When Intel launched the 32nm Clarkdale CPU it also launched a trio of chipsets to support it. These three chipset have the same basic core with only additional features to separate them. This issue means that in terms of performance there is almost no difference between the H55, H57 and Q57. For the consumer then, the thing that will make the choice of which board to buy will be the features added in and the fine tuning of the available performance for both the CPU and the IGP. To this end Asus has developed the P7H57D-V EVO motherboard. We take a deep dive into its performance and features to see if this H57 board can stand out in the crowd.

Packaging
The box the Asus P7H57D-V EVO comes in is very clean on the front. You get the typical large font displaying the model of the board and the usual listing of supported CPUs etc. But overall Asus has kept it clean and not too gaudy [I am not sure of the color though].

But fear not, Asus has put a large "Xtreme Design" logo on the front for those of you that need to see that on your products to know you are getting "quality".

The back of the box returns to the more typical layout. I guess the Asus Marketing people felt that if you picked up the box and turned it over you would be expecting the jumble of pictures and information lauding the features of the P7H57D-V EVO.

Inside the box you will find all the goodies you need to use the P7H57D-V EVO, including a crossfire adapter.

Board Layout

If you have read any of my past motherboard reviews you will know that the layout of a board is a big deal with me. To me the layout of a board indicates how much thought has gone into air-flow, ease of use, and also over-all performance.

The P7H57D-V EVO follows the typical layout of most ATX motherboards. The Upper section houses the CPU, Memory and power connections while the lower half handles the peripherals.  Starting with the upper half let?s take a stroll around the board and see what we can find.

The P7H57D-V EVO has some interesting design concepts that have filtered down from other boards. One of these is the way that the power regulators are laid out on the board. While the overall layout is nothing new or spectacular, it is interesting in the stepped way Asus places the capacitors, chokes and finally the heat sink covered regulators.  This allows for an efficient use of space and lets you use an oversized heatsink for cooling. They have also placed two four-pin fan headers close to the socket to let you setup a Push/Pull cooler [like the Hyper 212].

But the intricate design of the heatsinks hides an unfortunate annoyance. The 8-pin Aux 12V power connector is sandwiched behind the top heatsink and in the middle of a row of capacitors and chokes. This makes it difficult to connect once the board is in a case [like a mid-tower]. Unfortunately, it is not one that Asus can do much about, due to the need to place this connector close to the CPU socket.

Moving a little to the right we can see that Asus is continuing the use of their one armed RAM slots. These slots allow for much easier installation and removal of RAM even if a system build is final.

Moving down to the lower half of the P7H57D-V EVO we see again a typical ATX layout.  Asus has placed three x1 PCIe slots, two x16 [mechanical x8 electrical] slots and two PCI slots. The layout of these slots actually gives you a great deal of flexibility when you think about it.  Of course you cannot use them all at once and your choices of peripherals will determine what uses you can put this group of slots to. Still it is a good choice on the part of Asus even if it clutters the look of the layout.

The 90-degree tilted SATA ports are in their usual place along the right edge of the board with a single 90-dgree tilt PATA just above them. Along the bottom edge of the board are a row of USB headers and two SATA 3.0 ports.  These two ports are interesting in that they depart from most other implementations of SATA 3.0 on H55 and H57 boards. Asus has chosen to use a PLX bridge chip to maintain the needed amount of PCIe lanes for proper SATA 6GB/s throughput.

For I/O Asus has used the same bank typical of H5x boards with the exception of two USB3.0 ports and the omission of a Display port.  The USB 3.0 ports are controlled by the now standard NEC controller.

Asus has done a good job in the P7H57D-V EVO?s layout. It may look cluttered and confused at first but after looking closer you can see the flexibility that have been designed into the board even the fancy heat sink covering the Southbridge components has more to it than meets the eye. So while I am normally in favor of clean layouts I can see the advantages that this one has.

BIOS and Overclocking

BIOS
The BIOS on the Asus P7H57D-V EVO follows the typical line that Asus uses on their other motherboards. This is based off of the AMI BIOS layout. Of course the Asus Engineers have not left it alone, but have added their own twist to it. The version we used for our testing was 0401.

If you are familiar with the typical Asus BIOS layout then the images below will not surprise you.

Almost all of your overclocking options for the CPU are found in the AI Tweaker section. If you are interested in pushing the IGP then you will want to head to the advanced section and then Uncore submenu.

Overclocking
Our overclocking time with the Asus P7H57D-V EVO was excellent. We found a host of options for both simple overclocking and more advanced fun if you want it. For starters we wanted to try out the TurboV EVO software and see what it could do for us.

We opened up the software and dived right in. The first thing we noted is the nice layout of the UI.

From the main page you can easily find what you are looking for even if you are interested in giving the HD GMA a little boost you can do it right from the main page of the TurboV EVO software.  

Asus offers you a few options for in-OS overclocking. These are self-explanatory and are Manual, Easy and Auto Tuning.  Manual allows for the most complete control over your overclock with adjustments for the different voltages. In easy mode the voltages are automatically adjusted by the system to maintain the OC level. In both manual and easy mode you can overclock the GPU along with the CPU.

The Auto Tune function is exactly what it says but even there Asus offers you some control. You can choose between Fast, Extreme and even Custom auto tuning.  The other options of CPU Level Up and Turbo Key are just more options for you to get the most out of your CPU.

We decided to give the Fast Tuning option a try and were pleased with the results. We were able to get a decent 4.268GHz

We also managed to get some decent clocks out of the HD GMA, although due to time constraints we did not run any tests to see if there is a benefit to this or not. We will follow on with the Core i5 661 and see just what overclocking this IGP will get you.


IGP overclocking – Stock CPU / Overclocked CPU Click to Enlarge

After our playing around with the TurboV EVO software we dived back down into the BIOS for some more serious play. We were able to hit a very nice clock indeed at 4.428GHz.


Click for CPUz Validation

Features
The Asus P7H57D-V EVO comes with some great features. One of the big ones we talked about in our overclocking section but that is not all that you get. As with almost all of their boards you get their EPU-6 software [and controlling hardware]. This handy little piece of software allows you to completely control the power usage of the system.  There are several profiles you can chose from or you can allow the system to dynamically adjust power based on system demand.  Of course if you are overclocking the EPU-6 software will set itself to the Turbo profile to make sure that the system receives the proper amount of power.

The next "feature" is not truly a feature but it is an interesting extra that will give any Facebook gamer joy. With a simple click you can begin playing games like Farmville, Mafia Wars and more than a few others.  This is even available in the Express Gate OS – given that games such as Farmville attracted more than 80 million gamers, there is a clear market potential for products that can enable quick boot into those type of games.

Some of the other features available are things like the "Mem OK!" LEDs, T.Probe, and much more.

Of course the most interesting feature on the P7H57D-V EVO is the inclusion of both SATA 3.0 and USB 3.0. As we have previously covered this is accomplished through the use of a PLX bridge chip that allows for proper throughput for both of these high bandwidth interfaces. Unfortunately, there are only ports for each, but then again there are not many SATA 3.0 devices out yet and even less USB3.0 products on the market right now.

Test System and Build Comments
Processor: Intel Core i5 661
Mainboard ASUS P7H57D-V EVO [Supplied by ASUS]
Memory
: 4GB Kingston KHX12800D3T1K3/6GX [Supplied by Kingston]
Hard Disk
: Kingston SSD Now M [Intel X25-M 80GB SSD – Supplied by Kingston
                Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB SATA 3.0 HDD [Supplied by Seagate]
Graphics Card
: Zotac GTX 285 AMP! Edition 1GB [flashed to stock BIOS – Supplied by Zotac
Cooling
: Cooler Master Hyper 212 [with an extra fan – Supplied by Cooler Master]
Operating System
: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Drivers
: Intel INF 9.1.1.1015, ForceWare 195.62

The Asus P7H57D-V EVO was interesting to work with. It was obvious even early on that Asus is listening to some of the feedback they are getting.  The layout, while cluttered, offers a considerable amount of flexibility with what you can do with the system. The BIOS has a clean and easy to use feel to it making it easy for even a basic user to tweak the H57D-V EVO.

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 performance of these items in our testing.

Memory
Memory performance is very important in a motherboard. This is even truer 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.

   
Everest Memory Test – Stock / Overclocked / With GTX 285
Click to Enlarge

The Asus P7H57D-V EVO had roughly the same performance as the other H5x boards we have tested.

Drive Performance
The ability of a motherboard to pull data from your disk drive is another important aspect of system performance.

   
Everest HDD Test – Stock / Overclocked / With GTX 285
Click to Enlarge

Not much to see here really. The SSD performance on the SATA II controller is what we have come to expect. The SATA 3.0 performance is interesting, but as we are only able to test an HDD on this new interface we still do not see performance that would make this new standard worthwhile.

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.

Audio performance is both a subjective and objective experience. With the Asus P7H57D-V EVO we find that the Realtek ALC889 audio chipset does not hinder performance in anyway and also provides decent audio quality. I would not call the audio ?High-End? but I would say that it accurately reproduces most sounds, and for the mainstream user this will be more than good enough.  

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.

The Asus P7H57D-V EVO seems to have a problem with the PCMark Vantage suite.  We see it come in at the end of the line in both x86 and x64 testing.  The reasons for this are not clear at the time of this writing, but we will continue to look into this and follow up if there are any changes in these numbers

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 something like 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.

The P7H57D-V EVO also does quite well at calculating the number Pi out to a ridiculous decimal.  

Cinebench
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.

Unfortunately the Asus P7H57D-V EVO does not perform as well as the other H5x boards we have tested. The difference is not drastic but it is noticeable.

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.

Here we see the Asus P7H57D-V EVO regain some of its earlier loses. Even at stock speeds it out performs the other H5x boards handily.

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. The resolution was 1080HD with 7-Pass PLD, and Gaussian Sharp reconstruction filter. Segment Memory was 512MB. 

LightWave 3D rendering performance is so close as to not be worth mentioning. It seems that the Core i5 6xx series CPUs take their LightWave performance from board to board.

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.

The Asus H57 board here does well squeaking by the others with a handful of 3DMarks.

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.  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. For IGP testing we use a resolution of 1280×960 while for testing with the GTX 285 we push back to 1920×1200. The actual settings used for each game are shown below.

SIMS3
The SIMS is, as you probably know by now, is a simulation game that attempts to put you into a life like role in a typical town. You have many options for customizing your character including personality, clothing, looks, goals and even dreams. It is an interesting game that does allow for a wide range of freedoms.  As you take on life in the game you have to make sure you perform all the usual mundane tasks to keep your SIM happy and healthy. While not truly visually demanding the number of rendered objects can sometimes overwhelm a mainstream graphics card. For this reason we have added this in for all of our IGP testing.  For testing we ran our SIM around Sunset Valley for 20 minutes [Following the same path each time] and recorded the frame rates.


IGP Test Settings 1280×960


GTX 285 Test Settings 1920×1200

The Intel HD GMA does a good job on the Asus P7H57D-V EVO with the SIMS 3. We were able to get very smooth game play at 1280×960. When we dropped in the GTX 285, the SIMS 3 we were able to max out the SIM3 video quality and still get frame rates over 100.

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.


IGP Test Settings 1280×960


GTX 285 Test Settings 1920×1200

As you can imagine the mainstream gaming based HD GMA does not do so well with a high-end first person shooter like FarCry 2. This is not a true hindrance though as people interested in playing this type of game will usually want the best GPU they can get.

Power and Heat
Power consumption and heat generation are becoming more important. Consumers are demanding more power and ecofriendly components for their systems.  Heat generation is important as with improper cooling components can fail and prematurely die.  For our power testing we test the power draw in Watts from the wall using a P3 Kill-A-Watt.  For heat generation we use a Fluke Laser Thermometer and read the heat on the ?Southbridge? heatsink.  Readings for Idle and Load are recorded.

As we talked about above in the features section the Asus P7H57D-V EVO has an EPU built into the board. This is controlled by their EPU-6 software.  For this reason we see excellent power usage when we let the EPU-6 software run the show. However once we overclock the system we see power draw that matches other H5x boards.  

Heat is a little bit of a different story. The star like design of the heatsink over the X57 chipset and other SB components actually allows for a little better cooling than we see on other boards.

Value
The Asus P7H57D-V EVO sells for $200 at Newegg.com and other e-tailers.  This is quite a price for what is supposed to be a mainstream/entry level product. The price is somewhat justified by performance and the features that are packed into the board, but not fully. However, this is only if you are going to try and drop on of the 6xx series Core i5s. As this board will support the stock 1156 Core i5 and i7s it actually might make a good choice for the i5 750 at this price. For the most part the price is a little high for this board in our opinion.

Support
Asus has, in the past gotten a bad name for customer support. There have been complaints of poor website performance, poor phone tech support and many other items. However, in the last couple of years Asus has made a good effort to change these shortcomings and have even stepped up their ?back end? support. They do continue to be one of the few companies that continue to support EOL products with BIOS updates and driver support.  Overall, after dealing with many companies, Asus has good support for those that buy their products; it is just not always in the way they want it.

Conclusion
Overall I liked the P7H57D-V EVO, I feel it is a little overpriced for the market it is aimed at but think that Asus has banked on the flexibility and performance of the board to overcome that issue. I was surprised that it did not perform better with PCMark Vantage, but I have a feeling that the issue is something that might be fixed with an adjustment in the BIOS. The feature set included with the P7H57D-V EVO is excellent. The EPU/EPU-6 combination works well for the mainstream [and power conscious] market while the TurboV EVO software will be fun for those looking to tweak their system for more performance.  The inclusion of USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 is the one place that the H57D-V EVO seems out of place. There are very few SATA 3.0 drives available at the time of this writing while USB 3.0 is also in limited supply. This will change over time but, for now these features are probably not enough to encourage someone to buy the P7H57D-V EVO over another [perhaps less expensive] motherboard.

Still the P7H57D-V EVO does have something that makes it attractive to a higher market. Its overclocking performance has been the best we have found in the H5x series. I imagine that it would do quite well with the CPUs that do not have an IGP on the CPU. This could make it a great buy for someone looking to get an entry level dual or quad core and push it.  In the end if you are building an entry level or mainstream system the P7H57D-V EVO is probably not for you; If you are looking for a great performing system with room to push your CPU then you might want to pick one of these up.