Summary: If you're in the market for a new P55 motherboard to go along with your new Lynnfield CPU you'll definitely want to check out today's article. Inside we've devoted over 7,000 words to four different Gigabyte motherboards. From high-end to low, it's all covered here!
With the debut of these two processors, Intel’s Bloomfield Core i7-900 series CPUs and their pricier X58 platform just got pushed out of the limelight for anyone on a budget who doesn’t need features like triple-channel memory or multi-GPU solutions like CrossFire or SLI (Lynnfield platforms typically perform 5% slower than Bloomfield with multi-GPUs). And Intel’s Core 2 Duo/Quad lineup just became obsolete: the only enthusiasts who may opt for a Core 2 upgrade over Lynnfield are those who already own a Socket 775 motherboard and DDR2 platform that you want to stick with.
Bottom line: Lynnfield is clearly the best CPU solution for a lot of users out there, and it consumes less power too.
While picking Intel’s Lynnfield CPU is a pretty easy call, finding the right motherboard to run alongside your shiny new CPU is a much more difficult decision. There are literally dozens of motherboards to choose from, and they’re separated by a wide range of features and price points. This can be a good thing if you know what you’re looking for – motherboard manufacturers are loading their latest P55 motherboards up with features we’ve never seen integrated on a motherboard before – but it can be confusing if you haven’t kept up with the newest developments in the motherboard industry. The dizzying array of choices out there can be overwhelming.
Therefore in the weeks ahead we’re going to be looking at many of the various P55 motherboard options out there. We just reviewed EVGA’s P55 FTW, and today we’re here to evaluate Gigabyte’s latest P55 motherboard offerings.
As one of the largest motherboard manufacturers in the world, Gigabyte has the resources to devote a tremendous amount of energy and effort towards the P55 platform, and it shows. Gigabyte offers over a dozen different P55 motherboards, and just launched P55 motherboards with SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0, which we’ll also be reviewing shortly.
Gigabyte’s boards are custom tailored for a wide variety of uses and needs. Whether you’re an HTPC user looking for a feature-rich micro-ATX board, a gamer who wants to build a gaming PC on a budget, or the enthusiast who wants to have it all, Gigabyte’s got a motherboard for you.
Before we go over the specifics of each motherboard though, lets’ first talk about a new feature Gigabyte is touting with all of their latest P55 motherboards, Smart 6.
As its name implies, Smart 6 are six new technologies Gigabyte has added to their P55 motherboard lineup.
No one likes waiting 30 seconds or more for their PC to bootup. We all want as close to instant on access as possible.
Smart QuickBoost can be used to automatically OC your processor a set amount depending on the level you set. 3 settings are available, Fast, Turbo, and Twin Turbo.
One feature Gigabyte has included on their motherboards for quite some time is DualBIOS. Gigabyte was actually the first motherboard manufacturer to integrate dual BIOS chips on their motherboards. This gives you an instant recovery BIOS to fall back on in case you suffer from a bad flash or the primary BIOS is corrupted by virus.
With Smart Recovery, you can backup important system data such as settings, documents, music etc, even if its been deleted. Each day Smart Recovery can take a snapshot of your PC’s hard drive. Any changes you make after the snapshot are saved in case you need to restore back to that point later. Smart Recovery can be used to save up to 60 snapshots.
This feature can be used to monitor when your PC is turned on/off as well as when large amounts of data are transferred from your PC’s hard drive to external storage devices.
Smart TimeLock provides parental controls for your PC. Say for instance, you don’t want your kids to boot up the PC after 9PM on weekdays and 11PM on weekends. You can even use Smart TimeLock to limit the number of hours per day your children can get on the PC. Once their allotted time is up, the computer locks access.
Gigabyte’s flagship P55 motherboard is the GA-P55-UD6. This is the motherboard that started the arms race between ASUS and Gigabyte when it comes to CPU power phases.
Gigabyte was first out of the gate to go beyond the 12 or 16-phase power designs used by most motherboard manufacturers, integrating a 24-phase power subsystem for the CPU on the P55-UD6. This prompted ASUS to downplay the importance of phases, emphasizing other aspects such as the quality of the power being delivered to the processor. They then turned around and integrated 32-phases on their newer P7P55D Premium motherboard.
Gigabyte says their 24-phase design provides fast transient response, ensuring quick and seamless power delivery even when the CPU is under heavy load. The other benefit of integrating so many power phases on the board is that the work load can be spread across all 24 power phases. As a result, the VRM circuitry runs cooler; instead of running at 80 or 90% capacity under load Gigabyte’s 24-phase design spreads the work around so the load is just 50 or 60%. This helps to keep temps down and enhances longevity.
The end result for you is that the P55-UD6 is more than capable of delivering enough power for your CPU, even when you’ve OC’ed it to the max and are pushing speeds well in excess of 4GHz. In these situations, the P55-UD6 has more than enough power on tap to supply your CPU with lots of stable power.
Besides the 24-phase power for CPU vCore, 2 additional phases are devoted for CPU VTT power and two more phases are used to provide memory power. This should be enough for these subcomponents as well.
As Gigabyte’s flagship board, the P55-UD6 supports both SLI and CrossFire, and is outfitted with 6 DIMMs. We’re not exactly sure why Gigabyte employs six DIMM sockets on the board, potentially this is more flexible than competing P55 boards, but the board is limited to the same 16GB max memory support as other P55 boards, as this functionality is provided by the CPU itself, not the motherboard.
If you do outfit the board with all six DIMMs, two of the modules must be single-sided. As memory modules have increased in capacity, very few DIMMS are single-sided nowadays.
Besides the six DIMMs, another area where the P55-UD6 stands out in comparison to many competing P55 boards is in SATA support. Here Gigabyte provides 10 internal SATA headers on the motherboard itself. Many of the P55-UD6’s competitors are limited to six or eight internal SATA ports.
An additional 2 SATA/USB combo connectors are located on the motherboard’s backplate. As an added bonus, no additional power source is needed for the eSATA device when connected.
The P55-UD6’s audio is powered by a Realtek ALC889A audio CODEC. This is a pretty popular audio controller that’s used in a number of different motherboards, and is Realtek’s most powerful high definition audio solution. Networking duties are also handled by Realtek, with a pair of RTL8111D PCIe-based GigE controllers being used. Teaming is supported, so if you don’t need dual Ethernet connectivity, you can pair the two controllers together for improved performance.
The P55-UD6 also offers a feature called AutoGreen, which you can use to o pair your Bluetooth cell phone to your computer. Once installed, AutoGreen will automatically put your PC in standby or suspend mode once your Bluetooth cell phone is out of the PC’s range. Just get up and walk away (but don’t forget that cell phone!).
Despite all the VRMs and power circuitry Gigabyte leaves plenty of room for oversized air coolers around the LGA-1156 socket. Even our largest Thermalright heatsinks fit without issue.
Like all P55 motherboards we’ve tested, we have run into clearance issues between large CPU coolers and memory modules with oversized heatsinks/heatspreaders like the OCZ Reaper line as well as Corsair Dominator. These modules have very tall heatsinks that won’t fit underneath oversized “Tower” style CPU coolers, which often extend over the DIMM slots. Thankfully memory manufacturers also provide high-end DDR3 memory modules that utilize conventional heatspreaders like the OCZ Platinum, or the Kingston KHX1600C8D3K2/4GX modules we used for this review.
Just behind the DIMM slots lies Gigabyte’s integrated power button. This button doubles as a power LED, as a blue LED shines when the board is receiving power. Gigabyte also places physical buttons for resetting the system as well as clear CMOS on the bottom of the board near the IDE connector. Honestly we would’ve preferred it if Gigabyte would’ve used conventional-sized buttons that are clearly labeled like the LED-backlit power button.
With the current setup Gigabyte employs you have to look carefully to make sure you don’t accidentally hit the clear CMOS button when you actually just want to reset your system. A diagnostic LED display is also located nearby for diagnosing issues during POST. This is a handy feature to have that we appreciate on high-end boards like the P55-UD6.
Gigabyte employs excellent cooling on the P55-UD6. A heatpipe is responsible for cooling the board’s power circuitry as well as the chipset itself. While copper isn’t used, none of these components really need it either; in fact many competing high-end P55 motherboards don’t even utilize heatpipes to cool these components, so Gigabyte is definitely a step ahead here.
You can see the 10 SATA ports are nestled just behind the P55 chipset. The ports are mounted parallel to the edge of the board, so they won’t interfere with large graphics cards like the Radeon 5870, which runs great with this motherboard. In fact, Gigabyte places two expansion slots between the PCI Express Graphics (PEG) slots, so you’ll have plenty of room for dual 5870s.
As you can see, the board is outfitted with 3 PEG slots, but the third slot is electrically limited x4 operation, and therefore would only be used for running additional displays, or you could throw your old GeForce 8800 GT or 9600 GT here for PhysX. The motherboard is also equipped with two PCI slots and two x1 PCIe slots for additional expansion, while legacy floppy and IDE connectors are also present on the board.
Because the uppermost x1 PCIe slot is located right next to Gigabyte’s heatsink for the board’s power regulation circuitry, you may not be able to use this slot for many x1 PCIe devices. That’s our only real gripe with the layout of this board. It would also be nice if Gigabyte offered a clear CMOS button on the backplate of the motherboard for easy access.
If the P55-UD6’s $200+ price tag is too much for your budget, Gigabyte also offers the P55-UD4P. While at first quick glance it looks a lot like the P55-UD6, this board is based on an entirely different, unique, board design that’s designed from the get go to be cheaper for Gigabyte to produce.
Gone is the 8-layer board design used on the P55-UD6. Instead the P55-UD4P gets by with just four board layers. Gigabyte still employs Ultra Durable 3 features like 2-ounce copper PCB and all-solid capacitors with ferrite core chokes and low RDS MOSFETs though. Other Gigabyte-unique features like Smart 6 and AutoGreen also tag along for the ride.
The P55-UD4P also supports both SLI and CrossFire. Two PEG slots are present and account for on the board, and they’re separated by two x1 PCIe slots, so you’ll have plenty of room to run dual-slot graphics cards like the GeForce GTX 275 and Radeon 4890.
There are a couple of features you will have to give up when going from the P55-UD6 to the UD4P.
As you can see in the photos, the third PEG slot is gone. Instead it’s been replaced by a third x1 PCIe slot. This may actually prove to be more useful for some users who don’t subscribe to the whole multi-GPU craze, especially since the uppermost x1 PCIe slot is blocked by Gigabyte’s heatsink. You’ll also see that Gigabyte removes the extra DIMM sockets found on the P55-UD6, instead the board gets by with four DIMMs.
The biggest change for those of you running gobs of storage is going to be the loss of two SATA ports, bringing the total number of internal SATA connectors down to eight. This is the same number of ports offered on more expensive motherboards from other manufacturers.
Since we run our testbeds on an open test bench, the biggest loss for us is the built-in onboard power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons found on the P55-UD6, as well as the diagnostic LED. These aren’t features that are found on many mainstream motherboards just yet though, so we honestly can’t complain too much about this.
To further reduce costs, Gigabyte employs an 8-phase power solution on the P55-UD4P. This honestly doesn’t sound like a lot, particularly when Gigabyte’s flagship P55 motherboard sports 24-phases, but it’s still quite capable of delivering very nice OCs thanks to the scalability of Intel’s Lynnfield CPUs. These chips just have tons of headroom when it comes to OC’ing, even with budget motherboards. If you do want more than 8-phases though and don’t want to pay the premium for the UD6, Gigabyte also offers the P55-UD5. This motherboard features 12-phase power and other UD6 extras like heatpipe cooling for the chipset and 10 internal SATA ports.
Once again Gigabyte’s delivered a pretty good layout for the P55-UD4P. The uppermost x1 PCIe slot is still awkwardly located right up against Gigabyte’s auxiliary cooling for the board’s power regulation circuitry, which, as you can see continues to use the same heatsink/heatpipe design as the more expensive P55-UD6. Gigabyte must have got a really good price on these heatsinks.
That cooling doesn’t translate over to the P55 chipset itself however, as Gigabyte employs a conventional aluminum heatsink sans heatpipe. This is more in line with what we’d expect from a mainstream motherboard.
Only two push-pins are used to mount the cooler to the P55 chipset, but the cooler is still mounted securely; we couldn’t wiggle the cooler or easily jostle it from its place.
The audio and networking subsystems carry over unchanged from the P55-UD6, so you get the same support for Dolby Home Theater and LAN Teaming (among other features). Gigabyte also managed to include combo eSATA/USB ports on the board’s backplate, although the P55-UD4P loses the UD6’s ability to also power eSATA devices.
The eight internal SATA connectors are edge mounted, just like the UD6, so you shouldn’t have a problem running long graphics cards, and there’s now room for Gigabyte to tuck the IDE connector behind the DIMM slots, which is definitely more ideal than the location Gigabyte was forced to implement for the UD6. The SATA ports as well as the IDE connector are all powered by Gigabyte’s own SATA2/IDE controller, which is sourced from JMicron.
Thankfully the board still ships with dual PEG slots, and fully supports ATI CrossFire. Remember that CrossFire is a feature that’s native to all P55 motherboards, it’s up to the motherboard manufacturer to actually implement it. Gigabyte also continues to include eight SATA ports, as well as 8-phase power.
Despite its lower cost, the UD3R continues to support Ultra Durable 3 features (as the “UD” in the board’s designation implies) as well as Gigabyte’s Smart 6. Gigabyte AutoGreen and Dynamic Energy Saver 2 are also supported.
Considering the board’s intended market – value-conscious consumers who may not have the latest and greatest PCIe audio cards and other devices, Gigabyte opts to ship the board with four PCI slots and just one x1 PCIe slot. There’s no Gigabyte heatsink in the way of the x1 slot on the UD3R, so it’s actually useable too. The IDE connector is also placed out of the way so it won’t interfere with other devices in your system.
We wish we could say the same about the board’s primary SATA ports. Unfortunately though, they aren’t edge-mounted. Instead they’re mounted perpendicular to the motherboard, so you will run into issues with long graphics cards.
Thankfully Gigabyte mounted the primary SATA ports low enough on the board that they’ll only interfere with graphics cards installed in the secondary PEG slot. So if you’re only running one graphics card, this isn’t a problem. Considering the target market Gigabyte is aiming this board towards, this probably won’t be an issue for most users, as they likely won’t even use the secondary PEG slot.
Gigabyte integrates Realtek’s older ALC888 audio CODEC on the UD3R. This is still an 8-channel HD audio CODEC, but you lose Dolby Home Theater certification (the chip supports it, but Gigabyte didn’t pony up the cash to license it) and lower signal-to-noise ratio for the DACs and ADCs.
To further reduce costs, the P55-UD3R also lacks IEEE-1394 FireWire support. This could potentially be an issue for those of you with FireWire-based digital camcorders.
The board still offers support for 2 eSATA devices though, and 10 dedicated USB 2.0 ports can be found on the backplate of the motherboard. This is really good for a “value” oriented motherboard. Some X58 motherboards don’t even feature eSATA natively on the backplate.
Considering that this secondary PEG slot is limited to x4 PCIe speeds though, you probably wouldn’t want to use it for any high-end CrossFire applications.
It’s a shame Gigabyte didn’t mount these SATA ports along the edge of the board, like the two Gigabyte-driven SATA ports are. We do welcome the fact that Gigabyte includes eight SATA ports on the UD3R though. Most P55 motherboards in its price segment rely on just six SATA ports driven by the P55 chipset.
Gigabyte uses the same 8-phase power design that’s employed on the more expensive P55-UD4P though.
The rest of the board’s layout is good; remember that like other P55 motherboards, the DIMM slots are located so close to the CPU socket that memory modules with oversized heatsinks (like Corsair’s Dominator and OCZ Reaper) won’t fit properly with tower-style CPU coolers.
You’ll either have to opt for DDR3 memory modules with shorter heatspreaders, or you’ll need to buy a smaller CPU heatsink. We chose to use memory modules with short cooling on our testbed.
Also remember that even though the P55-UD3R is Gigabyte’s value-oriented P55 entry, it retains Gigabyte features like 2-ounce copper PCB, all-solid capacitors, etc.
This makes it an excellent solution for those of you on a budget who wish to save some money on your Lynnfield upgrade. You can pair this motherboard with a Core i5-750 and shoot for OCs well beyond 1GHz over stock with no problems.
In the last year or so, micro-ATX motherboards have come a long way. These boards used to be no-frills budget designs that barely met the needs of the average consumer, much less an enthusiast. BIOS options were usually limited to selecting the system date/time, adjusting boot priority, and if you were lucky, maybe you got a couple of settings for OC’ing the bus speed, memory multiplier, etc, but voltage adjustment was a definite no-no.
Hardware-wise motherboard manufacturers very rarely went beyond the capabilities native to the chipset with their micro-ATX motherboards. And most boards were usually limited to 4-6 USB ports on the backplate.
This isn’t the case anymore though. Motherboard manufacturers have finally begun to realize that there’s a growing segment of the computing population that wants to build small, yet powerful PCs that are just as capable as full-fledged desktop towers. For starters, there’s the HTPC crowd, who wants a capable media-focused PC for duties like high-definition encoding and Blu-ray movie watching, as well as use as the home DVR/MP3 box.
Gamers who attend LAN parties and other events don’t want to lug their 40-pound rigs to their buddies apartment each weekend either. They’d rather have a smaller, portable gaming PC that doesn’t compromise when it comes to performance.
These types of users had been plucking up Shuttle XPCs, but their high pricing and lack of upgradeability were huge cons.
Now thanks to motherboards like the Gigabyte P55M-UD4, you don’t have to pay a premium for portability, and you get all the performance out of this tiny micro-ATX motherboard as an ATX design. Feature selection is pretty good also. From a pure hardware perspective, the P55M-UD4 goes beyond the P55-UD4P in many ways, and it’s vastly superior to the P55-UD3R.
For starters, the same combo eSATA/USB ports are borrowed from the UD6. For eSATA devices, they’re fully powered too.
Considering this board is likely going to be used in home theater PCs, Gigabyte employs Realtek’s flagship ALC889A CODEC. This is the same CODEC used on the UD6 that’s Dolby Home Theater certified and can encode Dolby Digital Live bitstreams on-the-fly in hardware. You’ve got optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs on the backplate of the motherboard as well.
Gigabyte doesn’t compromise out back either. The P55M-UD4 has eight native USB ports plus the trick combo eSATA/USB ports, a full-size FireWire port, PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo connector, 6 audio jacks, and your RJ-45 Ethernet port.
Gamers will also be glad to hear that the board is both SLI and CrossFire certified, with a primary x16 PEG slot and secondary x8 PEG slot. An x4 PCIe slot is placed between the PEG slots too, so there’s enough room for dual-slot GPUs. You could potentially use this x4 PCIe slot to house an additional graphics card (in case you want to drive more displays) or for your x1 PCIe devices. Finally, a PCI slot is placed on the bottom of the board.
As a micro-ATX motherboard with limited PCB real estate, the P55M-UD4 is naturally at a disadvantage compared to its larger ATX cousins we’ve discussed previously. But Gigabyte has tried to minimize the number of board layout conflicts as much as possible.
For instance, the area around the CPU socket is pretty accommodating to large CPU coolers. We managed to squeeze our Thermalright MUX-120 heatsink/fan on the board without issue. Just keep in mind that you’ll want to stick with memory modules with conventional heatspreaders if you use a Tower-style CPU heatsink/fan unit. Memory modules with tall cooling won’t fit underneath these CPU coolers.
Speaking of the CPU area, Gigabyte employs a 12-phase power design on the P55M-UD4. This is actually more powerful than the 8-phase solutions Gigabyte has integrated on the P55-UD4P and the P55-UD3R. Gigabyte uses the same heatpipe cooling here also.
Gigabyte even managed to find room for integrated power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons. In fact Gigabyte employs the same buttons used on the P55-UD6.
Again, just like the UD6 though, we’d like to see Gigabyte integrate a real reset button on the board (similar to the power button) instead of the switch they use now, as you can easily mistake the reset switch for the clear CMOS switch. The only difference between the two switches is color, the reset switch is blue and clear CMOS is black. But you can easily forget this and hit the wrong switch by mistake. A clear CMOS switch on the back plate would’ve been nice too.
Because of the board’s diminutive size though, there isn’t enough room for the 8 SATA ports Gigabyte integrates on their full-sized ATX P55 motherboards. Instead Gigabyte provides 7 internal SATA ports. 5 of the SATA ports are driven by the Intel chipset, and two are powered by Gigabyte’s SATA2 controller chip sourced from JMicron. The Gigabyte-based SATA ports are colored white, while the Intel-based ports are blue.
As you can see, six of the SATA ports are edge mounted and out of the way of long graphics cards, but the fifth Intel-based SATA port isn’t. This port interferes with the secondary PEG slot, so users with SLI or CrossFire graphics will have to leave it unused.
The P55M-UD4’s other layout issue is the spacing between the primary PEG slot and the board’s four DIMMs. Because the PCB is so small, there isn’t enough room to provide proper spacing between both slots, so you’ll have to install your system RAM before the graphics card. Likewise, when you’re ready to upgrade your memory, you’ll have to pull the graphics card out first in order to access the DIMMs.
This isn’t an issue for any of Gigabyte’s larger ATX motherboards.
All power connectors and IDE connector are out of the way, so there’s plenty of room on the board in this regard, and Gigabyte didn’t cut corners by skipping fan headers. You’ve got three system fan headers, and of course the CPU fan header. All of these are well placed so you shouldn’t run into issues with cabling.
Like the other motherboards we’ve discussed, Gigabyte features like Ultra Durable 3, Smart 6, and Dynamic Energy Saver 2 are integrated on the P55M-UD4.
This makes life easier for both Gigabyte and the public.
By sharing the same basic BIOS amongst all their P55 boards, Gigabyte can rollout new BIOS updates simultaneously across their entire P55 lineup more easily.
This is also good for end users, as you’ll get the same level of updates and basic capabilities regardless of how much you spend on your Gigabyte motherboard.
The BIOS Gigabyte provides is quite capable too. For instance, base clock speeds range from 100-1200MHz, with 1MHz increments provided for max flexibility when OC’ing.
Providing bclk speeds up to 1200MHz is simply an amazing number of settings. Remember that Intel’s stock speed is 133MHz, so this is well beyond that. Memory multipliers of 6.0, 8.0, 10.0 and 12.0 are provided as well, as is support for Intel Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP).
The BIOS is pretty easy to navigate. Rather than placing everything you need to OC your CPU on one extremely long page you have to scroll through, Gigabyte separates the settings for frequency adjustment from the voltage options. This limits the amount of scrolling you’ll have to do, but as a result you will have to flip back and forth through different menus. For instance, to OC your Core i7-860, you’ll have to go to MB Intelligent Tweaker --> Advanced Frequency Settings. From here, another submenu (Advanced CPU Core Features) is needed to turn off CPU features like Turbo Mode, Hyper-Threading, and power saving options like C1E. Other than that though, no scrolling is needed, all the various speeds are presented on one easy to read page.
Depending on how far your OC your processor, you may need to bump up your CPU voltage. To do this, you’ll then have to navigate to MB Intelligent Tweaker --> Advanced Voltage Settings. Once again, Gigabyte offers all your voltage adjustments on one page with no scrolling.
We point this out because some enthusiasts like having all options for OC’ing presented one page, even if they do have to scroll down several pages to get everything accomplished. Others prefer their BIOS settings to be organized and laid out logically where everything’s within easy reach. Often times you can miss a setting or two that you need if you have to scroll through pages of options.
The following chart summarizes all the BIOS settings available:
As you can see, Gigabyte provides a ton of options for OC’ing inside BIOS. Voltages are color-coded, so in case you didn’t know that sending 1.8V of juice to your Lynnfield CPU could potentially fry your processor, Gigabyte colors the extreme voltage options red.
Speaking of OC’ing, we managed to hit max bclk speeds of 231MHz with the P55-UD6, 217MHz with the P55-UD4P, 211MHz with the P55-UD3R, and 219MHz with the P55M-UD4, so all of these boards should give you pretty good headroom over the stock bclk frequency for OC’ing.
Intel Core i7-870
4GB (2x2GB) Kingston KHX1600C8D3K2/4GX @ DDR3-1333 Speeds
ASUS P7P55D Deluxe
EVGA P55 FTW
ATI Radeon HD 5850
Catalyst 9.10 Beta
150GB Western Digital Raptor
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Far Cry 2
Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark
As Anandtech pointed out last month, these Foxconn sockets have proven to be troublesome for extreme OC’ers who are running subzero cooling solutions like liquid nitrogen/liquid helium in a quest to push past the 5GHz mark. Obviously this is operating the CPU well outside Intel’s guidelines, but CPU sockets from other manufacturers don’t appear to be failing like the Foxconn sockets, implying the others are doing something Foxconn isn’t.
We haven’t experienced any issues OC’ing Lynnfield CPUs with motherboards equipped with the Foxconn sockets; we’ve been doing this a few months now without issue. Obviously we’re not using subzero cooling though, we’re happy with hitting 4GHz+ on air.
Bottom line, most of you shouldn’t have any problems with any of the motherboards represented in this article. The only users who are affected appear to be extreme OC’ers.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to the final scores…
Gigabyte’s put together another winner with their P55-UD6. As a flagship motherboard, the P55-UD6 is naturally going to be well equipped, but Gigabyte goes a step above with this motherboard.
As we’ve said in the past, Gigabyte’s motherboards are in a lot of ways overbuilt. This description couldn’t be more fitting for the P55-UD6. Its 24-phase power system is more than capable of supplying enough power for your CPU OC’ing endeavors, and Gigabyte uses heatpipe cooling for the power subsystem.
The six DIMMs are definite overkill, especially considering the board’s limited to the same 16GB DDR3 as other P55 motherboards, and enthusiasts will appreciate the plethora of SATA and USB ports present on the board. Even the most die-hard user running the P55-UD6 probably won’t run out of SATA or USB ports.
Our only gripe we could come up with for the board are the generic reset and clear CMOS switches. They look too similar to each other and aren’t clearly labeled. We’d like to see Gigabyte implement larger, fully backlit reset and clear CMOS buttons like they do on their excellent 790FX motherboard, the GA-MA790FXT-UD5P. It also would’ve been nice if Gigabyte would’ve included a clear CMOS button on the backplate of the motherboard.
Everywhere else though the board is pretty much perfect. This is one of the best P55 motherboards money can buy at any price.
If you’re an HTPC user looking to build a new Lynnfield system around the micro-ATX form factor, you’ll definitely want to take a look at Gigabyte’s P55M-UD4. The board is very well-equipped for a micro-ATX solution, especially when you factor in its sub-$150 price tag.
The board supports SLI and CrossFire, and thanks to its 12-phase power system, it’s more adept in this regard than some full-size ATX motherboards in its price range. Gigabyte didn’t compromise when it comes to connectivity options either, this board has just as many SATA, USB, and FireWire ports as many P55 ATX motherboards. And the audio system carries over from the P55-UD6.
Without a doubt, the P55M-UD4 is the most well-equipped micro-ATX P55 motherboard in its price range, which is why it’s an easy call for our Bull’s Eye Award.