Asus P5WD2 Premium 955X Motherboard Review
Board Layout and Features
The Asus P5WD2 Premium motherboard layout differs a bit from what we have seen in our preview 955X motherboard reviews. Most of the features and options remain but there are some noticeable differences that make this particular model stand out from the crowd.
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The color scheme is right on track with other boards that Asus has released in the last year or so coupling a black PCB with dual colored DIMM slots and color coding schemes throughout the rest of the features for easier installation for new builders.
First up, on the back of the P5WD2 we have the Asus feature dubbed StackCool that attempts to cool the capacitors and MOSFETs on the top of the motherboard via a large, thin heatsink on the bottom of the board. It transfers the heat from the components via the solder joints and dissipates towards the back of your case.
The LGA775 processor socket is found at the top of the motherboard surrounded by many low profile capacitors designed to not get in the way of the heatsink installation. There is not a lot of additional room towards the side of the socket with the hinge on it as Asus' MOSFET cooling heatsink is in place there. However, it should provide enough clearance to allow for most heatsinks to be attached to the board.
Also you can see in the above picture that Asus has included an 8-pin auxiliary power connector for the new ATX standard Intel introduced but also supports the legacy 4-pin connector as they are keyed to prevent incorrect installation. If you happen to notice the oddly located SATA connector in the top right of the image, we'll explain that a bit later.
The four DIMM slots on the board provide the support for dual channel DDR2 memory at speeds up to 667 MHz. Asus is also claiming to have DDR2-800 support on their motherboard too by adding an additional multiplier option in the BIOS for higher memory speed support, if your modules can handle it. Also in this picture you can see the extended ATX power connector as well as 4-pin Molex power connector that is optional but adds additional power to the motherboard's circuitry if your PSU doesn't supply two full 12V rails.
The 955X north bridge is covered only in a heatsink with no active cooling on it. The Gigabyte 955X board came with a smaller heatsink but required a clip on fan to run at its most efficient. Asus has taken the same route that Intel did on their reference platform by providing a larger heatsink that allows Asus to keep their claim of silently cooling the motherboard true. The power connector you see behind the heatsinks is for the processor cooling.
Here is where the majority of the differences in the layout are obvious on this Asus P5WD2 motherboard. There are three legacy PCI slots, a single PCI Express x1 slot and two PCIe x16 slots, though they do not both have a full 16 lanes actually electrically attached. The blue (primary) PCIe slot is a full x16 slot while the black (secondary) slot is merely a x16 connector on a x4 PCIe slot. This does allow you to run two graphics cards at the same time though not in NVIDIA's SLI mode; at least not yet. NVIDIA is getting ready to approve third party chipsets for their SLI technology and when that happens there is a good chance this board may be updated with a BIOS to support SLI configurations.
Here are the two network chipsets that give the P5WD2 the two full Gigabit LAN connections on-board. Intel powers one of them while the Marvell 8001 chip is behind the secondary.
The bottom of the board shows off the P5WD2's storage and connectivity options that Asus included. Here we have four SATA channels all courtesy of the Intel ICH7R south bridge chip. The south bridge also supplies the single, blue IDE channel you can see on the right hand side of the board. An additional IDE chip supplies the two red IDE channels you see too, and that can be a big plus for anyone looking to upgrade from a system with a wide assortment of IDE devices.
Going back to the extra SATA connector you saw by the north bridge:
This connection is powered by a Silicon Image 3132 controller and seems really out of place where it is located. But that location was required because the second SATA connection the chip provides is on the outside of the motherboard along with the other peripheral connections to allow for external SATA hard drive installation without having to resort to USB or Firewire devices.
Here you can see the red SATA connector along with the Realtek 8-channel audio connectors, dual Gigabit LAN connections, USB 2.0 and Firewire slots. Both a SPDIF and optical audio output are provided by the Realtek 882D codec.
There are a couple of other good features that Asus included on the Premium version of the P5WD2 including a riser card that supports TV functionality and wireless internet connectivity that we'll cover in the Included Extras section of the review.