It seems Asus has to have half a dozen products built on every chipset, and in typical fashion because it's such a large company dedicated to R&D, at least a couple of these products end up very innovative. Take the nForce 600 series chipsets and the P5N32-E SLI Plus we reviewed back in February for example: it had a combination of the cheaper nForce 650i northbridge and nForce 680i MCP southbridge offering far more features. The two together made a better value motherboard than the other nForce 680i SLI boards with plenty of features and still retaining the full twin x16 lanes for SLI.
In a similar vein the P35 chipset has shown itself to be another Asus has worked several different products out of. We've already reviewed the P5K Deluxe and P5K3 Deluxe motherboards, which were DDR2 and DDR3 respectively. The rest of the Asus P35 line consists of another eleven products ranging right up from value mainstream to workstation.
The P5K3 Premium is just like the Asus P5K3 Deluxe, but with one change - this has 2GB of DDR3 memory soldered directly to the motherboard. There are NO memory slots, so there is nowhere to add you own memory. Why on earth has Asus crippled any potential upgrade path by bundling it all together for a considerable sum of money? Because of the unique interchange between DDR2 and DDR3, where the DDR2 memory market has fallen through the floor and DRAM manufacturers are trying to recoup the costs by charging a premium for DDR3.
Asus' intention was to release a board that had a consumer-typical 2GB of memory on-board while being cheaper than buying expensive DDR3 and a motherboard together. This way the consumer just pays a single company which should cost less, but Asus still gets its profit margin, rather than the end user forking out to Asus and a memory company. What Asus hasn't counted on is the prolific ramp of DDR3, scaling already well beyond that of current and even future chipset capabilities.
It seems like almost every week we see a new, faster module released from another memory company and the speeds are already in excess of the maximum JEDEC DDR3 speed of 1,600MHz within months of the first DDR3 chipset launch. We've already got some Corsair 1,800MHz and Super Talent 1,866MHz DDR3 in the labs but are struggling to find a board that will properly stress it, it's that far ahead.
So has Asus good intentions and innovations suddenly been dashed from beneath its feet by unforeseen market forces or does the P5K3 Premium still offer a performance advantage over DDR2 and an appeal over a separate DDR3 board and memory investment?
Support for LGA775 Intel Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Duo, including 1333/1066/800FSB and 45nm processors
Intel P35 Northbridge
Intel ICH9R Southbridge
2GB dual channel 1333MHz DDR3 guaranteed to overclock to 1500MHz with a 1066/1333MHz front side bus processor
Two PCI Express x16 slots (Blue = x16, Black = x4)
Two PCI Express x1 slots
Three 32-bit v2.3 Master PCI bus slots (support 3.3v/5v PCI bus interface)
One IDE port
Six SATA 3Gbps ports supporting RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 or JBOD
ADI SoundMax ADI1988B High-Definition audio codec supporting 7.1 channel surround sound up to 32-bit/192KHz
Two Gigabit Ethernet, one PCI-Express provided by the Marvell 88E8056-NNC1 chipset and another PCI provided by Realtek RTL8110SC
Agere FW3227 (FW322 07) IEEE1394a Firewire IC supplying two ports (one on the rear I/O, one through motherboard pins
JMB363 IC supplying one PATA port and two 3Gbps eSATA devices
Realtek RTL8187L Wireless 802.11g integrated USB adapter
The feature list is almost identical to the P5K3 Deluxe, which is hardly surprising considering that changing very little keeps design time and down, keeps costs know and makes BIOS design easier. Specifically this is the "Black Pearl" edition although it's not to be confused with anything Pirates of the Caribbean or EVGA's nForce 680i SLI or 8800 Ultra.