P55 Motherboard Round-up: Asus, EVGA, GB, Intel, MSI

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Gigabyte P55A-UD6

When we began this article, Gigabyte's P55A-UD6 was the flagship model in its P55 product line up. Recently, the motherboard maker has stepped things up a notch and released the ultra high end P55-UD7. In either case, we find the feature sets available with either board to be rather impressive, but they come at a very steep price.



Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD6 Motherboard

 P55A-UD6
 Layout and Features

Processor
LGA-1156 i5 / i7 Processors

Memory
Four 240-pin DDR3 SDRAM DIMM sockets
Supports DDR3 2200 / 1333 / 1066 / 800 MHz
Up to 16 GB max
   
Expansion Slots
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (x16)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (x8)
1 x PCIe x16 (x4)
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slot
2 x PCI slots

RAID
SATA 1-6 support Intel Matrix Storage Technology
AHCI / RAID 0/1/5/10
  
Audio
Realtek® ALC889 audio codec
7.1-channel HD audio

Networking
Dual LAN (10/100/1000) Realtek RTL8111D
Back Panel I/O
6 x USB 2.0 ports
2 x USB 3.0 ports
2 x RJ45 LAN jacks
2 x IEEE1394a port
1 x Coaxial S/PDIF out port
1 x Optical S/PDIF out port
1 x PS/2 keyboard or mouse port
2 x eSATA / USB combo ports
6 audio ports

Accessories
Rear I/O panel shield
SLI bridge
6 x SATA data cables
IDE cable
Two port eSATA expansion bracket
eSATA power cables
User's guide
Drivers and utilities disk


Form Factor
ATX 12 x 9.6 inches ( 30.5 cm x 24.5 cm )

Warranty
3 years limited (parts and labor)

Price
$250

Remember that an advertised advantage of Intel's P55 platform is lower cost for consumers. However, the UD6 runs for $250 which is very expensive for a P55 board and reaches into X58 pricing territory. Consider for a moment that it is roughly $100 more than three of the motherboards in this round up. For most consumers, that's a tough pill to swallow when trying to get the most value from their dollar. But we will take into account that this is a high end, enthusiast class product with features not necessarily found on other boards.

One of the first things we noticed about the UD6 was the fact that it is the only P55 board we know of that offers six memory sockets. Six sockets? No, this board does not support triple channel memory like X58 boards do. It has a dual channel configuration just like every other P55 motherboard. But it does allow six memory modules to be installed if at least four of them are single sided sticks. Its worth noting that we haven't come across single sided memory since (2x1GB) kits were the norm. Nowadays, current DDR3 memory comes in the double sided flavor so the usefulness of this feature is very limited. We wouldn't suggest searching for single sided memory just to fill the slots of this board since you can easily buy a couple kits of DDR3 for a total of 8GB (4x2GB) and have more than enough RAM. Nevertheless, the feature is available for those that can make use of it.

Other features found on the UD6 include two SATA 6Gb/s ports, six SATA 3Gb/s ports, onboard power and reset buttons, a clear CMOS switch, and a POST code LED. At the moment, there are not many SATA 6Gb/s drives available but the new generation of SSDs are coming to address that. It will definitely be fun to see how fast they can go with the available throughput. Additionally, the UD6 has seven expansion slots made up of three PCIe x16, two PCIe x1, and two standard PCI sockets.

We find a hefty bundle included with the UD6. It features six SATA data cables, an IDE cable, SLI bridge, eSATA expansion bracket, eSATA power cables, I/O shield, user's guide, and drivers disk.  

The rear panel on the UD6 is stacked. It features a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, optical and coaxial S/PDIF out connectors,  two IEEE-1934a ports, two RJ-45 LAN ports, two eSATA/USB combo connectors, six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and 6 audio jacks. That's a total of ten USB connections one the I/O panel alone. Obviously, the USB 3.0 ports will become more valuable when external devices are able to utilize the massive bandwidth that is now available to them. 


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