If you thought Intel’s new budget Nehalem meant rock-bottom, feature-stripped motherboards to match, think again.
Gigabyte’s GA-P55-UD6 jams just about every feature you could think of into the new LGA1156 platform. There are the de rigueur updated power-saving utilities and the dual BIOS, which can save your bacon should your BIOS get corrupted.
And then there’s a whole kitchen sink of new features, such as the ability to secure the system using the onboard TPM module and then have it unlock when the computer detects your Bluetooth phone nearby. The same Bluetooth phone can also be used to put the system in standby or hibernate if you walk away, to save power.
Two other features are probably a bit more useful: As part of the board’s Smart Six apps, the BIOS QuickBoot feature allows you to set the BIOS to initialize much faster if no hardware has been changed. With the feature turned on, we saw the system go from a 30-second POST-to-OS load to 15 seconds. That’s pretty spectacular. The OS QuickBoot promises faster boots, too, but as far as we can tell, it’s simply a different way to invoke Vista’s Hybrid Sleep mode.
Gigabyte's P55 board is the first to sport six DIMM slots for the Core i5.
In the odd-feature department, the Smart Recorder function can log power ons and offs and which files are moved off of the computer. (Not trustful of your roommate?) Even odder is the Smart Dual BIOS feature that lets you store passwords and up to 12 important dates in the BIOS. Why? We don’t know.
On the physical front, the board ups the arms race in power regulation with a 24-phase power feature. A typical budget board features four-phase power circuits—Gigabyte says the 24-phase helps keep the board cooler by spreading the workload among more components and can also aid in delivering higher and more reliable voltage. Gigabyte also says it used two ounces of copper to build the traces in the board instead of the typical one ounce in budget boards. In theory, this should lower the resistance and also thermals.
Of course, there’s also 12 SATA ports (but no SATA 6) and eight USB ports (no USB 3.0), as well as SLI and CrossFire X support. Oh, and did we mention the six DIMM slots? That’s the feature that will get the most attention. Since Lynnfield is dual-channel, the majority of boards for the CPU feature four DIMM slots. The six-slots, though, aren’t as useful as you would think, right now. To populate all six, you must include four single-sided DIMMs. What that translates to with today’s RAM is four 1GB DDR3 sticks combined with, say, two 2GB DIMMs, for a total of 8GB. That’s the same as you would get from a four-slot board. The extra slots might be handy in 12 to 18 months, when RAM density has increased, but not today. We tested the GA-P55-UD6 with six DIMMS to see if populating all of the slots would hurt performance, and it didn’t. In fact, we saw slightly better performance with 8GB using six DIMMs than 8GB using four DIMMs.
We used the GA-P55-UD6 for the majority of our Lynnfield testing (November) and didn’t experience any issues, and performance was quite good when compared to X58 and i920.
Even the cost of the board is quite acceptable. If this were an X58 board, it would push $350, but at $240 MSRP the GA-P55-UD6 is a decent value. The fact that the board is currently selling for more than it lists tells you how hot is right now.
Short POST times and SATA and USB ports for days.
Can't access reset button with two GPUs installed.
2.66GHz Core i5-750 on P55
2.66GHz Core i7-920 on X58
Everest Ultimate MEM Read (MB/s)
Everest Ultimate MEM Write (MB/s)
Everest Ultimate MEM Copy (MB/s)
Everest Ultimate MEM Latency (ns)
PC Mark Vantage
3DMark Vantage Overall
3DMark Vantage GPU
3DMark Vantage CPU
Crysis CPU (fps)
Resident Evil 5 fixed DX9 (fps)
World in Conflict (fps)
Our Core i7 rig used a GA-EX58-UD5R with 6GB of DDR3/1066 in tri-channel mode. Our Core i5 rig used a GA-P55-UD5 with 4GB of DDR3/1333 in dual-channel mode. Both systems were running a GeForce GTX 280 card, a WD Raptor 150 hard drive, and 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium.