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ASUS P5WD2-E Premium ATX Motherboard Review

When it comes to motherboards, it’s not a good idea to take the less expensive way out, in most cases. The motherboard is the core of your PC, and you want it to handle whatever you have to throw at it now, and in the future when you want to upgrade. The ASUS P5WD2-E Premium Motherboard is NOT cheap. It’s not even normally priced. It’s actually rather pricey. Until now, I’d taken the “if it’s got what I need then it will work” way out, instead of the “quality” way out.

Honestly, the only reason I spent the extra cash on this mobo initially was because it was featured on a Tom’s Hardware article which proved that it was a quality board for overclocking, which I planned to do. It’s a standard size ATX motherboard, nothing outrageous there. It fit in my case just fine, and comes with the case grill for the plugs on the back. The first thing that I noticed that sets this board apart from others I’ve used is that it comes with everything… you could need. The thing came with 4 SATA cables, SATA power converters, 3 IDE cables, and 3 expansion slot adapters, one for joystick/midi access, one for USB 2.0/Firewire, and one for serial ports. This would be a very good thing if you buy OEM drives, as they do NOT come with cables. Also, it’s completely fan-less; which, while nothing too revolutionary, is important.

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Integrated on the board is a Realtek 8 channel (7.1) sound card, dual gigabit Ethernet card, 4 USB 2.0 ports, SATA “on the go” (external) port, parallel port, Firewire, and PS/2 ports. The Realtek card blew away my expectations for an integrated sound card very quickly. First of all, it’s got S/PDIF and digital coaxial audio out integrated into the board. Even the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy series only has analog sound out, no optical as this has. The included software lets you control the output type (headphones, 2.1, 4.1, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1) very easily as well as apply environmental effects and control dolby playback settings.

Finally, it has plug use recognition. That is, if you plug something into it, it knows it. This allows for some cool usage. You can plug anything in anywhere. When you plug in, for example, a microphone, in any jack, it will pop up and ask you what you plugged in. You tell it mic, and it routes that plug as the microphone; same works for any other device you’ plug in.

As far as the dual Ethernet network card goes, I can’t really find a good use for it. You have 2 CAT5 plugs instead of one and 2 LAN connections in Windows instead of 2. I suppose (although I have not tested) that you could plug your cable modem into one, then plug another PC into the other to share the connection. Although I only mentioned 4 USB 2.0 ports, there is the capacity for more. The 4 I mentioned count only the ones integrated into the board. Using the on board connectors, you could plug in at least 4 more; same goes for the 1394 connection. The SATA on the go connection is a good idea – the only problem is that you’ll have to find power elsewhere – this only provides the data connection. Inside the case, however, you’ll find another eight SATA plugs, 4 being RAID.

The board supports up to 8 gigabytes of RAM, which makes it a good investment in the future for that aspect. The BIOS is fairly basic, you get a nice ASUS image with your processor’s image that gets pasted over most of the POST messages unless you choose to show them. The setup menus are even more basic, allowing little tinkering of the CPU and RAM from inside the BIOS. (This can be done with the tools ASUS provides on their website for Windows) It’s got everything you need and more. (Who uses 9 SATA connections?) It supports ATI crossfire, although I use an Nvidia card on mine.

I had no trouble at all installing and configuring everything to work, which I can’t say for some of the other mobos I’ve worked with in the past. It just booted up and worked. It supports single or dual core processors, HT technology, Intel MPT, etc. Just about everything out there, with the exception of SLI. If you’re on a tight budget, I just can’t recommend you this board, since there are cheaper alternatives which do most of what you need. Otherwise, this is the motherboard to take the cake, and shouldn’t be outdated for years to come.