Review Date: 4/18/98

May 5, 1997

Intel released the Pentium II
May 5, 1997 ASUS complimented the release of the Pentium II with their first Pentium II motherboard, the KN97-X
April 15, 1998 Intel released the 440BX AGPSet
April 15, 1998 Once again ASUS complimented the release of the BX chipset with their first motherboard to make use of the chipset, the P2B.

ASUS is at it again, this time armed with the full power and potential of the 440BX chipset as well as a few unofficially supported yet documented bus speed settings on the new P2B.  Adhering to the unwritten ASUS Code, the P2B was designed to break barriers and become a leader to be followed by the competition, did ASUS accomplish their understood goals with the P2B?   How well does the P2B compare to the fierce competition from the BX6 and AX6B?   Let's find out.


Anand Tech Report Card Rating
94/A-

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset Intel 440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 75 / 83 / 100 / 103 / 112 MHz
Clock Multipliers 2.0x - 8.0x
Voltages Supported 1.5v - 3.5v (Auto Detect)
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
4 PCI Slots
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 3 Full Length)
BIOS Award BIOS

 


The Good

Much like the LX based-P2L97 which made its introduction last year the P2B is available in a fairly tiny ATX form factor, and taking a step back from the loosely enforced PC98 Standard (which calls for a configuration made up entirely of AGP/PCI slots) ASUS chose to outfit their first BX board with 4 PCI, 3 ISA, 1 AGP, and 3 DIMM slots for peripheral/memory expansion.  Those of you with a few ISA cards laying around will be pleased to know that ASUS hasn't forgotten about you all entirely, while those of you that are ready and waiting for the jump to PCI Modems and Sound Cards may be a little disappointed in the presence of only 4 PCI slots. 

From an engineering point of view the P2B is nothing short of a success, ASUS' clever placement of the plentiful Electrolytic capacitors on the board between the Pentium II's SEC Slot, the BX Chipset, and the Memory Banks make the board more and more appetizing.  The presence of only 3 DIMM slots eliminates the need for an external DRAM Data Buffer like that found on the ABIT BX6 and Soyo SY-6BA.  
ASUS originally intended to hop on the Jumperless CPU Setup Bandwagon in 1997 with the first revision of their P2L97, unfortunately after a few isolated problems with their custom made Configuration Utility it became clear that ASUS wasn't ready for the Jumperless Setup World just yet.   Sticking to the more conventional (and sometimes more reliable) Jumper-Driven configuration, the P2B's setup is almost identical to that of the old KN97-X.  With the clock multipliers and bus speed settings documented on the motherboard, the well-written ASUS User's Manual isn't even necessary for the basic setup of the motherboard. p2b.jpg (9231 bytes)

The P2B supports clock multipliers ranging from 2.0x - 8.0x in 0.5x steps, as well as the highly anticipated 66/100MHz bus speed setting combination.  In addition to the supported settings are a few "just-for-fun" options, including the 75, 83, 103 (Turbo Frequency), and 112MHz bus speeds.  The current revision of the P2B made no indication of a 133MHz bus speed, which isn't a big loss since making use of a 133MHz bus speed setting requires sub-8ns PC100 SDRAM, realistically 6ns modules are needed for the most stable operation at that speed. 

Packaged with the motherboard is the excellent User's Manual mentioned above, in addition to the standard ASUS CD-ROM which includes the Desktop Management Interface Utility, a Flash Memory Writer (used to upgrade the Flash BIOS), LANDesk Client Manager Software, and ASUS' own PC Probe Utility.  The Flash BIOS on-board is an Award BIOS chip that features an increased amount of configuration options when compared to some of the competing BX motherboards out today.  Once again, the usefulness of the more expensive SDRAM with EEPROM or Serial Presence Detect becomes evident when using it with newer motherboards, including the P2B.  The Chipset Features Setup under the Award BIOS allows you to manually set the SDRAM CAS Latency, RAS to CAS Delay, and RAS Precharge Timings or, if you happen to have SDRAM with the onboard EEPROM (SPD) then you can simply enable the Configure SDRAM By SPD option in the BIOS and everything will be taken care of. The Award BIOS Setup also includes the unique feature of enabling ASUS' Anti Boot Virus Protection, a safety feature although not a true replacement for Anti-Virus Software. 

The P2B made it up to 112MHz x 4.0 just as well as the ABIT BX6 and AOpen AX6B without any problems at all, the board never crashed once during the period of extensive testing which makes it one of  the most stable BX boards out today.  Unlike the BX6 tested, the P2B managed to run an original Pentium II - 300 at 100 x 3.0 as well as 100 x 3.5 without any problems what-so-ever.  The performance of the P2B is more or less on par with the ABIT BX6, outscoring the BX6 by a full 2 Winstone points under Winstone 97 when running at 448MHz, proving that the more flexible BIOS Setup does help in tweaking performance somewhat. 

The Bad

A cramped ATX layout makes the lack of a Jumperless Setup more evident on the P2B, aside from that, the presence of only 3 DIMM slots keep ASUS' first BX motherboard from being an even better product than it already is. 

 


BIOS Settings

ASUS P2B Chipset Features Setup

Item Recommended Settings
EDO/SDRAM 66/75/83MHz Bus SDRAM 100/112MHz Bus Safe
SDRAM Configuration: 7ns (143MHz) 7ns (143MHz) By SPD
SDRAM CAS Latency: 2T 2T 3T
SDRAM RAS to CAS Delay: 2T 3T 3T
SDRAM RAS Precharge Time: 2T 2T 3T
DRAM Idle Timer: 16T 16T 16T
SDRAM MA Wait State: Fast Fast Normal
Snoop Ahead: Enabled Enabled Enabled
Host Bus Fast Data Ready: Enabled Enabled Disabled
16 Bit I/O Recovery Time: 1 BUSCLK 1 BUSCLK 2 BUSCLK
8 Bit I/O Recovery Time: 1 BUSCLK 1 BUSCLK 4 BUSCLK
Graphics Aperture Size: 64MB 64MB 64MB
Video Memory Cache Mode: UC UC UC
PCI 2.1 Support: Enabled Enabled Disabled
Memory Hole at 15M-16M: Disabled Disabled Disabled
Data Integrity Mode: Non ECC Non ECC Non ECC

 


Recommended SDRAM

Recommended SDRAM: Corsair PC100 SDRAM
SDRAM Tested: 1 x 64MB Corsair PC100 SDRAM

Manufacturer: Corsair Microsystems
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.nf-ny.com

The Test

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