First off, let's get the necessary review of the onboard features of the P5E3 Deluxe over with first. Being an Intel X38 motherboard, the P5E3 Deluxe is targeted at the enthusiast market. Now, as an ASUS flagship product, expect the usual brimming excess of features to accompany it. The P5E3 Deluxe will support all current and new LGA775 processors, including the recently released 45nm Penryn CPUs and is a DDR3 only motherboard. Through ASUS' Super Memspeed Technology, the board supports memory dividers to operate up to DDR3-1600 and DDR3-1800. This board will feature a triple-slot PCIe design, two of which are full speed PCIe 2.0 x16 slots and the third is a PCIe x4 taken off the Southbridge.
Instead of a separate audio card now commonly used by ASUS, the P5E3 Deluxe has its audio chipset implemented traditionally - on the PCB. ASUS still uses the Analog Devices AD1988B HD Audio CODEC though. In terms of storage, the P5E3 Deluxe features all six SATA 3.0Gbps ports offered by the ICH9R Southbridge and enhances that with two eSATA ports courtesy of the familiar JMicron JMB363 controller. FireWire is also supported through an agere L-FW3227 IEEE 1394a 2-port chipset.
The networking prowess of the board is perhaps another point of interest. As usual, ASUS throws in support for two Gigabit LAN ports and one onboard WiFi connector. The LAN ports are nothing out of the ordinary (one PCIe Marvell 88E8056 and one PCI Realtek RTL8110SC), but the WiFi controller has been updated from 802.11b/g to 802.11n, making it the first board we've seen to feature onboard support for Draft-N networks. Note that WiFi capabilities are only available on the ASUS P5E3 Deluxe WiFi/AP@n models specifically. The regular P5E3 Deluxe (without the WiFi/AP@n suffice) does not have the WiFi module.
One of the new features that ASUS has been hyping about the board is a new EPU (Energy Processing Unit) chipset, which on the outset, seems to be very similar to what abit's micro-Guru and MSI's CoreCell ASICs do. The EPU improves power efficiency by monitoring system loads, which ASUS claims to make the P5E3 Deluxe the most energy efficient motherboard around. Firstly, in order to get the EPU working, you must install its drivers and the accompanying ASUS AI Suite software. From AI Suite, the AI Gear 3 tool is used to control the board's EPU functions. You can either set AI Gear 3 on Auto mode or select one of the four profiles depending on the energy savings that you would like to achieve. Once started, AI Gear 3 runs in the system tray and can be left alone. From our initial experience on using AI Gear 3, we did notice a dip in power usage under Windows idle modes, but increased power consumption at high loads. After monitoring the tools and its various modes, it would seem that AI Gear 3 actually reduces system power consumption by underclocking. In maximum power savings mode, the system FSB was reduced to 300MHz (from 333MHz); In Medium, it was 316MHz, and at Turbo, FSB was actually overclocked to 350MHz. This was why our system actually used more power at high-loads with AI Gear 3 enabled. If we forced Maximum Power Savings and disregarded the performance hit, we were able to reduce power consumption on an average of 14W and recorded lower temperatures between 1-4 degrees even on full loads.
As usual, we can be nothing but impressed with the design of the P5E3 Deluxe. Nothing seems to be out of place, or more precisely, we can't think of a better layout considering the number of components that the board incorporates. Expansion slots are already staggered for maximum exposure, SATA ports are angled, near the middle and both ATX power headers are at the corners, which prevents cables from sneaking across the board. At this point of time, we're already used to the surrounding heat-pipe design and like previous boards, the P5E3 Deluxe is still able to give ample space for general cooler installation.