Asus P5P800 review

Price when reviewed

This non-PCI Express section of the Labs was always going to be occupied primarily by budget motherboards (at least by Intel standards). A glance at the specifications of the P5P800 reveals exactly how basic some boards can be.

Asus P5P800 review

There’s no RAID or FireWire, and just two Serial ATA ports. What’s particularly bizarre is that Asus sees fit to include a MIDI port on a backplate – a seriously endangered connection that was arguably dealt a killer blow by USB long ago.

Two USB ports are also present on the same backplate and the I/O backplane provides another pair. Parallel and serial ports allow connection of older peripherals. Four DIMM sockets with dual-channel capability mean you can build a system with up to 4GB of system RAM. The 865PE chipset might have been superseded by the 915, but thanks to the Socket 775 CPU support, you can still build a fast PC with this motherboard.

The Analog Devices AD1985 sound chip allows six-channel sound to be generated through the motherboard’s three 3.5mm audio plugs. This disables the use of line-in and microphone sockets though; the P5P800 clearly hasn’t been designed with the dedicated audiophile in mind. The only other nod towards home-entertainment enthusiasts is a coaxial S/PDIF output.

We had no complaints about the design and layout of the P5P800. The lack of features means fewer chips generating heat. This in turn means that there are few capacitors on the board. Capacitors often hinder the installation of hefty graphics cards and CPU heatsinks and fans, and the lack of them on the P5P800 makes installation of new hardware, and the board itself, simple.

As with the Abit AS8, one of the Ultra ATA connectors is mounted on the edge of the board, allowing wide cables to be easily routed to drives and helping to improve airflow. For overclockers, the ability to set clock frequencies and voltages through the motherboard’s NOS (non-delay overclocking system) allows the system to automatically improve performance depending on the demands being made on it. If you want to get your hands dirty, the FSB/RAM and AGP/PCI dividers and the ability to modify settings from Windows are all attractions. Just beware that there’s only one fan header.

There isn’t much in the way of software, but Asus’ Q-Fan application means that your fans will run quieter when the system is cool. But while Asus makes a big deal of the budget price, the ECS costs £18 less. It’s almost identically specified, leaving the P5P800 with little to boast about.

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