Preview: ASUS P7P55D Evo (Intel P55) & the Lynnfield Processor


The ASUS P7P55D Evo Motherboard

The Path to the Intel P55 Platform

During CeBIT 2009 in March, we brought you the first glimpse of the upcoming performance mainstream platform - Intel P55 motherboards supporting the yet to be released Lynnfield processors such as seen here from ASUS . Those were very early builds, but we showed you a whole slew of much more updated Intel P55 motherboards that are nearing their final builds during Intel's official announcement at the Computex 2009 exhibition in June.

Now into July, we're slowly seeing vendors getting their motherboards finalized and ready for sampling. ASUS was the first to reach us and they've even graciously supplied us a Lynnfield processor to trial as well. Unfortunately, performance results are strictly under NDA - until the 7th of September at the time being. So what else does this signify for you? Well, you'll get to see the motherboards and processors in retail in exactly two months from now. So if you've been holding back on upgrading your aging rig of two years or older, this is the date to be looking forward to building a fresh new system.

The ASUS P7P55D Evo Motherboard

The core features of the Intel P55 chipset would be that it's now a single-chip platform controller hub which integrates the functions of the traditional ICH chip and supports a PCIe graphics controller with a configuration of either PCI x16 or dual PCIe x8. For more information and that of the P57 variant, please refer to our last Computex 2009 article with all the juicy details over here .

The ASUS P7P55D Evo motherboard is one of their higher-end SKUs of an Intel P55 chipset based motherboard and it shows from the features it supports. Triple PCIe graphics slots, Dual Gigabit LAN ports, SATA 6Gbps ports and onboard control switches, signal the high-end nature of this board.

The nice black-blue themed ASUS P7P55D, Intel P55 chipset based motherboard. Like we mentioned above, the Intel P55 is a single chip controller for the whole motherboard. Notice the outlines around it? That means the heatsink you see here for the P55 isn't the final one, which going by the outlines, will be a much larger and fancier one.

The rear I/O panel is quite heavily decked out with eight USB ports, dual Gigabit LAN ports controlled by Realtek chips, FireWire, analog and digital audio connectors and even PS/2 ports.

Expansion slot configuration is triple PCIe x16 slots (which work in an x8 / x8 / x4 configuration), dual PCIe x1 and dual PCI slots. While the spacing between the PEG slots and expansion slot configuration placement is good...

... the P55 chipset placement isn't ideal for the secondary PCIe x16 slot (the slot in white) if the graphics card has some protruding irregularities that can conflict with the chipset. So just be careful on what sort of card you intend to install here. In the foreground here, you can also see a handful of SATA connectors; the pair in white are powered by a Marvell SATA 6Gbps controller.

More SATA ports by the Intel chipset are in denoted in the blue shade, but most of them are not angled 90-degrees to the front of the board which usually better facilitate cabling. If the rear eight USB ports aren't sufficient, there are more expansion headers as seen in this photo - enough for six more USB ports!

Here are the new-age memory slots where there are latches only on one side while the other side acts as a guide. This is great for both enthusiast and ASUS since they no longer have to worry too much on the DIMM slot proximity to the PEG slot. Just be sure you've installed the memory properly since there's one less physical latch on the DIMM slots.

The Audio IC on this board is a pretty new VIA VT1828S audio CODEC and it's a pretty high-end one supporting up to 10 channels of audio.

The networking ICs are a bit of an oddball. On the left is an old-school PCI based Gigabit LAN controller, while on the right is a Realtek PCIe based PHY chip using the chipset's built-in Intel MAC controller.

Here are a handful of OC friendly features. First on the left is Turbo V, a companion to real-time overclocking and works in conjunction with Turbo Key to instantly boost performance. In the center we have the OV DRAM switch which enables even more insane voltage options than what's original set in the BIOS. Lastly on the right is the MemOK! feature that helps to reset just the memory timings if you've been heavily tinkering with them in your pursuit of overclocking.

Last but not least, from this point onwards, all new ASUS motherboards will feature ASUS Xtreme Design - a nomenclature that encompasses performance enhancing technologies (Xtreme Phase, Turbo V, Turbo Key), safety features (Anti-EMI) and Reliability enhancements (Stack Cool3+, Xtreme Durable Capacitor). While competing vendors have their own equivalents as well, everyone has slight implementation differences.

We briefly touch upon a few notable new additions. The Anti-EMI feature adds ICs and components to prevent ESD discharge damage to delicate components on the motherboard. Stack Cool 3+ is an evolution of their Stack Cool feature where the first iteration added four extra layers on PCB to improve thermals and the second iteration builds upon it by adding a coating layer. The third iteration uses a 2oz copper PCB in addition to extra PCB layers, thus the Stack Cool 3+ nomenclature. Looks like 2oz copper PCB is the next big catch phrase for motherboard makers just like Solid Capacitors made its rounds the last couple of years.