Asus has done its best to cover all the bases by using Intel's new P45 chipset in an extensive range of motherboards. The basic P5Q has a single graphics slot, The P5Q Pro adds a second graphics slot for CrossFire and the P5Q-E adds eSATA and a second Gigabit port. Moving up the product range we have the P5Q Deluxe that we're reviewing this week which is effectively a Pro with a third PCI Express graphics slot, then there's a DDR3 Wi-Fi version and finally we have the Republic of Gamers Maximus II Formula that we'll be reviewing very soon.
The P5Q Deluxe sits squarely in the middle of that list and supplies a fair number of bells and whistles without going ridiculously over the top. It has a certain amount in common with the MSI P45 Diamond that we reviewed a couple of weeks ago
including the P45 chipset, the passive cooling system, a stack of SATA ports, HD audio and one eSATA port on the I/O panel.
Asus has added a third long PCI Express graphics slot but we're not really in the realms of CrossFireX here. The P45 chipset supplies 16 lanes of PCI Express 2.0 to a single graphics slot or splits it eight and eight if you use two graphics cards in CrossFire. That's pretty much the limit of the chipset's abilities and if you plug in a third graphics card you'll get a maximum of four lanes so we'd strongly advise you to treat the third slot as something of a gimmick.
The layout of the board is very tidy with only one possible cause for complaint as the six SATA connectors on the ICH10R Southbridge have been crammed in higgledy piggledy. Two of the ports are laid down while the remaining four stand vertically which is a shame as some judicious movement of the floppy connector would have created enough space to pretty the thing up. Moreover, dare we suggest that the time has come to ditch the venerable floppy connector? We do. You can update the BIOS from a USB key with ease so we feel that the need for a floppy drive has passed.
The area around the CPU socket is remarkably neat despite Asus having to find accommodation for a prodigious amount of hardware as Asus is making use of 16-phase power for the first time. When the demand for power is low the P5Q Deluxe uses four phases and as the load increases and efficiency drops the system switches over to the full 16-phases. The business of power regulation and efficiency has received a huge amount of attention from Asus, Gigabyte and MSI and lies at the heart of a dispute between Asus and Gigabyte over their rival technologies, so we're in thorny territory here.