIe x1 (@ x1)
|VGA||Multi-VGA output support:DVI-I port
Supports DVI with max. resolution 1920x 1200 @ 60Hz
Supports RGB with max. resolution 2048x 1536 @ 75 Hz
Maximum shared memory of 1748 MB
|Multi-GPU Support||Supports NVIDIA® Geforce 3 way/2 way SLI™ techonology
Supports ATI® CrossFireX™ technology, up to Quad CrossFireX™
|Storage||Intel® Ibex Peak 3450 Chipset
Marvell® 9128 PCIe SATA6Gb/s controller
|LAN||2 x Realtek 81112L Dual Gb LAN Support Teaming Technology|
|Audio||VIA VT2020 10-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Front Panel Jack-Retasking
Optical S/PDIF out ports at back I/O
|IEEE 1394||LSI FW643E-02 controller supports 1 x 1394a port(s) and 2 x 1394b port(s)|
|USB||NEC USB 3.0 controller
Intel® Ibex Peak 3450 Express Chipset
|ASUS Unique Features||ASUS Xtreme Design
ASUS Exclusive Overclocking Features
ASUS Xtreme Phase
ASUS Exclusive Features
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution
ASUS EZ DIY
|ASUS Workstation Special Features||4 PCIe x 16 slots
DDR3 ECC memory and embedded 6 memory slots support
G.P. Diagnosis Card bundled
Quick Gate:2 vertical USB 2.0 on board
ASUS SASsaby series Cards support
ASUS WS Diag. LED
ASUS WS Heartbeat
|Back Panel I/O Ports||1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Combo port
1 x DVI
1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical)
2 x LAN(RJ45) port
10 -Channel Audio I/O
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
1 x IEEE1394a
2 x IEEE1394b
|Internal I/O Connectors||24-pin EATX Power connector
8-pin EATX +12V Power connector
4pin EZ_PLUG Power connector
CPU fan with PWM control
Chassis fan1 with Q-fan control
Chassis fan2 with Q-fan control
Chassis fan3 with Q-fan control
CD audio in
1 x COM port connector
3 x USB connectors support additional 6 USB ports
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
S/PDIF Out header
1 x MemOK! Button
20-pinfront panel connector
|BIOS||64 Mb Flash ROM , AMI BIOS, Green, PnP, DMI v2.0, ACPI v2.0a, SMBIOS v 2.6|
|Manageability||WOL/WOR by PME, WfM 2.0, DMI 2.0, WOL by PME, WOR by PME, PXE|
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
The important features to note are the SATA 6.0 GB/s, USB 3.0 support and the four 16x PCI-E slots for graphics cards. Notice that these slots, along with the 3 PCI-E 1x, leave no room for normal PCI slots however this leaves a lot of real estate on the board for multi-GPU setups.
For overclocking, they incorporated 16 phase power filtering on the CPU and 3 phase power filtering on the IMC: most other boards only have 4 to 8 phases of power filtering. They also have a copper heat pipe connecting the fanless heat sinks on the South Bridge, North Bridge, and power MOSFETs.
The included GP+ diagnostics card is great for benching because it contains the power and reset buttons as well as the boot code LEDs. I’d rather these be included on the main board, but having them as an add-on card is better than nothing. If you are going to be editing videos, you’ll appreciate the dual 1394b ports on the rear I/O panel. I also like how Asus included two regular USB ports near the SATA ports which allow access when benching like front-panel ports on a regular case.
Compared to a normal P55 motherboard, the main physical difference is the support for ECC RAM. This type of RAM is typically found in expensive servers where handling massive amounts of data without corruption is mission critical. For the majority of us, regular non-ECC desktop RAM is more than capable of handling our data and overclocking needs. I’d imagine that it is possible to overclock ECC RAM, but it doesn’t make sense to increase the strain on those chips if you are paying extra for the guarantee of stability and correctness. Another side to the RAM that sets this board apart is that there are 6 DIMM slots, instead of the usual 4 that are on most dual channel boards. This allows for more options to fit your budget, like adding in another pair of 1 GB modules if you happen to already have two pairs lying around instead of needing to buy 2 GB modules to increase the amount of RAM.
In the box
- 1×2 port USB 2.0 module
- 2x SATA 6.0 GB/s signal cables
- 2x SATA power cables
- 6x SATA 3.0 GB/s signal cables
- 1x COM port cable
- 1x I/O Shield
- 1x Q-Connector (USB and 1394 panel)
- 1x GP Diagnosis card
- 1x SLI Bridge
- 1x 3-way SLI Bridge
- 1x Software DVD
- 1x Manual
The BIOS was very easy to work with as the majority of the overclocking options were located on one page and did not require a lot of scrolling. The only settings important from an overclocking standpoint that are not on this page are the CPU Features – and even then, Asus has carried the Intel SpeedStep Tech option over to this Ai Tweaker tab for easier access. The motherboard itself has an attractive color scheme and the extra LEDs (like the Heartbeat LEDs around the Asus logo) add some nice visuals. The diagnostic LEDs (CPU, RAM, VGA, and HDD) are also useful when pinpointing a problem, but most of the time they are just there for looks.
Typical to several Asus boards, the software CD include utilities like TurboV, T-Probe, and EPU-6. Overclockers will find TurboV the most useful for their cause. It moves most of the overclocking options from the BIOS to a nice interface in Windows so you can test new settings without rebooting. There are several automatic overclocking tools in this utility, too, if you are feeling lazy.
I must admit, I did like how CPU Level Up didn’t just show you a percentage of overclock or assign random names to the profiles. Instead, they labeled the levels by what processor it would equate to, like step 3 on the i3 530 (2.93 GHz stock) would be similar to a Core i5 661 at 3.33 GHz. T-Probe is a little boring since it just shows the temperature of the power phases and lets you select between power saving and maximum power. EPU-6 is a little more interesting, but again is for saving power, not overclocking necessarily. If you want to underclock, you can actually do it very easily with this application.
This board also has Express Gate which is a tiny Linux based OS that can be loaded before the computer fully boots to quickly allow you to access the internet. I’ve always thought this was an interesting option as I’m a Linux fan, but I’ve never actually used it on my own computers. I’ve also seen the MemOK! button included on other high end Asus motherboards and can be useful when installing new sticks and getting the board to recognize their timings correctly.
If you happen to be running extreme cooling (liquid nitrogen, for example) and you reach the maximum amount of voltage the BIOS will let you, then you’ll be happy to see the overvoltage switches at the top of the board, above the RAM slots. Most overclockers will never need to touch these, but they are there for the select few who need to pump up to 2.1v to the CPU, 1.9V to the IMC, and up to 2.5V to the RAM. When turned off, the BIOS can only set 1.7V, 1.7V, and 2.0V maximum, respectively.
For the performance tests, I’ll be using an Intel Core i3 530 processor (2.93 GHz) loaned to me by our very own Brollocks (thanks buddy!).
- Motherboard: Asus P7F7-E WS SuperComputer
- RAM: CSX Diablo 2x 1 GB DDR3-2000
- Processor: Intel Core i3 530
- Heatsink: Zalman CNPS9900
- Power supply: NZXT HALE90 850W
- Graphics Card: ATI HD 5550 DDR5
When I was testing, I hit a BCLK wall at 220 MHz and a RAM wall at 5x 200 MHz (2000 MHz DDR). I could boot fine at 215 MHz BCLK and I could run memtest86+ for hours at 5×195. No matter what I did with ratios and voltages I could not get past these frequencies. I also found that the Core i3 processor did better with lower RAM frequency paired with tighter timings than higher speed and looser timings. Because of the 220 MHz BCLK wall, I was only able to max the processor out at 22×215 MHz, which is still a decent 62% overclock.
To compare, I’m using scores from hokiealumnus’ Asus Crosshair Formula IV review and my Biostar TA890FXE review. Both of those reviews used the Athlon II X4 640 processor. You can see that the Core i3 530 is mostly better at single threaded applications while the true quad-core in the Athlon II wins a few of the multi-threaded applications. The Core i3 is better at single threaded applications because it’s clock speed is higher (4.6 GHz vs. 3.8 GHz). The multiple thread tests prove that Hyperthreading does help but is not a true replacement for more physical cores.
If you have the money to drop $290 on this board and fill it with ECC RAM, a Xeon Processor, and four GPUs then you could quite possibly have yourself a super computer. For the rest of us, whether using LN2 or air cooling, there are certainly less expensive options that will perform equally as well as the P7F7-E WS SuperComputer in benchmarks. The extra RAM slots available, generous amount of space for multi-GPU setups, and the offering of Asus’s full software toolset set this motherboard apart from many in its price range and may be the most important factors in your buying decisions. For what it is, the motherboard performs well and does everything you’d expect it to do. Because of that, I’m marking this motherboard Overclockers Approved. Thanks to Asus for sending us the board to review.