ASUS P5WD2 Premium & Intel 920 Processor

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Review – Peter Wick

Today is Part One of a two part series on the vastly popular ASUS P5WD2 Premium motherboard and the Intel 920 dual core processor. In this review we will be looking at baseline performance numbers for these two pieces of hardware. While most of you have heard of ASUS and some of you are familiar with this mother board, we plan to take this review to the next level. In Part Two of this review we will see what the 920 is capable of at subzero temps, and what it really takes to make this combo fly.

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MB & CPU Specifications

The ASUS mother board is a white box version, so we won’t be seeing any of the fancy boxes or extras that it comes with. If you buy the retail version, you can expect a slew of cables, a backplate, manual, some software and driver CDs, and a few breakout connectors for extra firewire, USB ports, and a game port.

The Intel CPU on the other hand is a retail box version. For this first round of testing we will be utilizing the stock cooler, which is more than adequate to keep this dual core cool at stock speeds.

ASUS P5WD2 Premium

  • Intel 955X chipset
  • Intel LGA775 Pentium 4 CPU
  • Dual-Core CPU Support
  • Native DDR2 800 Support
  • Universal PCI-E Slot
  • AI NOS ™ Overclocking
  • Precision Tweaker

Intel 920 Processor

  • 65 nm, LGA775 Architecture
  • 2 x 2MB L2 Cache
  • Clock Speed 2.80 GHz
  • Front Side Bus 800 MHz Quad Pumped
  • Dual Core
  • Supports Intel Virtualization Technology
  • Intel EMT64T Enabled
  • Execute Disable Bit

System Specs

  • ASUS P5WD2 Premium
  • Intel 920 Processor
  • Abit x700 PCI-e Video Card
  • PQI PC5400 2 x 1GB DDR2
  • OCZ Power Stream 520w Power Supply
  • Western Digital 74 GB Raptor Hard Drive
  • NEC 3520A DVD Burner

MB Pictures & Overview

Overall the layout on this motherboard makes it very easy to work with. Some thought on the part of the ASUS engineers definitely went into this board, including some nice touches such as the rounded corners and a good amount of ‘keep out’ space around the socket. While there are a few low profiles capacitors that are near the socket, they are low enough so as not to interfere even with largest heatsinks, such as the Thermalright XP-120 and the Scythe Ninja.

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The main IDE connector is on the side of the motherboard, so those of you that like to hide cables will find that it is rather easy to do so. Speaking of drive connectors, this motherboard sure packs them on. You will find an additional two ATA connectors powered by an ITE IDE controller which supports an additional four devices. In addition to the ATA connectors you will find a total of six serial ATA connectors, five internal and one external. Four of these connectors are powered by the powerful Intel ICH7R southbridge supporting RAID 0/1/5/10. The other two are driven by Silicon Image 3132 controller.

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Power from this MB comes from a 24 pin connector as well as an 8 pin connector, an additional 4 pin Molex connector sits on the MB. While ASUS calls this an EZ Plug connector and overlooks mentioning what it is for in the manual, one can guess that it is most likely for provided a little extra juice when running two ATI cards in CrossFire mode.

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BIOS

ASUS opted to use the AMI BIOS on this MB which can be found on many of their other products. It can get confusing at times with all the different options, but a quick read over the manual quickly gets you up to speed. Every feature that an Intel user could ask for, and then some, are offered up in this BIOS.

The first screen covers the basics, such as drives connected, system time, and language options:

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From there we move onto the Advanced screen which covers overclocking and other fun stuff. The main sections that overclockers will be interested in can be found in the JumperFree and Chipset sections. Let’s take a closer look at them:

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ASUS JumperFree Configuration contains all of the frequency and voltage settings that you will need to really make this combo scream. As you can see we get the ability to manually set front side bus frequency (dubbed CPU frequency by ASUS) and DRAM frequency, which gives us the ability to choose between options ranging between 1:1 and 1:2.

Options exist for FSB/PCI ratio speed, which is best left locked at 33 MHz, unless you enjoy corrupting all the data on your hard drives. You can also tweak the PCI-e bus for your video card – while some have rumored that a slight performance gain can be achieved, I have yet to see any outstanding results from increasing the speed, so with that said, I will leave it at 100 MHz for all tests.

We also get to control all the voltage settings from the BIOS as well as ASUS’s overclocking tool, AiBooster, which we will look at later:

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A quick look at the options provided for the chipset and memory timings:

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The Power section doesn’t contain too much worth mentioning, but peaking into the hardware monitor gives us a view of fan speeds, and voltage monitoring:

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Only two sections left. The Boot section is pretty straight forward – set the boot order for your hard drives and set the order for all the other devices in your system. ASUS states that this board is capable of booting off USB devices, including the compact flash drive connected to my computer, but I have yet to verify:

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Once you make all your settings, and get everything dialed in, all that is left to do is Exit:

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CONTINUED page 3…

AiBooster

AiBooster is a handy application that comes on the driver disk provided in the box from ASUS. It allows you to monitor temperatures and voltages, as well as clock speeds and fan speeds.

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By clicking on the little wrench icon, a drop down menu of all the overclocking options are now available to you in Windows. For some reason, certain jumps in front side bus result in the program prompting you for a reboot; while not a big deal, I’m still baffled as to the reason – my only guess is related to the PCI lock. The program does what it is supposed to, allowing for quick frequency changes for that little extra edge:

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Performance

All tests were run at stock speeds of 2.8 GHz with the RAM running at 1:1 with timings of 4-4-4-12. The video card utilized stock clocks and the hard disk drive was run off of the ICH7R serial ATA port.

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Running first though Sandra CPU tests, these are the numbers that we come up with for arithmetic and multimedia respectively:

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For the next couple of tests we will look at Everest and Sandra for memory bandwidth:

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CONTINUED page 4…

The next tests are hard disk drive speed on the ICH7R southbridge. Again this is a 74 GB Western Digital Raptor:

HD Tach Short test – A general measure of basic drive and controller throughput:

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HD Tach Long test – A general measure of basic drive and controller throughput:

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The following tests focus on overall system speed. For this we will use PCmark04 and PCmark05, as well as both a 1m and 32m run of the ever popular SuperPi 1.4

PCMark04: Complete system benchmark suite that stresses everything from CPU to hard disk drives.

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PCMark04 Details

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PCMark05: An updated version of PCmark04, with even more weight on the I/O of today’s computers.

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PCmark05 Details

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SuperPi 1 Million: A quick test that stresses CPU and memory bandwith:

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SuperPi 32 Million: A much longer benchmark that really shows the power of Intel and its ability to cope with continuous calculations:

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Overclocking

With the stock cooler attached to this 920, overclocking would look dismal. I won’t even waste your time with it this go around, as the cooling really is the limiting factor to this situation. All I can give you is a little sneak peak at what to expect out of this combo in Part Two.

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Conclusion

Pros:

  • A breeze to set up
  • Great overclocking and over voltage options
  • Rock solid Intel 955x chipset
  • On the fly voltage and overclocking with AiBooster

Cons:

  • Minor voltage droop under load, can inhibit high overclocks
  • AiBooster requires reboots at certain intervals

In stock form this has to be one of the best Intel based motherboard offerings we have ever seen from ASUS. If you think that these results were impressive, stick around for round two and see what the board can really do when we fix the issues that the ASUS engineers should have….
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Part II – Overclocked

As promised we are back to look at the overclocking performance of the ASUS P5WD2 motherboard and the Intel 920 dual core processor. This time instead of being held back by the limitations of stock cooling, we put the processor under some phase change cooling. Before we get into any of the benchmarks I’ll give you a quick rundown on the phase change.

The phase change started its life off as a happy Prometeia Mach 1, until it had a minor run in with the Danimal. After slamming the trunk of his Nissan on the suction line and snapping it in half, it was time for some modifications. Having a Chilly1 evaporator kicking around in the box of parts, I decided this would be as good of a time as any to make some modifications to the Mach1. After replacing the evaporator, suction line and cap tube, I then gutted all the electronics, as they never worked correctly. The unit was then regassed with r290 and tuned for the Intel 920 @ 1.5v.

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Broken

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Working OK

While we are on the topic of modifications, I should also probably mention to everyone that this motherboard also possesses some volt modifications. The first mod I do to any Intel based motherboard is a droop mod. It is rather easy on this board, and I would recommend anyone with decent soldering skills to do this mod after reading the rest of this article. It really helps to stabilizes voltage under load, and actually boosts your CPU voltage about 0.07v. This is the only mod that the motherboard really needs, but if there are more mods out there, and the soldering iron is hot, you might as well…

Back when this motherboard was running a 90nm Intel dual core I needed more core voltage than the board could supply. A vCPU mod provides you the ability to supply over 2v to the CPU, but now that Intel has shrunk its new CPUs to 65nm the mod is not really necessary. The board with a vDroop mod and a 65nm CPU will supply around 1.75v. The other two volt mods that this board has are vNB (which also turns out to be unnecessary), and vDDR which is great for any of your guys running Micron D9. I have tested the vDDR mod up to 2.65v.

Now that all that is out of the way, lets take a look at the system specs. It is important to note that some things have changed with this review. While I would have like to use all the same hardware to eliminate all the possible variables, neither the x700 nor the PQI DDR2 from the last review was mine, and its owner needed it back. Not to mention, why would you want to run an x700 when there is a brand new 7900GT on your desk? With that said, please take all the video related results with a grain of salt. The only two benchmarks affected were PCmark04 & PCMark05.

System Specs

  • ASUS P5WD2 Premium vDroop – vCPU – vDDR2 — vNB
  • Intel 920 Processor
  • XFX 7900GT Extreme Edition 520/1500
  • Crucial Ballistix 5300 w/ Micron D9
  • OCZ Power Stream 520w Power Supply
  • Western Digital 74 GB Raptor Hard Drive
  • NEC 3520A DVD Burner

Moving on to the benchmarks, we can compare what the combo was capable of in its stock form compared to its new modded, overclocked, and subzero condition. The tests were run at 4766 MHz @ 1.5v with the RAM running 4-3-3-4 1:1. The video card was stock for these tests, and a default install of Windows XP SP2 was used with no optimizations.

Crunching the numbers quickly and looking at the output from CPUz, we are looking at a 70% overclock with only a 25% increase in voltage:

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Sandra Arithmetic

Sandra Arithmetic Benchmark scores are up over 64% in both benchmarks. Here is a screenshot of the results, as well as a chart comparing to stock results:

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Sandra MultiMedia

Pretty standard results from Sandra, Multimedia results are also up about the same as the arithmetic results:

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Sandra DDR

I am still searching for that combination that will put me up and over the 8000 MB/s mark for the DDR2 speeds, but I haven’t quite been able to do that. 7700 MB/s still isn’t anything to shake a stick at, and with some more tweaking and overclocking that 8000 MB/s might not be out of reach. Enough about my personal quests, here are the results:

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Everest

With only the trial version at my disposal, no numbers are given for memory write. Both read and write scores are off the charts. Read scores broke 10,000 MB/s as you can see, and my best guess is an increase of about 65% for the write scores:

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Everest Read

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Everest Write

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PCMark 04

For one reason or another, PCMark04 loves to fail grammar check on a stable overclock. Now some of you are going to say that it must not be stable then, and to that I am going to reply with grammar check being a flawed test. Countless hours have been wasted on many machines trying to get grammar check to pass, and I have not yet been successful.

The one promising idea I came across on Google was to run grammar check as the first test, similarly as you would with a 3DMark01 test. While a novel idea, I lacked the Pro version required for the ability to reorder tests. With a bugged test, and a failed run, no score was produced, but we can still compare the two tests and see the break down for the rest of the results.

Benchmark

Stock

Overclocked

% Increase

PCMark04

5830

na

na

File Compression (MB/s)

5.97

10.41

74.4%

File Encryption (MB/s)

81.9

131.4

60.5%

File Decompression (MB/s)

55.9

96.2

72.1%

Image Processing (MPixels/s)

23.9

38.7

62.0%

Virus Scan (MB/s)

4319

6624

53.4%

Grammar Check (KB/s)

3.99

FAIL

File Decryption (MB/s)

81.2

138.7

70.8%

Audio Conversion (KB/s)

2180

3713

70.3%

Web Page Rendering (P/s)

5.55

9.56

72.3%

WMV Compression (fps)

67.5

104.6

54.9%

DivX Compression (fps)

79.8

135.0

69.2%

Physics & 3D (fps)

171.4

278.4

62.4%

Graphics Memory (fps)

1954

2259

15.6%

PCMark05

PCMark05 gets a little tricky, as I swapped out video cards as previously mentioned. In order to see what really went on, I have a break down of all of the tests. Looking specifically at the processor based scores, you can see a large improvement. Below are links for anyone interested in comparing how their system stacks up:

PCark05 Overclocked Results

PCark05 Stock Results

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SuperPi

SuperPi explains itself, quick and dirty. Scores for 1 million dropped 40% – mind you that is with no tweaking. Scores could come down much more with a memory divider, tweaks, and more speed on the CPU.

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Unfortunately three quarters of the way though the 32m run, my power went out and in turn corrupted my Windows XP install. So we will not be seeing results at 4766 MHz. However, not to leave you hanging, I do have a run at 4800 MHz.

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Final Thoughts

If the above results don’t speak for themselves, allow me to reiterate the point I made in the first article:

This is hands down the best Intel based motherboard ASUS has released.

With the modifications that were performed on the board, it became untouchable. Only minor modifications allowed us to really unleash the combo. I’d like to show you more, but regrettably the processor has been passed on to a new owner.

Peter Wick

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