Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 Review

ccokeman - 2009-08-26 21:30:35 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: October 22, 2009
Price: $249.99


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!

Closer Look:

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.


Closer Look:

The GA-P55-UD6 comes with a wealth of information including the manual for the motherboard, a quick install guide, and separate manuals for both the Smart 6 software suite and a step by step Smart TPM manual so you can secure your data with 2048-bit encryption. A driver disk containing the software suites and drivers is included so there is no need to go to the web for drivers - at least not initially. Also included in the documentation is a disk that contains flash demos of the features of the GA-P55-UD6, and Ultra Durable 3 construction. The hardware part of the bundle is what I would expect with a high end board.  It has you covered from the drive cables to the SLI bridge connection. A 2GB USB thumb drive is included for use with the Smart TPM feature, to hold your security for a total lock down that can be remotely accessed via a bluetooth enabled phone!



















The I/O shield has each connection marked so that you cannot confuse one port with another. It is a stamped steel design that provides no other functionality. The SLI bridge connection lets you use a dual GPU setup from Nvidia on this motherboard. The SLI Bridge connection comes with the motherboard instead of with the video card because a board must support SLI for the technology to be used, while ATI cards come with the CrossfireX bridge connection. The 2GB thumb drive is for use with the TPM function of the GA-P55-UD6 and does not come with any software or data onboard.



Without the cables to hook up your drives, you just can't run the system, so what you get with the P55-UD6 is a set of four SATA cables that have locking ends to prevent the cables from pulling out of the drives.  Two of these SATA cables have 90-degree ends to use in a tight location. A standard IDE cable is included, while a FDD cable is not. The combo USB/eSATA ports on the I/O panel are not the only way to connect to an eSATA drive. An expansion bracket with two additional eSATA and one power port is included, and comes with the necessary connectors.



If you have a need to show off what's inside your case, Gigabyte has included a couple of stickers that can be strategically placed to show off what you have inside.


The bundle is great to look at but without the board it's pretty much useless, so, let's see what the motherboard has to offer!


Closer Look:

As you could expect, the layout of the P55-UD6 is pretty crowded. As a full featured board, you have to have room for everything. The board is designed for use with Intel Core i5 and Core i7 socket 1156 processors, and is built around the Intel P55 Express chipset now called the PCH. The 24-Phase VRM design is one of the big selling points of this board. What you see on the back of the board and to the right of the socket is the other half of the MOSFETs for the 24-phase VRM circuit. The GA-P55-UD6 is one of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 motherboards that uses 2-oz copper layers for the power and ground planes, as well as Japanese solid capacitors, Ferrite chokes, and lower RDS(on) MOSFETs to provide a cooler running, more efficient design. The cooling system on the board looks pretty beefy and should keep the board components cool. One thing that is nice to see is that the heatsinks are held in place by screws instead of push pins. Another item is the six DIMM slots, which seem out of place because the socket 1156 processors do not support triple channel memory.



















The I/O panel contains a wealth of options on it - with one thing suspiciously missing. As a high end enthusiast class motherboard, you would think a Clear CMOS button would make its way onto the I/O panel but not on this motherboard. I guess the crowd this board is targeted at does not use a case to house the components. So much for what's missing, let's talk about what is here. Starting on the left side, you have a PS/2 port that can be used for either a keyboard or mouse, Coaxial and Optical S/PDIF outputs, a total of ten USB 2.0 ports - with two of the yellow ports being a combination USB/eSATA port that does not need an additional power feed since it comes through the USB portion of the port, two IEEE 1394 ports - controlled by the Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 controller to give you a total of three available counting the internal header, two RJ-45 LAN ports that use Smart LAN technology to prevent downtime by routing the connection through the other port if one jack fails, and, lastly, the High Definition sound ports that offer Dolby Home theater support. For expansion slots, you get a total of three x16 PCIe slots that operate at x16, x8 and x4 from top to bottom with two PCI slots and two PCIe x1 slots. The spacing of the PCIe x16 slots look looks to allow at least one PCI slot to be available with dual GPUs. One thing hidden and out of the way is the front panel audio connection, which is hidden behind the I/O panel sound ports.



Along the bottom of the board, you have more of the connectivity options. From left to right, you have a COM port that is still in use for diagnostic purposes, a fan header, a Floppy drive connection that at this point seems so dated but provides some backwards compatibility and gives the option of flashing the BIOS through a floppy drive instead of a thumb drive, the IEEE 1394 header, two USB headers to bring the total available to fourteen, the front panel header, IDE port and clear CMOS button that resides right between the Front Panel connections and the last USB header.



Turning the corner, you have the Diagnostic LED to help out with troubleshooting a no-POST condition. Next up, you have a total of ten SATA 3Gbps ports. To control these ports, you have a total of three controllers pulling duty. The first two white ports are controlled by the Gigabyte SATA2 controller and support Raid 0/1/JBOD, as well as pulling duty for the IDE port. The second set of white SATA ports are controlled by the JMB362 controller and also support Raid 0/1/JBOD. The last six ports are controlled via the PCH(P55 Chipset) and support SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 configurations. Right above the IDE port, you have the reset button in blue. Next, you get the 24-pin ATX power connector to supply power to the board, and you have the six DIMM slots that support up to 16GB of DDR3 2600+/2200/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules in a dual channel configuration. To get 16GB of memory in six slots, you have to use modules of varying sizes which seems counter productive. Right next to the ATX power connection, you have the power button. While it looks good and is big enough to keep you from hitting something else, it looks strangely out of place when you consider that the Clear CMOS and Reset buttons are down near the bottom corner of the board. The Power Phase LEDs take up residence right behind the ATX power plug, right next to the outermost DIMM slot.




Along the top edge of the board, you have not a whole lot that is interesting, but I'll show what's there. You have a fan header, the heatsink for part of the VRM circuit, and the 8-pin Auxiliary 12V power connection to feed the CPU. The CPU socket area is pretty busy with all of the chokes and capacitors for the 24-phase VRM circuit. The socket used on this board houses 1156 pins and is designed for use with Intel's Core i5 and Core i7 8 series processors. With all the information being passed around the web on the problems with the Foxconn manufactured sockets burning up under severe loads, I will point out that the GA-P55-UD6 I have here has the Foxconn socket. For most users this will not present a problem but for the small minority of enthusiasts that this board is aimed at will be concerned. After all of the 4.2GHz testing I ran, I did not see any issues with the socket assembly, but maybe that means I just did not lean on it hard enough.



The heatsink assembly used on the GA-P55-UD6 appears to be quite robust. It looks much like something you would see on a motherboard that is built with dual chipsets like the X58, ICh10R combination. But what you have here is the lower heatsink covering the GSATA chip, and the PCH is covered under what has been traditionally called the northbridge. The MOSFETs for the power circuit are covered with beefy heatsinks on the top of the board, but not the bottom, as seen at the top of this page. All of the heatsinks are interconnected by a large heatpipe to carry heat to the I/O area, to be dispersed through the back fan assembly of your case.



That about wraps up the tour of the board, so let's get it installed and see how she performs.


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-UD6 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-UD6 is an Award Software BIOS and I am running BIOS revision F5C at the time of the performance testing of the GA-P55-UD6. A great board can be handicapped by a BIOS that does not have the options needed by the enthusiast. Let's face it, there is no question that the P55-UD6 is an "Enthusiast" class board, so the expectation is that there will be plenty of options to work with. The GA-P55-UD6 has not one, but two BIOS ROM chips onboard so that if you manage to corrupt the BIOS you are covered and can easily recover.

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-UD6 is fully equipped 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.



Signature Chip Configuration:

Under this section, you set the parameters of the Smart TPM. You can Enable or Disable the chip, as well as viewing its current condition.




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 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.


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. 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.




  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.) w
  1. Intel® P55 Express Chipset
  1. 6 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 2600+/2200/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
  4. Support for non-ECC memory modules
  5. Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
1. Realtek ALC889A codec

 2. High Definition Audio

 3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel

 4. Support for Dolby® Home Theater

 5. Support for S/PDIF In/Out

 6. Support for CD In

1. 2 x RTL8111D chips (10/100/1000 Mbit)
   2. Support for Teaming

   3. Support for Smart Dual LAN

Expansion Slots
1. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1)

   2. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1) (The PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX8_1 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)

   3. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4_1)

   4. 2 x PCI Express x1 slots
   5. 2 x PCI slots
Multi-Graphics Technology

1. Support for ATI CrossFireX™/NVIDIA SLI technology Technology (The PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX8_1 slots only.)

Storage Interface                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


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_2, GSATA2_3) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices

   3. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD 

2 x JMB362 chips:

1. 2 x eSATA 3Gb/s connectors (eSATA/USB Combo) on the back panel supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices

   2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD

   3. 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATA2_0/GSATA2_1) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices

   4. 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

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

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. 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 Smart TPM
 10. Support for Smart 6™
 11. Support for Q-Share
1. Integrated in the Chipset

   2. Up to 14 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (10 on the back panel, including 2 eSATA/USB Combo, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)

IEEE 1394
1. T.I. TSB43AB23 chip

   2. Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (2 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header)

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. 10 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors

   6. 1 x CPU fan header
   7. 3 x system fan headers
   8. 1 x power fan header
   9. 1 x Chipset fan header
 10. 1 x front panel header

 11. 1 x front panel audio header

 12. 1 x CD In connector
 13. 1 x S/PDIF In header
 14. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
 15. 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
 16. 1 x IEEE 1394a header
 17. 1 x serial port header
 18. 1 x clearing CMOS button
 19. 1 x power button
 20. 1 x reset button
Back Panel Connectors
1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port

   2. 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector

   3. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector

   4. 2 x IEEE 1394a ports
   5. 8 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports

   6. 2 x eSATA/USB Combo connectors

   7. 2 x RJ-45 ports

   8. 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
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

1. TPM function is optional due to different regional policy

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.






All onformation on this page courtesy of Gigabyte@


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 top O' the line GA-P55-UD6, I will be running it through the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks, to see if it distinguishes itself from the comparison boards. 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:



Overclocked settings:

As motherboard makers continue to include software tools to help the novice overclock, the more options you have when it comes time to commit to getting more performance. The software utilities offered by Gigabyte work well to get you a safe, stable overclock that you can use for a quick boost in performance when gaming - if your video card is not a bottleneck. By using the Smart Boost, part of the Smart 6 application, I chose the Twin Turbo setting to see just how high the overclocking could go and was rewarded with a 3.840GHz overclocked speed, a 900Mhz jump up from the stock 2.93GHz clock speed of the i7 870. Not too shabby! Now that's all well and good for the novice, but what can it do when you set the clock speeds and memory timings manually? This chip has been good for stable overclocks of between 4.2 and 4.3GHz on other motherboards with a 4.4+ GHz benchmark stable speed. But benchmark stability is not what I call stable, so I go as high as I can get stable enough to run Folding @ Home 24/7/365. This usually involves some Prime 95 testing to validate the overclock. I started by upping the bclock up until I would reach the wall where the system would not boot. I then would bump up the CPU core voltage and repeat until I reach a point where voltage did not easily solve my stability problems. Then, I tweak the the multiplier to see if this is holding me from moving any higher on the bclock speed. If the raw CPU speed is too high, I just drop the clock multiplier to lower the speed and then start increasing the bclock again. I could get to a 212MHz bclock but had to drop it down to 201MHz, to get the highest stable clock speed from the CPU. 4200+MHz is about where this chip start to get picky, so this is where I left the CPU speed. The one thing I found, when testing different memory modules in the UD6, was that a set of double sided modules did not want to clock past 800MHz(1600). 801Mhz and the modules would fail memtest every time. I put these modules back into my video card test rig and they fly up to almost 1000MHz with no problem, much like the single sided set of modules I reinstalled. This is something to think about, and a newer BIOS will most surely address this problem.




  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


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.




Lower is Better




Lower is Better


The Apophysis results are consistent, as this bench is speed dependent. In the WinRar testing, the results are not as dramatic as those of the MSI. Even so, the GA-P55-UD6 did outperform the Maximus III and Intel boards.


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 P55-UD6, P55-GD65 and Maximus III Formula all deliver identical results. In the POV Ray testing, the P55-UD6 delivered the lowest score, while in PCMark Vantage, the results show it was the second best performer.


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


In the Sandra benchmarks, testing at stock speeds shows that the scores are very similar across the four boards. When overclocked, the results from the P55-UD6 scale upward, as expected.


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


In Sciencemark, the Gigabyte was within 3 points of the MSI P55-GD65. The results in Cinebench show that the single threaded test shows very little change from board to board, while there is more stratification in the multi-threaded test. In HDTune, the burst speed was identical to the results of the ASUS offering, while the average read scores were the top in the class. The P55 boards at stock clock speeds, for the most part, offer identical performance. I saw the same thing when benchmarking X58 and P35 Intel chipset motherboards. The main differences are seen when you overclock the processor and memory. If you don't overclock (Why not) then the feature set and pricing will be the big determining factors in purchasing a motherboard.

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 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.

















Far Cry 2 is the first gaming test, and the results show just how close the gaming performance is on these boards.


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.



















At the stock speed testing, the results delivered by the P55-UD6 are similar to those delivered by the comparison boards. When overclocked, you see small gains, which, in the scheme of things, are quite large.


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:
















The Bioshock testing shows the boards performing in a very narrow range, which is similar based on the component usage.


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.



















In COD: WAW, the Gigabyte performs below the level of the Maximus III and better than the Kingsberg board in three out of four tests.


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.




















The P55-UD6 and the other P55 boards all run within 5 FPS of each other in Dead Space.


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.


















Higher Scores = Better Performance


The performance of the P55-UD6 falls within a reasonable margin of error when compared to the other motherboards - the performance should fall in this range, with identical components installed and running at the same stock clocks.


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!



















It seems that the GPU is the limiting factor in the quest for more performance in Left 4 Dead.


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.




















The P55-UD6 under-performs the comparison boards until 2560x1600. When overclocked you see solid gains across all four resolutions.


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.



















While all of the P55 boards I have tested have been very close in performance, the P55-UD6 pulls ahead in every resolution in the 3DMark Vantage testing.



When run at stock speeds there really is not a lot of distinction between the GA-P55-UD6 and the other P55 based boards that it was compared against. That's not a bad thing when you sit down and look at it. It means that whatever board you get, you can be assured of a certain level of performance. This lack of stratification of results makes it easier to choose a board based on the feature set if you will not be overclocking, although I can't see why you wouldn't, with the fact that the utilities included with most enthusiast grade motherboards nowadays make it a no-fuss proposition. By using the included Smart Quick Boost utility, included in the Smart 6 bundle, on the GA-P55-UD6, you can punch up the clock speeds with the click of an icon. The Smart Quick Boost utility delivered a 3.84GHz clock speed with the click of the icon or just over 900MHz worth of increase, just by choosing the Twin Turbo option. The Turbo and Faster options delivered clock speed increases, but, as you can imagine, they were not as dramatic as the Twin Turbo option. The 3.84GHz clock speed is about 100Mhz higher than the utilities on the Maximus III Formula and MSI P55-GD65 delivered (at 3.7GHz), but the OC Genie is still by far the easiest to use option with the Gigabyte running a close second. The Core i7 870 used in this review is a bit picky when it comes to running higher clock speeds over 4.2GHz, but can run up to a 215 to 218 bclock with stability as long as you keep within the clock speed limitations of your CPU. I was able to get a clock speed of 4.22Ghz stable on this board, which is about where it maxes out for Prime 95 stability, not on just the GA-P55-UD6, but on every board I have tested. Performance at stock clock speeds, as you might have guessed, compares nicely with the rest of the comparison boards. This is really the expected outcome of the testing. With the same installed components you will end up with performance in an identical envelope, much like with the Intel X58, X48, and P35 based motherboards I have looked at. The two things that stuck out like a sore thumb for me were, first, the fact that if you push the limits and need to hit the Clear CMOS button you have to open up the chassis to get to it. Why is this a downside? The vast majority of people have their system mounted in a case, not on a tech bench. Only once did I need to use it, but it's still a pain to have to open the case up. Maybe I'm just a little spoiled at this point! The other thing that I found was a problem was when testing a set of double-sided memory modules during my overclocking testing. I found that 1MHz over 800MHz meant I could not even pass Memtest 2.11, no matter what voltage was used or how far I relaxed the timings. Slap in a set of single-sided modules and there wasn't any problem. Even though this was found by accident, it does raise a concern about compatibility. But if you are not overclocking, it's not a problem. Gigabyte states that the UD6 supports up to 16GB of memory but with six slots you have to use modules of different sizes to reach 16GB. Using 2x4GB with 4x2GB would fill the slots to the 16GB capacity, but any other way you under or overshoot the maximum capability.

Gigabyte has included a set of utilities that are functional and provide value to the package. Easy Tune 6 is a great overclocking and monitoring utility, Dynamic Energy Saver 2 is powered by the Intersil hardware controller offering and is a great way to manage the energy consumption of your system, easily reducing the carbon footprint. Smart 6 is a group of utilities that add functionality to your system for overclocking, reducing boot times, monitoring system activity, and the ability to manage the times you want the system available. Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 construction allows the motherboard to operate at a lower thermal threshold, while beefing up resistance to ESD damage due to the use of the 2-oz copper power and ground layers in the PCB. The 24-phase power circuit allows the current load to be spread across more "phases" keeping the circuits cool while increasing efficiency. DES2 really comes into its own using the additional phases. Although nice, I was not able to push my CPU any further than any of the other boards, but was able to keep the voltage a tad bit lower when at the maximum clock speed. The heatsinks used on the GA-P55-UD6 are, if nothing else, beefy and stayed cool during operation. One thing that surprised me was the fact that the UD6 still has both a PATA and FDD connection. More so, the use of the FDD connection since most high end boards no longer come with this drive connection. At least its still here on the GA-P55-UD6.

Gigabyte has put together a package that will work for both the Extreme overclocker as well as the person looking for a good solid board with a ton of features. The GA-P55-UD6 does everything well and comes in at a price point indicative of its capabilities and features that puts it at the upper end of the spectrum.