Manufacturer:Asustek UK Price (as reviewed): £267 (RRP), retail expected ~£255.
Last month we previewed Intel's soon-to-be-released X38 chipset with a first look at one of Gigabyte's X38 boards, but we had to reserve final judgement on the board because it used engineering sample silicon. We recently got our first mass production X38 board in house - it's Asus' P5E3 Deluxe, which uses retail 'A2' X38 silicon.
Today we're here to give you the full low-down on the X38 chipset, and of course a full review of Asus' latest motherboard. Does X38 finally live up to the performance expectation and do the plethora of features on this board warrant the massive price tag?
Support for LGA775 Intel Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Duo, supporting 1,333/1,066/800MHz FSBs along with future 45nm processors
Intel X38 Northbridge
Intel ICH9R Southbridge
Up to 8GB DDR3 800/1066/1333MHz memory in dual channel mode
Two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots (both x16 bandwidth) with support for ATI CrossFire
Two PCI Express x1 slots
Two 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 provided by the PCI-Express Marvell 88E8056-NNC1 chipset and another on PCI provided by the Realtek RTL8110SC chipset
Agere IEEE1394a Firewire chipset
JMB363 chipset supplying one PATA port and two 3Gbps eSATA devices
Ralink RT2770F 802.11 Draft-n Wireless
Asus Lifestyle Features including AI Gear 3
Six red SATA cables
One Molex to two SATA power cable
One black floppy cable
One black IDE cable
Two WiFi Antenna
One PCI bracket containing two USB ports and one 6-pin Firewire port
Two heatpipe fans
Manuals, quick start guide and driver DVD
As we've become accustomed to Asus' more or less complete box contents, thankfully the P5E3 Deluxe is no exception. There is a complete complement of SATA cables but only two SATA power plugs on the single adapter. The SATA power adapters aren't a problem because every PSU in the last five years should have SATA plugs on it and to power a modern motherboard you should consider investing in a good (recent) PSU to complement it also.
There are two heatpipe fans if you passively cool or watercool the CPU - unfortunately the heatpipes need some airflow to work efficiently, despite being "fanless". A decent case airflow can compensate for this, however. The two WiFi antennas are needed if you are intending to use the 802.11 Draft-n WiFi because it requires MIMO. A single PCI bracket combines both USB and Firewire ports which keeps space used to a minimum, however you only get two out of the four available USB pin-outs provided here. It's not a huge deal though, because most cases will have two USB ports from pin-outs routed to the front of them anyway.
The clever Q-Connector is again included, but also a new addition has been thrown in - the Q-Shield. A metal I/O shield is hardly the place of concern for many, but some like to use it to complete the Faraday box of their case which keeps the EMI emissions inside. Normally you get a crappy piece of thin steel with metal bits popping out the back, meaning you're likely to slice your finger, however Asus has replaced those with a sheet of sponge covered in a metallic finish to complete the rear I/O grounding to the case. It's very clever and maybe just a small addition, but we're thoroughly impressed with this kind of reinvention and attention to detail.