ASUS P5W64 WS ProfessionalNicknamed -- somewhat hilariously we might add -- Wall Street Quartet, the ASUS P5W64 Workstation Professional is what we made such a song and dance for in the intro. Evolving the ASUS P5W series of mainboards to what we presume is its pinnacle, the P5W64 WS Pro (to shorten it a bit and save your author some typing) seems to be almost the perfect mainboard for the power-hungry high-end PC user that wants to run Core 2 Duo or upcoming quad-core 'Kentsfield' processors.
Check out the spec first of all.
|ASUS P5W64 WS Pro Specification|
|Processor Support||All Intel LGA775 processors, including Core 2 Duo and 'Kentsfield'|
|Memory Support||4 DIMMs, DDR2, 533/667/800/1066, 8GiB max|
|Graphics||4 x PCI Express Graphics 16X
Supports ATI Crossfire
|PCI Express||See above, from:
IDT 89HA0324 PCI Express switch; i975X
|PCI Conventional||2 slots, PCI2.2|
|ATA||1 port, ICH7R|
|SATA||4 ports SATA2 ACHI, ICH7R
4 ports SATA2 AHCI (1 eSATA), Marvell 88SE6145
|RAID||0/1/5, ICH7R, Intel Matrix Storage
0/1/10, Marvell 88SE6145
|LAN||1 x 10/100/1000, Marvell 88E8001, PCIc on ICH7R
1 x 10/100/1000, Marvell 88E8052, PCIe on ICH7R
|Audio||HD Audio, 8-channel, Analog Devices AD1988B|
|Floppy||1 port, ICH7R|
|Firewire||Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A, Firewire 400, 2 ports|
|USB||10 ports, USB2.0, ICH7R|
DiscussionAll the current good stuff makes an appearance: 8 ports AHCI SATA2, one of which is backplane-based eSATA, support for all LGA775 CPUs including yet-to-be-released quad-core, up to 8GiB of DDR2 with ECC if that's what you need, dual LAN and both GigE, 8ch SoundMax HD Audio and Firewire all come as standard. The Ethernet controllers can be teamed if you so wish, for a 2Gib/sec interface with failover, as expected.
But you'll find most of those features on a bunch of other high-end i975X-based boards, so what makes the P5W64 so special? Ah, the quartet of PCI Express Graphics 16X (PEG16X for brevity) slots you say, and you'd be right. Combining the i975X northbridge, itself providing 16 lanes of PCIe, with an IDT PCIe switch is what lets ASUS get away with the two possible slot configurations for the four PEG16X PCIe slots.
Depending on what you have installed, the lane assignment is either 16-0-4-0 (traditionally what you find on i975X boards, the 4 lanes supplied by the ICH7R), or you get 8-8-4-8, the IDT switch getting in on the act and helping hook up slots 2 and 4.
Add to that a pair of PCI Conventional (what you'll be used to calling plain ol' PCI) slots and you've got a expansion-happy mainboard that's got 4 PCIe slots for whatever you care to throw at it, be that graphics, high-end SCSI or SATA controllers, networking hardware or whatever else you can find that fits. The PCI Express specification mandates that root ports on the host and all compliant devices be able to negotiate from their maximum lane tally all the way down to 1x, depending on what's electrically present and connected to the physical slot.
It's that feature which defines what's already a sweet looking board in terms of spec. While the Intel D975XBX, a board your author has come to love in his personal system, provides a triplet of PEG16X slots, the P5W64 is one of the only boards in existance to provide four.
While you could make a case for Firewire 800 on-board these days, I challenge you to make a change to the spec for the better. A PCI-X segment bridge maybe, for certain users, but, err.....you get the idea.
Now a spec like that is nothing without the layout, BIOS readies and performance to make it stick, so onwards we forge.