Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 Reviewccokeman - October 22, 2009
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The Intel socket 1156 processors have been out for about a month and a half now and have proven to be capable performers with some pretty decent overclocking credentials. Both the Core i5 750 and the Core i7 8 series processors have seen the far side of 4GHz with regularity when overclocked. Sure, the socket 1366 processors can do this, but there is a cost to enter that hardware level with not as many breaking that 4GHz clock speed stably. Cost is a big concern in our still troubled economy, so the option to go with a socket 1156 system offers a way to get comparable performance at a lower price. Cost for the i7 860 is roughly the same as the socket 1366 i7 920, and with the 860 offering a higher operating clock speed, processor cost is comparable, therefore savings savings can be found primarily on the motherboard and memory. You can find a great 4GB set of memory for around $100 and a motherboard from $110 to $250 for a full featured board. The range of prices for the X58 Socket 1366 chips and motherboards start and end noticeably higher. So there is the cost savings!
While Gigabyte offers boards for both socket types, the fact is that they have a full line of motherboards (eleven total) based on Intel's P55 Express chipset to fit just any price or performance point. The GA-P55-UD6 is at the top of the food chain and is the full featured board in the line up. This board is built using Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 construction that all starts with the PCB that uses 2-oz copper ground and power layers for lower impedance, better efficiency and lower operating temperatures. Add lower RDS(on) MOSFETs, Japanese solid capacitors and a 24-phase VRM circuit and it looks like the enthusiasts are well taken care of. But there are others that can use the features this board has, such as the Smart Dual BIOS, Smart Dual LAN, High Definition sound, a combination of eSATA and USB I/O panel connections, and Smart TPM so you can protect your data. Couple that with comprehensive list of software utilities, such as Easy Tune 6, Smart 6, and DES2 and you really do have a full featured board for the masses. The question is whether the 24-phase VRM design will offer any increase in clock speed over designs with fewer phases when not on the edge with LN2 or a cascade! Let's see what she's got!
The front panel of the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6's package contains a wealth of information on the the board and its capabilities. Up front and personal is one of the biggest selling features the 24 phase power design. The three year warranty is also a big highlight. Features mentioned include the Ultra Durable 3 construction using 2-oz copper layers, Lower RDS(on) MOSFETs, Ferrite Chokes and Japanese-made solid capacitors. Along the bottom are more features showing that the UD6 is both SLI and CrossfireX capable and that the board is a socket LGA 1156 motherboard, for use with both Intel i5 and i7 processors. The High Definition sound solution used on board offers up support for Dolby Home Theater sound. The rear panel goes into detail on the features on the front panel and digs even deeper into the feature set, including the Smart 6 utility and the 24-phase power design.
By lifting the front panel up, the first thing you see is the information on the 24-phase power circuits, Smart TPM for added security, a diagram on how the Smart LAN feature works, and another unique feature I have not seen before, the combo USB/eSATA drive connections on the I/O panel. On the right side, there is an opening so you can get a quick view of the GA-P55-UD6 in all its glory. One thing that looks out of place right away is the use of six DIMM slots when triple channel memory support is not offered. Windows 7 support is prominently mentioned repeatedly throughout the packaging so there is no doubt the board is Windows 7 ready.
Inside the outer sleeve of the UD6 is an additional box that has the board in a plastic clamshell, locking the board in place, with the accessories in another box underneath. The accessory bundle looks to be pretty substantial, including plenty of documentation.
Let's move on and take a look at the bundle in detail before we get to the GA-P55-UD6.