ASUS is a maker of just about every type of hardware product you can find. They make everything from Network Switches, to phones and GPS Devices. Still at their core – they are a computer enthusiast company. They make some of the best performing motherboards that you can find. These often have features that trickle out to the rest of the market after first being introduced by an ASUS product.

Their motherboards are considered some of the fastest and most stable [with a few troubled exceptions]. Their engineers spend quite a bit of time building these to perform. Today we have one of their P55 based boards, the P7P55D Deluxe, in the labs and are going to put it through the course with our Core i7 870.
Let?s see if the Asus can maintain its reputation for quality and performance with the new Lynnfield line.

Packaging
The box a product comes in used to be the front line in sales. Today this is less and less the case. Very few people bother with the box and instead head to their favorite Internet site and read all about the product there. Still it is important to take a quick look at the packaging; not for what it shows but for what it contains and how well it protects the goodies inside.


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The P7P55D Deluxe comes in a good looking package.  The front has the name of the product in large letters so that you cannot mistake what is in the box. There is also the usual number of logos that let you know exactly what standards the board supports and what extra features you are getting. Under the front flap there is a little more information and some of the typical hard-sell pictures.


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The back of the box is more of the same.

Getting past the appearance of the box, we find that it is made of sturdy cardboard. We performed our drop and kick test on it and found that the box can certainly take a few bumps and kicks during shipping.


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Inside the box we find that ASUS has stocked you up with a nice lot of goodies, including a wired remote for easy overclocking. We will cover this in more detail later.

Features and Specifications
One of the interesting things that has come from the increased [and aggressive] competition between the major motherboard manufactuers is the increasing number of features that are getting stuffed into our products. Some are usless to the average consumer while others are excellent and make us eager for more. We will cover a few of the more interesting features of the P7P55D Deluxe below.

One of the "new" features that we are starting to see, and like, is the increasing attention to the way the power regulation is laid out on the board. The P7P55D Deluxe comes with what the company is calling the 24 Hybrid Phase Design. On the surface, it would seem to say that there is a 24 Phase power design on the board. This is not the case but mearly a marketing ploy from ASUS to get you to think that.

Now, having said that we have to say that the board does feature a true 16+3 phase design. You have 16 phases for CPU power [vCore] and 3 for RAM power. The 24 Hybrid Phase Design comes from the combination of this 16+3 design and the inclusion of T.Probe. The T.Probe is capable of adjusting the power phases in real time based on temperature. This reduces the amount of heat produced by the board and should extend the life of the components.

Another one that we found very interesting and actually worked is the TurboV EVO. This is actually a combination of features that allow you to easily overclock your system. These include Auto Tuning, TurboV and the TurboV Remote. The first one is probably going to be use the most often in this class of board; this is the auto tuning option found in the software. With Auto Tuning the system will automatically find the highest stable overclock for your system based on the hardware inside. This is a pretty cool feature and also a great one to get you started. 

   
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But things do not stop there; you can also have individual overclocks that you can call up quickly. This is called Turbo Key. These are found on the TurboV remote and allow you to OC your system with the push of a single button.

 
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Of course if this is not good enough for you, Asus has included the usual manual overclocking method. There are both easy and advanced options depending on your skill level. One final feature that we found very nice was the ability to bump up the Bclk one step at a time with the TurboV remote. This actually allowed us to get a much higher stable overclock inside the OS than we were able to POST and Boot with.

 
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Next up on the feature hit parade is the Asus Crystal Sound. As an Audiophile I tend to be much more critical of the audio quality on any motherboard [or add-in audio cards] The move by Asus to add a higher-quality audio onto the motherboard is a welcome addition.  The audio codec is capable of full Blu-ray Disk [192kHz/24-bit] using Absolute Pitch BD 192/24. The new sound CODEC also features Envy HD 10 channel Surround Sound. Other more common, but still welcome features are DTS Surround Sound UltraPC and Noise cancellation.

Express Gate is a feature that we have received a lot of feedback on. Some love it, others loathe it. In most of our talks with consumers they really do not get the need for it. This is a stripped dow Linux OS that provides an "instant on" operating system for use with e-mail, web browsing, chatting [via Skype] and image/video viewing. It allows for very limited access to files on the main OS HDD. But in the end is not meant as a fully functional OS but only as a quick use tool. The problem is that Linux is a frightening OS to too many mainstream users to be of much value. The problem is not one of implementation – ASUS has done an excellent job with this feature it does everything they claim it does. The problem is just too many people do not know [or want to learn] how to use it. We contacted ASUS about it and they explained that Express Gate is a feature they stand behind completely. It is meant to provide an almost turn-key system. In all reality you could get a new motherboard with Express Gate home and run it as is without installing any OS. For those that are not interested Express Gate can be turned off in the BIOS.  

The last of the features we see as welcome on the P7P55D Deluxe is the Asus EPU. This is one of the best power management solutions that we have had the chance to work with. You can easliy see and set any level you like including an Auto setting that will dynamically adjust power to ensure you are only using what you need. If you overclock this feature will automatically adjust to high-performance mode and cannot be changed.
For eco-crazed among us, there is even a counter in how much CO2 emissions you are saving, as you can see in the picture below:

Board Layout
The Asus P7P55D Deluxe differs from your typical ATX board. with the advent of the P55 there is no need for your traditional Northbridge/Southbridge design.   This means that a manufacturer can be more free with the way a board is laid out [within certain constraints].


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Starting our walk around at the usual location we see what looks to be a typical upper half. The RAM slots, CPU socket and power regulation are all in the typical places. There is one thing that is suspiciously absent though.  Where is the usual large heatsink for the Northbridge? Asus has chosen to keep this area clear and also to allow for a cleaner [and perhaps more efficient] tracing layout around the CPU. At the same time this also helps reduce the amount of heat that can pool in this area.

   
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Another interesting change is the removal of the clips from the lower end of the RAM slots. As these slots are close to the primary PCIe x16 slot it makes it easier to install and remove RAM without the need to remove your GPU. Then again, this would not be a problem if ATX specification was obeyed – for years now, we are seeing motherboards that have PCIe and DIMM slots drawn too closely, but  Unfortunately Asus did not remove the clips from the PCIe slots. They did make them larger and accessible from both sides of the slot We still had issues releasing these when using larger CPU coolers. The space available was just too small for us to get our fingers in there and we had to resort to using a plastic stick to un-latch the clip. Another interesting feature to take note of is the Mem OK light.  This light is there to let you know that your RAM configuration is operating properly at a glance.

 

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Moving up from there to the top of the RAM slots there are three switches. These control Overvolting the CPU, Internal Memory Controller [IMC], and RAM.

Taking a little glance to the left we see the massive power regulation that Asus has thown into the P7P55D Deluxe. Asus has implemented a 16+3 Phase setup here. This should give the P7P55D Deluxe a slight advantage in overclocking, but we will cover that later. Covering the power regulators are a pair of matching heatsinks that look like they are more artistic than functional. This raises some concerns in terms of how well they will dissipate heat under load but again we will have to take a closer look at that later in the review. There is one thing for certain though. The placement of the upper heatsink is cumbersome. It is very close to the 8-pin Aux 12-Volt power plug. This will certainly make connecting this inside a case difficult. We would recommend using an extension for this to ensure you do not lose too much knuckle skin while building a system with this board. One more item of note around these heatsinks is the port for the TurboV Remote. This is also in a very awkward place and even out of a case takes some work to get connected.


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Moving down to the lower half of the board we see a more traditional design until we come to the large heatsink in the lower right quarter. This is going to become more and more usual as we see OEMs getting the hint that the P55 does not have to be in the upper portion of the board anymore. In fact by moving it here it cleans up the tracing and can actually improve performance of certain parts of the board.

 
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ASUS is still using SATA and PATA ports that are angled 90 degrees, these help prevent any interference from cables when using longer cards.  Looking at the lower edge we see more of what we are used to, multiple USB headers, on-board power and reset switches, front panel headers, and even a couple of SATA ports.


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In all the design is interesting and a good move forward [as are many P55 based boards] but there are still a few things that could be changed for the better.

BIOS
The BIOS on the P7P55D Deluxe follows the same lines as most other Asus BIOS do. It is pretty much an AMI [American Megatrends Inc] BIOS layout with ASUS customizations for their products. In fact the basic layout of the BIOS [Award, AMI, Pheonix and others] have not changed much in the last 10 years.

   
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For the enthusiast the place to be inside the P7P55D Deluxe BIOS is the AITweaker page. Here is where you will find all of the system level tweaks and adjustments for you to squeeze all of the performance you can out of your system.

   

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Another place you will want to stop is the Tools page. Here is where you can turn off the Express Gate function if you like as well as launch the Drive Xpert configuration utility, and the Asus O.C. Profile function.

Overclocking
Overclocking the P7P55D Deluxe was a pretty easy task. I started off by using the Auto Tuning feature. This got me to a decent 189×21 [3969 MHz]. From there I was able to puch it a little higher and still maintain stability on the board. In the end I was able to get a stable OC of 192×21 [4032 MHz] This is a little higher than the 4029MHz that has been my highest OC using the Core i7 870 but not by anything truly noteworthy.  This overclock was also completely POSTable, as we found that we could indeed push farther for short periods using the TurboV function.  In the end I was able to get all the way up to 210×20 for a 4.213GHz overclock. Unfortunately this speed failed under the stress of an eight-instance HyperPi Run so it was not used for our testing here.

4.045GHz CPU-Z Validation here
4.213GHz CPU-Z Validation here

*Overclocking is dependent on the hardware used. It will also vary from part to part even within the same product type. Our results may differ from yours and represent our best effort with a ?quick? overclock. Typically we spend no more than one hour to get a stable clock speed. You may be able to get better results with more time and fine tuning of settings.

Test System and Comments
Our test system is shown below:
Intel Core i7 870 [Provided by Intel]
Asus P7P55D Deluxe [Provided by ASUS]
Kingston HyperX KHX12800D3T1K3/6GX 4GB [Provided by Kingston]
GigaByte GV-R489UD-1GD Radeon HD4890 1GB [Provided by GIGABYTE]
Cooler Master Hyper 212 [with an extra fan] [Provided by CoolerMaster]
Kingston 128GB SSD Now V+ [2x in RAID 0], Kingston 80GB SSD Now M [Provided by Kingston], 500GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA II HDD [Provided by Seagate]
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Comments
Normally in the comment section we cover anything out of the ordinary that might affect your use and or setup of the product we are reviewing. In the case of the P7P55D Deluxe we did not run into anything major at all. We did have the incident with getting our knuckles cut up on the heatsinks when connecting the 12-V Aux Power and the TurboV remote but that was not that big of a deal really. As was the issue with removing the Video Card used [we had to use a plastic stick]. We had not problems with the BIOS, driver installation or installing components. In all the P7P55D was an easy board to get setup and running.
Performance – Subsystems
Motherboard performance is not simply a measure of how fast you can overclock or indeed how many FPS it will get you in your favorite game. We feel that it is a combination of the subsystems combined with how well it handles your CPU, RAM and add-in boards.  As such we cover perfrmance of these items in our testing.

Memory
Memory performance is very important in a motherboard. This is even more true now that most CPUs have an internal memory controller. These are usually less affected by the actual speed of the memory as they are any issues in latency, skew and tracing on the board. For the most part ASUS has this area firmly in hand. They typically can outperform the competition in terms of stock and overclocked memory performance. For our testing we use Sisoft Sandra and Everest Memory test.


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ASUS has always done an excellent job of tweaking the memory performance on the P7P55D Deluxe. We see some great numbers here and ones that typically out do the competition.

Drive Performance
The ability of a motherboard to pull data from your disk drive is another important aspect of system performance. For our testing here we wanted to see a couple of things; the first was how well can an onboard SATA controller would handle SSD RAID as well as a single SSD and the more traditional SATA HDD.


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The P7P55D does great with a single SSD but starts to show its limitations when we team two up in RAID 0. The system is just not able to handle the amount of data being push through it and actually performs worse than a single SSD. Unfortunately, this is a limitation of all Intel chipsets we have seen to date. The only motherboard chipset to date immune to this roughly 400MB/s wall was nVidia’s MCP55 SouthBridge [used from nForce 4 to nForce 790i]. The reason for higher bandwidth was the use of HyperTransport link between Northbridge and Southbridge chips.

Audio
As we mentioned above, we are seeing motherboard makers putting I higher-quality audio products onto their boards. But are these new CODECs able to make a difference? That is something that is important to know as if they are not then you are paying extra for something that is not going to be any benefit to you in the end as you will need to spend extra to get sound that is acceptable.

We found the audio on the P7P55D Deluxe to do a very good job for an onboard device. We were particularly impressed with how well it did pushing audio out to our tec?on Model "55" tube amp using the standard Audio out. In all it is an excellent option for audio. Still for some an Ad-In board will be the better option.

Performance Testing- Overview
At BSN* we break out testing into two parts: Synthetic and Real-World. Each has an important part in the overall review process. With Synthetic testing you have an easily repeatable performance measure than anyone can use against the same hardware configuration. But Synthetic testing cannot hope to provide a completely accurate picture of performance. These testing suites do not have the capacity to take multiple factors into account. On the opposite side are the real-world tests. They are duplicates of how a system [or part] will perform in actual use. However as they take into account the dynamic nature of real-world use they are hard to duplicate. As such our testing will always be an average of three runs on each test. The results shown here will be that average.  We feel this combination offers the best overall picture of performance and how well the product will perform for the consumer when they get it home and installed in a system.

Performance ? Applications [Synthetic]
Each of our synthetic tests cover a different aspect of system performance. Taken as a whole they provide a very broad overview of how well each board or product we have in the lab will perform for you once you get it home.

PCMark Vantage
PCMark Vantage is a suite of tests that covers the most complete range of system task possible. It is true that it cannot hope to cover every possible activity but it does an excellent job of covering the majority and providing the end user with a good idea of how well a system can complete common tasks.


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As you can see the P7P55D Deluxe does an excellent job running the PCMark Vantage testing suite.

HyperPi 0.99b
HyperPi is an application that is capable of running multiple instances of SuperPi XS 1.3 on a system. It allows you to select the number of instances you wish to run as well as the length you want to calculate the number Pi out to [up to 32 million places]. For our testing we run one instance per core both physical and logical. On the i7 870 this is a total of eight 32M instances which puts a healthy strain on the CPU, memory and dive. It is also a good indication of how well the mainboard can handle the large amounts of data being passed back and forth.


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The P7P55D Deluxe does a good job here with HyperPi but we can see the impact of running two 32M instances per CPU core.

Cinebench R-10 x64
Cinebench is a synthetic render test developed by Maxon. Maxon is the maker of Cinema 4D, one of the industry standards in 3D animation. This test covers CPU based rendering as well as how your GPU/system is able to handle OpenGL instructions. Cinebench is capable of testing rendering against a single CPU core as well as spreading the rendering task across all available cores. For our testing we used the R-10 64-bit version.


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Again we see good performance from the P7P55D Deluxe.

Performance ? Applications [Real World]
AutoGK 2.55

AutoGK is our choice for transcoding testing. It is a compilation of commonly used tools for transcoding combined into an easy to use application. At its core is virtual dub for the actual transcoding but it provides much more than that. AutoGK is a good test of a system as it stresses the system drives, memory and the CPU. Although it is not fully Multi-Core compliant it does stagger the rendering load across multiple cores in turn. In our testing we take a 2 hour movie and transcode it to DivX Avi at 100% quality.


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Our transcoding experience with the P7P55D Deluxe was good but was not great. We have gotten faster with other P55 based boards. Granted not by much, but still faster. Then again, if you are a transcoding buff, you might want to invest in GPU-accelerated transcoders.

LightWave 3D x64
Lightwave 3D is a full 3D animation software suite from Newtek. This application has become one of the standards in the industry and is used but a large number of professional animators. For our testing here at BSN we used the latest version of the software available from Newtek. Our rendered scene is frame 32 form the Lightwave 8 media Moonbase file. We resolution was 1080HD with 7-Pass PLD, and Gaussian Sharp reconstruction filter. Segment Memory was 512MB. 


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Lightwave 3D performance was also behind what we have seen on other P55 boards with the Core i7 870. Still the P7P55D Deluxe does an admirable job in our render testing.

Performance ? Gaming
3DMark Vantage

3D Mark Vantage is a DirectX 10 benchmark suite from Futuremark. This suite of tests allows you to get a broad overview of how well your system can handle the basic tasks of today?s gaming. Included in the test are Physics (using the PhysX libraries for GPU and CPU) DX10 Shader tests DX9 Shader tests as well as AI computations. Now since the majority of this is not dynamic it cannot hope to provide a completely accurate picture of gaming performance but it does a very good job despite that limitation. 3D Mark is also used a "bragging rights" test. The person with the best number wins; we are not sure what they really win, but we are assured they do actually win.


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Our 3DMark Vantage testing shows that the P7P55D Deluxe when paired with an AMD Radeon HD 4890 is a very capable gaming system.

Real-World Gaming
Gamming performance is a lot more than how fast frames are rendered. Today there are many items that never touch the GPU. These range from Positional Audio, to AI to Physics [not PhysX] calculations to weather and traffic information [in the case of FlightSim X]. We use FRAPS to capture frame rates while in game. We will also cover any noticeable lags, sluggish AI or audio issues that occur during game play that might not be apparent from the frame rates shown.

Flight Sim X
I am not a fan of FlightSim X. To me it is a rather boring game, but it is a great test of how well a system performs. As we mention above there is a ton going on behind the scenes of FlightSim X that pushes a system quite nicely. For our testing we use an airport that is close to us Sanford International [SFB] an fly to Orlando International [OIA]. We use the Learjet as our plane of choice and measure the FPS during this flight. Resolution and other graphical and game settings are shown below.

 
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Looking at the frame rates FlightSim X [FSX] looks like it was playable at the resolution we chose. However, as we mentioned sometimes the frame rate does not tell the whole story. We found FSX to be extremely sluggish, the controls were hard to get to respond with the settings we chose. It was a tad more responsive when overclocked but at stock speed we had some issues. It was not an enjoyable experience to play, we would recommend turning down the realism settings to get a better gaming experience.

Call of Duty 5: World at War
Call of Duty 5: World at War is a great game. In it you take on multiple roles at the close of World War II. Each episode takes you through some of the most intense combat of the war. It dovetails nicely with the Bar Fight AI that we have all come to know and love from the CoD series. This is not to say the AI is simple, quite the opposite in fact. It means the AI your typical CoD game is in many ways more complex than found in other games. The graphics are quite good but at times tend to look a little cartoonish. For our testing we used the Rescue Mission at the beginning of the game. We captured frame rates from the first shots to the end when you are dragged into the boats waiting offshore. Resolution and Game settings are shown below.

 
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Call of Duty 5 was great on the P7P55D Deluxe. With the improved audio the game had a nicer feel to it, the AI was smooth at stock speeds and almost comically sped up when we pushed the CPU to 4GHz. You would be able to easily max out the settings on COD5 and still have a very playable game on the P7P55D Deluxe.

FarCry 2 [DX10]
FarCry 2 is an interesting game in that it is not made up of levels but is one large "sandbox" style game. You can freely move around the small island that the game is set on. In the game you take on the role of a mercenary sent to kill "The Jackal" unfortunately you succumb to your malaria and get caught. You end up running errands for a local middle man. For our testing we played through the first two errands. Resolution and Game settings are shown below.


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In FarCry2 we see more than playable performance with the system we put together. We did not note anything out of the ordinary during game play that would affect your experience. In all the P7P55D Deluxe and Radeon HD 4890 did a very good job.

Value
Value is a subjective topic. It is comprised of two parts. On the one hand you have the simple monetary cost. On the other you have the more difficult task of figuring out if the cost is worth what you get in terms of performance and actual hardware/accessories. For this reason we at BSN have an odd way to determining the value of a product. We do not check pricing until after all tests have been completed. This way we can easily see if what we have experienced with the product meets the asking price. Now I know some will say that other sites do this but on the whole they usually check only to make sure they have the most current pricing.  We try to avoid checking price at all on the product until the end.

For the Asus P7P55D Deluxe we found that the performance and product did meet up to the $219.99 price you can get it for on NewEgg. It is not the top of the line but also does not demand a top of the line price. The features that are packed into the board are excellent and the addition of The TurboV and remote make it a great choice for the mid-range enthusiast that might want to get their feet wet with overclocking.

Support
Asus has had some issues with their support in the past. If you asked the average Asus owner they would be able to go on at length about how bad the Asus support site was and how difficult it was to get anyone at Asus technical support to help you.  Now I am not going to tell you that all of that is in the past. Unfortunately it is not; Asus has been making improvements though. Their support site is working much better and the drivers seem to be updated more frequently [although maintaining older products is still hit and miss]. Phone support is a little better but can be a handful to get your point across to the tech you are talking to. Still we have to admit that compared to Asus support of two years ago it is a serious improvement.

Conclusion
Overall we found the Asus P7P55D Deluxe to be an excellent performer. It is not going to get you world record overclocks but it is capable of keeping up and exceeding the performance of other boards in its price range. The P7P55D Deluxe also showed that it is a good value for the price with the large number of features ad extras that Asus always throws into the pot. We did have a few issues with the layout but those are mostly one time problems [watch your knuckles] and once out of the way will not hurt performance. On the other side some of the changes Asus has made to their board are quite welcome. The removal of the lower latch on the RAM slots is a nice touch, and one that consumers have been asking for. The audio on the board is better than most and in many cases can remove the need to purchase an add-in board for sound. The TurboV function is simply great, with this even if you have never overclocked a CPU before you can be certain to get a good solid OC with a simple click, while the TurboV remote only adds to the flexibility of the system. And finally the Asus EPU hardware and software rounds out this excellent package. So if you are looking for a good mid-range enthusiast motherboard with a ton of features and extras, the Asus P7P55D Deluxe is one that seems tailor made for you. With the attention to detail and the innovative features that the P7P55D Deluxe has we are happy to award it with our Prosumer Innovation Award.