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ASUS P7P55D Deluxe Lynnfield Motherboard Preview‏

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MAC

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ASUS P7P55D Deluxe
Lynnfield Motherboard Preview‏






Back in June, we were in Taiwan during the Computex 2009 expo and the buzz surrounding Intel's upcoming mainstream Lynnfield processors and accompanying P55 chipset was definitely starting to intensify. While specific bits of information about the processors themselves were few and far between, there were quite a few sneak peaks of the Socket LGA1156 motherboards coming to light. For example, we were able to bring you an in-depth preview of a few pre-production Gigabyte EP55 models.

As many of you are aware of, the official launch date for the Lynnfield series is quickly approaching and with them a veritable swarm of P55 motherboards is going to hit the market. The sheer scope of new models available may actually set a few records and at the very least it will leave consumers' heads spinning. This is one of the reasons why ASUS have wisely chosen to preview their new P55 series to help their models stand out from the crowd as early as possible. Today, we will be briefly showing you one of the higher-end P55 models in the ASUS roster, the P7P55D Deluxe.

As the initial torch bearer for the P7P55D series, the Deluxe comes packed to the gills with goodies. It supports all upcoming Lynnfield Core i5 and Core i7 processors, has a stout 16+3 phase power design, four DDR3 memory slots with frequency support up to DDR3-2133 (O.C), three mechanical PCI-E x16 slots, CrossFireX and SLI support, dual Gigabit LAN ports, an impressive 10-channel HD audio CODEC, 9 SATA ports, 14 USB 2.0 ports, 2 FireWire ports, 1 eSATA port, a new TurboV EVO real-time overclocking processor with accompanying TurboV remote, onboard power/reset switches, and a totally jumper-less design. And that's just the start!

In this first of many P55 motherboard previews, we will give you a quick rundown about all the features this model has to offer in order to whet your appetite until the actual review hits our front page. Unfortunately, due to NDAs we can't show you performance or BIOS screens but don't worry, you won't have to wait too long before we put this board through our torture tests.

 
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MAC

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Specifications

Specifications



The P55 PCH is hiding under there - Click on image to enlarge

Intel's new P55 Express 'Ibex Peak' chipset is a true break from their traditional chipset design. Unlike all previous Intel chipsets which featured both a northbridge and a southbridge (eg. X58 Express + ICH10R), the P55 is a one-chip solution. As such, it has been given the new designation of Platform Controller Hub (PCH). When it comes to PCI-Express 2.0 connectivity things get a little complicated with this chipset since in the past, the northbridge supplied the graphics-related PCI-E lanes. However, Lynnfield processors feature an industry-first: an integrated PCI-E controller that supports 16 PCI-E 2.0 lanes supplying two mechanical PCI-E x16 slots. If only one graphics card is installed, it will operate at the full electrical x16 speed and if two graphics cards are installed, the PCI-E lanes are divided between both PCI-E x16 slots and they will operate at x8 each. On motherboards with three mechanical PCI-E x16 slots such as the P7P55D Deluxe, the first two slots will each operate at x8 while the third slot will operate at x4. How is this possible if we have already established that the integrated PCI-E controller only supports 16 PCI-E lanes? The additional 4 PCI-E lanes come from the P55 PCH itself, which can supply up to 8 PCI-E 1.0 lanes in total.

On the connectivity front, we can tell you that the P55 supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and 6 SATA II ports with Matrix Storage Technology. It also features one Gigabit LAN port and High Definition Audio. Now we would love nothing more but to give you all the additional juicy details about this new chipset, but that information is under wraps so you will just have to check out our future Lynnfield/P55 review.

While that is all we can tell you about the chipset itself, here is the mile-long specifications list for the P7P55D Deluxe motherboard itself. Despite its supposedly mainstream roots, you will definitely see that ASUS have omitted nothing on this high-end P55 motherboard.


This motherboard's specifications list is impressive enough to go head-to-head against almost any X58 motherboard on the market right now, which says a lot about the faith ASUS has in this upcoming platform.

Of particular interest to us though are the new 'ASUS Unique Features' incorporated on this model, so let's check that out next.
 
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MAC

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Features

Features



ASUS has a new design philosophy that is called Xtreme Design, and it incorporates 3 elements: performance, safety and reliability. There are too many new innovations to list in this piece, but we will go over a few of the more interesting aspects.

<div style="float:left;margin:8px;">
</div>The P7P55D Deluxe has been outfitted with the new Xtreme Phase design, which on this model is a true 16-phase power design. The benefits of implementing so many phases is the reduction of the average power load for each phase through real-time phase switching in relation to the system load. In coordination with the new T.Probe and PEM hardware controllers, this theoretically leads to lower temperatures and improved reliability, more stable power delivery at high frequencies and better power efficiency. Speaking of efficiency, this motherboard also features enhanced EPU technology, which helps improve energy efficiency by moderating power in real-time based on the system load. Needless to say the design also features high quality capacitors with 50,000-hour lifespans.


<div style="float:right;margin:14px;">
</div>The ASUS Turbo Key is an exclusive feature that transforms the PC power button into a physical overclocking button, very much like the Turbo buttons of 386/486-era.This provides novice users a one-touch solution to boost system performance whenever they need it, even during a game. Meanwhile, the more experienced enthusiast users will instead benefit greatly from the TurboV EVO and Turbo V technology. The TurboV EVO is a new hardware controller dedicated solely to system overclocking and it can do both intelligent auto-tuning and real-time hardware overclocking. Also new with this motherboard is the TurboV remote, which is a physical controller that allows you to select between three auto-overclocking presets, permits real-time adjustments to the BCLK and system voltages and even allows manipulation of the EPU settings. Lastly, there is the TurboV overclocking utility that ASUS first introduced with their X58 motherboards, but it now been updated with more precise voltage adjustments, improved functionality and better stability.


<div style="float:left;margin:8px;">
</div>One of the main aspects of the Xtreme Design initiative is improved safety. What this means is the reduction of potential EMI-based issues, improved static discharge tolerance and over current protection. This is achieved through better layout, design, component choice and overall design symmetry, particularly in the CPU and I/O ports area where EMI issues are most likely to occur. ASUS have also worked to reduce the likelyhood of static discharge damage which is caused by the accumulated electrical charge of your body “jumping” into the system through your fingers, by protecting each USB port on the motherboard. Last but not least is the improved the over current protection. In this case there are small circuits scattered throughout the motherboard that act like fuses and circuit breakers preventing your components and devices from getting damaged in the event of an over current condition.


<div style="float:right;margin:14px;">
</div>On the P7P55D series, ASUS have improved upon the StackCool Technology (copper cooling + cooling design implementations) that they first introduced in 2004. The focus of StackCool has always been to consistently refine motherboard design to improve overall cooling for both the motherboard itself and the onboard components, with the ultimate aim of improving stability and reliability. This can be seen by the extensive cooling solutions for power phases, MOSFETs, chipsets and the integration of cooling via the motherboard PCB itself. With the new StackCool 3+ design, ASUS implemented an additional two 2oz copper PCB layers to their existing 6 layer PCB design which when combined with better circuit design and placement, helps to release heat from critical points more efficiently.
 
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MAC

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A Closer Look at the ASUS P7P55D Deluxe

A Closer Look at the ASUS P7P55D Deluxe



Enough with the paper specs, time to check out the product itself starting with a brief look at the package and accessories.



Click on image to enlarge

Here we have the shiny blue/purple-ish box that is the mainstay for nearly all ASUS Intel-based motherboards, but with one minor change: a flap. Although the box is already adorned with logos illustrating this model's numerous features and specifications, the flap has quite a bit of additional information about all of the interesting ASUS-specific features that the P7P55D Deluxe comes with. Essentially, if you take a few moments to look and read the box, you will know exactly what you are getting with this product.



Click on image to enlarge

The accessories bundle is a little light, but honestly there's nothing missing. There are six SATA cables, three of which have a 90-degree connectors and the customary IDE cable. There is the anti-EMI I/O panel and Q-Connectors, which make attaching the case cables to the system panel connector a much easier process. ASUS have also included an SLI bridge and a USB/eSATA PCI expansion bracket. Last, but certainly not least, is the one-of-a-kind TurboV remote, which allows for real-time system overclocking in coordination with the TurboV EVO chip. It also allows you to select Turbo Key and EPU profiles.


Without further ado, here is the P7P55D Deluxe in all its glory:


Upon first glance this motherboard's layout is...perfect. The 8-pin CPU power connector, overvoltage switches, 24-pin ATX power connector, IDE connector, SATA ports, USB and FireWire headers and onboard power/reset buttons are all ideally located on the edges of the motherboard. We definitely like the black PCB and it looks great with the new blue & white theme and the very low profile chipset cooler is quite striking as well.


Click on image to enlarge

The general CPU socket area on this motherboard is quite interesting. The LGA1156 socket and the retention module are both obviously new designs, but the truly eye-catching feature is definitely the 16+3 phase power design, as evidenced by the 19 sealed chokes. The MOSFET heatsinks are connected to each other by a heatpipe, and they are fairly low profile, so interference problems are highly unlikely with any well-designed CPU cooler. We are not too keen on the bucket load of capacitors so near to the CPU socket since it will make insulating the socket a tough job but few users will ever encounter this issue.


Click on image to enlarge

The DDR3 memory slots support overclocked memory frequencies up to DDR3-2133, however the truly impressive specification is the 4-phase power design. We are glad to see that the Q-DIMM memory slot design, which is clipless on one end, has found its way from the Maximus II GENE to this model. The reason for this innovative design is due to the fact that the clips would have come into contact with the back of the graphics card and would have made removal of the memory modules impossible without first removing the graphics card.


Click on image to enlarge

Around the memory slots is the MemOk! button, which can fix any compatibility issues between the motherboard and the memory and allow the system to boot. To the right of the MemOk! button is the TurboV EVO chip, a real-time hardware overclocking processor. Above the memory slots are the new overvoltage switches for the DRAM, the Integrated Memory Controller (IMC) and the CPU, which allow you to unlock higher voltages in the BIOS...but remember that these unlocked voltages are insanely high, so be careful. By the way, the use of switches for this feature has made the P7P55D Deluxe a jumper-less motherboard.


Click on image to enlarge

The P7P55D Deluxe features six right-angle SATA II (3Gb/s) ports, which are supplied by the P55 chipset. The dark blue and light gray SATA ports are provided by the popular JMicron JMB322 controller, which also plays a role in the Drive Xpert RAID 0/1 feature. A JMicron JMB363 controller, which is hidden under the heatsink, supplies the black SATA port and IDE port.

Speaking of the chipset heatsink, we like its low profile and interesting design and look forward to testing its cooling capabilities.


Click on image to enlarge

The overall expansion slot layout and assortment is excellent. There are three full-sized PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, two PCI-E x1 slots, and two legacy PCI slots. In a single graphics card configuration, the blue PCI-E x16 slot will operate at the full x16 speed, while the black slot will run at x4. When two graphics cards are installed in the blue and white PCI-E x16 slots, they will operate at x8 each with the black slot once again operating at x4. This motherboard does support Quad-GPU CrossFireX and Quad-GPU SLI with two dual-GPU graphics cards. Attempting to run three graphics cards would be pointless for gaming purposes since the third card would run at x4 and thus be a huge bottleneck.However, if you partake in [email protected], you could feasibly run three graphics cards on this motherboard without issue.

Below the expansion slots are the always welcome onboard power and reset buttons, and you can also spot the socketed BIOS chip. This is a good design choice since ASUS can simply ship you a new BIOS chip should an update go terribly wrong. However, we would prefer to see two BIOS chips since that would prevent any downtime.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the ASUS P7P55D Deluxe pg. 2

A Closer Look at the ASUS P7P55D Deluxe Cont'




Click on image to enlarge

Starting clockwise from the top-left, we see the VIA VT2020 10-channel High Definition Audio CODEC. This is a newer, previously unseen onboard audio solution which should prove to be a tough competitor to the dominant Realtek ALC888/889 series. It supports such niceties as DTS Surround Sensation and the ASUS Noise Filter feature. The Realtek 8110SC and 8112L are both Gigabit LAN controllers. At this point, we aren't entirely sure why ASUS chose two difference models, nor why they did not make use of the P55's native Intel Gigabit LAN support, but we assume it has something to do with the ASUS AI NET 2 feature.

In the last image we have three different chips. The well-known EPU2 chip has been enhanced with newer functions, but it continues to work to help maximize energy efficiency based on the system load. The T.Probe (at the bottom) and PEM ICs are the brand new power phase management controllers. These chips manages the VRM area in real-time to balance load across the power phases and ensure the best possible efficiency and temperatures.


Click on image to enlarge

As labeled, the TURBO_CON is where to plug in the TurboV remote. We would have prefered to see this connector on the I/O panel, but for now all you need to do is slide the remote's wire in between two I/O panel modules which isn't a big deal.

The entire P7P55D series features a proper 8-pin CPU power connector, but judging by the fact that our board came with a plastic cap covering four pins, you may still be able to get by with a 4-pin connector.


Starting from left to right, the rear I/O panel features a PS/2 mouse port, PS2/ keyboard port, a CMOS reset button, two USB 2.0 ports, coaxial and optical S/PDIF connectors, a Gigabit LAN port and two additional USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port and two additional USB 2.0 ports, the second Gigabit LAN port and two additional USB 2.0 ports, and finally the six audio jacks on the audio module.


Click on image to enlarge

The back of the motherboard is interesting in that ASUS have installed a second set of MOSFETs there, and they have even outfitted them with their own heatsinks. This proves ASUS is listening to our collective feedback, since we previously demonstrated that those back-mounted MOSFETs can get exceedingly hot. We are glad to see that the chipset cooler is held in place with proper mounting screws, gone are the days of the problematic push-pins.


That about it for today's preview, but the launch date is quickly approaching so check back for the official review. While we can't comment on performance or overclocking at this point, but judging from what we have seen in this preview ASUS is once again looking at dominating the competition with a feature-rich yet affordable product. For all intents and purposes, the P7P55D Deluxe certainly looks impressive.


 
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