The regular Sandy Bridge motherboards from Asus

No fancy model names, but pretty decent features

IT’S REALLY QUITE amazing how advanced motherboards are these days, just about everything you need is already right there on the board and even more so now that we’re moving towards integrated graphics in every CPU. Not that long ago anything integrated onto a motherboard was frowned upon by anyone that knew anything about computers, but alas, today that is not the case.

Asus P67 motherboards don’t really have any exclusive new features beyond the various software additions, already discussed here, despite all the marketing hype. Pretty much every single motherboard manufacturer offers some kind of overclocking feature, power saving option, VRM phase switching, USB 3.0, SATA 6Gbps and what not, but that’s exactly the point, you can’t really go wrong today, no matter what you buy.

Let’s start with a couple of mATX motherboards; first up we have the P8H67-M EVO which is based on Intel’s H67 chipset. This is a perfect example of the feature packed options on offer today. It has a pair of x16 PCI Express slots, although the bottom slot is limited to x4 bandwidth, and there’s also a single x1 PCI Express and a PCI slot on the board. There are four SATA 3Gbps ports and two SATA 6Gbps ports and even an IDE connector on this model, while you get headers for no less than eight USB 2.0 ports and a single FireWire port.

Peeking at the rear ports you get a PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA/USB combo port, a FireWire port, D-sub, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort connectors, Gigabit Ethernet and 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out. There’s very little else that your average user is ever going to need.  Intel’s next generation of integrated graphics rumored to be a huge improvement over the current solution, you might not even need to fit a graphics card. The USB 3.0 host controller for this board and the following model comes from Asmedia, rather than the well-known Renesas/NEC solution you normally find on motherboards with USB 3.0 support.

For those that prefer discrete graphics but want a small system, there’s the P8P67-M EVO which uses the P67 chipset. The slot layout has changed slightly as this board features no less than three x16 slots.  We think this must be a new record for a consumer level board. It’s worth pointing out that the second slot is only useable in dual x8 mode though and the third slot is again limited to x4 bandwidth. A single x1 PCI Express slot is present as well. Again there are pin headers for an extra eight USB 2.0 ports and a single FireWire port and the same four SATA 3Gbps and two SATA 6Gbps ports.  Asus fit a second SATA 6Gbps controller to this board which adds a third SATA 6Gbps port just behind the power connector. Around the back you‘ll find a pair of PS/2 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, six USB 2.0 ports, a single FireWire port, a 6Gbps eSATA port, Gigabit Ethernet and 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out.

The ATX boards start with the P8P67 which has a pair of x16 PCI Express slots, two x1 PCI Express slots and three PCI slots courtesy of an Asmedia PCI Express to PCI bridge chip. For what should be the most basic model in the new series, there are an awful lot of features added. In addition to the four SATA 3Gbps and two SATA 6Gbps from the chipset, Asus has added an additional SATA 6Gbps controller that adds a pair of ports. This board also features two front USB 3.0 ports courtesy of a Renesas/NEC host controller, headers for an additional six USB 2.0 ports and a header for a FireWire port. The rear I/O consists of two PS/2 ports, six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a FireWire port, a Bluetooth dongle, Gigabit Ethernet and 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out.

One model Asus wasn’t showing off at their press event was the P8P67 Pro.  This board swaps one of the PCI slots on the P8P67 for a x16 PCI Express slot, although limited to four lanes worth of bandwidth. It also adds two eSATA ports – one of which is an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port – and a coaxial S/PDIF out.

Finally we have the top of the range model, the P8P67 Deluxe which uses the same slot layout as the Pro model. Notable small additions include power and reset buttons, a POST80 debug LED display and a PLX PCI Express bridge chip. Around the back a secondary Gigabit Ethernet port has been added courtesy of an Intel controller and a small CMOS reset button has also been added. The VRM cooling has also been boosted and features a heatpipe on this model.

Overall Asus has a pretty solid line-up of P67 boards, although we expect them to go neck and neck against Gigabyte’s new boards that we wrote about a little while ago. What will matter in the end are the features you need and the cost of the boards. Asus doesn’t seem to have designed a single low cost model, as even the most basic model; the P8P67 isn’t what we’d call a budget model. It’s very likely that Asus has more models coming, so we’ll have to wait and see what gets announced in January.S|A

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