Some manufacturers build motherboards made for overclocking. Others build with stability in mind. Some concentrate on eyecandy; whereas others ditch aesthetics in favour of build quality. While one can debate who builds a faster board, it's generally agreed upon that manages to find a good balance of what is important to the enthusiast.
It's just been over two months since the release of the Intel 925X chipset (codenamed Alderwood), and ASUS put together a package that they hope will appeal to the enthusiast. We've already covered the Alderwood (and Grantsdale) launch, so I encourage you to check that article out. The new chipsets call for a number of new technologies, including a new CPU platform, PCI Express, DDR2 and an improved sound and storage standard.
Looking over the specifications of the ASUS P5AD2 Premium Wireless Edition, on paper, it certainly looks like a power-user checklist was used when putting the board together. Everything from using the 925X chipset, to multiple RAID controllers to wireless networking, the P5AD2 Premium Wireless Edition appears to have it all. How is all fares in the real-world is something we will investigate today.
||- LGA775 socket for Intel Pentium 4/Celeron CPU
- Compatible with Intel 04B and 04A processors
- Intel Hyper-Threading Technology ready
|Front Side Bus
||800 / 533 MHz
||- Dual channel memory architecture
- 4 x 240-pin DIMM sockets support max. 4GB DDR2 533/400 non-ECC memory
- Intel Performance Acceleration Technology (Intel PAT)
||1 x PCI Express x16 slot for discrete graphics card
2 x PCI Express x1
3 x PCI
||Intel ICH6R South Bridge:
- 1 x UltraDMA 100/66/33
- 4 x Serial ATA with Intel Matrix Storage Technology with RAID 0, 1 support
Silicon Image 3114R RAID controller:
- 4 x Serial ATA with JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 (RAID 5 software patch available, no WHQL)
ITE IDE RAID controller:
- 2 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 with JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 0+1 support
||Dual Gigabit LAN controllers
2 x Marvell PCIe 88E8053 Gigabit LAN Controller, features AI NET2
|Wireless LAN: WiFi-g
||54 Mbps IEEE 802.11g and backwards compatible with 11 Mbps 802.11b
- Access Point function (under WinXP, 2003)
- Bundle an external antenna
- One-touch wizard
- Wireless bridge, a.k.a. WDS or wireless repeater (under WinXP, 2003)
||- C-Media High Definition Audio 8-channel CODEC
- Coaxial, Optical S/PDIF out on back I/O port
- Features Dolby Digital Live technology
||TI 1394b controller supports
- 2 x 1394b ports @ 800 Mbps speed
- 1 x 1394a ports @ 400 Mbps speed
||Max. 8 USB2.0 ports
|ASUS AI Proactive Features
||AI NOS (Non-delay Overclocking System)
AI NET2 network diagnosis before entering OS
WiFi-g powered by WiFi@HOME technology
Stack Cool patented fanless cooling system
||- AI NOS (Non-delay Overclocking System)
- AI Overclocking (intelligent CPU frequency tuner)
- CPU, Memory, and PCIe x16 voltage adjustable
- SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection) from 100MHz up to 400MHz at 1MHz increment
- Adjustable FSB/DDR ratio. Fixed PCI/PCIe frequencies.
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
|Other ASUS Special Features
||CrashFree BIOS 2; Q-Fan2; Post Reporter; Multi-language BIOS; MyLogo2
The ASUS P5AD2 Premium Wireless Edition
The ASUS P5AD2 Premium Wireless Edition ships in a slightly larger than average motherboard box, that uses a cardboard slip sheet that doubles to keep the inner box from springing open, as well as for aesthetics. All of the product features and specifications are clearly outlined, allowing a shopper to make an informed decision. Going only by memory, this is the heaviest motherboard box we've ever received here at VL. Opening the package up reveals why.
First, we have some of the usual suspects, such as the manual, driver CDs, and IO backpanel. ASUS also throws in version 5 of WinDVD and some Anti-virus software. In terms of cables, there are a lot of them... ten SATA, three IDE, one floppy and four SATA power cables.
There are a number of brackets as well, many of which can be quite useful. One bracket has a couple FireWire connections, plus an extra Gigabit NIC connection. Another has two USB connections and one game connection. For those of you who need it, there is a com port bracket, and finally we have a SATA bracket. The SATA bracket is going to be handy for those of you who have an external SATA device used on another PC, and don't feel like removing the bracket from that computer to move it to the computer with the P5AD2 Premium.
The ASUS P5AD2 Premium's layout is well laid out. There aren't any areas that I would consider problematic, except for the ATX12V power connection which is located near the rear IO connections. There is plenty of clearance, but the location will mean one power cable crossing near the CPU fan. This cable normally isn't obstructive so it shouldn't be a huge concern, but take some care in routing it to avoid brushing against the CPU fan.
As most of you are probably aware, some care needs to be taken with the LGA775 platform, as the chances of damage is a bit higher than before. This is due to Intel moving the pins off their CPUs and on to the motherboard. The CPU itself is still quite tough, but the pins on the motherboard can be easily bent if you don't take care during installation. ASUS provides a cap to cover the socket when the board is not in use, and this will need to be removed before installing the CPU.
Next to the CPU socket is the Intel 925X which is cooled by a heatsink. The heatsink is a decent size, and does a fine job of cooling the chipset as it did not get too warm throughout testing. There is a fan header right above it, so if you choose to use an active cooling solution, you can.
While on the topic of cooling, ASUS chose passive solutions for all the critical areas of the board, including the Intel ICH6R. Noise conscious users will appreciate this, and all of the coolers do well under normal circumstances. If you're experiencing instability during overclocking, it may be wise to replace them with active solutions.
The ASUS Stack Cool technology is a heat plate located directly beneath the CPU area. The idea behind this is it wicks heat away from the hottest part of the board, and on to this plate. According to ASUS, the capacitors and CPU area will be cooled by as much as 10°C. During testing, this plate got quite warm thus demonstrating to us that it does indeed work.
There are four DIMM slots that support up to 4GB of DDR2 533/400 non-ECC memory. Along with supporting Hyper-Threading and Intel's PAT, the 925X also supports the Dual Channel memory architecture.
Located below the ram is the 24-pin power connection, floppy connection, and PATA connection. The 24-pin power connection is backwards compatible with 20-pin ATX connectors. The location of these connections is where we normally prefer them to be as it keeps the cables away from the center of the board.
In terms of storage, ASUS crammed as much as they could into the P5AD2 Premium. The Intel ICH6R (which is what ASUS used for this board) supports the PATA connection noted earlier, and four SATA connections. Intel's Matrix Storage Technology is present, and carries with it RAID 0, and 1 support, as well as Native Command Queuing (NCQ), which we'll talk about soon.
Along with the ICH6R, we have a Silicon Image 3114R RAID controller and an ITE IDE RAID controller. The Silicon Image controller manages four SATA connections and supports a plethora of RAID methods, which include JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5. The ITE RAID controller is strictly PATA (the two lower IDE connections) and supports JBOD, RAID 0, 1, and 0+1. Therefore, in total we have eight SATA connections and three PATA connections, bringing a total of up to 14 storage devices you can possibly use with this board.
As with most 915/925 motherboards, you're not going to find an AGP slot on the P5AD2 Premium. The board has one PCI Express 16x slot for graphics, three legacy PCI slots, and two PCI Express 1X slots. To learn more about PCI Express, be sure to read our 915/925 article.