|Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 Motherboard: P55 vs X58|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 24 September 2009|
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Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 Conclusion
Benchmark Reviews begins each conclusion with a short summary for each area that we rate. The first is performance, which considers how effective the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 LGA1156 motherboard performs in operation against direct competitors. On a scale of 1 to 10, which is exactly how we grade each section, the GA-P55-UD6 receives a praise-worthy 9.50 when compared against other products in its related category. Graphics performance in video games was exactly even between systems, which puts emphasis on the other areas. Even with a 5% faster 2.8Ghz Intel Core i7-860 installed, the P55 system delivered an average 10% better CPU performance and 7% better memory bandwidth than the 2.66GHz Intel Core i7-920 on the X58 platform. With the performance trends leaning towards P55 over X58, it was the 33% improvement to power efficiency that really sealed the win.
Just like past Gigabyte motherboards we've reviewed, the overall appearance of the GA-P55-UD6 is exciting. My first impression was that the P55-UD6 left behind all of those old pastel colors as if to say that it came here to do business. Gigabyte has a winning combination of shiny silver and anodized blue components to keep things exciting. The colors used for expansion card slots are matched to bus speed and type, and the power phase and onboard LEDs give just as much for user feedback as they do for captivating looks. At the end of my testing I was pleased to say I don't miss copper heatpipe tubing winding around the motherboard, because the P55-UD6 gets the job done with a single aluminum rod.
Just as they had done with their X58 motherboards, Gigabyte has achieved near-perfect component layout on the P55-Express platform. The construction is what you would expect from a top-class premium product: second to none. I know that there has been a long history of being second-best (to ASUS) in the motherboard industry, but the GA-P55-UD6 is just as good as any. All ten SATA ports are turned sideways, which allows full access to them even with large video cards installed. Even the six memory module banks are located far enough away from the socket for better access and cooling.
Functionality is the only area that puts Intel's P55 chipset behind X58-Express, and that's by design. X58 receives two 16x PCI-E lanes, while P55 gets only one. For most gamers, this isn't going to make a difference because they're using only one video card anyway. Perhaps that's where the 'mainstream' connotation comes in. Considering that video game frame rates were identical between P55 and X58 motherboards, the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 can be expected to deliver the same performance you would get from more expensive mainboard hardware. I won't re-hash two pages of Gigabyte-specific motherboard features here because you can always revisit those sections if you're curious, but the 26-phase power VRM really proved a success in saving electricity (especially over X58), and the TPM Security Chip is perfect for cautious consumers.
As of September 2009, NewEgg lists the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 for $249.99. This price comes in about $30 behind Gigabyte's X58 motherboard offerings with nearly identical features, and makes the P55 a real threat to 'enthusiast'-labeled products. As the fresh after-glow of Intel's P55 launch fades away, be sure to use our price comparison tool to get the best deals online.
In summary, the overall performance is improved almost 10% on the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 with Core i7-860 when compared to the Core i7-920/GA-EX58-UD4P, but it is the energy efficient 24-phase power VRM feature that receives my highest recommendation for this P55 motherboard. Gigabyte already touted their 12+2+2 power phase design back when the X58 platform was launched, but this new 24-phase power VRM on the P55 series is worth a 33% power savings at idle, and 18% under full processor load. For consumers deciding to upgrade between P55 and X58, I don't see the X58 platform offering any substantial return on investment when gaming or computing is the core focus. The fact that P55 only offers a single 16x PCI-Express 2.0 graphics slot shouldn't impact anyone other than those using CrossFire Radeon HD 5870's or SLI GeForce GTX 295 users. It seems that dual-channel is just as good or better than triple-channel memory, and the small differences aren't enough to be noticed in real world usage. Casual overclockers are guaranteed to enjoy the same array of settings and BIOS configuration options as X58 motherboards have, while 16GB of total DDR3 memory will please 64-bit users. Ten total SATA ports will ensure that no drive is left behind (a popular initiative for my SSD collection), but the SATA-III 6Gbps interface will have to wait for Gigabyte GA-P55-Extreme. The full depth of Gigabyte's proprietary product features is well worth the asking price, and the TPM encryption security is at the front of this list. Considering the improved real-world performance against X58-Express solutions, you can't possibly go wrong with the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 LGA1156 motherboard.
+ Outperforms X58 head-to-head
- Expensive 'mainstream' motherboard solution
Final Score: 9.15 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
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