Gigabyte GA-P55 UD3R Review

ccokeman - 2009-04-22 20:05:15 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: November 1, 2009
Price: $139.99

Introduction:

Intel's Socket 1156 processors, the Core i5 and Core i7 8 series, were released just short of two months ago, as a way to offer the Nehalem architecture at a lower price point than the socket 1366 offerings, that offer substantial performance advantages over AMD's offering. There is no doubt that the price of entry for a socket 1366 system can put the performance out of range for the masses. Lower CPU prices, lower motherboard prices and only dual channel memory drops the cost even further, making the technology available to everyone. At launch, you would have been hard pressed to find an X58 socket 1366 motherboard for less than $250, and even now performance X58/1366 boards are still in the $300+ range. Enter the P55chipset and motherboards, and $250 is about the maximum price point - with many capable boards for substantially less. That is what leads us to the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R. With a price of just $139 it offers a good feature set at a reduced price.

Having recently looked at the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6, the top of Gigabyte's performance ladder, I am anxious to see what the GA-P55-UD3R brings to the table. This P55 offering from Gigabyte, the GA-P55-UD3R, does not have all the bells and whistles, but does offer plenty of options to get the job done. Like the UD6, the UD3R is part of the Ultra Durable 3 lineup and features 2-oz copper layers in the PCB for lower impedance, improved voltage stability, and cooler operating temperatures. For component selection on Ultra Durable 3 motherboards, Gigabyte is using Japanese solid capacitors, Ferrite core chokes and Lower RDS(on) mosfets to make the design good enough for Gigabyte to offer a three year warranty on the board in the US and Canada. Let's see if the price impacts the performance and ability to reach a good overclock!

Closer Look:

The front panel of the box is not as packed full of information as the P55-UD6, but still gets the message across. The big highlights are the three year warranty for customers in both the US of A and Canada, the Ultra Durable 3 construction, and the Smart 6 software package. Part of the Ultra Durable 3 construction is the use of 2-oz copper ground and power layers in the PCB. The one thing that stands out is the absence of any mention of a Multi GPU strategy. The rear panel goes into detail on the Ultra Durable 3 construction and details some of the included software. The Multi GPU strategy is mentioned on the top right side of the rear panel, and it seems that only ATI's CrossfireX solution is supported. The socket 1156 processor support is listed front and back, to make sure you do not purchase the wrong Core i7 processor or motherboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the box is open, you don't have a whole lot going on. The bundle looks to be about what is expected with a board that falls into the lower end of the Gigabyte P55 hierarchy. That's not to say you don't get a decent bundle. You get what's needed to get the board up and running as well as the documentation for the board and software.

 

 

The bundle of accessories that comes with the GA-P55-UD3R is enough to get you connected and running. You get the basics, as you should with any motherboard these days. But with a $139 board, you won't get all the goodies that come on the higher end boards. You get the documentation in the form of the manual, an installation guide, driver disk, and a manual for the Smart 6 software suite. For connectivity, you get a total of four SATA cables, two of which have 90-degree ends, while all of them have locking tabs to prevent the cables from pulling out. An 80-conductor PATA cable is included, since the drive technology is still sold and in use by the masses. You will also notice that there is not a bridge connector included with this board, since SLI is not supported and ATI video cards usually come with the connector.

 

 

 

Let's take a look at the P55-UD3R and see just what it has to offer. Don't let the slim bundle fool you as this board has some serious performance credentials.

 

Closer Look:

The GA-P55-UD3R is designed for use with both Intel's Core i5 and 8 series Core i7 socket 1156 processors. The board is built around the Intel P55 Express chipset and is one of eleven P55 boards currently in Gigabyte's arsenal. This board features Ultra Durable 3 construction. What is this, you ask? It is the use of better components to build a more efficient, cooler running, longer lasting motherboard. Japanese made Solid Capacitors, Ferrite core chokes, Lower RDS(on) Mosfets, and 2-oz copper ground and power layers in the PCB are all parts of the design. The front side of the board shows that the PCH has been relocated to where the Southbridge chipset used to reside, with the heatsink assembly only interconnected at the VRM heatsinks. The back side of the board is unpopulated, except for the back side of the CPU retention bracket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The I/O panel on the GA-P55-UD3R contains plenty of connectivity options. To start, there is a combination Keyboard/Mouse PS/2 port, topped with two of the ten USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panel, Optical and Coaxial S/PDIF, two eSATA ports in yellow, one RJ-45 LAN port and the Realtek 7.1 sound jacks. For expansion slots, you have a total of seven. There are two 16x PCIe 2.0 slots, the top one operates at 16x electrically, while the second runs at 4x. CrossfireX is the only Multi GPU solution supported on this board. There are a total of four PCI slots and a single 1x PCIe up above the 16x PCIe slot. The front panel sound header is located right behind the I/O panel HD sound ports. One thing missing, that has almost been standard on performance motherboards, is a Clear CMOS button on the I/O panel. It is surprising that Gigabyte chose not to go this route on the few boards in their P55 line up.

 

 

Along the bottom of the board, you have added connectivity in the form of a COM port for diagnostics, a Parallel port, Floppy drive port, two USB 2.0 headers, and the front panel connection header. Right above the USB headers are the Dual BIOS ROM chips and the clear CMOS jumper.

 

 

The right hand side of the board is where you find the SATA connectivity. You get a total of eight SATA 3Gbps ports on the GA-P55-UD3R. The six blue ports are controlled via the Intel P55 PCH controller and support Raid 0,1,5 and 10. The two white ports are controlled by the Gigabyte SATA2 chip and support up to two drives in Raid 0, 1 and JBOD. The SATA2 controller also handles the IDE port with up to two drives supported. Something that is a little disappointing is that the PCH controlled SATA ports are not laid out on the edge of the board. Rather, they are standing right up where a larger video card will cover the ports. I'm guessing that Gigabyte is counting on more people using this board in a single GPU configuration with the secondary PCIe slot only running at 4x. Next to the IDE port, you have the 24-pin ATX power connection. At the top of the board, next to the right hand DIMM slot, you have the power phase LEDs to give you an indication of how the power phases are being used.

 

 

 

There are a total of four DIMM slots that support up to 16 GB of DDR3 2200/1333/1066/800 memory modules in a dual channel configuration. I was easily able to top 1000MHz with the DDR3 1600 modules I tested in the UD3R. The top of the board doesn't have much in the form of connections besides the fan header and 8-pin auxiliary power connection.

 

 

The CPU socket area is quite a bit less crowded than the P55-UD6, since it only has a 10-phase VRM. After reading some of the online buzz about sockets burning up in some high end boards wearing Foxconn sockets, I checked this one out after some extended Prime 95 testing with 1.425+ volts and have not found any sign of burnout on the pins or on the CPU. The issue seems to be from a lack of contact in a poorly built socket. I have read rumors of a socket change but have nothing concrete at this time.

 

 

The heatsink package on the P55-UD3R covers the PCH and the the power circuits around the CPU socket. The heatsinks are held in place with push pins in lieu of being bolted down. The VRM heatsinks are interconnected using a heatpipe while the PCH heatsink is a stand alone piece. The color scheme used on the heatsinks matches the board so they do not look out of place and are beefy enough to do the job of cooling down the components. These heatsinks are something that will be needed when I put the screws to it.

 

 

That's a look through what the GA-P55-UD3R has to offer in terms of the hardware, but the question remains, just how will it stand up performance wise to the P55-UD6 as well as some of its contemporaries?

 

Closer Look:

Gigabyte has included a comprehensive set of software tools and drivers on the included software disk. Of course, you have to load the drivers so that you can have the operating system know how to handle the installed hardware, so I will start off with the GUI that pops up when you insert the disk. You have a total of seven tabs to choose from, the first of which is the Chipset Drivers, which allows you to either install all of the drivers for the board with the Xpress Install option, or to pick and choose which ones you will install by using the Install Single Items tab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Install Application Software is where you pick and choose the applications you want to install; Easy Tune 6 and more are found in here. The Technical Manual section gives you the ability to browse the manuals for the included utilities, browse the disk, and read the motherboard manual on the computer. The Contact page gives the corporate contact information, while the System tab gives a top level view on what processor is installed, as well as the amount of system memory and the Operating System version. This is much of the same information found on the system tab in the Windows control panel. The Download Center tab will take you to the download page for the GA-P55-UD3R so you can get the latest software updates for the installed utilities.

 

 

 

Easy Tune 6 is an overclocking and monitoring utility that is designed for use with Gigabyte motherboards. This utility gives you the ability to make your changes in the operating system - to test and tune to find out what works and what does not - before making the changes in the BIOS. The first tab on the GUI is the CPU tab. This tab gives you information about the CPU including clock speed, clock multiplier, bclock, QPI clock, motherboard model, and BIOS revision. The memory tab resembles the CPUz interface and tells you the SPD information as well as the make, model, and serial number of your memory modules.

 

 

Under the Tuner section you can make changes in several ways. You can use the three preset levels to get a quick and stable overclock at the touch of a button, while still being able to move to a more advanced hands-on type of interface under the Easy and Advance tabs. Of course, this requires a reboot to make the changes in the BIOS. Options to change are the bclock frequencies, the clock ratios, and voltages. As you move from Quick Boost to Easy, and then to Advanced you open up more options to tweak.

 

 

 

The Graphics tab allows clock speeds on the GPU core, memory, and Shader clock speeds to be adjusted, depending on what make of video card you have installed. The last tab is Hardware Monitor and as its name implies, you can monitor and set alert points for the fan speeds, monitor a select few voltages, and monitor the temperature of the CPU and System Temperatures. Case Open Status is monitored as well.

 

 

Smart 6 is a series of six utilities that increase the functionality of the GA-P55-UD6. The six utilities are Smart Quick Boot, Smart Quick Boost, Smart Recovery, Smart Dual BIOS, Smart Recorder and Smart Time Lock. Each one offers something that fits a need. Smart Quick Boot allows you chose to shorten boot times by one of two ways: shortening hardware detection times when going from a cold boot or going into an S3+S4 state after shutdown, so you can resume right where you shut down after a wake up call. Smart Dual BIOS is a way to make sure passwords and information can be copied to both BIOS chips, to prevent a loss of this data.

 

 

Smart Quick Boost is a way to overclock your system to one of three preset levels, much the same as in the Easy Tune 6 software. You have Faster, Turbo, and Twin Turbo as options. Choose the option you want and reboot the computer to set the change, but be aware that you should install a better heatsink to take advantage of this tool. Smart Recovery is a way to automatically back up your data.

 

 

If you have more than one person using the computer, the next utilities can help alleviate some challenging situations. Monitoring the file activity on your computer can be done with Smart Recorder. This file activity includes things such as when you turn on and off the computer, or where files are moved to and from. Smart Time Lock lets you limit the times that the computer is available for use, as well as the amount of time users are able to be on the computer. This would be a great way to manage the amount of time children have access to the computer.

 

 

Gigabyte's Dynamic Energy Saver 2 software is a way for you to reduce the energy used by your system, in both idle and load conditions. By using the software, you can see that the power consumption of the CPU is dropped down to 0.6 Watts at idle. This is plenty low enough to make a dent in the size of the carbon footprint of your system!

 

Closer Look:

The BIOS used by Gigabyte on the GA-P55-UD3R is an Award Software BIOS and I am running BIOS revision F2 at the time of the performance testing of the GA-P55-UD3R. While not fully loaded like the P55-UD6, the BIOS still offers plenty of functionality. The MIT section looks like the BIOS on the P55-UD6 so that in and of itself is a plus. The P55-UD3R has two 16MB ROM chips, each storing a copy oif the BIOS so if you do manage to hose one up you have a backup so you can keep on working and relash the primary chip.

Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker:

This section is where you configure the hardware settings such as voltages, clock speeds, and memory timings. This section of the BIOS is quite expansive so it will be covered in greater detail on the next page. Suffice to say that the GA-P55-UD3R does indeed have all the tools needed for hardcore tweaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard CMOS Features:

This section is where you set the Time, Date, Hard Drive Configuration and the set the errors that will stop the POST sequence.

 

 

Advanced BIOS Features:

This section is where you set up the boot priority of the installed disk drives, set the graphics port you want to check first for an installed graphics card, and set whether you want the Boot image from Gigabyte or disable it to see the POST sequence.

 

 

Integrated Peripherals:

This section is used to enable or disable the functionality of the hardware devices installed on the GA-P55-UD6, such as the USB, IEEE 1394, eSATA, and LAN ports. The Extreme Hard Drive function can be enabled under this section.

 

 

Power Management Setup:

This section allows you to setup the suspend type and how you resume from a power down state.

 

 

PC Health Status:

As you can imagine, this section is where you can check a select few voltages such as the CPU core voltage, the memory voltage, and the 12V, 5V, and 3.3V lines. You can set the warning temperatures for the CPU, set failure alarms for the fans, and enable Smart fan control for the CPU fan.

 

 

Q-Flash:

While not one of the main BIOS options, you wil find this utility down at the bottom of the page. Q-Flash is a built in BIOS Flashing Utility that makes flashing the BIOS a painless process. When you go in, you can choose to update from a file and browse to the location of the BIOS ROM file. Choose the folder, follow the instructions, and once you reboot you will have the latest BIOS on the board. I used Q-Flash to upgrade the BIOS on this board without any problems.

 

 

That's a brief synopsis of the BIOS options, which for the most part are the 'set it' and 'forget it' parts of the BIOS. The M.I.T. section is where most of us will spend our time as thats where we can Improve the performance of the GA-P55-UD3R.

 

Closer Look:

The Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker section of the BIOS is where you can do all of your performance management. Setting clock speeds, multipliers, and memory timings - it's all here. Gigabyte has delivered an easy to use overclocking section of the BIOS that gives you the tools to reach your overclocking goals. The MIT section on the GA-P55-UD3R is exactly like that used by the top-of-the-line UD6, so if this looks familiar there is a reason. Once you open the M.I.T. section, you are greeted with a total of five submenus to work with, as well as top level information on what the current clock speeds, temperatures, and voltages are. By choosing the MIT current status tab, the information is more granular! Under this tab, you have the ability to view, but not change, any of the information that is presented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Advanced Frequency Setting tab is the part of the BIOS where you set the bclock, QPI clock, CPU bclock multiplier, view the memory multiplier and speed, PCIE clock, and work with the advanced CPU features. The maximum CPU clock and memory multipliers are going to be limited by the CPU you choose to use in the board. Even so, memory speeds above 2000MHz are even achievable with the i5 750! Under the Advanced CPU Core Features tab, you are able to enable or disable all of the Intel CPU performance and economy options, such as Turbo Boost technology, EIST, Multi Threading (If using an 8 series i7), C1E, as well as enabling all or some of the cores. The bclock setting is adjustable from 100-1200, not that it will go that high, but the adjustment is there. XMP memory profiles are supported for modules that carry this certification so that setting the memory up is simple, since all the back end work has been done. Th PCIe frequency can be adjusted for more graphics performance and has a limit of 150MHz. This setting helps with an increased bclock but is best used sparingly.

 

 

 

 

Tweaking the memory is done under the Advanced Memory Settings tab. The first option you have is to enable or disable the X.M.P. profile. The second option allows you to set the memory multiplier, but this is limited to the options available with your CPU. Performance Enhance has three levels that you can set with varying effects on performance. Extreme being the highest. This usually involves setting the memory sub timings a bit tighter to increase performance, at the cost of stability. One item that is quite a bit different than other manufacturers BIOS' is the ability to change the memory sub timings by memory channel instead of having a global setting to change both channels.

 

 

 

Under the Advanced Voltage Settings tab you get the pleasure of tweaking the voltages to get the most clock speed you can get from your hardware. Load Line calibration offsets the voltage droop Intel has specified, to try and keep the voltage closer to what you set manually. There are three levels to choose from: Standard, Level 1, and Level 2. Voltages that can be tuned include Vcore, QPI/VTT, PCH Core, CPU PLL, DRAM, DRAM Termination, and the reference voltages by channel.

 

 

 

 

 

The Miscellaneous Settings tab only has two options that can be either enabled or disabled, Isochronous Support and Virtualization Technology.

 

 

Specifications:

CPU       

1. Support for an Intel® Core™ i7 series processor/Intel® Core™ i5 series processor in the LGA1156 package

      (Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest CPU support list.)

   2. L3 cache varies with CPU

Chipset
  1. Intel® P55 Express Chipset
Memory
  1. 4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 2200/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
  4. Support for non-ECC memory modules
  5. Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
  6. (Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest memory support list.)
Audio
  1. Realtek ALC888 codec
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for S/PDIF In/Out
  5. Support for CD In
LAN
  1. 1 x RTL8111D chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)

Expansion Slots   

 
  
 

1. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16) (The PCIEX16 slot conforms to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)

   2. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4)

   3. 1 x PCI Express x1 slot

   4. 4 x PCI slots

Multi-Graphics Technology

  1. Support for ATI CrossFireX™ technology

Storage Interface:

Intel® P55 Express Chipset:

  1. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATA2_0, SATA2_1, SATA2_2, SATA2_3, SATA2_4, SATA2_5) supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
GIGABYTE SATA2 chip:
  1. 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
  2. 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATA2_0, GSATA2_1) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  3. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD
JMB362 SATA2 chip:
  1. 2 x eSATA 3Gb/s connectors on the back panel supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD
iTE IT8720 chip:
  1. 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
 
USB
  1. Integrated in the Chipset
  2. Up to 14 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (10 on the back panel, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)

Internal I/O Connectors

  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  4. 1 x IDE connector
  5. 8 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  6. 1 x CPU fan header
  7. 2 x system fan headers
  8. 1 x power fan header
  9. 1 x front panel header
  10. 1 x front panel audio header
  11. 1 x CD In connector
  12. 1 x S/PDIF In header
  13. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  14. 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  15. 1 x serial port header
  16. 1 x parallel port header
  17. 1 x clearing CMOS jumper

Back Panel Connectors

  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard or PS/2 mouse port
  2. 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
  3. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  4. 10 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  5. 2 x eSATA 3Gb/s ports
  6. 1 x RJ-45 port
  7. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/ Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)

I/O Controller

  1. iTE IT8720 chip

H/W Monitoring

  1. System voltage detection
  2. CPU/System temperature detection
  3. CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
  4. CPU overheating warning
  5. CPU/System/Power fan fail warning
  6. CPU/System fan speed control
BIOS
  1. 2 x 16 Mbit flash
  2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  3. Support for DualBIOS™
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b

Unique Features

  1.  
 
  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Q-Flash
  3. Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
  4. Support for Download Center
  5. Support for Xpress Install
  6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
  7. Support for EasyTune
  8. Support for Dynamic Energy Saver™ 2
  9. Support for Smart 6™
  10. Support for Q-Share

Bundle Software

  1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version)

Operating System

  1. Support for Microsoft® Windows 7/Vista/XP

Form Factor

  1. ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm

Remark

  1. Due to different Linux support condition provided by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors' website or 3rd party website.
  2. Due to most hardware/software vendors no longer offer support for Win9X/ME. If some vendors still has Win9X/ME drivers available, we will publish on website.


Features:

Ultra Durable 3
Ultra Durable 3: GIGABYTE Ultra Durable 3 design, featuring 2 ounces of copper for both the Power and Ground layers which dramatically lowers system temperature by delivering a more efficient spreading of heat from critical areas of the motherboard such as the CPU power zone throughout the entire PCB. GIGABYTE's Ultra Durable 3 also lowers the PCB impedance by 50%, which helps to reduce electrical waste and further lowers component temperatures. A 2oz Copper layer design also provides improved signal quality and lower EMI (Electromagnetic Interference), providing better system stability and allowing for greater margins for overclocking...more  Benefits of 2 oz Copper PCB

Smart 6- A Smarter way for PC system Management

Windows® 7 WHQL Certified

Dynamic Energy Saver™ 2

Intel® Core i7/ Core i5 LGA 1156 Processors

DDR3 2200+ Support

XHD (eXtreme HardDrive)-Accelerating hard drive performance with ease

AutoGreen- Greening your PC via Bluetooth cellphone

Multi-display support with ATI CrossFireX

Norton™ Internet Security



All information courtesy of Gigabyte@http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Products/Motherboard/Products_Overview.aspx?ClassValue=Motherboard&ProductID=3162&ProductName=GA-P55-UD3R

Testing:

Testing is the only way to prove whether or not one motherboard is better than the others, when it comes down to performance. Some groups like all the whiz-bang features, while the hardcore enthusiasts just want good solid reliable performance. To find out which one gives that last little bit of clock speed or has the right options in the BIOS means you have to test the motherboards out one at a time. Quite an arduous task when you get down to it, but it's the only way. To test out Gigabyte's GA-P55-UD3R, I will be running it through the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks to see if it distinguishes itself from the comparison board(s). The only deviations from the default BIOS settings will be that the energy saving features, as well as Turbo technology are disabled so that the motherboard can be tested with a measure of repeatability. The video card control panel settings are left at factory defaults except where noted. Since each motherboard company has its own design philosophy, it will be interesting to see which of the designs wins out.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Motherboards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Overclocking the GA-P55-UD3R was much like getting acquainted with an old friend. Having just finished up testing on Gigabyte's GA-P55-UD6, I found the MIT section of the UD3R's BIOS to contain the same tools for overclocking the processor and memory. This made it easy to duplicate the results I had on the UD6. Duplicate results would be a little unfair, since I was able to exceed the numbers I put up with the UD6 with the ED3R by running the bclock up to 209 with a clock multiplier of 21. This gave me a raw clock speed of 4389MHz. Not too bad, as this clock speed easily competed the whole benchmark suite. Prime 95 stability came a little bit lower, but there is still the room for an overclock that can be used for benchmarking only. I was able to get to this point by upping the CPU voltage to 1.425V the QPI/VTT to 1.45V and the DRAM to 1.60V. Memory timings were left at 8-8-8-24 and did not present any issues. I had an issue with double sided modules on the P55-UD6 that I did not run across on this P55 iteration. I used the modules that I had trouble with when setting speeds over 800 Mhz and bumped them first to 805MHz to see if the problem manifested on this board, and was glad to see that it did not follow suit. I then pushed the timings close to the rated specification and bumped up the speed initially to 900Mhz, then 1000Mhz and finally 1020MHz without so much as a hiccup. Since the board supports up to DDR3 2200Mhz, the ability to hit big memory speeds is there if your modules can hack it.

Overclocking via the BIOS is not the only way to go anymore, as overclocking is becoming more mainstream. Gigabyte has a utility called Easy Tune 6 that works as a monitoring and overclocking utility, and will let even the novice get a decent overclock by just clicking an icon and rebooting the system. By using the Easy Tune software with the basic interface, the clock speeds can be increased with three different options, with the highest offering up a clock speed of 3.5Ghz. So, being the highest speed, that's where I went. The software gave up a 3.52GHz clock speed, but it proved to not be 100% stable and required a bump in voltage under the advanced section to get it prime stable. That is just a little work on top of the base settings, but still a way to overclock. Not being able to post after a failed overclock is one of the consequences of pushing your hardware. How a board or series of boards reacts to this overclocking failure is one way to measure how overclocking friendly the board is. During the CPU overclocking and memory overclocking, I found that a failed overclock would need s series of three bad POSTs in a row to reset the CMOS to the defaults, to facilitate booting. Once into the BIOS, the settings that were set and resulted in a bad POST are still there, so you can see what you did wrong and learn from the mistake. Not once did I get so far out of bounds that I had to clear the CMOS to boot. Less power phases and a big overclock make the GA-P55-UD3R a winner in terms of overclocking credentials.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  4. POV Ray 3.7
  5. PCMark Vantage Professional
  6. Sandra XII
  7. ScienceMark 2.02
  8. Cinebench 10
  9. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty World At War
  5. Dead Space 
  6. Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War II
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

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:

 

 

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 test the time needed to compress 100MB and 500MB files.  Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

 

Lower is Better

 

RAR:

 

Lower is Better

 

In the Apophysis testing, you can see that there really is no difference in performance between all of the boards tested, until you overclock the processor. In the Winrar testing, the GA-P55-UD3R delivers number comparable to the MSI P55 offering, in both the 100MB and 500MB file sizes.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel speadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations, representative of commonly used numerical operations 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 a 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 CPU to see which CPU, if any, rises above the others.

 

In the Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch testing, the GA-P55-UD3R again performed identically to the rest of the comparison boards, as it should. The UD3R, much like the UD6, delivered the lowest score in the POV Ray testing. Testing with PC Mark Vantage revealed that the score produced was not the lowest, but only one step up from the bottom.

Testing:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

The Sandra testing shows just how comparable the P55 based motherboards are when it comes to stock speed testing. When overclocked, you get real, measurable performance increases.

Testing:

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

 

Across all of these benchmarks, the GA-P55-UD3R is not the highest, nor the lowest, scoring board in this line up, but falls somewhere near the middle of the road. What you can take from this first round of tests is that the GA-P55-UD3R can pretty much keep up with the higher dollar boards. Overclocking does bring nice gains across this part of the suite.

 

 

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially 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 version of the 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 50km squared 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.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

The performance similarities start again, with the stock numbers coming in pretty much right on target. Overclocking the CPU to almost 4.4GHz did show performance gains up to 1920x1200.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line 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.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crysis Warhead is a tough test for any system, and the results are the same all the way around. Overclocking did not yield any real benefit.

 

Testing:

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 story line, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the boards deliver results that fall into a small performance envelope. Overclocking the CPU only showed measurable performance increases at the two lowest resolutions.

Testing:

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.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Overclocking definitely shows an increase in FPS is possible with just the CPU and memory clock speed increase. 5FPS was the lowest increase out of the four resolutions.

Testing:

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 as starting with the crash landing and 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.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no denying that each of the boards is capable of delivering excellent performance with the same installed components. Overclocking does give a small increase in FPS, but most likely won't be noticed in-game.

Testing:

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 play either as a single player in campaign mode, or in a multiplayer game where Microsoft's Live ranking system can be used.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher Scores = Better Performance

 

The GA-P55-UD3R seems to have a little extra in the tank for the first couple resolutions.

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a now not-so-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. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the 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 zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At stock speeds, the UD3R was the equal of any of the boards tested. When you ratchet up the clock speed on the CPU, you see a small gain in FPS.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1680x1050, the GA-P55-UD3R took a dip in performance when compared to the rest of the boards. Overclocking brought substantial gains in all four resolutions.

Testing:

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.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The P55-UD3R did not lead all of the tests at stock speeds like the P55-UD6, however, three out of four isn't too bad. Again, overclocking brings a big boost in scoring in the Entry and Performance tests.

 

Conclusion:

As you can see, the performance of the GA-P55-UD3R and all of the comparison boards fall into a specific performance envelope at stock speeds. Considering that the boards are built on the same chipset, this really is the performance expectation, again, at stock speeds. The difference really comes in when you get to the overclocked speeds and feature set. First off, I have to say that the GA-P55-UD3R shocked me when I was able to push the i7 870 to almost 4.4GHz. It fell just a tick below, because at a 210MHz bclock it did not want to give me any stability, even at reduced speeds. With that said, a bclock of 209MHz with a 21x clock multiplier proved fruitful and allowed the UD3R to shine. While I had problems going over 1600MHz with a set of dual sided DIMMs on the P55-UD6, I did not have that problem on the P55-UD3R. In fact, the modules scaled above what they have done in the past by a good 40MHz, to 1020MHz. To say I was stoked is an understatement! At this level of performance on air, you can be sure there is more left on the table that can be obtained when you can go for it with improved cooling.

There is no doubt that the GA-P55-UD3R is a capable performer. It delivers this level of performance without the 24-phase VRM used on its big brother. By the same token, the lack of phases can impact the efficiency of the energy saving features and may impact long term stability with fewer phases to spread the load across. But, at least there is the three year warranty backing you up! Feature-wise, the board does have fewer than some of the boards higher up on the food chain. You don't get the onboard switches, the Combo eSATA/USB ports on the I/O panel, or some of the other niceties with Multi GPU - availability is limited to CrossfireX on this board, but with the second slot running at 4x you won't be setting Multi GPU records.  However, with a single GPU, you stand a shot at making it happen. The apple does not fall far from the tree when it comes to the construction methods used to build this board. This board is one of eleven P55 boards by Gigabyte and does indeed feature Ultra Durable 3 construction with 2-oz copper ground and power layers, Japanese Solid Capacitors, Ferrite core chokes and Lower RDS(on) mosfets, so it has the hardware credentials to push the performance limits of your hardware. What you get with the GA-P55-UD3R is a board that comes in at an attractive price point ($139) that drops the performance hammer when you push the clock speeds. Even though it has a lesser feature set, the features it comes with will work for the majority of people. The GA-P55-UD3R delivers great overclocking and a great price.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: