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Gigabyte P55-UD6 LGA1156 Motherboard Review‏

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FiXT

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Gigabyte P55-UD6
LGA1156 Motherboard Review‏



Manufacturer's Part Number: P55-UD6
Price: $235CDN+ Price Comparison
Manufacturer's Product Page: Giga-Byte Technology Co., Ltd.
Warranty: 3 year limited warranty
Buy from: NCIX | DirectCanada


At this year's Computex we had the priviledge of taking an early look at Gigabyte's tentative P55 motherboard lineup. Even though most of the models were very much in prototype form, the potential for greatness was evident. As a result, we are excited to bring you a review of Gigabyte's flagship model, the P55-UD6.

This particular motherboard has numerous features that make it standout from the crowd, but two features in particular define the UD6. First, this model utilizes Gigabyte's brand new 24-phase power design, which should not only allow for stratospheric overclocking, but higher reliability, lower temperatures, and better energy efficiency as well. Secondly, we have the six memory slot design, which is a feature unseen on any other LGA1156 motherboard. Make no mistake, this is not a triple-channel design nor does it even increase the 16GB memory limit found on all P55. It simply allows for greater flexibility when choosing or re-using your DDR3 memory modules.

Although this particular motherboard doesn't support USB 3.0 or SATA 6GB/s like some of its newer P55A brethren, it still has exceptional connectivity in the form of 10 SATA 2 ports with two dedicated RAID controllers, up to 14 USB 2.0 ports, 2 eSATA/USB Combo ports, FireWire ports, and dual Gigabit LAN. With three PCI-E x16 slots (x16/x4 or x8/x8/x4), two PCI-E x1 slots, and two PCI slots, the UD6 certainly doesn't disappoint when it comes to expansion slots. Befitting its upper-end roots, this model also supports 2-way CrossFireX and 2-way SLI. Rounding out the cool bits are onboard power/reset/clr cmos buttons, diagnostic LEDs, the debug LED, 7.1-channel HD audio codec, dual BIOS chips, and a redesigned BIOS layout.

Oddly enough, perhaps the best part of this motherboard is the software. As you will see in the coming pages, Gigabyte have created some interesting new utilities to help manage your system, secure your data, and even lower power consumption, all with a bluetooth-enabled mobile phone.


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MAC

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Specifications

Specifications


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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, 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, 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 HD Audio Technology. It does not feature support for Intel's Trusted Execution Technology (TXT), formerly known as LaGrande, which provides hardware-level protection against malicious software.

The P55 PCH communicates to the processor via the Direct Media Interface (DMI), which is a 2 GB/s point-to-point connection, which is roughly equivalent to a PCI-E x4 1.0 link. By the way, the DMI is by no means new, it has long been used as the link between the northbridge and southbridge.

Much like the P45 Express and X58 Express chipsets, the P55 PCH is manufactured on the venerable 65nm process, and it has a low default voltage of 1.0V. As a result of this low voltage, and the simple fact that the P55 does not actually do much, it does run quite cool. Did we mention that it is also quite tiny? The P55's package size of just 27mm x 27mm, and the actual die is a minuscule 8mm x 8mm.

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That's about all there is to know about the chipset itself, so let's move on to the motherboard itself. Despite being a mainstream platform, higher-end P55 motherboards like this Gigabyte model are definitely outfitted with just about anything you could want on a motherboard.

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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 Gigabyte has in this new platform.

Of particular interest to us though are the new features built-into this model, so let's check that out next.
 

MAC

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Features

Features



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With the relocation of the memory controller and PCI-Express controller from the chipset to the CPU the performance differences between P55 motherboards is generally minuscule. As a result, manufacturer-specific features and design elements are really what serve to distinguish models from each other. Gigabyte obviously knows this and seeing as how the P55-UD6 is their Top of the Line P55 motherboard, they have outfitted this model with quite a few new and interesting features.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these standout features:
<table align="center" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="90%"><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>24-Phase Power Design</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features1.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The P55-UD6 is the very first motherboard with a 24-phase power design. This VRM has been designed to deliver fast transient response times ensuring superior power delivery during full load scenarios. Also, by spreading the load across all 24 power phases, the overall heat ouput is reduced and reliability is increased.
</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>DDR3 2600+ Support </b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features2.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The Intel Core i5/i7 processors feature an integrated memory controller and a dual-channel DDR3 memory interface. Featuring the highest supported memory speeds of any motherboard, the P55-UD6 has native support for DDR3-2600 and above!</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Ultra Durable 3</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features3.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Like all Gigabyte motherboards, this model features the Ultra Durable 3 design. As with Ultra Durable 2, this signifies that the motherboard was designed with high quality and energy efficient components, namely Low RDS(on) MOSFETs, ferrite core chokes, and long-lasting solid capacitors. However, it also features a 2 ounce copper PCB delivering lower system temperature, improved energy efficiency and enhanced overclocking stability.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Dynamic Energy Saver 2</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features4.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />As the follow-up to D.E.S Advanced, GIGABYTE's Dynamic Energy Saver 2 incorporates a host of intelligent features that use a proprietary hardware and software design to considerably enhance PC system energy efficiency, Reduce power consumption and deliver optimized auto-phase-switching for the CPU, Memory, Chipset, VGA, HDD, and fans with a simple click of button.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>DualBIOS</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features5.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />Providing bullet-proof BIOS protection, the P55-UD6 has 2 physical BIOS ROMs which permit instant recovery from BIOS damage or failure due to viruses or improper BIOS updating.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Smart Dual LAN</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features6.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The Dual LAN technology features intelligent LAN port auto-switching preventing network downtime by transferring the workload between the 2 physical Gigabit LAN chips.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>EasyTune6</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features7.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Historically, the majority of manufacturer provided utilities have been quite poor. It is due to this undeniable fact that Gigabyte redesigned EasyTune6 from the ground up to make it easier than ever to manage, monitor, and tweak your hardware and system settings.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Smart 6</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features8.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />GIGABYTE Smart 6 offers a combination of 6 new software utilities that provide superior PC system management. Smart 6 allows you to speed up system performance, reduce boot-up time, manage a secure platform and recover previous system settings easily with a click of the mouse button.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>XHD (eXtreme HardDrive)</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features9.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />Improving system performance is made easy with the quick and easy GIGABYTE eXtreme Hard Drive (X.H.D). GIGABYTE eXtreme Hard Drive (X.H.D) provides a user-friendly way to boost hard drive performance through RAID-0 by adding another hard drive. </td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>eSATA/USB Combo</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features10.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />eSATA/USB combo ports provides significant convenience by supporting eSATA and USB devices in one port, and requires no additional power source when connecting eSATA/USB combo devices through the applicable cable.</td></tr>
<tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Smart TPM</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features11.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />GIGABYTE Smart TPM provides the highest level of data protection with 2048-bit hardware encryption. Smart TPM allows users to store their digital key on a USB thumb drive. In addition, Smart TPM allows users to lock the protected data remotely using a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone. </td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>AutoGreen</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/P55UD6/features12.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />AutoGreen technology can automatically save power when you are away from your computer by putting the system into a low power state when it doesn't sense your bluetooth-enabled cell phone in the vicinity.</td></tr></table>


As you can see, Gigabyte have integrated some interesting new features on this motherboard. The 24-phase power design is mightily impressive, if not slightly overboard. The very high DDR3 memory frequency support is matched only by EVGA's high-end P55 models. The new software suite has some worthwhile new capabilities that will definitely appeal to those who want total control over every aspect of their system. The potential to have a mobile phone interact and manage the system is definitely an industry first and it's some very promising technology. Now we have to find out whether all these features work as they should, and whether they actually improve the general computing experience.
 

MAC

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Package & Accessories

Package & Accessories



Now that we have taken a quick look at some the P55-UD6's unique features, it is time to take a look at the packaging and the included accessories. At $250CDN+ this is not cheap motherboard, so we expect to be impressed by the presentation and included goodies. Let's check it out:

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Here we have the unmistakably Gigabyte packaging. Although the Ultra Durable 3 logo has dominated all recent Gigabyte motherboard boxes, the P55-UD6's main marketing point is its new 24-phase power design, and this is quite evident on the box. Nevertheless, we are glad that they kept the novelty cutout in the lower right corner, simulating the 2 oz copper inner layer that is the distinguishing feature of the Ultra Durable 3 design. It is hard to tell by the photos, but this is a sizeable package, measuring a full 11.5 inches tall, 13.5 inches wide, and a 5 inches thick.

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Once you open the packaging you are greeted with an inner box with a handle, which itself contains two seperate section. The top half contains the motherboard which is battle-clad in a protective plastic enclosure, so you definitely don’t have to worry about this motherboard getting damaged while in transit.

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The bottom box contains the accessories, the numerous instruction manuals, and the installation CD. Here is a break down of the included items:

  • 1 x Floppy Cable
  • 1 x IDE Cable
  • 4 x SATA Cables
  • 1 x 2-port eSATA PCI Expansion Bracket (with accompanying eSATA cables)
  • 2-Way SLI bridge connector
  • I/O Panel
  • Manuals & Installation guides
  • Installation CD

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As we have come to expect from Gigabyte, the bundled cables are of a high quality. In particular, we like the fact that two of the cables come with handy 90 degree connectors, and all the connectors have a clip that ensures that they remain securely fastened to your hardware. We do think that it is time for Gigabyte to ditch the yellow though, it's time to adopt blue cables! The eSATA bracket further enhances this motherboard's already impressive connectivity options, and comes with a very handy external molex connection, which could be used to power external radiator fans for a water cooling system or simply a hard drive. The 2-way SLI connector is just a standard flexible one.
 

MAC

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A Closer Look at the P55-UD6

A Closer Look at the P55-UD6



Without further ado, here is the P55-UD6 in all its glory:

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Upon first glance the first thing that jumps out at you is obviously the 6 memory slots. While this is a common sight on X58 motherboards, this is the only P55 model with this unique design feature. When it comes to layout, the P55-UD6 is almost perfect. The 8-pin CPU power connector, power button, 24-pin ATX power connector, floppy connector, SATA ports, USB and FireWire headers are located on the edge of the motherboard, or as close as feasibly possible. Ideally the IDE connector would also be on the edge, but there simply isn't any room left. When it comes to the overall theme, it is business as usual for this Gigabyte model, with the now widely recognized blue and white colour scheme.

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Without question the centerpiece of this motherboard is Gigabyte's new 24-phase power design. Although first introduced on this model, this new PWM design will find its way on quite a few higher-end motherboards from Gigabyte. Overkill? Perhaps, but at least the load gets spread across many MOSFETs, resulting in lower temperatures and potentially greater reliability as well. Although perhaps not immediately apparent, the P55-UD6 does have a fair bit less capacitors surrounding the CPU socket than we have seen on some other P55 motherboards, which should please those who utilize more extreme cooling methods and need to insulate the area around the socket.

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Now the MOSFET heatsinks are not exactly the prettiest that we have ever seen, and the fact that are they mismatched is a bit weird, but they do their work quite well thanks to the thick heatpipe. For those who are curious, the P55-UD6 is outfitted with a Foxconn socket and retention module. There were a few incidents with this socket across several brands, but the likelihood of a catastrophic failure happening to you (even under extreme OC'ing conditions) is not any greater than having a capacitor rupture or MOSFET fail, which is to say very, very unlikely.

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The second centerpiece of the P55-UD6 is obviously the six memory slots. Now you are obviously wondering how Gigabyte have managed to outfit this motherboard with a triple-channel memory design when the Lynnfield LGA1156 processors have an integrated memory controller that only features a dual-channel memory interface. Well the short answer is that they haven't done anything magical on this motherboard, they have merely split each channel across three memory slots. The upside of this is obviously greater maximum memory support, right? No. This motherboard supports 16GB of DDR3, just like every other P55 motherboard out there. The two additional memory slots can be used with single-sided memory modules, which means they are relegated to 1GB or rare, ultra-pricey 2GB single-sided modules. So in short, yeah it's a gimmick that pretty much no one will ever make use of.

Just to be clear, when you install two or four memory modules on this motherboard, they will run in dual-channel mode. There is no performance hit unless you install six modules.

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As you can see, Gigabyte have outfitted this motherboard with phase LEDs for the six memory slots. They have also included 4 phase LEDs to indicate the phase status of the CPU VTT (GD1-2) and memory (MD1-2).

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Now those of you who are familiar with P55 motherboards will reasonably assume that this heatsink is covering the P55 PCH, but you would be wrong. This heatsink is merely there to cool the JMicron JMB362 and GIGABYTE SATA2 RAID controllers that supply the four white SATA II 3Gb/s ports and the IDE connector. Obviously the six light blue right-angle SATA II (3Gb/s) ports are supplied by the P55 chipset.

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Gigabyte have outfitted this model with a handy debug LED and colour coded front panel header. Foregoing headers, the board also features an onboard reset switch and clear CMOS button. A Gigabyte trademark, the P55-UD6 features two physical BIOS chips ensuring instant recovery in the case of an improper BIOS update or nasty virus.
 

MAC

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A Closer Look at the P55-UD6 pt.2

A Closer Look at the GIGABYTE P55-UD6 pt.2



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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 top PCI-E x16 slot will operate at the full x16 speed while the bottom slot will run at x4. When two graphics cards are installed in the top and middle x16 slots, they will operate at x8 each with the bottom 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 (PCI-Express 1.0 standard) and thus be a huge bottleneck. However, if you are an avid Folder or would like a card to run PhysX, you could can utilize three graphics cards on this motherboard.

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In an interesting design move, Gigabyte have relocated the P55 PCH to where the northbridge would be on a traditional motherboard. This is unlike every other P55 motherboard that we have seen, which has the P55 chipset in the usual southbridge location. There's no practical advantage or disadvantage to this solution is merely gives the motherboard a traditional appearance.

The PCH cooler is a fairly robust aluminium unit, which shares its basic Space Invaders design theme with one of the MOSFET coolers, and which utilizes the central heatpipe that snakes across the whole motherboard. The P55 itself benefits from its own 2-phase power design.

Needless to say that you can't put a full length card into the first PCI-E x1 slot, and frankly finding a card short enough to fit will undoubtedly prove to be a challenge since it cannot be longer than 3.25" inches.

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Starting clockwise from top-left, the JMicron JMB362 supplies the two eSATA/USB Combo ports on the rear I/O panel. The ITE IT8720F chip is an I/O controller which is responsible for hardware monitoring along with fan speed management and it supplies the legacy floppy support and PS/2 ports. The Realtek ALC889A is an 8-channel HD audio codec. The two the Realtek 8111D's are Gigabit LAN PCI-Express controllers.

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On the rear I/O panel, Gigabyte have placed eight USB 2.0 ports, a dual-purpose PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, coaxial and optical S/PDIF Out connectors, two FireWire ports, two USB/eSATA Combo ports, two LAN ports, and the six audio jacks.

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As you can see, the P55-UD6 has a slew of naked back-mounted MOSFETs. They don't get particularly hot so the lack of heatsinks is a non-issue. While the PCH cooler is held in place with mounting screws, the 'southbridge' cooler still utilizes medieval plastic push-pins.
 

MAC

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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation



In the Hardware Installation section we examine how major components fit on the motherboard, and whether there are any serious issues that may affect installation and general functionality. Specifically, we are interested in determining whether there is adequate clearance in all critical areas.

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Since we have encountered heatsink/memory installation issues on nearly all P55 motherboards thus far, it was inevitable that we would see them on the P55-UD6 and its unique 6 memory slot design. When installed in the traditional North-South orientation, our Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme CPU cooler did prevent the installation of a memory module with tall heatspreaders in the first memory slot, regular height modules are fine though. Having said that, this is a non-issue for most people since that particular slot should only ever be used when six modules are installed. The white memory slots are the ones used when only 2 modules are installed, which should account for about 95% of users. On the plus side, there is no clearance issue with the second memory slot, and thus you can install four modules with tall spreaders, which is something you can't do on most other P55 motherboards.


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However, as always, when we rotated the cooler to the East-West orientation things get a little more tricky. As you can see, in this orientation the CPU cooler overhangs the first and second DIMM slots completely, which means that you can't use memory modules with heatspreaders taller than 5CM. There is no clearance issue with the third memory slot, and as mentioned above, the white slots are the ones used when only 2 modules are installed.

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The 24-pin ATX power connector and 8-pin CPU power connector are both placed in ideal locations, so there are no issues to report.

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Thanks to the expansion slot layout, there is a nice gap between the memory clips and the back of the graphics card.

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No matter what orientation the CPU cooler is installed in, there is plenty of clearance between it and the back of the graphics card, which means easy access to the PCI-E x16 slot clip.

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Thanks to a well thought out expansion slot layout, when you install two dual-slot graphics cards on this motherboard you will not lose access to the precious PCI slot.

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What if you're a Folder and you want to make use of the third PCI-E x16 slot? Well you definitely can, but you will lose access to the onboard clear CMOS and reset buttons, as well as the debug LED. You will also lose access to the all the USB and FireWire headers at the bottom of the motherboard. More importantly though, if you install a dual-slot graphics card in the third PCI-E x16 slot, it will overhang the motherboard, so keep that in mind if you have a shorter case.

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The ten 90-degree SATA ports are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed.

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There is really nothing on the back of the motherboard that would give us cause for concern regarding clearance issues with an aftermarket CPU cooler mounting bracket.
 

MAC

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Messages
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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown



When we reviewed the Gigabyte EP45 series motherboards we noted that we were pleased by the marked improvements in the BIOS department. Well Gigabyte have taken it upon themselves to kick things up a notch once again, and their P55 models feature a few noticeable changes in the BIOS department. Let's take a closer look at what's new.

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The full screen logo has obviously received a revamp to highlight a few of the P55-UD6's selling points, but that's irrelevant since any self-respecting power user will disable it immediately to reduce the boot time.

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The initial selection screen should be broadly familiar to anyone who has used an Award-based motherboard in the past, and it conveniently lists the GIGABYTE-specific MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section as the first menu. This is where enthusiasts should expect to spend 99% of their BIOS time.

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Upon entering the M.I.T section, Gigabyte veterans will see that the layout has changed dramatically. No longer is this section merely one long page. It has been broken down into several sub-sections. Also, there are now a few critical voltage and temperature readouts immediately visible, which is nice addition.

The M.I.T Current Status is a completely new section which gives you a quick general overview of all the system frequencies, multipliers and timings.

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The Advanced Frequency Settings section is where most of the the fun happens. It gives you control over the of the essential system clock control options: CPU multiplier, QPI multiplier, BLCK frequency, memory multiplier, PCI-E frequency, and clock drive settings. This BIOS does give you direct access to the unlocked static CPU multipliers, you don't have mess around with enabling/disabling various settings.

Within the Advanced Frequency Settings section is the Advanced CPU Core Features sub-menu, which is where you can enable or disable the various CPU-specific settings like Turbo Boost, the number of cores, multi-threading, C1E, C-state level, Thermal Monitor, Enhanced SpeedStep, etc.

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As its name suggests, the Advanced Memory Settings section is where you will find all the memory-related settings. Within this section you can select the memory multiplier, change the performance profile, enter the memory and QPI (VTT/Uncore) voltages, and obviously tweak the memory timings. Each memory channel has its own section, within which you can alter the primary and secondary timings. It had just about every memory setting that an enthusiast or overclock will need to fine-tune their memory modules.

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The Advancted Voltage Settings section obviously contains all the system voltage settings, namely CPU vCore, QPI/VTT, PCH, CPU PLL, DRAM, DRAM Termination, and memory channel reference voltages. This is also where you can select the proper Load-Line Calibration (LLC) option. There are four settings: Auto, Standard, Level 1, and Level 2. Auto and Level 1 are the same and provide slight vDroop adjustments, Standard turns off LLC, and Level 2 completely eliminates vDroop.

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The Standard CMOS Features section displays all the connected storage devices some basic system memory information, and of course the date and time.

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The Advanced BIOS Features section is where you can set boot device priority, enable HDD S.M.A.R.T checking, disable the boot-delaying logo, as well as choose which expansion slot is used to initialize the display.

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The Integrated Peripherals section is where you can enable or disable all of the various onboard devices (RAID controllers, audio, USB, FireWire, eSATA, LAN, etc).

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As on most Gigabyte motherboards, the PC Health Status section is a slight disappointment since there isn't exactly an abundance of voltage and temperature readouts. Oddly enough, the PCH temperature readout that is found in the M.I.T section is nowhere to be found here. On a motherboard of this caliber there is no reason not to have all vital voltages available for scrutiny in the bios.

For those who don't plan to use the SmartTPM 2048-bit hardware encryption feature then you can disable the onboard Infineon TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip.

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This last screenshot is of the Q-Flash utility which is accessed via the F8 key. Since Q-Flash is built right into the BIOS and it can read files directly from a USB flash drive, BIOS flashing is now a simple and quick procedure. We have never experienced an issue with this well implemented tool, and it has certainly made the flashing process a little less stressful.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,086
Location
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Included Software

Included Software


Now that we have the motherboard unpacked and installed, it is time to take a look at some of the numerous software utilities that Gigabyte have bundled with the P55-UD6.

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Here we have the familiar setup screens for the included software CD. It contains all the drivers and the unique Gigabyte utilities that you will need to get your system up & running. Obviously, we still recommend that you visit Gigabyte's website to get the very latest BIOS, drivers, and software revisions. Having said that, the SmartTPM software can only be found on the CD, it's not available for download online.


EasyTune6

EasyTune6 is a system management utility that displays system clock speeds, voltages, temperatures, and fan rotation but more importantly it allows users to overclock from within Windows. Anyone familiar with past EasyTune iterations knows that although this utility has always contained a fair bit of functionality, its ease of use left much to be desired. Thankfully Gigabyte went back to the drawing board and created a brand new EasyTune version from scratch. Let's check it out.

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The CPU and Memory tabs provide basic component information and are somewhat reminiscent of the widely used CPU-Z utility.

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The Tuner section is really the only one that's important. First, it contains the Quick Boost feature, which allows automatic overclocking at the touch of a button. Simply pick the Quick Boost level that best suits your needs/courage, reboot the system, and voila! Overclock achieved.

If you click on Easy or Advanced mode, three additional tabs appear: frequency, ratio, voltage. The Frequency tab allows you to tweak the BCLK, memory, and PCI-E frequencies.

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Within the Tuner section, the Ratio tab allows you to independently set the multiplier on every individual CPU core, even the 'virtual' logical cores...which is unnecessary to be honest.

The Voltage tab is arguably the most important one since it allows complete control over every voltage option that is found in the BIOS. This is a great tool to fine tune an overclock.

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The Graphics tab can be used to manipulate your graphics card’s core/memory/shader clock speeds. Unlike past versions of ET6, this section no longer allows you to control the GPU fan, nor monitor the GPU temperature.

The Smart tab gives you access to the CPU Intelligent Accelerator (C.I.A) 2 and Smart Fan functions. The CPU Intelligent Accelerator was designed to automatically overclock the CPU according to system load and user-selected level. As the name suggests, Smart Fan feature gives users finely-tuned control over the CPU fan speed.

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Lastly, we have HW Monitor which is the only part of EasyTune6 that disappoints us. Despite providing us with ten voltage tweaking options in the Tuner tab, the HW Monitor only displays two system voltages and three voltage rails. This is a high-end motherboard and comprehensive voltage monitoring should be standard.

Overall though, we do sincerely enjoy using EasyTune6. It was consistently one of the first pieces of software we installed after a fresh Windows installation, and it was definitely a huge help in finding this motherboard's overclocking limits. EasyTune 6 was arguably the first of the next-generation manufacturer-specific tweaking utilities, and with little tweaks here and there it remains a worthwhile application.


Dynamic Energy Saver 2

Now let's have a look at the brand new Dynamic Energy Saver (DES) 2 energy saving solution, which is one of Gigabyte’s most highly-publicized features.

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After first installing the DES2 software, we are greeted with a powered down control panel. This means all energy saving functions are turned off and disabled. Only when we click on the large logo to the right does the panel come to life and the power savings begin.

The software is pretty straightforward; we have our power savings meter in the top portion providing us with information about how much wattage was saved, a CPU Power meter showing real-time CPU power consumption, the power phase status displaying how many of the 24 CPU phases are being utilized, and a representation of which components are being manipulated by the DES2 software. Dynamic Energy Saver 2 works even when the system is overclocked, while other the other manufacturers solutions do not.

Smart TPM

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The Smart TPM utility, along with the Infineon Security Platform Solution, manages the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) hardware encryption feature. Now theoretically, along with the traditional USB storage method, Smart TPM allows you to save a 2048-bit encryption key on your Bluetooth-enabled mobile device and enables or disables access to sensitive files depending on your physical distance from the system. However, Gigabyte have not included or integrated a bluetooth receiver on this motherboard. This is a mind-boggling omission since it would add very little cost to the actual product, yet allow consumers to use this motherboard's three new software features without having to source their own bluetooth receiver. We didn't have one of hand so we didn't get to test out Smart TPM via bluetooth, but we can tell you that the USB method can be fairly complex. Thankfully, Gigabyte have included a seperate 22-pase manual just for this utility.


AutoGreen

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In effect, the AutoGreen utility can help reduce energy consumption when you are away from your computer by putting the system into a low power state when it doesn't sense your bluetooth-enabled cell phone in the vacinity. Once again, since there is no bluetooth receiver included, we didn't get a chance to test out this feature.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
Included Software pt.2

Included Software pt.2



Smart 6


One of the keynote new technologies introduced by GIGABYTE at Computex was Smart 6, which is a collection of six user-friendly system management tools. In their own words, Smart 6 "allows you to speed up system performance, reduce boot-up time, manage a secure platform and recover previous system setting easily with a click of the mouse."

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As you can see, Smart 6 has its own dock that allows quick access to the six SMART utilities.

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Smart QuickBoot, as the name suggests, helps reduce boot-up time. This tool consists of BIOS QuickBoot and OS QuickBoot. BIOS Quick Boot allows your system bypass the time-consuming power-on self test (POST) procedure after three successful boots, if no changes are made to the BIOS or hardware configuration. The OS QuickBoot on the other hand makes the system go into an advanced S3 sleep mode upon exiting the operation system, and it permits a quick resume to full OS functionality.

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Quick Boost provides quick and effortless overclocking for novice users. Just click on one of three overclocking presets and the program does the rest of the work for you. This is the same Quick Boost as found within Easy Tune 6.

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Smart Recovery is kind of like Windows Restore/Apple Time Capsule function, where you can roll-back system settings to a previous working status. Users can select just about any day, week, or month to roll-back from, without having had to manually tell the program to create a backup flag.

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Now most GIGABYTE motherboards feature two physical BIOS ROMs, but with Smart DualBIOS this is the first time that important passwords and dates can be saved directly to the new 16MB BIOS chips (up from the previous 8MB). While this might seem like a security risk, the only way to access Smart DualBIOS is with a password. It is simply a secure way of storing the countless passwords that most people have nowadays.

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Smart Recorder monitors and records system activities, such as when a system was turned on or off, and what data files were accessed or copied.

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Smart TimeLock is a feature all kids will despise, as it allows parents the ability to schedule time limits for their children to use the PC. Parents can even make different usage time rules for weekdays and weekends.
 
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