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Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 Intel P55 Motherboard Review

Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 Intel P55 Motherboard Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: 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.
 87% Rating:   
Filed under: Motherboards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Gigabyte Jan 30 2010   J. Apong  
Home > Reviews > Motherboards > Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6

Intel P55 Architecture & Gigabyte Smart 6

Intel system architecture has traditionally consisted of a three chip solution; the processor, a memory controller hub (MCH) also known as the Northbridge chipset, and I/O controller hub (ICH) commonly called the Southbridge chipset. This CPU-Northbridge-Southbridge arrangement happily survived many years of upgrading intact.

Yet as memory speeds increased, CPUs gained extra processing cores and videocards grew more powerful, the interconnects that allowed all these components to communicate increasingly became swamped with data. The solution Intel implemented was to move the memory controller from a discreet chipset directly onto the processor itself - a technique that AMD had opted for several years prior with its Athlon 64 processors.

An integrated memory controller was introduced for the Intel platform with the high end Core i7 'Nehalem' processor about a year ago. By moving the memory controller onto the CPU, Intel simplified its platform to the processor-southbridge architecture we see today.

The Intel Core i5 'Lynnfield' P55 platform follows in these footsteps. Here's a block diagram to illustrate the differences between legacy Intel platforms (left) and the current "Lynnfield" platform (right) that underpins the Core i5 processor and Intel P55 Express chipset. The main difference is that tasks previously handed by the Northbridge chipset are now rolled into the Core i5 processor proper.

Intel's P55 Express chipset integrates both the memory controller and sixteen PCI Express 2.0 lanes on to the die of the "Lynnfield" CPU. The P55 Express Platform Controller Hub has eight further PCI Express lanes at its disposal. This shift in the PCI Express graphics sub-system doesn't have a huge impact on end-users, most P55-based motherboards still have two or three PCI Express x6 videocard slots that can be run in (x16/x4) or (x8/x8/x4) mode, the only change is that now the first two slots are handled directly by the CPU.

For gamers, both NVIDIA SLI and ATI CrossfireX multi-videocard technologies are supported by Intel P55 Express chipset, though implementation varies with each motherboard. Socket-1156 "Lynnfield"-compatible motherboards are DDR3-exclusive, and support memory speeds from DDR3-800 up to DDR3-1333, with overclocking going all the way up to DDR3-2000+ in some cases.

Since Intel's P55 Express doesn't have too many roles left to do (since graphics and memory communication are now handled by the CPU), it actually doesn't need a very fast link to the processor. Instead of equipping the Intel P55 express chipset with a complex and expensive-to-produce QPI link, Intel has instead selected a slower 2.0GB/s DMI link for the Intel P55 Platform Controller Hub to communicate with the processor. Both northbridge and southbridge have been merged into what Intel is now calling the P55 Platform Controller Hub.

Storage and media interface capabilities are pretty similar to that of Intel's well-known ICH10R southbridge, which include support for fourteen USB 2.0 ports, six SATA 3Gb/s ports with support for RAID 0/1/5/10 and Gigabit Ethernet.

Gigabyte Smart 6 Suite

Gigabyte his bundling a suite of novel software and hardware technologies with motherboards based on Intel's P55 Express chipset. Called 'Smart 6' this suite of software programs work with Gigabyte's motherboards to speed up and expand the capabilities of the PC system.

For quite some time, Gigabyte has placed two Basic Input Output System (BIOS) chips on its motherboards. The secondary BIOS chip works as a physical backup should the primary BIOS chip fail. With Smart DualBIOS, Gigabyte has doubled the memory size from 8MB up to 16MB, and the extra memory means that these BIOS chips can now do some new tricks.

Smart DualBios can save critical data such as passwords into memory, or even work as a scheduler for important dates and events.

Smart QuickBoost is a built-in system tuning feature can adjust CPU speed on the fly, for dynamic processor overclocking inside of windows. Smart QuickBoost has three levels of overclocking that will adjust processor speeds up to 400MHz (3x133MHz) above the CPU's stock speed. This feature works well when paired with Smart QuickBoot, which has two modes. The first bypasses BIOS hardware checks that can take a few seconds during start-up, while the second enables a hybrid S3 (suspend) and S4 (hibernate) state, which allows the system to store its last used state, which allows the system to power on and resume exactly where it left off last time.

Gigabyte's Smart Recovery utility allows for system backup by creating snapshots of the hard drive periodically, so it's possible to restore deleted or altered files and settings from several different dates in the past. Smart Recorder is a system logging tool will monitor when your computer has been turned on or off, as well as keeping a log of when large amounts of data are transferred between hard drives.

Finally, Scheduling using Gigabyte's Smart Timelock feature can lock down the system during set hours on certain days of the week, for both system security purposes and parental control. PCSTATS takes a closer look at the Core i5 Intel P55 Express platform next, then it's onto overclocking the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 motherboard and benchmarks!

First though, a quick walk around the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 system board....

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Contents of Article: Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6
 Pg 1.  Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 Intel P55 Motherboard Review
 Pg 2.  Notable Features on the GA-P55-UD6 Board
 Pg 3.  — Intel P55 Architecture & Gigabyte Smart 6
 Pg 4.  Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 Motherboard Highlights
 Pg 5.  Overclocking For fun and SPEED / BIOS screenshots
 Pg 6.  PC Power Draw and Test System Specs
 Pg 7.  Motherboard Benchmarks: Sysmark 2007
 Pg 8.  Motherboard Benchmarks: SiSoft Sandra - Processor
 Pg 9.  Motherboard Benchmarks: Sandra - Memory
 Pg 10.  Motherboard Benchmarks: PCMark Vantage
 Pg 11.  Motherboard Benchmarks: 3DMark06, Vantage, FEAR
 Pg 12.  Time to Upgrade to Intel P55?

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