ECS P55H-A Review
Reviewed by: tacohunter52
Reviewed on: October 21, 2009
The LGA 1156 processors have been out for a few weeks now, so you can expect to have a decent selection of motherboards to choose from. Companies have been stepping up to the plate, and releasing motherboards that will almost make you want to put your hardware in them. The only problem is you've got to choose which one will suit you best. This isn't easy to do, especially considering all the special features we've seen on Asus and MSI boards. Usually the deciding factor will come down to price, so what will give you the best bang for your buck?
EliteGroup, also known as ECS, has developed a board that should give you decent performance. At the same time it will go easy on your wallet. I'm talking about the P55H-A. Sure the name might not be impressive like "Gigantor" or "Super Board", but it is much easier to type. Just what will this board bring to the table? Read on, and let's find out.
Users familiar with OCC can already guess what's coming next. For those that are new to the site, well you're about to find out. The P55H-A's packaging was what you'd expect a motherboard to arrive in. The front of the box stated the motherboards name. It also showed a rather cool picture of a dragon fighting a swordsman, and some of the boards specifications. The back of the packaging showed a picture of the motherboard, and more detailed specifications.
The sides of the box were all more or less the same. They each showed the ECS logo, and the P55H-A logo. In the background of the P55H-A logo there was a cool design in blue. The front side of the box was arranged slightly differently and has a handle. I've never seen anyone carrying a motherboard box by the handle, but it can still be useful.
Opening the box revealed a few of the P55H-A's accessories placed on top of cardboard. Removing the cardboard and accessories reveals the P55H-A. The board was securely placed in an antistatic bag with a sheet of foam.
Now let's take a look at the included accessories.
I feel very feminine saying this, but accessories are important. Why? Well, because they make you feel like you're getting more for your money. Maybe not a whole lot more, but at least you're getting something other than just a motherboard. I was very pleased with how well ECS was able to make a few accessories seem like a lot. Really you're only getting some SATA cables, a manual, a driver CD, an IDE cable, and an eJiffy CD. However, the abundance of stuff makes it seem like a lot. The P55H-A also came with a hefty users guide, as well a driver CD. The eJiffy is much like Asus's Express gate. It will allow you to browse the web before booting into your primary OS.
The P55H-A came with two guides. The first was the users guide, and the second is slightly less ordinary. This second guide is actually an extremely detailed installation guide. Many users reading this will find this guide useless. However, this is an extremely great addition for new users. Like many boards the P55H-A came with four SATA cables. The only difference is that ECS packed them to make it look like you're getting more. Yep! That's right each cable is individually wrapped.
The shield and IDE cable were the standard. Meaning, the shield is your typical metal shield. It did not have any foam to protect the motherboards rear ports. The IDE cable, as with every motherboard, was a standard IDE cable.
Now that we've seen the accessories let's take a look at the P55H-A itself.
I know talking about packaging and accessories is fun, but let's take a minute to look at the actual motherboard. The ECS P55H-A is part of ECS's "Black Series." For this reason, I'm assuming, the motherboards PCB is black. Actually the color scheme was surprisingly pleasing. For some strange reason the black, yellow, and orange colors reminded me of Halloween. Halloween is just around the corner, so these colors seem oddly appropriate for this time of year. Looking at the board as a whole I noticed a few problems with the layout. However, we'll get to those a little bit later. The back of the motherboard is completely black, and...What's this? Is that metal plate made by Foxconn? Why yes, yes it is.
The P55H-A includes a total of six SATA ports. This is a good amount, but it is a bit less then I'd like to see on a motherboard. The good news is that all six of the ports are angled. This means easier wire management, which is always a plus. The reverse end of the board contains the rear ports. Looking at the P55H-A from this angle, in my opinion, makes it seem rather empty. I'm not sure why, because there's actually quite a lot there. There are eight USB ports, an eSATA port, standard audio ports, a digital audio port, two PS/2 ports, and a clear CMOS button. This appearance of empty space must mean that ECS is extremely good at spatial management, unlike some other companies. The side of the motherboard closest to the DIMM slots again appears to be empty. What I'm referring to is the lack of the auxiliary power port. In other words ECS stuck the auxiliary power port in the center of the motherboard. This is a huge NO NO when it comes to a good layout. The remaining side of the motherboard contains the connectors. These include the front header connectors, the USB connectors, and the audio connector. Also located in this area is the misplaced IDE connector. Instead of being located in the logical spot, next to the 24-Pin connector, ECS decided to place it even farther away from where your IDE drive might be located. Thanks ECS!
The P55H-A's DIMM slots are your standard DDR3 slots. The slots are colored yellow and orange, and the primary slots alternate. So if you're only using two DIMM's you'll get a little breathing room between them. The P55H-A also comes with a decent selection of PCI slots. Users looking to SLI will be delighted to see that there are two PCIe x 16 slots. There are also two standard PCI slots, a PCIe x 1 slot, and a PCIe x 4 slot.
Let's move on to the topic of how the P55H-A is powered. The main power connector is your standard 24-Pin connector. For some strange reason there's a 3-Pin fan connector located right next to it. This isn't particularly a bad thing, but I've never seen this on a motherboard before so I thought it was odd. The auxiliary power connector is horribly located next to the PCI slots. Again there's a 3-Pin fan connector.., am I missing something here? You'll also notice that there's a Molex connector in this same area. So here's where it gets a bit confusing. The Molex connector is for the "Graphics Interface." Right now some of you just thought, "that's odd, why does the onboard video need extra power?" Well, that doesn't matter, because there is no onboard video. This Molex connector is actually an auxiliary power connector for your graphics cards. The only thing is the GPU's most users with this board will be using require power from the PSU anyway. If you purchase the P55H-A I suggest you do what I did, and pretend the Molex connector isn't even there.
The P55H-A comes included with an "Easy Debug" LED. It's supposed to help you easily diagnose a problem when one occurs. Only, I'm not to sure how well it will work. When booting up the LED showed what appeared to be random numbers and letters, and when completely powered on it showed more random numbers and letters. This is great and all, but I couldn't find anything that says what these numbers mean in the included materials. If you encounter a problem and want to use the debugger you'll have to consult with the internet in order to find a solution. Located next to the debugger is the onboard speaker. As most of us know this will make loud beeping noises if a problem is encountered.
The P55H-A offers you two ways to clear the CMOS without entering the BIOS. The easiest of which is a button located on the rear panel. The second, and more traditional way, is by using the CMOS jumper located near the DIMM slots. ECS also gives you an easy way to power on, and reset your system on the fly. The buttons are a little unusual, and they remind me of little pieces of candy. The P55H-A's BIOS is stored right next to the IDE connector.
The front panel connector is located next to the three USB connectors. All for of these connectors are, surprisingly, the exact same size. Located next to the USB connectors is the IDE connector. On the other side of the IDE connector is even more headers! You'll have your standard S/PDIF connector. As well as a front panel audio connector, CD_in, and COM connector.
We've seen some pretty interesting cooler designs on these P55 motherboards. The P55H-A's chipset heatspreader is slightly less intricate then it could be, but that doesn't mean it's boring. It actually looks kinda cool. It's a dark colored slab of metal, with the words "Black Series" located at its' center. The LGA 1156 is exactly the same as we've seen on other motherboards. You might again notice that the black protective cap was manufactured by Foxconn. This isn't a bad thing, I just think it's funny that ECS is using parts from a competitor.
Now let's get this puppy installed!
Installing drivers is usually an easy and very painless task. However, this isn't entirely true for the P55H-A. At no point did installing the drivers get painful, but it did take way longer than it should have. The reason is because ECS's driver CD doesn't support 64-Bit Vista. This is very irritating, because you now have to install each driver individually. I pulled the Ethernet driver off of the CD, but then decided to download the rest of the driver package from ECS's website.
Can I haz 64-Bit Driverz? No!
Standard CMOS Setup:
Just about every user knows that the BIOS is where you can change important settings to make your computer run properly. The P55H-A's BIOS is no different. Like many boards, it uses American Megatrends BIOS, so some of the options may look very familiar. The first page you'll be brought to will allow you to select from ten different categories. The first of which is "Standard CMOS Setup." Under this category you'll be able to change date and time, and view HDD information. You'll also be able to enable or disable "IDE BusMaster".
Advanced Setup and Advanced Chipset Setup:
The next two categories are "Advanced Setup" and "Advanced Chipset Setup". Under Advanced Setup you'll be able to adjust the more "Advanced" settings. These include adjusting the boot priority, adjusting the HDD boot priority, and enabling or disabling power savings utilities. You'll also be able to turn on and off Turbo Mode, as well as the eJiffy. The Advanced Chipset Setup probably shouldn't be its own category. Only because there is only one setting you can adjust. This of course is the Memory Remap Feature, and you'll be able to turn it on or off.
Integrated Peripherals and Power Management:
Under the "Integrated Peripherals" category you'll be able to adjust the SATA configuration, as well as other OnBoard settings. You'll also be able to Enable/Disable USB Functions, and Legacy USB support. Despite what it may sound like the Power management category mostly deals with starting up your system. These settings consist of "PWRON after PWR-Fail", and a multitude of "Resume-On" settings.
PCI/PnP and M.I.B. II:
The "PCI/PnP" Setup will allow you to set what graphics controller will display first. The "PC Health Status" category will allow you to see information on your hardware. This includes things such as Temperature and Fan speeds. The "M.I.B. II" category, not to be confused with Men In Black 2 the movie, is where all of the overclocking will take place. However, we'll take a look at this a little later on.
Supervisor Password and User Password:
The remaining two categories are "Supervisor Password", and "User Password". These both allow you to do exactly what you'd think. This of course is to set a BIOS password. Although, I've personally never seen the point of having a BIOS password.
Now let's take a detailed look at the overclocking features!
I find it very funny that the overclocking settings are under the MIB II category. Why? Because Overclocking is awesome, and so were the Men in Black movies. Kidding aside, I was actually rather disappointed in the P55H-A's selection of overclocking features. Just looking at the category in the BIOS makes it appear very empty. The first setting you'll come to is the "Performance Level". You'll be able to set it to "Standard", or "Enhanced". Setting this to "Enhanced" will allow you to adjust the Multiplier, but even this left me disappointed. On other P55 boards you'll be able to set the multiplier to 21, however the P55H-A maxed out at 20.
This next setting will allow you to adjust the DRAM frequency. You'll be able to select from four different speeds, although I didn't notice this actually doing anything. The memory still seemed to be dependent on the BCLK. Directly under this setting you'll find the "Configure DRAM Timing by SPD" option. If you want to be able to adjust the memory timings, you'll have to set this to manual. From there you'll be able to adjust the memory timings as you would on any motherboard.
In order to adjust the BLCK you'll have to set the "CPU Overclocking-Function" to "Enabled". Once you've done this you'll be able to adjust the BLCK by entering numbers via your keyboard. The same can be done to enable DOC overclocking, and even PCIe overclocking.
The following three options can all be enabled or disabled. "Spread Spectrum" I'd suggest Disabling if you're going to be overclocking. "Auto Detect DIMM/PCI CLK" again should be disabled when you're looking to overclocking. The third option is extremely important, and should be Enabled. This is of course the "Voltage Function". When Disabled you won't be able to adjust any voltages.
Every voltage setting can be adjusted the same exact way. The problem is that it's a horrible way of adjusting voltages. Rather then giving actual numbers the BIOS will allow you to select +0.XXV. This would be fine, but the BIOS doesn't update what the new voltage will be. This isn't much of a problem, but it will cause you to do some math when overclocking. While on the subject of the BIOS not updating things, the BIOS would not update any of the current hardware settings. I'm not sure if ECS' intent was for the user to do a lot of math, but, come on, make it easier on the user.
Now let's put this baby to the test!
Support the Intel LGA 1156 Core i7 and Intel Core i5 Processors.
Featuring the Intel P55 Express Chipset.
Dual-channel DDR3 memory architecture.
2 x PCI Express Gen 2.0 x 16 slots.
1 x PCI Express x 4 slot.
1 x PCI Express x 1 slot.
2 x PCI slots.
Support by Intel P55 (6 x Serial ATAII 3.0Gb/s devices)
Support by JMB 361 (1 x Ultra DMA133/100/66 port, 1 x eSATA, RAID0, RAID1, RAID5, RAID10 configuration)
Realtek ALC888 8-channel HD Audio codec.
Compliant with 8CH HD audio specification.
RealTek 811DL Gigabit Fast Ethernet NIC
Rear Panel I/O:
1 x PS/2 Keyboard & PS/2 Mouse Connectors
1 x RJ45 LAN Connector
1 x Audio Port (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in)
1 x SPDIF port
1 x Clear_CMOS Button
1 x eSATA
8 x USB Ports
Internal I/O Connectors & Headers:
1 x 24-Pin ATX Power Supply Connector
1 x 8-Pin ATX 12V Power Connector
1 x 4-Pin Power connector for VGA Card
1 x 4-Pin CPU_Fan Connector
1 x 3-Pin CASE_Fan Connector
1 x 3-Pin PWR_Fan Connector
1 x 3-Pin SYS_Fan Connector
1 x Reset Button
1 x IDE Connector
1 x Power on Button
1 x Front Panel Switch/LED Header
1 x Front Panel Audio Header
1 x SPDIF out Header
1 x Clear CMOS Header
1 x CD in Header
1 x Serial Port (COM1)
1 x Power on LED (Green Light)
1 x Stand by LED (Red Light)
6 x Serial ATA 3Gb/s Connectors
3 x USB 2.0 Headers support additional 6 USB ports
1 x Onboard Buzzer
AMI BIOS with 2Mb Flash ROM.
Supports Plug and Play, STR(S3)/STD(S4), Hardware monitor, PCI interrupt selection, ACPI & DMI.
Supports CPU FSB adjustment, increase of 1MHz.
Supports PCI interrupt selection.
Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOS.
F11 hot key for boot up devices option.
Supports ACPI 3.0 revision.
ECS M.I.B.II Support Over-Clocking:
ATX Size, 305mm*244mm
- Certified For Windows Vista: The latest generation Microsoft O.S., delivers better personal productivity and digital entertainment on your PC through its improved reliability, security, and performance.
- LGA1156 Core i7/ Core i5 Processor: Supports the Intel Corei7/ Corei5 Processors the the LGA1156 package.
- Certified For Windows® 7: Windows® 7 platform introduces a number of manageability improvements that can reduce total cost of ownership by helping to increase automation, improve user productivity, and provide flexible administrative control to meet compliance requirements. It is more user-friendly and has been optimized to consume less system resources with Windows® 7 as well. Furthermore, the VT technology is enhanced to support real-time multimedia application including video playback and 3D games.
- eJIFFY: ECS eJIFFY is a Linux based interface for a fast boot application which is compressed in a CD to install on the hard drive.Within 8 seconds after the computer boots up, eJIFFY is ready to provide users the total enjoyment for web browsing, photo reviewing and on-line chat. Instead of waiting for the regular OS to start up, eJIFFY serves a convenient center to have quick fun or a glance at the hot news in today’s fast pace world where nothing can be too quick.
- ATI CrossFire X: The technology not only combines multi-GPU and motherboard power that soars into a new dimension of graphics capability, but also delivers the highest image quality and screen resolutions, even with the most demanding 3D titles.
- M.I.B II: ECS’s exclusive BIOS tweaking utility, M.I.B. II (Motherboard Intelligent BIOS II), which has gathered all options of overclocking in a single page, provides higher voltage capability for helping users to achieve better overclocking results
- All Solid Capacitors: ECS’s All-Solid-Capacitors design brings the great benefit of better durability to users. Better conductivity and heat resistance can be expected as well thus the system stability can be assured under critical conditions.
- ROHS: Choose an environment-friendly, fully RoHS-compliant ECS product as the foundation for keeping harmful substances out of our ecosystem.
- Over-Clocking: Maximizes your system performance by selecting from these overclocking options:(1) Flexible voltage adjustments(2) Adjustable ratio and Freq
- PCI EXPRESS 2.0: The exceptionally increased interconnect bit rate from 2.5GT/s up to 5.0GT/s would effectively eliminates the bottle neck of the system performance and brings the most terrific computing experience from the present to the future.
- SPDIF Out: S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) is a convenient connectivity and standard audio transfer format. It allows the transfer of audio from one file to another without the conversion to and from an analog format, and keeps the optical connector the best.
- USB 2.0: The latest connectivity standard which delivers transfer speeds up to 480Mb/s for easy connectivity and ultra-fast data transfers.
- 8 Channel High Definition Audio: Integrated 8-channel HD Audio CODEC delivering advanced multi-channel audio and bringing you the experience of home theater-quality sound.
- eSATA: The signal quality and the Max cable length is 2x longer than the conventional one. It also supports external HDD hot plug and keyed connector end for fool-proof.
- RAID 0, 1, 5, 10: Supports RAID 0(Striped disk array), RAID 1(Mirroring disk array), RAID 5(Block Interleaved Distributed Parity), RAID 10 (A Stripe of Mirrors). Provides users the performance and protection.
- SATAII 3.0Gb/s: Doubles the transfer speed of SATA, running at speed up to 3.0Gb/s, and fully compatible with the soon-to-be-released SATA HDD, CD-ROM and other cutting-edge devices with NCQ function support.
- ATA133: Supports Ultra DMA 33/66/100/133 IDE devices, data transfer rate up to 133MB/s
- Dual DDR3 1333: Doubles the bandwidth of your system memory up to 21.0GB/s and pumps up the system performance at lower power.
All information on this page courtesy of: http://www.ecs.com.tw/ECSWebSite/Products/ProductsDetail.aspx?detailid=1033&CategoryID=1&DetailName=Feature&MenuID=152&LanID=0
From what we've seen so far the P55H-A isn't the best board in town. However, a judgment cannot be passed until it has gone through the entire OCC Benchmarking Suite. This includes a series of Synthetic and real world benches that will allow us to accurately size up the P55H-A. I will be testing the P55H-A at stock settings, and with the CPU overclocked. I will use the following hardware and comparison boards.
- Processor(s): Intel Core i5 750
- Motherboard: ECS P55H-A
- Memory: Corsair Dominator 2x2 GB DDR3 1600 Cas 8
- Video Card: Nvidia GTX 260 Core 216
- Power Supply: Antec 1000W Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 500GB 7200.11
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate
- Processor: Intel Core i5 750 205x20 4100MHz
- System Memory: Corsair Dominator 1640MHz 8-8-8-20
Overclocking on the P55H-A was a mixture of easy and irritating. It was irritating for two reasons, the main one being that I hated the way you adjust voltage. The second irritation was the lack of features. This is not to say that anything important was missing. On the contrary, everything needed to complete a successful overclock had been made available. I did, however, notice that there wasn't anything extra, like we might see on an Asus or MSI board. Other then that I had absolutely no problems until reaching 4GHz. At this point my memory was holding me back a bit. Adjusting the memory voltage would make the system stable, and allow me to go further. However, I eventually topped off at 4.3GHz. Running Prime95 for a few hours proved this to be unstable, so I reduced the clock speeds until I could run through all my benchmarks without any problems. This put me at 4.1GHz.
- Scientific & Data:
- Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
- POV Ray 3.7
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Far Cry 2
- Crysis Warhead
- Call of Duty: World At War
- Dead Space
- Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
- Left 4 Dead
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.
Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:
- Resolution: 2750x2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory use: 512MB
The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.
Lower is Better
WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.
Lower is Better
Lower is Better
The P55H-A performed extremely well in Apophysis and the overclock resulted in even greater results. In WinRAR, all boards performed more or less the same. We did, however, see significant improvements when overclocked.
Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB MIcrosoft Excel speadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations, including many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.
Lower Is Better
POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built-in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing), enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for quicker completion.
Higher Is Better
PCMark Vantage x64 is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual motherboard to see which motherboard, if any, rises above the others.
The P55H-A performed very well in the Big Crunch. It managed to outperform the P7P55D Deluxe, and very close to the other boards. In POV Ray and PCMark Vantage every board performed extremely close. Once again the overclock brought significant increases in performance.
SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
The P55H-A performed spot on with the competition. The overclock again brought very welcome performance increases across the board.
ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.
Higher is Better
CineBench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.
Higher is Better
HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
For the most part the P55H-A performed close to its competition. However, its Cinebench scores were a bit low. The overclock brought improvements to each benchmark.
Far Cry 2:
Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real-time effects and damage. This next generation first-person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft, surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this Far Cry game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.
- DirectX 10
- Game settings to very high
- Vsync Off
Once again the P55H-A performed spot on with the competition. Overclocking didn't offer a whole lot of extra performance, but the small increases were still welcome.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and Aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.
- 2x Anti Aliasing
- DirectX 10
Every board performed exactly the same in Crysis, and overclocking had no almost no effect. The exception for the P55H-A was the highest resolution.
BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.
- All settings to maximum
- V-Sync: Off
Again all boards performed more or less the same. The highest resolution proved to be a bit much for the P55H-A, and overclocking had a negative effect on the scores.
Activision's Call Of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.
- All in game settings to maximum
- FPS measured via Fraps
The P55H-A performed exactly the same as the competition. Overclocking resulted in a few gained FPS, but not enough to make any noticeable difference.
In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse, starting with the crash landing of the seemingly silent and "dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional, over-the-shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.
- All in game settings to maximum
There was almost no difference in the motherboards performance. When overclocked the P55H-A gave us a few extra FPS.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is a real-time strategy game that is significantly different than its predecessor, with improved AI and an improved physics engine. You can either play single-player in campaign mode, or in a multiplayer game where Microsoft's Live ranking system can be used.
- Vsync: Off
- Ultra Preset
- Game Settings: Maximum
The P55H-A performed neck and neck with the competition. When overclocked we were able to gain huge improvements at the lowest resolution. As the resolution got higher the improvements decreased.
Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie "I Am Legend" comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!
- All other settings at Maximum
In every resolution the P55H-A presented us with great FPS. The overclock however, didn't offer much of an improvement.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how these boards fare. The settings we will use are listed below.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: CPU1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
The P55H-A was awarded great scores in 3DMark06. When overclocked we saw very significant improvements.
Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024x768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.
- All default settings in each preset level
- Entry: 1024x768
- Performance: 1280x1024
- High: 1680x1050
- Extreme: 1920x1200
The P55H-A performed right on with the competition. When overclocked, it got very respectable increases.
The P55H-A, at first, had a very empty theme. The motherboard itself appeared to be cool looking, but it also looked like it was missing something. This, of course, resulted in an empty look. The drivers on the CD appeared to be zilch, because the disk didn't support 64-Bit Vista. This, again, resulted in an empty appearance. The overclocking section in the BIOS again appeared to be missing something. However, this lack of "something" didn't carry on through the boards performance. The P55H-A performed right at the top with the higher end motherboards, making it an "almost-hassle-free" budget board.
Overclocking on the P55H-A was surprisingly easy, regardless of the lack of features. I was able to easily push my CPU to 4GHz, without any problems, and was able to max out just under 4.1 GHz. This just tells us that while the BIOS may appear empty, all of the important features are still in place. Plus having to enable the individual overclocking features makes the BIOS less cluttered.
The layout wasn't the most impressive. For instance, I was not at all happy with where ECS decided to stick the auxiliary power connector. I was also unhappy about where the IDE connector was located. To me layout is one of the most important aspects of a motherboard, so these defaults really brought the P55H-A down a few notches in my book. I was also surprised that the Driver CD didn't work. Vista has been out for a while now, and 64-Bit is nothing new. The fact that the Driver CD didn't support 64-Bit Vista is just ridiculous.
The board did, however, have one really great feature. This is that it offers great performance at a really low cost. For just $120 you can pick up a board that performs just as well as the higher end models. For this reason I'll recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind working with its quirks.
- Looks Cool
- Performs Great
- Overclocks Well
- Poor Layout
- Lacking in Overclock Settings
- Driver CD Has No 64-Bit Vista Support