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Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P Intel P55 Express Motherboard Review

Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P Intel P55 Express Motherboard Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: Top of the list is Gigabyte's 333 Onboard Acceleration marketing pitch, which in real world terms is USB2.0 slots capable of outputting higher voltages to power external hard drives and the like, a pair of 4800Mb/s SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports for high-speed peripherals care of the brand new NEC PD720200 controller and 6.0 GB/s SATA III.
 87% Rating:   
Filed under: Motherboards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Gigabyte Feb 03 2010   J. Apong  
Home > Reviews > Motherboards > Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P

Gigabyte 333 - 6Gb/s SATA III, Intel P55 Chipset

While standard hard drives haven't exceeded the bandwidth of a typical SATA 3Gb/s connection, single solid-state drives (SSD) can reach up to 2Gb/s sustained read rates, enough to run into a SATA bandwidth bottleneck in RAID modes. By incorporating two 6Gb/s SATA III ports onto the Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P motherboard, care of Marvell's SE9182 controller, the platform gains future proofing against upcoming SATA III compliant storage drives destined for release.

SATA 6Gb/s also opens up the possibilities of a blisteringly fast dual SSD setup in a striped RAID 0 mode. M'mmmm delicious.

Marvell SE9128 6GB/s SATA III controller handles two SATA ports with compliant hard drives at SATA3 speeds, while remaining backwards compatible with non-compliant hard drives at SATA2 speeds.

Intel's P55 Express chipset dishes out six 3Gb/s SATA II connections that support RAID 0, 1, 5, 10. The white ports are 6Gb/s SATA III ports (RAID 1, 0) care of the Marvell SE9128 controller

There have been questions about the best way to connect SATA III devices to the rest of the computer. ASUS notably took the path of selecting a PLX bridge chip which adds additional PCI Express bandwidth between the Marvell SE9128 controller and P55 chipset so there is no chance of bottlenecks. Gigabyte have the Marvell SE9128 controller connected directly to the Intel P55 Express chipset. In single videocard configurations there is enough PCI Express bandwidth to go around, but apparently under SLI/Crossfire PCI Express lanes can become constrained.

LED's indicate the number of power phases currently in use, when Dynamic Energy Saver is enabled.

In PCSTATS own tests with SATA 6Gb/s, using a Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB hardware provided some tantalizing insight into the speeds attainable. In HDtack burst speeds for the SATA III system topped out at 291.5 MB/s, whereas the SATA II system came in at 221.5MB/s. Likewise, Average Read was a healthy 115.5MB/s.

Gigabyte Smart 6 Suite

Gigabyte is bundling a suite of small software applications with motherboards based on Intel's P55 Express chipset. Called 'Smart 6' this suite work with Gigabyte's motherboards to dynamical reduce power consumption, overclock the PC, create easy means of backing up data, passwords and a few other tools. I think most users will find only one or two features genuinely useful. PCSTATS has covered the Smart 6 software suite a few times in previous Gigabyte motherboard reviews, so if you aren't familiar with it already please take a quick detour here for the full rundown.

Before we move on to the main benchmark section, let's get a little more familiar with Intel's P55 Express chipset.

Intel P55 Express Architecture

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

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 with the Core i7 platform first, and now with the Core i5 and Core i3 processors was to move the memory controller from a discreet chipset directly onto the CPU - a technique that AMD pioneered several years prior in the Athlon 64 CPU. By moving the memory controller onto the CPU itself, Intel simplified its platform to the two-chip processor-southbridge architecture of today.

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.

Now for a look at the GA-P55A-UD4P motherboards highlights in the photo gallery...!

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Contents of Article: Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P
 Pg 1.  Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P Intel P55 Express Motherboard Review
 Pg 2.  — Gigabyte 333 - 6Gb/s SATA III, Intel P55 Chipset
 Pg 3.  Motherboard Highlights Photo Gallery
 Pg 4.  Overclocking the Core i5 / BIOS Screenshots
 Pg 5.  PC Power Draw and Test System Specs
 Pg 6.  Motherboard Benchmarks: Sysmark 2007
 Pg 7.  Motherboard Benchmarks: SiSoft Sandra - Processor
 Pg 8.  Motherboard Benchmarks: Sandra - Memory
 Pg 9.  Motherboard Benchmarks: PCMark Vantage
 Pg 10.  Motherboard Benchmarks: 3DMark06, Vantage, FEAR
 Pg 11.  Motherboard with USB3 = Future-Proof Solutio

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