|ASUS P7P55D-E Pro Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Thursday, 24 June 2010|
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Closer Look: ASUS P7P55D-E Pro
The P7P55D-E PRO motherboard doesn't break any current ASUS design traditions. On the surface, it looks like several other P55 and H55 boards in their product catalog. ASUS sell 37 different LGA 1156 style motherboards on Newegg, and 28 of them are equipped with the Intel P55 Express Chipset. They range in price from $108 to $350, and the variety of features is what largely determines the pricing. In this section and the next, we'll show you the features that are most important to determining where this motherboard fits in the product line. We'll try to answer the question, "Why should I buy THIS one?"
Perhaps the most significant feature of the P7P55D-E PRO is the PCI Bridge chip from PLX Technology, which allows this board to support SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0 with full PCI-e 2.0 connectivity, without horning in on the limited number of PCI-e 2.0 lanes supported by the Lynnfield CPU. The P55 Express Chipset doesn't have any PCI-e 2.0 interfaces to offer, it's limited to PCI-e 1.1 connections only. The problem of peripherals grabbing some of the PCI-e bandwidth has always been an issue with the LGA 1156 / P55 architecture, but it was not experienced by most users. With the introduction of two brand new high-speed interfaces to the world this year, all of a sudden there is a real possibility that in certain circumstances, one of the subsystems is going to be throttled by a lack of bandwidth.
Asus takes this issue seriously, and they have used a similar design in their Model U3S6 USB 3.0 & SATA 6Gb/s Add-on card, which they are currently offering as a free bundle with many of their mid-range motherboard offerings. With the P7P55D-E Pro it's built in, so no worries. This is not the first motherboard ASUS has released with this technology, but it is currently the lowest priced P55 motherboard that can support SLI and CrossFireX with dual 8x connections AND the latest SATA and USB interfaces at the same time.
ASUS uses T.Probe Technology for Active Cooling to detect and balance power phase loads and temperatures in real-time. With optimal power phase functions, components run cooler and live longer. In the past, the multiple PWM phases were strictly controlled by the downstream load. The more transistors that were switching on and off, the higher the current draw was, and the PWM controller responded by expanding the width of the DC pulses and in some cases, increasing the number of phases providing those pulses. There was always some sort of algorithm in play, but for the first time the firmware is both measuring component temperature and providing a diet of pulse width and phases that is optimized for keeping the CPU temperatures as low as possible.
ASUS sticks with the 12+2 PWM design that is featured on most of the boards in this P7P55 series, but the addition of the T.Probe changes the arithmetic somehow to make it a 16 Hybrid Phase Power Design power supply (* 16 Hybrid Phase = 12+2 Phase x T.Probe). I think the LGA 1156 product marketing team became jealous of the 16+2 designs available on some ASUS motherboards, and they started experimenting with alternative base number systems...because in base 10, 12+2=14.
Memory configuration is Dual-Channel, with support for up to 16 GB of DDR3 2200 in overclocking modes. For my testing, I used DDR3 1600 DIMMS with the Intel XMP profile embedded in the SPD tables. You have to specifically choose the XMP mode in the BIOS, otherwise the board boots up with the standard SPD values. Although I was hoping it would just detect it and go for the XMP settings automatically, I guess it's safer for the default BIOS settings to stick with the standard SPD values. The DIMM slots are the latest single-latch units that ASUS has adopted. For most people, who will probably go for a 2 x 2GB stick solution, you have to use the blue slots. If you accidentally put one or two sticks of memory only in the black slots, the board will not boot up.
The rear I/O panel has 8 USB ports (the two blue ports are USB 3.0), PS/2 connectors for Mouse and Keyboard, optical and coaxial S/PDIF ports, an IEEE 1394 Firewire port, an E-SATA port, a gigabit Ethernet port, and the regular 8-channel audio ports. Nothing out of the ordinary here, except the USB 3.0 ports.
At the rear edge of the board, most of the SATA connectors face out, not up. This makes for fewer clearance problems with cable routing. The light blue colored ones are connected to the P55 Platform Controller Hub (PCH), and the white ones connect to the Marvell SE9123 SATA 6Gb/s controller. There are two blue ones that face up, but they are not in the path of any expansion card slots, so they won't cause a problem. There is also one lone SATA 2 connector down along the bottom edge, which is controlled by the JMicron JMB363 controller chip, and it also controls the E-SATA port on the I/O panel and the PATA connection. ASUS recommends using this port for the Optical Disk Drive, but the location is hardly convenient for that, as most PC cases have the 5.25" bays towards the top of the case.
The card slot layout is ideal for SLI or CrossFireX, in that there are still one regular PCI slot and two PCI-E x1 slots available after stuffing two double-width video cards in the 16x slots. I must complain though, about the fact that only the upper PCI-E x16 slot is wired for all 16 lanes, the lower one is only wired for 8 lanes. This limits your choice of where to install a single video card, if you want the benefits of the full PCI-e bandwidth between the CPU and GPU(s). The one PCI-e x1 connector you are most likely to lose (the beige one) is a 2.5GT/s connection. The two blue ones that are not obstructed by the video cards handle 5 GT/s (gigatransfers per second).
Let's take an even closer look at some of the unique features on this motherboard...