Four MicroATX Mobos for Core 2

Asus P5B-VM

Motherboard Revision: 1.02G
BIOS Version: 0402 (Sept 14, 2006)

The P5B-VM serves as Asus' entry in our MicroATX motherboard contest and it is reasonably well equipped. At the same time, the $130+ price tag makes this the most expensive product in this contest. From our point of view, this seems to be a bit too much for a MicroATX motherboard, but let's evaluate its values first. The first thing we noticed is that Asus doesn't note RoHS compliance anywhere on the product Website, while the board is, of course, lead-free.

It uses Intel's G965 chipset and provides lots of features and interfaces. There are four 240-pin DDR2 memory sockets, which we consider a good choice even for compact MicroATX motherboards. If a board comes with two sockets only you won't be able to upgrade your memory later on without having to remove the existing modules. You may install all sorts of unbuffered, non-ECC DDR2 memory at DDR3-533 to DDR2-800 speeds and 512 MB to 2 GB capacity per module. We recommend going with DDR2-800 for maximum performance.

Asus deploys a four-phase voltage regulator, making it powerful enough to distribute power draw evenly. As a result you may even use a Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor at 2.93 GHz; if you run BIOS version 0402, you may even be able to add Intel's latest Core 2 Extreme QX6700 quad core processor! Not bad for a MicroATX motherboard. Apart from the CPU fan header, we found two more fan headers that are software-controllable. However, two system fans might not always be enough for high-performance PCs.

There is a single x16 PCI Express slot ready for any graphics card your heart desires. There are two more 32 bit PCI slots for legacy add-in cards and a single 4x PCI Express slot, which will accept all sorts of add-in cards, such as a TV tuner card or a sophisticated RAID controller. Asus decided to place the x4 slot at the very bottom of the board, so you may use a powerful graphics card with a dual-slot cooler and can still use the x4 PCI Express expansion slot, plus one of the PCI slots.

The back panel features four USB 2.0 ports while six more can be added if you purchase USB slot adapter cables. The sound system comes with all necessary jacks for 7.1 surround sound, but it does not offer a digital output. Asus added a Firewire IEEE1394a controller to the boardone port is available and a second one can be added, but you need to purchase the adapter cable separately. Asus kept a parallel port, which might be useful to attach older printers, but there are no serial ports (although there is a header on the motherboard). Lastly, there is a J-Micron SATA/300 controller that Asus uses to provide one eSATA port for high-speed external storage devices and a fifth internal SATA port.

Given that the price tag of this motherboard is rather high we would have loved to see a DVI output for a display rather than the outdated D-SUB15 connector, which uses analog signal transmission and takes away from the display quality on any TFT flat panel.