Unfortunately in our testing with a SATA 6Gb/s hard drive, a 3.5in Seagate Barracuda XT, we recorded negligible differences between using the two interfaces despite the doubling of theoretical bandwidth. The simple fact of the matter was that in most scenarios, the drive did not even saturate the bandwidth offered by the older SATA standard. Until hard drive technology evolves adequately or the faster SSDs on the market gain support for the SATA 6Gb/s interface, there is no practical reason to go for it – though of course it’s good to have for future-proofing.
At first glance, the P7P55D-E Premium’s back I/O ports remain identical to the non-E series. We have a bit of a throwback with two PS2 ports, followed by a handy Clear-CMOS button (which is replicated as a pin-hole button on the TurboV remote). Next to this are two USB ports coloured blue, optical and digital audio outputs, six black USB ports, twin Gigabit Ethernet ports, a FireWire port and finally six analogue 3.5mm audio jacks.
The blue coloured USB ports mark them out as being version 3.0-compatible and unlike the new SATA standard, USB 2’s successor makes a dramatic difference in performance right now. Despite falling far short of the “10x faster” theoretical advantage Asus has across the front of its packaging, a real-world increase of as much as five times can be expected on current hardware. Other benefits include increased power provision and bi-directional data communication. To find out more and get the full low-down on performance, just take a look at our Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive Review.
One of our only complaints with the original P7P55D Deluxe was that it lacked native eSATA connectors, a worry that the P7P55D-E Premium somewhat alleviates with its USB 3.0 ports. However, as USB also requires compatible drives, it might also have been nice to have at least one eSATA port on the motherboard itself rather than on a bracket.
Expansion-card slots are another area that has changed dramatically, with the number of PCIe 2.0 x16 slots reduced from three to two. Both PCIe 1x slots have also been swapped with the two standard PCI ones towards the outside of the board, meaning you won’t lose any of the more modern slots when installing a single dual-slot graphics card.
Before we get onto the BIOS it’s worth mentioning a few more features Asus has implemented. Q-connectors make it easier to hook up the fiddly cables for status LEDs and power/reset by bringing them together on a single removable block. The buttons for both of these latter functions are also backlit in red and yellow and, like the aforementioned Clear CMOS button on the I/O plate, these are replicated on the remote too.
Asus’ TurboV remote is a great little innovation, though it lacks the LCD display found on some of the company’s Republic of Gamers (ROG) boards. The wired device plugs into a custom socket above the CPU and passes out through a dedicated opening in the I/O plate, leaving you with about two metres of cable to play with. At its front, the top button can be used to turn your PC on or off while the next three switch between various Turbo (overclocked) states and have corresponding indicator LEDs to show which mode you're in. Plus and minus buttons raise or lower the clock speed by 1MHz increments (and can be used in the middle of a game), while Manual and Auto Mode buttons set power saving versus performance. Finishing things off is the aforementioned pinhole button at the back that sets the CMOS to default settings.