Gigabyte has a half dozen boards built around Intel's P55 Express chipset on the market right now,
the flagship model being pitched as the ultimate companion to Intel's Core i5 and Core i7 800-series processors. However, with
strong competition from the likes of ASUS' P7P55 Premium and MSI's P55-GD80, what really makes the companies' flagship Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 motherboard stand out from the crowd? In one word - features.
For starters Gigabyte has sweetened the pot with a
little more of well... everything. There is support for nVidia SLI and ATI
CrossfireX of course, but there's also combo USB/eSATA ports and a pair of extra
slots for DDR3 memory to entice you. The GA-P55-UD6 motherboard is also the
companies first to feature a 24-phase power VRM design which takes advantage of
its all solid-state capacitors, ferrite choke cores, low RDS
MOSFETs and extra-thick copper backplanes so we're told.
Of course, the essentially capabilities of Gigabyte's GA-P55-UD6 motherboard are similar to what you'd expect from any enthusiast grade
board built with the Intel P55 Express chipset. The board supports all socket 1156 Intel Core i5 700-series and Core i7 800-series
processors and is future-ready for the upcoming "Westmere" family (a 32nm
die-shrink of Intel's current socket 1156 chips). While many P55 Express
motherboards have four memory slots for DDR3 RAM, the GA-P55-UD6 ups that number
to six. This makes it easier to mix and match pairs of memory as you upgrade the computer, although the board still supports
a maximum 16GB of DDR3-800/1066/1333/2200 memory. Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP) are de rigueur.
Single videocards benefit from x16 lanes of PCI
Express 2.0 bandwidth supplied by the "Lynnfield"
CPU and its on-board PCI Express controller. Dual-graphics gaming setups like a
pair of NVIDIA Geforce videocards running in SLI or ATI Radeon videocards running under CrossfireX, are split
into PCI Express 2.0 x8/x8 bandwidth.
INCLUDES: User's Manual, Driver
CD, (4) SATA cables, I/O Shield, IDE cable, SLI
connector, SATA bracket, (2) eSATA cables, molex power
Chipsets: Intel P55
CPU Support: Intel Socket
Memory Type: Dual Channel
Videocard Support: (1) PCI Express
Expansion on the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 consists of one each PCI Express x16, x8
and x4 slots (they are all physical PCI Express x16 connectors since
it's less expensive to manufacturer), a pair of PCI Express x1 slots that share
bandwidth with the PCI Express x4 slot and two 32-bit PCI slots. If the PCI
Express x4 slot is populated at x4 mode it disables the two PCI Express x1 slots
and both eSATA ports (you can turn this on and off via the BIOS), the default
setting is x1 mode. The long of the short is that the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6
motherboard has plenty of expansion options, but is not a
triple-SLI/Crossfire platform even though it appears as such at first
While this is Gigabyte's flagship motherboard for Intel's P55 Express
chipset, the GA-P55-UD6 costs just $250 CDN ($235 USD £145 GBP) at
stores like NCIX, CanadaComputers, Misco.co.uk or NewEgg. For such a fully-featured board
this is pretty reasonable. The GA-P55-UD6 doesn't have quite as many silly
overclocking extras as some equivalent platforms, but Gigabyte has seen fit to
include some special items with the board.
Storage options on the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 motherboard are
expansive. The Intel PCH offers up six SATA II connection at 3Gb/s
in RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 modes.
Two additional JMicron JMB362 controllers power two eSATA ports (RAID 0, 1, JBOD) and two
extra onboard SATA ports. A Gigabyte branded SATA controller adds a further two SATA II
3Gb/s ports with RAID 0, 1, JBOD functionality. A legacy IDE connector supports older optical drives and things
of that ilk. Altogether that's 10 internal SATA connections and two eSATA
connections, a lot of storage by any definition.
Around back at the I/O panel we find a pair of USB/eSATA
that can function with external hard drives or USB peripherals
(such as a hybrid eSATA thumb drive), eight standard USB 2.0 ports (four additional via header),
two Firewire jacks (one extra via header), dual Gigabit LAN ports (with support for
Teaming/Dual LAN connections), coaxial and optical S/PDIF connectors for the 8-channel audio system, and
multi-channel output via six stereo jacks. There's also a legacy PS/2 port if
you have an old mouse or keyboard.
Testing the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 with 4GB of Corsair
Of course, since this a Gigabyte motherboard, the entire
platform gets the 'Ultra Durable 3' treatment.
Ultra Durable 3 is a set of manufacturing technologies that Gigabyte has
added to all of its motherboards that improve the quality of components. From
its special 6-layer PCB with 2oz. copper substrate to the Japanese made solid
state capacitors and electrical components and the energy saving features built
into it, Gigabyte is certainly pulling out all the stops when it comes to making
the GA-P55-UD6 competitive.
The GA-P55-UD6 is Gigabyte's flagship Intel P55 Express motherboard, here are
some of the extras that really stood out....