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Asus P3-P5G33 Barebone Slim PC

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The name doesn’t exactly roll smoothly off the tongue, but the P3-P5G33 certainly looks slick enough. What does this stylish, modestly priced slim barebone PC from Asus offer?

April 10, 2007 by Lawrence
Lee

Product Asus P3-P5G33
Barebones PC
Manufacturer ASUSTeK
Street Price US$200

Asus is a giant in the PC market with their fingers in just about everything
these days. While they are most known as the world’s #1 motherboard manufacturer,
they also make a variety of other products including graphics cards, optical
drives, phones, PDAs, networking equipment, basically anything with a circuit
board. Most recently they produced the highly popular Eee
PC
, a compact laptop running Linux. There is seemingly no limit to their
ever-extending reach.

They have also manufactured several lines of barebone PCs for some time, most
notably, their P/Pundit line which are marketed as "booksize" and
their S-presso SFF cubes. Their latest barebones is the P3-P5G33. It’s a mATX
platform with a slim case which only accommodate low-profile expansion cards.
The case is paired with an Asus
P5K-VM
motherboard, powered by Intel’s G33 northbridge and ICH9 southbridge.
Also included are a 220W power supply and a media card reader. On paper, the
P5G33 is a fairly typical, traditional product without any major innovations.


As a slim-line tower case, it gives off an aura of elegance, but we can
hardly call it book-sized.


The P3-P5G33 also makes a classy desktop PC.


Asus Pundit P3-P5G33: Specifications (from the
product web page
)
CPU Intel CPU
(Prescott,Smithfield,Cedarmill,Presler, Conroe,Kentsfield,Wolfdale,Yorkfield)
LGA 775
1333/1066/800/533 MHz
Chipset North Bridge: Intel G33
South Bridge: Intel ICH9
Memory 4 x DIMM
Dual DDR2 800/667/533
Support max. 8GB
Expansion Slots 1 x PCI-e x 16 (low profile)
1 x PCI-e x 4 (low profile)
2 x PCI (low profile)
Graphics Integrated GMA 3100
IDE 1 x ATA 133
S-ATA 4 x SATA II
LAN 10/100/1000 Mbps
Audio Realtek ALC883
Azalia 8 Channel
Dimension (mm)
W x H x D
95 x 357 x 398
Drive Bays 2 x 3.5" (internal)
1 x 5.25"
Front Panel 1 x 6-in-1 Card Reader (CF,
SM, MS, MS Pro, MMC, SD)
1 x Headphone
1 x Microphone
1 x IEEE 1394 (4pin)
2 x USB 2.0
Rear Panel 1 x D-sub
1 x IEEE1394 (6pin)
1 x Line-In/Line-Out(Front L/R)/Mic-in
1 x Back Surround LR/Side Surround LR/Center LFE
1 x PS/2 Keyboard or Mouse
1 x Parallel Port
1 x RJ45 LAN
1 x S/PDIF-out (Coaxial)
6 x USB 2.0
Power Supply 220 W (PFC)
O/S Support Windows Vista/XP
Key Features ASUS C.P.R
ASUS CrashFree BIOS3
ASUS Ez Flash2
ASUS My Logo2
ASUS Q-Fan
AntiVirus Solution
Great Expandability
Recover Pro
Tool-less Design

PACKAGE CONTENTS & EXTERIOR


The P3-P5G33 ships with some basic accessories including case stands and
feet, a power cord, a folded IDE cable, two SATA cables, screws, a manual
and a couple of support discs.


A long panel opens up to reveal USB, Firewire, and front audio ports,
as well as the card reader. The optical drive bay is stealthed. There
are two main vents, one on the case cover directly above where the CPU
cooler would sit, and one on the top.


Two small sections of minuscule slits provide some airflow to the nearby
hard drive chamber. The side pictured on the right is completely closed
off. It is also not removable.


A small, circular exhaust port is located at the back of the power supply
and a vent runs parallel to the back pane. The connectivity options are
poor when it comes to video. HDMI and DVI are noticeably absent. In addition
they have forgone with the PS/2 mouse port.

INSIDE THE P5G33


The layout of the case is typical of its product class. If placed
vertically, the power supply sits at the bottom, and the optical and hard
drives are installed on their sides at the front. A support bar runs across
the case to prevent bending should anything heavy be placed atop it.


The support bar is attached via crude hinges at the front of the case, and
secured against the PCI slot covers with a latch, which also keeps
the expansion cards in place. It’s part of Asus’ tool-less installation
design.


The exhaust fan seems to be have been an afterthought, haphazardly attached
to the case with only a single screw. It is a ball-bearing fan manufactured
by Delta.


The power supply appears to use the Flex ATX form factor and is manufactured
by Enertronix. A 70mm and 50mm fan provide cooling. It is equipped with
four SATA and only two molex connectors.


The power supply has passive PFC, and can supply a maximum of 192W (16A)
on the +12V rails — more than enough since the P3-P5G33 only allows
for low-profile discrete graphics cards.

SYSTEM ASSEMBLY


Optical drive mounting is very easy. The drive, with only two screws installed,
is slid in through the front of the case along a guide. Once it passes
a certain point, a metal clip on one side locks on.


Hard drive installation is similar. The drive is lowered into the desired
3.5" bay and then pushed forward along two grooves. As it is a tight
space, it is a little tricky to get the drive lined up properly —
a little patience is required. Plastic clips secures the drive in place.


There were plenty of holes on either side of the 3.5" bays so we
decided to use a notebook drive and a bit of elastic cord to create a
suspension system.


The low height of the case and the close proximity of the case fan made prevented
us from using any of the quality low-profile heatsinks at our disposal.
Thus, were were reduced to using a stock Intel cooler.

BIOS

While the board that came included with the P3-P5G33 was physically identical
to the Asus P5K-VM, it had a different BIOS than the retail board.
The P5K-VM
specification page
lists adjustable CPU frequency and voltage, and other
tweaks, but the BIOS we encountered was locked down, on par with the Intel
DG33TL
we reviewed last year.

Memory timings, voltages, and CPU frequency were all off limits. The board
shipped with BIOS version 0202 and none of the options changed when we updated
to the latest version, 0301. It is very likely you can flash it with a retail
P5K-VM BIOS
to unlock its functionality rather than the one provided
on the P3-P5G33 support page.

While we don’t recommend overclocking in such a tight case, it would have
been nice to be able to undervolt the CPU to save power and reduce the
thermal output.

FAN CONTROL & MONITORING

As is common for most motherboards, the Asus P5K-VM is equipped with 3 fan
headers, one of which is PWM-capable. The CPU fan header can be controlled manually
via SpeedFan
with the Speed02 field by going into the Advanced menu and changing PWM mode
2 to "Manual PWM Control" and PWM type 2 to "PWM output."
SpeedFan was able to vary the Intel stock cooler’s fan speed from 1000 up to
1900 RPM. Note that one of the 3-pin headers does not report fan speed at all.


Asus’ PC Probe application corroborated most of SpeedFan’s readings.

The CPU fan speed behavior with the Q-fan feature was not aggressive.
The system was placed horizontally with the auxiliary fan disabled, and
stressed using Prime95. The CPU temperature stabilized eventually well past
60°C, but the fan did not ramp up unless we stopped it for varying lengths
of time. We’re not sure if it was reacting to the temperature, or simply overcompensating
because it believed the fan had stopped.

TESTING

Test Setup:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Intel SpeedStep was enabled and Aero Glass, the Vista Sidebar, and the Superfetch
service were disabled during testing.

Main Test Procedure:

  • The P5G33 was tested in various states: off, sleep, idle, during video playback,
    and at full load using two instances of Prime95.
  • System power consumption was measured at the AC outlet
    using a Seasonic Power
    Angel
    .
  • We also examined CPU usage during video playback to see how well the integrated
    graphics handled different clips. The testing procedure is outlined on page
    6 of our AMD 780g chipset
    review
    .
  • The lab’s ambient noise level was around 18~20 dBA,
    and the ambient temperature was 21°C.

Problems Encountered During Testing

  • Idle power consumption was unusually high due to the fact that
    SpeedStep was not working. While it reduced the CPU’s multiplier when
    idle, the voltage remained the same according to CPU-Z.
  • We were also unable
    to put the system into Sleep mode. When we tried to did so, the fans continued
    to spin after the screen blackened and upon reboot, the infamous Asus F1 overclocking
    error was reported. We were unable to recover the session that had been suspended.
  • PowerDVD would not play our Blu-ray
    disc, citing a problem with the Intel display driver. We did manage to get around
    it though, by using the latest version of AnyDVD
    HD
    to break the disc’s copy protection and reveal the disc’s directory
    structure. Once we did that, PowerDVD was capable of playing the individual
    .m2ts files on the disc (or from the hard drive, once ripped). While many would
    prefer to see the movie without the menu, splash screens, etc., it’s not the
    experience the film studios intended.


Cyberlink’s Blu-ray Advisor diagnostic questioned whether compatibility
of the IGP adn display driver.

TEST RESULTS

Test Results: Asus P3-P5G33
Test State
Mean
CPU Use
Peak
CPU Use
System Power (AC)
Stock PSU
SS-400ET
Off
N/A
N/A
6W
6W
Idle
1%
2%
80W
65W
H.264
32%
52%
90W
78W
WMV3
27%
52%
90W
76W
WVC1
45%
61%
94W
80W
Blu-ray (HDD)
14%
27%
87W
74W
Blu-ray (Disc)
18%
35%
90W
77W
Prime95
100%
116W
101W
Prime95 + ATITool
100 %
116W
101W

Video Playback

Except for the H.264 test clip, which normally uses less CPU cycles to render
than WMV3, overall, the video playback was good. Our Blu-ray title is encoded
with MPEG-2 so it wasn’t very demanding, and the GMA 3100 IGP had no problems
with it.

Power/Efficiency

Idle power consumption was particularly high, due SpeedStep being broken. The
Intel DG33TL drew about 10-15W less with EIST working properly (though some
of this is accounted for the energy required to power the Blu-ray drive).

We also tested the system with a Seasonic SS-400ET 80 Plus power supply, which
we usually use in our motherboard testing. Using the stock PSU resulted in a higher
AC draw of between 12-15W. Assuming the Seasonic is 65% efficient at idle and
80% efficient at load, the Enertronics unit is only 53~70% efficient. We also
measured a power factor of 0.65 through most of testing versus 0.97 for the
Seasonic unit. It’s a low efficiency power supply by today’s standards.

Thermals & Acoustics

The Delta fan was the really the main noise producer and it had a very aggressive,
almost growling tone. On a carpeted surface with the system laying horizontal
and the cover on, the noise level registered 34 dBA at 1m. With the extra fan
disabled, it lowered to 26 dBA. The thermal consequences of turning the fan
off were apparent immediately. The CPU temperature increased by 9°C and
the system temperature followed suit. Despite this the CPU fan did not ramp
up and the system remained perfectly stable. It’s probably a good idea to have
an exhaust fan, but we recommend you use a quieter fan or to undervolt the one
it ships with.

Thermal Results: Prime95 Torture Test
Exhaust fan state
CPU Temp.
System Temp.
NB Temp.
SB Temp.
Noise @1m
Enabled
55°C
33°C
42°C
33°C
34 dBA
Disabled
64°C
47°C
63°C
44°C
26 dBA
CPU and System temperatures reported by SpeedFan/PC Probe.
SB and NB temperatures obtained via laser thermometer.

The power supply, despite its two small fans, was not hard on the ears.
Though it registered 1 dBA higher on our sound meter than the CPU fan at minimum
speed, it had a very smooth noise profile. The CPU fan on the other hand, exhibited
a very noticeable ticking. The PSU also did not generate any noticeable or measurable
increase in noise when stressed with Prime95.

With a better CPU cooler, it would be quiet enough to be used as a home theater
PC, even with the volume turned down. We initially tried to use the Arctic Cooling
Alpine 7 Pro, but it was a few millimeters too tall (it’s 86mm high). The Alpine
7 GT would be good a choice and if the auxiliary case fan is removed, the Zalman
CNPS8700 would also fit.

NOISE RECORDINGS IN MP3 FORMAT

The recording begins with 10 seconds of "’silence"
to let you hear the ambient sound of the room, followed by 10 seconds of the
system with the extra case fan off, and the 10 seconds of the system with
the case fan on.

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

This
recording was made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital
recording system, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve
listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from
the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot
of what we heard during the review. The microphone was one meter
away from the product.

This
recording is intended to let you hear how the reviewed item sounds
in actual use one meter is a reasonable typical distance between
a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains
stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative
loudness of the subject. For best results, set your volume control
so that the ambient noise is just barely audible
. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible if we couldn’t
hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!

More
details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short
article: Audio
Recording Methods Revised
.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The P3-P5G33 would have been a far better product had it not included the problematic
P5K-VM motherboard. Initially we disliked it only for its lack of DVI
output, but the more we used it, the more ire it raised. EIST and
Sleep mode are critical for keeping power consumption down, and Blu-ray is the
future of entertainment as far as physical media goes. All three of these features
being buggy or broken is unacceptable. We really hope it was simply a bad
sample, and the problems we encountered are not common.

The included power supply was surprisingly quiet, and though it’s far from
an efficient power supply, it isn’t completely terrible either. It’s hard to criticize
it too harshly considering the price of the overall bundle. An 80 Plus unit would
have garnered much praise from us. Not only is it better for the environment,
it’s excellent for marketing.

We give high marks for the case’s overall appearance and the tool-less installation
scheme. The lack of ventilation is the only drawback. While there are plenty
of escape paths for the warm air around the CPU, there are only two small areas
on the front panel where cool air can be drawn in. When mounted horizontally,
the underside of the case would have been perfect for a few intakes.

Overall, it’s difficult to recommend the Asus P3-P5G33. The lack of DVI and HDMI, coupled
with problematic Blu-ray playback makes it unsuitable for a home theater PC/extender.
The lack of ventilating makes it undesirable for use with Intel’s higher-powered
chips, and it’s too slim to fit a performance heatsink or anything but an entry-level,
low-profile graphics card. It would make for a moderately quiet, small form
factor, general use system, but beyond that we don’t see a situation where it
would be our first choice. It’s a barebones system that is very easy on the
eyes, but this is one case where the book simply doesn’t live up to its cover.



PROS

* Aesthetically pleasing
* Fairly quiet power supply
* Ease of installation
* Good high definition playback

CONS

* Lack of ventilation
* Loud case fan
* Lacks DVI & HDMI output
* Bad graphics driver prevents proper Blu-ray playback
* SpeedStep & Sleep don’t work
* PSU could be better

Our thanks to Asus
for the product sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Hiper Media Center PC HMC-2K53A-A3
Hiper Media Center Barebones
PC

AMD 780G: Best Ever Integrated
Mainstream Chipset?

Asus P5E-VM HDMI: A microATX
C2D board for gamers?

Intel DG33TL G33 Express
chipset mATX motherboard

* * *

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