Motherboard Guide

ASUS P5K3 Premium Black Pearl Edition review

ASUS P5K3 Premium Black Pearl Edition (Intel P35)

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The Black Pearl

The Black Pearl

ASUS created the P5K3 Premium Black Pearl Edition based off the existing P5K3 Deluxe motherboard. Hence, readers should not be expecting any new component features that is not on the Deluxe. The motherboard PCB design, layout, expansion slots and component features are exactly the same. Because of this, we will only be focusing on the new Black Pearl Edition extras in this review and not the standard features. For more information on these, our ASUS P35 "Bearlake" Preview and ASUS P5K Deluxe before should have covered the topic in great detail.

Turbo D3 - Onboard Memory

The first thing anyone will notice when they set their eyes on the P5K3 Premium will be its series of large copper heat-pipe blocks that cover half of the board. First you'll be thinking "Radical cooling!" and then comes the question, "Just where the hell are the RAM slots?". Sit back down and take a deep breath. We've come to the best part about this motherboard. ASUS has decided the only way to deliver the best motherboard to enthusiasts is to design a tightly integrated board where only the top components are used so that they can confidently guarantee performance and overclocking capability. This also includes integrating the memory onboard instead of allowing users to muck around with low grade RAM and then complaining that it doesn't do the job.

Labeled as Turbo D3, the ASUS P5K3 Premium comes with 2GB of DDR3-1333 memory on the motherboard itself, and these are not your average CL9 chips either. ASUS actually took the initiative to offer enhanced high-speed CL8 Qimonda DDR3 chips that have SPD timings of 8-8-8-24. ASUS has further tweaked their board to run at default (using the Auto parameter in the BIOS) timings of 8-6-5-19 in DDR3-1333 mode. These are pretty tight timings compared to the 9-9-9-25 DDR3-1333 modules you'll find in the market right now, which will give the P5K3 Premium a performance edge over standard boards and RAM. Not only that, ASUS is guaranteeing that the memory will overclock to 1500MHz at least. Considering that we've had pretty bad experience with overclocking and DDR3 memory, this is a pretty tall statement from ASUS, one that we intend to put to the test.

Electronics

In the past, ASUS Black Pearl motherboards came with more features than regular boards. However, features are a trivial matter for today's boards and chipsets. So, what does the P5K3 Premium have besides onboard RAM that sets it apart from the P5K3 Deluxe? For one, the board is supposedly engineered with higher quality PWM components. Both Deluxe and premium boards come with similar 8-phase power design. However, the P5K3 Premium may be the first ever motherboard to employ a crazy 10-layer PCB.

Layout

There really isn't much to talk about here. We think that ASUS has really done a great job packing so many features into the board, especially the network of heat-pipes. We commented on the simple heat-pipe design on the P5K Deluxe before and now we know why that was. ASUS already had the Black Pearl Edition boards in mind when they designed the PCB layout and components were already placed to accommodate the onboard memory and additional cooling required. This was why the RAM slots were so centered before. There is one problem that might crop up though. The heat-pipe system is now a full five piece set that is connected. Since there is a need to cool the onboard memory as well now, it will be harder to replace the default cooling for custom mod jobs.

The only problem with having onboard memory is of course shutting out the upgrading path. You will not be able to add more memory or change to a different brand. Thankfully ASUS didn't short change users by including generic chips, so the high-quality memory will probably last users for the lifespan of this board. 2GB is the standard today for Vista, and users shouldn't really need more, but it is still disconcerting that you will not be able to upgrade even if you wanted to. Of course ASUS profiles such high-end users to frequently upgrade their entire system platform and components. So on that basis, ASUS is the first commercial end-user board to have integrated memory and have gone to the extent of maximizing the board's performance capability with the 'new infrastructure'.

There is one issue surrounding the weight of the board. With all that copper piping, the P5K3 Premium weighs in at 1.3KG, which is pretty hefty indeed. Better make sure that your mounting is secure.