Intel Core i5, Core i7 800 Processors and P55 Express

The Intel P55 Express Chipset

As we have already mentioned on a few occasions, to compliment the new Core i5 and Core i7 800 series processors, Intel is also introducing the P55 Express chipset. The P55 Express is somewhat different than any other Intel chipset released to date. It is, however, also very similar...  Let us explain.

Because the Core i5 and Core i7 800 series processors feature integrated memory controllers and 16 PCI Express 2.0 lanes, virtually all of the functionality previously integrated into a northbridge is now on the CPU die. As such, the P55 Express is essentially a southbridge chip, linked directly to the processor.

As the above block diagram shows, the P55 chipset links to the processor via a 2GB/s interface. The memory and graphics card(s) connect directly to the CPU. The P55 Express itself features 14 USB 2.0 ports, an additional 8 lanes of PCE Express Gen 1 connectivity, and integrated GigE MAC, HD audio, and 6 SATA ports.


Intel DP55KG Kingsberg Motherboard

Of course, Intel is at the ready with a few motherboards to exploit all the P55 Express has to offer. The board pictured here is the Extreme Series DP55KG Kingsberg Motherboard. It is, of course, based on the P55 Express chipset and offers support for up to four DIMMs, and SLI and CrossFire multi-GPU support. We should note that the 16 PCI Express lanes integrated into the CPU are flexible, and can be configured for operating in 1 x 16 and 2 x 8 lane configurations. As such, the DP55KG features dual PEG slots, although one is a notched x8 slot, with a full length retention bracket.

The DP55KG is built on a dark colored PCB, but blue and white accents. Generally speaking, the layout of the board is good and there are no major components that impinge on any others. The VRM on the board is treated to an array of blue, aluminum heatsinks, and the P55 itself gets its own heatsink as well. While the heatsink on the chipset may appear small, especially in comparison to the boards we'll show you next, we should note that even with this relatively miniscule heatsink, the chipset got just warm to the touch, even after hours of testing.

If you look at the various shots of the DP55KG above, you'll see that it is legacy free, and devoid and any IDE, floppy, or PS/2 connectors. Its backplane is home to an assortment of USB, eSATA, Firewire, audio, and Ethernet jacks, and there is also an integrated Bluetooth transceiver on the board. The DP55KG also sports an LED POST code error reported, and because it is an Extreme Edition board, it has a full complement of overclocking and performance tuning options available, not only via the system BIOS, but via Intel's Desktop Control Center software as well.

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