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Asus P4G8X Deluxe - getting acquainted
When the first 845PE/GE/GV boards were released to the market a few months ago people stopped to take note of supported technologies like HyperThreading but also found some glaring omissions, such as AGP 8x and dual channel DDR support. A few months later Intel launched their E7205 chipset which changed filled many of the holes that remained from the 845 days. Initially aimed at the entry level workstation market, but the lure of extra performance from increased bandwidth tempted many gamers and enthusiasts.

Intel has done well in the past year to regain some of the lost ground in the chipset market. Known more for their strong-arm tactics against other chipset vendors, Intel has started to regain share, not through the courts but through producing good products in this mass market industry. The 845PE was well received and earned Asus many awards, and this is their follow-up to the P4PE, the P4G8X, based on Intel's follow-up to the 845PE chipset, the E7205 Memory Controller Hub (MCH).


We'll take a look closer at the chipset and it's underlying technologies a little later, but initially we'll start off with the macroscopic properties of the P4G8X.

  

The quintessential Asus box which is always over-packed, still displays all the key information on the front coupled to greater detail regarding these features on the rear. As is becoming important, the on-board features are listed on a barcode sticker that is placed to the side of the packaging. It's always important to make sure you are getting what you ordered, since like many of their competitors, Asus offers "lite" versions of their motherboards. This being the "Deluxe" edition had the whole shebang and lifting the cover you get to sample the external goodies that are supplied.

  

As you can see, it's a tight squeeze inside with all the cables and manuals, but to their credit, Asus have supplied good padding on the bottom to cushion the motherboard against knocks. When spread out on the table you get to see the usual array of cables, port replicators and manuals. Asus do a good job of supplying documentation, with their "Quick setup guide" helping the less experienced. The manual is well written and covers solutions to typical problems you may occur during installation. Information on how to install RAM can be initially confusing (due to the requirement of having to use 2 sticks in order to get the full potential of dual channel DDR), however after reading a second time most will digest the information.

  

The mustard yellow PCB is slightly oversized, but shouldn't pose problems for the vast majority of ATX cases on the market. The extra size can attributed to having 4 DIMM sockets, with a nice gap between each set of two. Starting at the top of the motherboard, on the left side (ATX/IDE connector side) we see the standard ATX power connector nicely placed beside the IDE connectors. This is much better than the positions we saw a couple of weeks ago on MSI's 845PE Max2 FISR motherboard. The less cables you have near the CPU, the better airflow you get through to the heatsink, and the standard ATX connector has a high density of smaller cables.

Beside that is the standard 4 pin power connector which is reserved for people who don't have the 12V ATX power connectors on their PSU. You might consider using it because of the poor location of the 12V power connector on this motherboard. We tried both and had no stability problems during testing. The fan header for the CPU is nicely positioned next to the CPU heatsink mount, which means even the shorter heatsink cables will reach. Also it means you have 3 less wires going over your RAM modules.

  

Looking at the other side of the board, on the left is where the ICH 4 (I/O Controller Hub), Serial ATA (SATA), FireWire, BIOS and hardware monitoring silicon are all situated. Couple that to the various connectors associated which each bit of silicon, like the 2 SATA channels and you have a fairly busy PCB area. Asus have done well in keeping some of the headers at the bottom of the board, such as the two SATA ones and extra USB 2.0. Keeping all these headers near the bottom of the board allows you to route cables extremely easily and attach them to the side of the case, freeing up access to other components and improving airflow (especially fans that suck cool air into the case).

On the right it's also busy with various headers and chips. Located at the bottom corner is the RealTek 6 channel sound CODEC, above which is the CD, line in and modem connectors. A PCI bracket with game port is also supplied and the header for that is situated just above the audio/modem header array. Going slightly higher, you see the Broadcom 5702 gigabit Ethernet network interface. We'll discuss more about each on board component a little later.

Since the Granite Bay chipset is aimed for the entry level workstation market, it isn't surprising to see an AGP Pro slot. Most won't find use for this unless you wish to purchase workstation orientated cards like those in ATI's FireGL or NVIDIA's Quadro range. For the rest of us it merely provides extra bragging rights.


Finally we take a look heatsink on top of the E7205 chip. It's nice to see Asus were able to get away with having passive cooling on this unit, albeit using one of the biggest chipset heatsinks we've seen to date. However passive cooling is always welcomed as it shows a sign of reliability and stability without the need for extra moving parts. And anything that helps keep noise levels down is welcomed.


The rear panel is nothing out of the ordinary, with the right stack of USB 2.0 ports being topped off with the RJ45 female connector for the Ethernet interface. The audio ports are lined up vertically with the game port being provided as a PCI bracket addition.

Macroscopic impressions are fairly good, with Asus supplying a good package to compliment this, their current top-of-the-range Pentium 4 motherboard. Clear, concise documentation with a nice array of cables to supplement the motherboard's high level of built in connectivity. Board layout is better than average, with power connectors nicely placed away from the CPU, especially if you decide to use the standard 4-pin power connector instead of the 12volt one. SATA and USB headers are placed well away from PCI slots and with an oversized board like this, it's important to remember that the rear of your hard-drive can encroached on motherboard real estate.
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