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ASUS has pulled out all the stops with the P5GD2 Premium Wireless Edition and I don’t think it’s possible to fit many more features to a motherboard than seen here. Just because the board is feature laden, doesn’t mean that ASUS has skimped on quality either and there are some unique solutions on this board that I have not come across before.
Most impressively the P5GD2 is completely passively cooled, so the only fan noise you will get is from the CPU cooler and any additional case fans. ASUS has even added a passive copper cooler on the MOSFETS, to aid the cooling of the power regulation. This is not unique, but it is a first for ASUS and it’s been done in a much more stylish way than the solutions I’ve seen from other manufacturers.
Asus has also added an extra PCB layer underneath the CPU socket, which is referred to as Stack Cool. It is supposed to lower the temperature of the area around the CPU by as much as 10 degrees Celsius, but this is very hard to prove. It does however seem to add extra rigidity to the PCB, which can’t be a bad thing considering how heavy the new CPU coolers are.
So, let’s take a closer look at what ASUS has managed to fit to the P5GD2 Premium Wireless Edition and what you can do with it. Being the first 915P motherboard that we have tested it was interesting to see how well it compared against the 925X chipset, as Intel once again claims that the superior model is meant to be a lot faster.
As the name implies, the board ships with wireless networking, thankfully of the faster 802.11g flavour - although this time around ASUS has fitted it to the motherboard itself, rather than supplying a card that attaches to a special connector.
The downside of hardwiring the WiFi adapter is that if it should fail, you would have to replace your entire motherboard, instead of a small add-in card. But you do gain a rear slot as a result, which could be important to users with fully stacked systems. The antenna supplied in the box comes with an 80cm cable, which allows you to place it on top of your case, or perhaps on your desk – although this might seem a bit messy, it will give you better range than an antenna attached to the back of the board.
ASUS supplies drivers that allow you to configure the wireless adapter as a wireless access point, rather than a network card, which means that you can share the wireless network connection with more than one PC at a time. This can be handy if you have more than one wireless device, but no wireless access point.
Continuing on the network theme, ASUS has added no less than two Gigabit Ethernet controllers to the P5GD2 Premium, both from Marvell, with the first one connecting to the PCI Express bus and the second to the PCI bus. This seems to have been done to cut cost, as the P5AD2 which is the 925X version of the P5GD2 features dual PCI Express networking. One can presume it was also done to make the P5AD2 more appealing over the cheaper P5GD2. The interesting thing here is that the PCI Gigabit controller connects to a rear bracket, something I have never come across on any motherboard in the past.
The same bracket is shared with two FireWire 1394b ports, which add support for 800Mbit FireWire. A second bracket adds a game port and two USB 2.0 ports. ASUS supplies a third bracket that gives you the option to attach SATA hard drives externally. This is a pass through connector that attaches to two of the eight internal SATA connectors and thus adds support for two external drives. It does also come with a special power adapter that gives you the option to attach an internal SATA drive outside of your case.
With eight SATA connectors and a rear bracket, ASUS has covered all possible configurations by supplying no less than 10 SATA cables as well as three SATA power adapters. You also get three IDE cables, as ASUS has managed to squeeze in an IDE RAID controller from ITE on top of the Silicon Image SATA RAID controller. There is of course support for Intel RAID as well via the ICH6R, so you can have two sets of four hard drives in RAID. Not counting the floppy drive, you can add no less than 14 drives to the P5GD2 Premium - home server anyone?