Gigabyte GA-EP55-UD4P Previewccokeman -
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First seen at Computex 2009, P55 chipset-based motherboards have been showing up in sneak peaks everywhere. So on that count, OCC is delivering a quick look at an upcoming board to be used with the Intel Core i5 "Lynnfield" mainstream processors. A new CPU often times means a new socket and this time is no different, as the socket pin count on the i5 will be 1156 versus 1366 on the i7. So what else is new on the i5? Intel has chosen to move away from the tri-channel memory design and stick with a dual-channel design. Just a couple of things that appear to be a way to bring down the entry costs on an Intel-based system. Since much is still up for speculation, let's take a quick trip around one of the boards that Gigabyte has put together for the upcoming platform.
I'll run through the board one side at a time to showcase the features that Gigabyte will be including on its GA-EP55-UD4P motherboard. This is a pre-production sample, so there may be some small things that change, but it is pretty much ready to go. From the top, the layout looks fairly well done, with many of the components in the expected locations. The PCB is the traditional Gigabyte blue that is not unappealing. The rear of the PCB is barren minus the back half of the CPU retention hardware.
Starting with the left side of the PCB, we have the I/O panel that includes much of the board's connectivity. This board's I/O panel is pretty stacked, with 10 USB ports, 2 eSATA ports, 2 IEEE 1394 ports, 1 PS2 port that can be used for a keyboard or mouse, 8-channel HD audio, 2 Gigabit LAN ports that support teaming, and both Optical and Coaxial digital audio outputs. Moving down the board are the expansion slots. There are a total of 3 PCIe 1x slots and 2 16x slots, which support both Crossfire and SLI and run at 8x when both are populated, as well as 2 PCI slots. In front of the orange 16x slot, you can see the CD and SPDIF input headers.
Across the bottom, you have a serial port, parallel port, floppy drive port (imagine that), a third IEEE 1394 port, two more USB headers for a total capacity of 14, and last, but not least, the front panel header. Creeping around to the right side, the first thing in line is the 8 SATA ports, two of which support SATA III 6Gb, although Marvell has identified some issues that relate to PATA connectivity. When you include the two eSATA ports on the I/O panel, that is a total of 10 SATA ports. Right behind the SATA ports is the dual BIOS. This feature has proven its worth after more than a few bad crashes. Instead of going with a triple-channel configuration for the memory, for the i5 we have a dual-channel setup that is capable of running up to 16GB of DDR3 memory. The GA EP55-UD4P supports memory speeds of DDR3 2000+MHz, according to the literature I have. 2000+ support from day one is nice. There is only one IDE port, but with the move to SATA optical drives, IDE and floppy drives are on the way out. However, it is nice to see the backwards compatibility. Power is supplied via a 24-pin connector, as well as an 8-pin connector behind the mosfet heatsink.
The CPU area is not really crowded at all. The LGA 1156 socket is dimensionally smaller than the 1366 socket used on the i7 lineup and will be used with both the Lynnfield and Clarksdale processors. The GA-EP55-UD4P uses a 12 phase power design to help the enthusiast reach for the stars, while still allowing for excellent power savings when using Gigabyte's Dynamic Energy Saver 2 software and power management hardware.
When it comes to cooling down the board, you have several things at work here. The P55 chipset and voltage regulation circuits are covered with smallish heatsinks that are all interconnected via a single heatpipe. The GA EP55-UD4P is constructed using Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 build philosophy. The PCB is built with 2oz copper layers inside, offering a way to reduce heat as the board conducts the heat away from the components.
What, no benchmarks? Well since this technology is still under NDA, when it comes to performance numbers, we can't show anything just yet. With the i5 launch fast approaching, the time for benchmarks and overclocking results will be here soon enough. Patience, grasshopper.