Asus P8P67 WS Revolution

Review: A P67 workstation motherboard

ASUS’ WS SERIES of motherboards are meant to be appeal to the entry level workstation market and the latest addition is the P8P67 WS Revolution based on Intel’s P67 chipset. As such this board doesn’t quite fall in the consumer category of motherboards from Asus and as a matter of fact, it’s been designed by the server and workstation motherboard team at Asus, rather than the consumer motherboard team.

It’s pretty clear from the onset that the P8P67 WS Revolution is different from Asus’ more consumer oriented motherboards, as it features different looking heatsinks and a slightly different design overall. That said; it’s fairly obvious that it’s an Asus motherboard, but one with a few unique features as far as Asus motherboards are concerned. For starters, the heatsinks are made out of a noticeably more solid material that what we’re used to seeing and the ones covering the PWM area are screwed to the board, although for whatever reason the last part covering the P67 is held in place by push pins. As you can see there’s a second chip being cooled by a heatsink as well and this is an Nvidia NF200.

Thanks to the NF200 we’re looking at four x16 slots on this board, of which the two blue slots operate in x16 mode as long as they’re the only ones used, while if all four slots are populated each slot has eight lanes worth of bandwidth each. There are also three x1 PCI Express slots, although if you’re using dual slot graphics cards the x1 slots are forfeited. A unique feature to this board as far as Asus motherboards are concerned are two vertically mounted USB ports, handy for certain front bay accessories or for a USB key for ReadyBoost (does anyone actually use this?). The board also has two pin headers for an additional four USB 2.0 ports, although oddly enough one of these pin headers are located just behind the ATX power connector, a location we haven’t seen before.

Furthermore you get a pin header for a FireWire port and a serial port. Normally we don’t bother mentioning the fact that boards have pin headers for TPM modules, but in this case it also doubles up as a connector for Asus’ G.P. diagnostics card which is a small PCB that houses a POST80 debug LED display and a power and reset button. As much as this is a useful addition, we’re not sure why it couldn’t be fitted to the motherboard in the first place. Beyond the standard four SATA 3Gbps and two SATA 6Gbps ports, Asus has also added a pair of additional SATA 6Gbps ports via a Marvell controller. Behind the ATX power connector is also a Molex connector which should provide extra power when the board is being used with four graphics cards. Asus has also added hardware switches for its TPU and EPU and a button for its MemOK memory diagnostics and compatibility tool. Finally the board has five fan headers, of which all but one supports 4-pin PWM fans.

We’d like to point out one feature that annoyed us during the benchmarking of this board, as Asus has for some reason seen fit to add four blue LEDs that light up the Asus logo on the board, which in itself is fine, if it wasn’t for the small point of them pulsating and there being no option to switch them off. Now if you stick the board in a case you’ll hopefully never see the pulsating lights, but it’s one of those feature that you really wonder why it was included, especially on a board like this.

Around the back we have a PS/2 port, eight USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a FireWire port, dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet – a feature that Asus is make a big deal out of – and 7.1-channel audio with optical and coaxial S/PDIF out. Among the boards we’ve tested, this is the first that is supplied with a rear bracket of any kind and what you get is two USB 2.0 ports and an eSATA port as well as a bracket for the serial port, a feature which might just be useful on a workstation.

This is the first Asus board we’ve looked at that features the new Digi+ VRM and the board uses a 16+3 phase design. This differs in many ways from what was originally thought of as a digital VRM design, as the board still uses fairly traditional chokes, unlike boards in the past which used Coiltronic chokes. This is a custom Asus design using a controller that’s simply branded Digi+ VRM, although the interesting part isn’t actually the hardware here, but rather the software. Normally there’s very little user control over things like the VRM, but Asus’ Digi+ VRM allows for full user control over several aspects of the VRM, for better or worse. As much as we can see serious overclockers falling in love with this feature, it’s something that your average user shouldn’t be fiddling around with, even though we’re sure Asus has only allowed for so much user control.

We have to say that we are very impressed by Asus’ UEFI implementation, it’s by far the best one we’ve seen and even though it’s a point and click interface, much of it can be navigated with the keyboard. It doesn’t include a bunch of gimmicky features and it’s easy to navigate. The great thing here as well is that Asus has an easy menu for those that aren’t so experienced which allows for three different power settings as well as an option to select the boot drive and that’s it. The more advanced settings are accessed by clicking a button and Asus has included the regular full set of tweaks that you’d expect. One thing we should point out that some of you asked about is if it’s any faster to boot with UEFI and overall we can’t say we noticed any difference in boot times, but you don’t have to sit through and wait for the AHCI drive search as UEFI has native AHCI support, unlike BIOS.

The P8P67 WS Revolution is one of the faster boards we’ve tested and it beat the Intel DP67BG by seven points in Sysmark 2007 and was generally ahead by a small margin in all of the benchmarks we ran. We’re not sure it justifies the $280 or so price tag, $40 more than Asus own P8P67 Deluxe high-end consumer board which might only have dual x8 PCI Express slots and a third x4 slot, but it packs a pair of 3Gbps eSATA ports, a built in Bluetooth dongle, a secondary USB 3.0 controller and even a front drive bay for the two additional USB 3.0 ports. That said these are two quite different boards and if you have the need of running four graphics cards, then this might just be the board you’ve been waiting for. Overall the P8P67 WS Revolution is a solid board with solid performance that targets a niche market.S|A

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