Because itís light on extra features, the layout of the P55-USB3 is mainly free of conflicts. Our biggest gripe would probably be the layout of the SATA ports, which are located perpendicular instead of parallel to the edge of the board. As a result, if you do decide to run say two Radeon 5870 cards in CrossFire with this board the SATA ports will interfere with that second Radeon 5870 card. If the SATA ports were oriented parallel to the edge of the board your SATA drives and Radeon GPU could co-exist peacefully together.
Since this board is targeted towards the budget conscious crowd, Gigabyte includes three PCI slots on the board, as their target market is more likely to still be using older PCI (versus PCIe) devices like sound cards. Two x1 PCIe slots are also included on the board.
Gigabyte uses a six-phase power design for the P55-USB3. On the surface, this may not sound like a lot of power phases, especially when Gigabyte offers P55 motherboards with up to 24, but as weíve found the number of motherboard power phases isnít a limiting factor when it comes to OCíing Intelís latest Core i CPUs. Theyíre all tremendous OCíers easily capable of hitting 4GHz even with the latest budget P55 motherboards.
The benefit of having more power phases isnít hitting that high OC, especially if youíre OCíing with air cooling, rather lower operating temps. With more power phases, a 12 or 24-phase motherboard can spread the load more evenly across its available phases. This helps to reduce temps of the VRM circuitry, and in theory should help lengthen the boardís longevity.
Obviously the boardís with more power phases have better VRM cooling as well. Gigabyte doesnít use heatpipes on the P55-USB3, everything is cooled with simple aluminum heatsinks. Their pricier P55 boards have larger heatsinks+heatpipes.
If lower operating temps are important to you, you may wish to consider one of these Gigabyte P55 boards, but donít think that theyíll necessarily OC any better than the P55-USB3, as that certainly isnít guaranteed.
One other point we need to mention about the P55-USB3 is CrossFire support. While the board technically does support ATIís CrossFire multi-GPU technology, keep in mind that the secondary PCI Express graphics slot only supports 4-lane PCIe operation. More expensive P55 motherboards with CrossFire/SLI support split 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes evenly, with 8 lanes for each graphics slot. This ensures optimal 3D performance.
Itís for this reason that SLI support isnít provided. NVIDIA has stated from the get-go that they wonít be licensing SLI to any motherboard that sends less than 8 PCIe lanes to the secondary graphics slot.
Because the P55-USB3 board doesnít split its PCIe lanes evenly, you wonít get the CrossFire scaling youíd find on Gigabyteís pricier P55 boards like the P55-UD6.
Also keep in mind that when the second x1 PCIe slot is populated with an expansion card, the secondary graphics slot is limited to x1 speeds only.