A well-priced Intel motherboard with good performance and an impressive guarantee.
Motherboards that feature Intel’s P43 chipset have consistently impressed us, both with good benchmark scores and low prices.
Asus is usually associated with pricier high-end boards, so we were surprised to see it release the P5QL/EPU, a budget-orientated offering.
Its LGA775 socket supports any Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad processor, as well as the Core 2-based Pentium and Celeron ranges. AMD’s new Phenom and Athlon chips are currently better value when it comes to performance, but Intel’s processors still have the advantage for heat output and power efficiency.
The board was easy to set up, thanks largely to Asus’s InstAll driver utility. It has the usual PCI Express x16 slot for adding a dedicated graphics card, which is a necessity here as there’s no onboard graphics chip. The two PCI Express x1 slots and three PCI slots are sensibly arranged, so you’ll block only one of the numerous PCI slots if you install a dual-slot graphics card. There are six SATA ports for adding storage devices, although there’s no RAID controller.
The P5QL/EPU is the narrowest ATX motherboard we’ve ever seen. We suppose this helps keep the cost down, and despite its compact design, we had no trouble fitting all our test components. The slots and ports are all sensibly positioned to avoid any serious problems.
We tested the motherboard using our reference Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 processor. The P5QL/EPU was impressively quick and marginally faster than our last award-winning Intel motherboard, the P43-based Foxconn P43A. It also produced an excellent score in our Call of Duty 4 test when paired with our ATI Radeon HD 4850 reference graphics card.
The back of the motherboard has a good range of ports. The two PS/2 ports means you won’t have to use up USB ports for your keyboard or mouse, although the board provides six of these anyway. There are six analogue audio outputs, supporting 7.1 multichannel surround sound, plus an optical S/PDIF. Most users won’t be too concerned by the omission of eSATA and FireWire.
The BIOS has lots of options for overclocking your processor, including the usual voltage controls. This board isn’t designed for serious overclocking, though, as it has only a small passive heatsink to cool the chipset’s Northbridge. At normal speeds, the board should be very reliable, as Asus provides a 5,000-hour usage guarantee and an unlimited-use three-year RTB warranty.
It may not support dual graphics cards or RAID, but the P5QL/EPU has all the slots and ports most people want, plus impressive performance, for just £57. This makes it a sound basis for an Intel-based PC with a dedicated graphics card.