Intel P55 Motherboard Shootout - The New Mainstream

Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6

Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6

The heavyweight among our P55 motherboards (and we mean it literally) is the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6. Thanks to its Ultra Durable 3 features, which mandates that the amount of copper in the PCB be twice that of the typical PCB and its 'overuse' of chokes for its power phase design, this is one hefty motherboard. The staggering number of features included and the solid heatsinks used also contribute to the overall weight.

The color scheme reminded us of Gigabyte's EX58-EXTREME motherboard. It's a very crowded board, with almost every centimeter of space used.

Possibly sporting the most number of rear I/O ports, including two FireWire interfaces, two forms of S/PDIF outputs, two Gigabit LAN ports and two USB/eSATA combo ports. Amazing how all those ports managed to fit.

While we have done a rather comprehensive preview of this board's numerous features that you should at least glance though for the updates on Gigabyte's newest features and software tools, some of the more important ones bear repeating. Just like the Gigabyte EX58-EXTREME, this is a board stacked with features and the crowded PCB is a clear sign of the added complexity required. With 10 SATA ports onboard, it's hard not to crown this P55 board the champion in storage options for our roundup. Mind you, we're not counting the two USB/eSATA combo ports at the rear. And Gigabyte has thrown in both floppy and IDE controllers to ensure that even the legacy options are there.

Gigabyte went heavy on the storage for the EX58-EXTREME and it repeats the formula with the UD6 with 10 SATA ports, not to mention the two USB/eSATA ports at the rear.

IDE and floppy connectors are present for those who still require them.

Another surprise is the presence of six DIMM slots when the P55 chipset only calls for four. With a dual-channel memory controller on the Lynnfield CPU, we weren't expecting more than the usual four, which makes the six here reminding us again of the EX58-EXTREME. There is however a rather large caveat. If all six slots are populated, the ones in blue can only accept single-sided memory modules, which naturally are not as dense as double-sided ones. So more likely than not, you may end up using 1GB memory modules on these slots. It's certainly limited in its usefulness, perhaps for those with older memory modules lying around.

6 DIMM slots? Yes, Gigabyte may be included two more slots than the standard P55 motherboard but it's not necessarily for the better. The blue slots here support only single-sided memory modules when all six slots are populated.

Like the ASUS motherboard which went with three PCIe graphics slots, the last one here (on the extreme left) is only PCIe x4. This slot also looks a bit cramped with the floppy connector close beside it.

We have had some issues with some of Gigabyte's larger motherboard heatsinks in the past and the same goes for the UD6. While the heatsinks here are unlikely to interfere with the CPU cooler, there's one that is a touch too close to the PCIe x1 slot (on the right in the picture above). It could be difficult utilizing that slot. The same goes for the PCIe x4 slot at the extreme left, which is close to the floppy connector. To be fair, Gigabyte probably feels that users won't ever end up using all the available expansion slots here. If that's the case, we rather they didn't try so hard in the quantity department and reduce the number of slots or features.

The so-called 24 phases on the Gigabyte P55-UD6 is due to the vendor assigning two chokes to each power phase. Effectively, it's just a 12-phase design, though having more chokes do lessen the workload on each, leading to lower temperatures and perhaps a longer lifespan.

It could be a bit hard getting to the reset switch with it buried among other components here. But besides some minor layout issues, this Gigabyte board manages the placement fairly well given the sheer amount of components used.

No doubt, we have said this throughout our assessment of the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 but it feels that Gigabyte went a bit overboard in terms of the features, especially for a mainstream board. As it is, the online retail price for this board is around US$250, a match for the ASUS and its enthusiast heavy features. There are some minor layout issues that could be improved but given the lack of PCB space, it's probably not as easy as we would presume.

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