Asus P6T SE review
The Asus P6T was our “best value” Core i7 motherboard in May’s Labs (web ID: 250508). But like all X58-based boards, it was still expensive, coming in at a whopping £174 exc VAT.
Enter the P6T SE, a cut-down version of the board that’s designed to get the price even lower. Fundamentally, it’s very similar to its forebear: indeed, it’s built to the same circuit design, with just a few components and technologies omitted.
The biggest change is the dropping of Nvidia SLI. That means the P6T SE can’t use multiple Nvidia graphics cards together, but it’s probably a smart compromise from a cost-saving perspective: SLI certification isn’t free, and only a small proportion of customers demand it.
If you do get into high-end gaming, you can still use multiple ATI cards, as the freely-licensed CrossFireX technology is still supported. Like the P6T, the SE’s three PCI Express x16 slots support a total of 36 PCI-E 2 lanes, which should satisfy even die-hard gamers.
The P6T SE also drops support for floppy drives, and comes with fewer SATA ports than its predecessor, offering six connectors rather than eight. These too look like sensible economies, though: it’s years since we’ve touched a floppy disk, and six SATA drives (plus a further two IDE devices) should be plenty, even if you want to make use of the board’s RAID support.
As a final pinched penny, Asus has also dropped the onboard reset button, though the power button remains. It’s hard to imagine this really yields a worthwhile saving, but it’s not a great inconvenience.
Those are the cutbacks, but when it comes to the essentials, the P6T SE is just as well-specified as the full-fat P6T. That means you get six DIMM slots, six rear-facing USB ports (with headers for a further six), FireWire and eSATA ports, Gigabit Ethernet, two PS/2 ports and six audio connectors, with both optical and electrical digital audio outputs.
With all those features and connectors still in place, the P6T SE doesn’t feel like a cheap version of anything. Indeed, we suspect the vast majority of people using a P6T could switch to the SE and never notice the difference.
Unfortunately, the flip-side of this cautious approach is the P6T SE really doesn’t represent much of a cost saving compared with its bigger brother: at current prices it’s only a tenner cheaper. Hopefully that gap will widen as the SE establishes itself, but when you consider the complete cost of building a Core i7 system, a saving of even £20 or £30 doesn’t change the game all that much.
That’s not to say the P6T SE isn’t a good choice: as a simple X58 board for everyday use it’s the best value we’ve seen, and well worth considering. But if you’ve been waiting for a truly affordable Core i7 system, we’re afraid the P6T SE is only a small step in that direction.