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Asus P2B-F motherboard

Just a standard Pentium II/III motherboard is all most people really will ever need. Those who prefer to build their own system rather than buying a pre-made one usually don't care what motherboard is inside their PC, but for those of us who know the only real way to get a decent system is to make one ourselves, the motherboard counts. ASUS was always the first to support most new Intel chipsets, specifically the 440BX. This motherboard is about a year old, and still one of the most popular on the market for the mainstream purchaser. Although Abit has taken a decent chunk of change from ASUS, the ASUS P2B-F is one of the top selling 440BX Single Slot 1 motherboards on the market. Shouldn't it be both in the top rankings and be a great motherboard? Let's find out.

Besides all the normal specs, the ASUS P2B-F comes equipped with 5 PCI Slots, 2 ISA Slots (one shared) as well as the standard AGP 2x slot. Its layout is compact and it's obvious that time was spent making the board as "compact" as can be since most of the PCB is covered by stuff all over. The 4 DIMM slots are present and high up enough not to bother anything. You'll also note the AWARD bios (which means jumpers for all settings, not BIOS CPU selection and such), as well as the great Winbond chip for thermal monitoring. Besides that, it's just a standard run of the mill motherboard with dual IDE ports, dual USB ports, serial ports, etc…

The layout is one of the most important factors of a motherboard to me. I want something easy to install, configure, and get working. Jumpers aren't something I like, it's quite obvious why - they are a pain to configure, and just take extra time. Most BIOS' support jumperless settings now, but the ASUS P2B-F didn't decide to take advantage of that. Admittedly there aren't really that many jumpers to set, and the manual is pretty up to date and even included Pentium III settings at the time we got the board. Usually motherboard manufacturers never update their manuals with new CPU voltages and jumper settings, so this was a welcome surprise. Although their manual wasn't as detailed as the Abit ones, it was quite well documented. ATX Power supply connectors were neatly placed at the top of the board by the PS/2 ports, while the CPU stayed out of the way of everything, and was perfectly positioned for power supply fans to blow across it. The only two layout items that disappointed us were the location of the floppy drive and memory spots. In the pictures to follow, you'll notice that the floppy drive connector is wedged between the top two PCI slots. Not really a huge deal, however if you have a floppy drive on the top of a mid-tower or full-tower case the chances of the cable being long enough to reach are slim to none. If you have a floppy drive that mounts under the 5.25" bays then this shouldn't be a concern. The last annoyance came with the DIMM placements. The first two DIMM sockets plastic connectors that hold the RAM in place will interfere with your AGP video card if you have to open them up to swap out RAM. Not annoying if you are building a system that never will change, but those who do RAM upgrades frequently (which is pretty common) will find this a hindrance.

Despite the negativity above, the motherboard layout is quite solid compared to most. We've seen some really wack layouts in our time; this is one of the stronger ones. One thing I particularly liked is how the capacitors were almost non-existent on the board. Given they were present, they were just out of the way where they won't be noticed. That, and the BIOS chip and battery don't hog space like most boards do. The dual IDE ports are lined up perfectly for hard drive/CDROM connection as well. Overall I was pleased with the layout. :)

Installation and Performance
The install was pretty painless. Mount, strap (jumpering the motherboard), and power it on. We were pleased to see three FAN connectors for three-pin case fans and a CPU fan. Most boards only employ two, and really cheap boards employ one. Getting the ASUS P2B-F to work was not a problem at all. A neat little trick ASUS did with the Slot 1 slot is the flip-up Slot 1 holders (The little rails that stick upward that is). Usually you have to screw in 4 screws on the bottom to hold the rails in, but with the ASUS P2B-F they had them pre-installed, which will flip up and down just with a little pressure. It almost makes up for the time lost on strapping the motherboard. :)

In regards to performance, it was pretty stable overall. Overclocking a 300A to 450 worked just as easy as it did on an Abit BH6 (unless you need to tweak the core voltage), and it was stable most all of the time. Pentium III 500s had no problem firing up, and Celeron 466/500s worked stable in the board with a MSI 6905 v1.1 Converter Card in there. Quite pleased with stability nonetheless.

There were no compatibility problems at all. As with all Intel 440BX-based boards, a TNT2 worked (Super 7 boards usually have trouble). There wasn't any performance gain or loss compared to fps averages either compared to other motherboards.

The ASUS P2B-F is just a good solid motherboard. Not the greatest if severe overclocking is your game, but the average overclocker shouldn't have any problems. The bone stock home purchaser will find this a great quality stable motherboard that will last as long as they need it. The components are all strong in quality, the stability is there, and the features are all present. It's a good buy if standard is the name of your game.


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