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In motherboards—as in life—it’s the little things that bring the greatest pleasure.
Take the new Core i5/i7 LGA1156 board, the Asus P7P55D Deluxe. Enthusiasts are used to the flashy heatsinks and tons of ports and slots, but small touches like Asus’s innovative RAM slots will make you take notice. Instead of using the typical latch connectors that can snag the GPU, Asus has designed a system that requires only one side of the RAM to be latched in.
But adding unexpected conveniences is Asus’s M.O. of late. The board also features snag-free I/O shields, a quick-connect for front-panel connectors, and ExpressGate—the somewhat handy pre-OS boot environment. Besides adding such extras, Asus said it spent an inordinate amount of time making sure the board overclocks like a champ. There are multiple ways to overclock: using the Turbo V function, AI Suite, and the OC Tuner in the BIOS. If that’s not enough, the company even includes three ominous switches to let you override BIOS limits on RAM, memory controller, and CPU voltage. Even more interesting is the Turbo V remote. This wired remote lets you power up or down and select from three overclocking profiles or crank up the Bclock in real time.
Since Asus emphasized the automatic overclocking features of the board, this is what we were most interested in testing. The Turbo V auto-overclock was not only fun to watch in action but also fruitful, giving us a 20 percent clock bump. But we actually had the most success overclocking our Core i7-870 using the OC Tuner feature in the BIOS. OC Tuner successfully took the board from 2.93GHz to an extremely stable 3.87GHz.
We didn’t get quite as far with Gigabyte’s GA-P55-UD6 automatic overclock feature, but manual overclocks will likely find both boards in the same neighborhood. With this class of motherboard, the limit on overclocking is usually in the CPU, the RAM, the cooling, or the PSU—not the board.
While the overclocking story on the P7P55D was great, the performance was a mixed bag. Generally, motherboard performance in the days of highly integrated core-logic chipsets tends to be boring, with little variance among boards, but we experienced some odd results with the P7P55D that had us scratching our heads. It’s our theory that unexpected discrepancies in performance are the result of Turbo Boost. Intel’s Nehalems automatically overclock based on thermals, power load, and the threading workload. Those are enough variables to make head-on performance evaluations tough. We could disable Turbo Boost, but since that’s not a mode anyone would actually run in, the results would be of little value.
Our final conclusion is that the P7P55D Deluxe is slightly slower than the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6, but not enough to matter. After all, these boards use the same Intel P55 chipsets. What it comes down to is features. The GA-P55-UD6 has the more flexible six-DIMM configuration and boots faster (15 seconds vs. 30 for the Asus), but doesn’t auto-overclock as well. The Asus P7P55D obviously has overclocking tools galore, including the unique overclocking remote, and saves you about $30.
This is essentially a Taiwanese standoff, with neither board likely to back down. You could almost make your pick based on color and be happy either way.
Three overclocking choices to pick from; single-latch RAM.
Do you really need to overclock your machine in real-time from three feet away?
|P7P55D Deluxe ||GA-P55-UD6 ||Percentage |
|PCMark Vantage 64-bit Overall ||6,693 ||7,536||12.6% |
|Everest Ultimate MEM Read (MB/s)||15,750||12,997||-17.5%|
|Everest Ultimate MEM Write (MB/s)||13,543||10,811||-20.2%|
|Everest Ultimate MEM Copy (MB/s)||15,432||15,414||-0.1%|
|Everest Ultimate MEM Latency (ns)||50.1||53||5.8%|
|Sisoft Sandra RAM Bandwidth (GB/s)||16.7||16.7||0.0%|
|3DMark Vantage Overall||15,036||15,002||-0.2%|
|3DMark Vantage GPU||12,254||12,231||-0.2%|
|3DMark Vantage CPU||47,120||46,815||-0.6%|
|Valve Particle Test (fps)||154||159||3.2%|
|Crysis CPU (fps)||145||156||7.6%|
|Resident Evil 5 (fps)||120.5||115||-4.6%|
|World in Conflict (fps)||239||282||18.0%|