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EVGA's P55 Motherboard Lineup Revealed + P55 FTW Preview

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SKYMTL

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EVGA P55 FTW Lynnfield Motherboard Preview
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EVGA's P55 Lineup Revealed




With the release of Intel’s new Lynnfield processors rapidly approaching, our testing room is filling with P55 motherboards at an alarming pace. It is more than evident that every motherboard manufacturer wants to get the jump on their competition by literally flooding the market with Lynnfield-supporting products from the moment the chips are officially released.

Among our stack of retail boxed P55 boards there stands a lone nondescript white box that holds the board we are previewing here today: an early production version of the EVGA P55 FTW. This is board is going to be in the higher-end range of their P55 line-up and has features a-plenty.

This preview will be a bit different from the other ones we will be doing over the course of the next few weeks. Naturally, we can’t show you any BIOS screenshots, performance numbers or overclocking results but what we can do is give you a quick picture tour around the motherboard. We can’t post detailed specifications or features for the time being either as EVGA would like to keep some of their game-changing additions under wraps until they are ready to fully unveil the board alongside Lynnfield processors. In such a highly competitive market, we can totally understand this decision on their part.

Speaking of EVGA’s line-up, we can promise you that once everything is said and done there will be no fewer than seven P55 boards available ranging in price from under $200 for the P55 LE to quite a bit higher for the upcoming P55 Classified. Anything more than $250 may seem a lot to pay for a Lynnfield-supporting motherboard but both the P55 FTW 200 and the Classified 200 will use Nvidia’s nForce 200 chip. Depending on the layout, we have seen boards where nForce 200 effectively adds the capability to run up to 40 PCI-E lanes when combined with the 16 from the Lynnfield CPU. There is an additional four already provided by the P55 PCH.

After we are done putting the P55 FTW under the microscope, we’ll give the rest of the EVGA P55 line-up a look by showing everything from an mATX board to some tantalizing details about the upcoming (and still under cover) P55 Classified. All in all, this should be an interesting little article so let’s get the show on the road.

 
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SKYMTL

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A Quick Features Rundown

A Quick Features Rundown

(Images courtesy of EVGA)

Below we have a quick listing of some of the unique features EVGA P55 motherboards will include. However, it is important to remember that not all EVGA P55 boards will include all of these features. Additional features will be discussed within the P55 FTW preview itself.











 
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SKYMTL

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Nvidia's Play Versus the Dragon

Nvidia's Play Versus the Dragon



We have been hearing a lot about ATI and AMD's partnership with their Dragon platform, Nvidia hasn't been standing still. They figure that with the proper implementation, their GPUs coupled with a Lynnfield CPU and a P55 chipset-equipped motherboard will offer a price / performance ratio far above that of anything AMD / ATI can offer at this point. Nvidia calls it "The Power of 3".

This may seem like a bit of an idle boast but they have been making some massive inroads with SLI licensing for nearly all of their premier P55 board manufacturers. Indeed, nearly every single performance-oriented P55 board we have seen so far has included an SLI bridge.

However, there is more to Nvidia's claim than SLI.


Nvidia has implemented a new "PhysX Ready" certification code for certain motherboards that come properly equipped and ready to install a dedicated PhysX slot. I know many of you have been wondering what the use of that PCI-E x4 slot is on most of the P55 boards we have been seeing to date and now you know why: this is a dedicated slot needed for Nvidia's PhysX certification. You can run any card above a 9600 GT (they recommend using at least a 9800GT) in this slot for additional physics processing power.


With the additional "PhysX slot" showing up on countless well-priced motherboards and they prices of compatible graphics cards coming down in price physics processing can become a reality for even more gamers now. It should also be noted that this setup will provide additional performance in the WIndows 7 environment through the DirectX Compute and Open CL code paths.


Another boon for Nvidia is the fact that many affordable P55 motherboards will be shipping with dual x8 PCI-E support so enabling SLI on sub-$200 boards can become a reality. The addition of an nForce 200 chip can conceivably expand the GPU complement to encompass Tri-SLI as well.


By now you should all know that PhysX is here to stay and considering the list of games which will be released in the coming months with PhysX support, we can't see why you would want to turn a blind eye at this point. In addition, Windows 7 is about to usher in a whole new realm of possibilities when it comes to using your graphics card for parallel computing tasks and whether ATI fans want to admit it or not; Nvidia is at the forefront of GPU Compute technologies.

The Lynnfield platform has a real possibility to make Nvidia's "Power of 3" a household name but whether consumers embrace this trifecta has yet to be seen.
 
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SKYMTL

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Presenting the new EVGA EVBot

Presenting the new EVGA EVBot



EVA…errr…EVBot should shine a new light upon overclocking

Manufacturers are constantly trying to move forward on unique pieces of innovation that will set their products apart from those of the competition. We saw Gigabyte do this with their 2oz. copper PCBs (ASUS has since followed suit), graphics card manufacturers add more and more complicated cooling solutions to their GPUs and HDTVs keep on being advertised with continuously more ludicrous contrast ratios. While many of these “technologies” are nothing more than the marketing version of selling snake oil, some will actually end up benefiting the end user in some way.

EVGA is striving to appeal to both the overclocking elite and novice overclockers by offering EVBot support on some of their upcoming P55 motherboards. According to the information we have, it will be available on their P55 FTW 200 and the P55 Classified 200 but will NOT be bundled with them. It will be an additional accessory which will need to be purchased separately.


Click on images to enlarge

So what is the EVBot? In its most basic form, it is a hand-held overclocking and tweaking device that allows you to control the majority of an EVGA motherboard’s BIOS functions from the palm of your hand. It has the ability to save overclock profiles and display a host of information on its screen. In addition –and you heard it here first-, EVBot support will be integrated into some upcoming EVGA graphics cards.


As you can see in the picture above, the EVBot will use a dedicated connector that is present on some higher-end EVGA motherboards. It is attached via a standard ribbon cable.


The monochromatic display on this unit is able to show a host of information but due to the amount of screen real-estate, some of the BIOS descriptions will be slightly truncated. That being said, from the pictures we have seen, all of the BIOS options necessary for tweaking your system will be available.
 
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SKYMTL

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The EVGA P55 FTW Under the Microscope

The EVGA P55 FTW Under the Microscope



Click on image to enlarge

Even though the FTW is one of the higher-end P55 boards available from EVGA, it sticks to the standard ATX form factor. The PCB sticks with the usual black color but that is where the similarity with past EVGA motherboards ends. Instead of going for an oddball mixture of black, blue and green from the X58 SLI family or a red and black “Classified” color scheme, this board goes straight down the monochromatic path. There is liberal use of black with a few shades of grey inserted here and there which is perfect for those of you who don’t want your motherboard to cry out “look at me!” This color scheme also means that the red USB headers and Power On button stand out like sore thumbs.

There really doesn’t seem to be any faults here when it comes to the overall layout as all of the PCI Express slots are placed far enough apart to avoid issues when installing dual slot GPUs. Meanwhile, the legacy PCI expansion slots are pushed closer to the bottom of the board. The six system fan headers are mostly concentrated towards the topmost portion with four of them clustered around the memory slots, one next to the I/O ports and one near the SATA ports.




Click on images to enlarge

The area immediately around the CPU socket area is devoid of any obstacles which would prevent the installation of a large CPU heatsink. The proximity of the solid-state capacitors on two sides of the CPU socket could cause some headaches when insulating for LN2 or other exotic types of cooling. On the other hand, the vast expanses of open PCB on the other two sides of the CPU are an extreme overclocker’s dream come true.

The P55 FTW uses a 12-phase power design for the CPU with a maximum PWM frequency of 1189KHz while an additional 2 phases are dedicated for the VTT. As we have seen in the past, the MOSFET heatsinks on modern motherboards seem to be getting larger and larger and EVGA has done nothing to turn away from this trend. Luckily, these hulking towers of black-painted aluminum are designed in such a way that they will take full advantage of in-case airflow to cool off the hot-running MOSFETs.


Click on image to enlarge

If we zoom in on the CPU socket a little closer, we can see what EVGA calls their DPHS (Double Play Heatsink Support) that supports both LGA775 and LGA1156 CPU heatsink offsets. While many higher-end manufacturers such as Noctua will be offering free LGA1156 upgrade brackets for their cooling products, we are sure that there will be many of you who will be stuck with an LGA775-only supporting heatsink. While we have to question the durability of this solution when taking into account the mounting pressure needed for an acceptable mount, it is still a great addition.


Click on image to enlarge

Beside the CPU socket we have the usual location for the DDR3 memory slots which carry on the black / grey theme which is present everywhere else on this board. EVGA has stated that their FTW should be able to sustain memory overclocks of above 2600Mhz (DDR) while supporting up to 16GB. This impressive feat is accomplished through a unique 3-phase power design which is dedicated solely for the memory.
 
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SKYMTL

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The EVGA P55 FTW Under the Microscope pg.2

The EVGA P55 FTW Under the Microscope cont.



Click on image to enlarge

Directly below the CPU socket area where the northbridge would be on older families of boards, there is a stylized and illuminated EVGA logo which pulses white when the system is turned on. To the left of this is the sole PCI-E x1 slot on the board as well as a Molex header for additional power to the PCI-E slots and a single fan header. Granted the PCI-E x1 slot isn’t perfectly placed for those of you who want to see that LED pulse its eerie glow but sound cards fit without a problem.


Click on image to enlarge

Since the P55 chipset on this board doesn’t produce a huge amount of heat, EVGA was able to make due with a smaller then normal heatsink. That being said, there is still enough surface area on this cooler to ensure that even highly overclocked systems stay within the prescribed thermal boundaries.


Click on images to enlarge

The EVGA P55 FTW makes use of 6 on-board SATA headers which are directed in such a way that any connected cables won’t come into contact with today’s extra long graphics cards.

One of the more unique features on this board are the integrated voltage read points. The read points include areas to check actual voltages for all the major sections overclockers look for: VCore, VTT, DIMM, PLL and PCH.

Meanwhile, the PCI-E Disable Jumpers (seen in the bottom right-hand corner next to the SATA ports) allow the user to disable any of the PCI-E slots in the event that a GPU suddenly goes out of commission. In their documentation, EVGA shows how you would be able to quickly diagnose which card failed in a multi-GPU, water cooled system without having to drain your loop and reinstall each card separately. We are sure overclockers will take advantage of this as well in certain cases.


Click on image to enlarge

As already mentioned, the expansion slots are well placed with the two grey x16 (mechanical) PCI Express slots being divided by the black PCI-E x4 slot as well as a single PCI slot. The remaining PCI slot is relegated to the bottom of the board. All of the PCI-E slots feature simple locking mechanisms to hold your cards in place.


Click on images to enlarge

The extreme bottom edge of the FTW houses a Reset button with a built-in HDD indicator LED, an illuminated Power button and a Clear CMOS switch. All of these are highly practical for overclockers but it is the tiny “BIOS SEL” switch that really caught our attention since it allows you to seamlessly change between up to three separate BIOSes. That’s right, the FTW houses three distinct BIOS chips and with this switch, you can actually compare one BIOS to the next without having to reflash over and over again. EVGA has also told us that you can use this to toggle overclocking profiles as well.

Continuing along the bottom edge, we can see the ubiquitous USB headers, the three BIOS chips (one of which is replicable) as well as the usual Dedug LED. However, this is no simple Debug LED since after the board boots into Windows this Debug indicator turns itself into a real-time CPU temperature readout.

Above the LED is the connector for EVGA’s unique ECP V2 control and trouble-shooting panel.


Click on image to enlarge

Yes folks, those are two 8-pin CPU power connectors hiding within the caverns of the MOSFET heatsinks. That means this board could theoretically provide up to 600W of power to the lone Lynnfield CPU…which is far more than any CPU will ever need, no matter how far you overclock it.


Click on image to enlarge

The backplate on the P55 FTW includes everything you would expect on a motherboard in this category and then some. There are 6 USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA connector (with one combo USB + eSATA connector), 2 Gigabit Ethernet jacks, a Firewire connector and a PS/2 mouse input. When it comes to audio, there is an 8-channel HD audio output, S/PDIF support (with both coax and optical TOSLINK outputs) and the usual mic and headphone jacks. Finally, there is a Clear CMOS button for those of you who don’t want to reach into your case to access this function.
 
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SKYMTL

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Upcoming Boards: P55 Classified / P55 FTW 200 / P55 SLI

P55 Classified 200


Unfortunately, we aren’t cleared to release a picture of the P55 Classified 200 just yet but from the specifications we have, it is obvious that EVGA will be living large with this board. We do have a bone to through you though; EVGA will be including their new “Show Volt” feature which allows a user to see a real-time voltage readout without using a multimeter. Instead of relegating you to the use of a DMM, EVGA provides an LED readout on the edge of the board that is connected to a single removable test lead. The probe can then be touched to any of the EZ Voltage read points and the voltage will be displayed.

Stay tuned for more info about this board.



P55 FTW 200


The P55 FTW 200 is the highest-end EVGA P55 board currently announced. It includes Nvidia’s nForce 200 chipset for additional PCI-E lanes and basically takes the board we have previewed here today; substitutes a PCI slot for a PCI-E x16 slot, adds a heatsink over the nForce 200 and makes use of an additional output connector for EVGA’s EVBot on the rear I/O panel. The setup allows the board to run its PCI-E slots at 16x / 8x / 8x / 8x when they are fully populated.


Image courtesy of EVGA


P55 SLI


Slightly further down the line in terms of pricing and features is the EVGA P55 SLI which looks very much like the P55 FTW but there are a few noticeable differences. First of all, this board features a lower-end 8-phase analog PWM but maintains the 3-phase layout for the memory. The layout of the PCI-E slots is also slightly different with the x4 slot now being below the x16 slots which means there is significantly less room when running dual cards.


Image courtesy of EVGA
 
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SKYMTL

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Upcoming Boards: P55 LE / P55 Micro mATX

P55 LE


The P55 LE takes up the rear of the EVGA P55 line-up and provides users most of the functionality from the higher-end boards but without SLI or Crossfire capabilities. Everything from the chipset heatsink to the rear I/O connectors has been cut back to lower the price but some of the more interesting features from the non-LE boards remain. CPU power is handled through a 6-phase design while the memory gets a 2-phase setup and the capacitor selection moves from an all-solid affair to a mixed bag of solid and standard caps. Not all is doom and gloom though since features like the on-board debug / CPU temp LED, 1156 / 775 heatsink mounting holes and PCI-E Disable Jumpers remain.


Image courtesy of EVGA


P55 Micro mATX


They say good things come in small packages and it looks like EVGA has followed this mantra when it comes to their pint-sized P55 mATX board. Features that you normally only see on higher-end boards like SLI / Crossfire-ready PCI-E x16 slots (which run at x8 / x8 when running dual cards) and Double Play Heatsink Support make an appearance as well. Naturally, in order to cut down on costs, CPU / VTT power is handled by a 6+2 phase analog power design while the memory gets two dedicated phases.

There will be an additional, lower-end EVGA P55 mATX board announced in the coming weeks.

 
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