Reviews | Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD6 (Page 2 of 12)

Page 2 - Bundle, Chipset, BIOS

Like other Gigabyte motherboards we used in the past, everything is packed independently in the box for excellent organization. In addition to the clear plastic motherboard tray with its cover and separate accessories box, the cables and the such are packaged in sealed plastic bags, each having independent compartments for optimal neatness. Out of the box, you will receive the following:

- 1x Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD6 motherboard
- 2x SATA cables (Angled)
- 2x SATA cables (Straight)
- 1x PATA cable
- 1x SLI bridge
- 1x back I/O shield
- 1x dual eSATA and single Molex PCI backplate
- 1x Molex to dual SATA external converter cable
- 2x eSATA cables
- 1x motherboard manual
- 1x Smart TPM manual
- 1x CPU install guide
- 1x Smart6 manual
- 1x drivers/utilities DVD

Nothing excessive in this area, but there's certainly no lack of accessories. It's a little bit less than what Gigabyte used to include with the likes of their Gigabyte GA-X48T-DQ6 and GA-EP45-DQ6. I find the dual eSATA/Molex backplate very interesting -- now you can have some Molex power connectors at the back of your case. I don't see the use for it too often, but it may prove useful for different applications down the road.

The code-named "Lynnfield" Core i7 and Core i5 processors prove to be an interesting bunch, as you can see in our chipset diagram above. When the original LGA1366 Core i7 Bloomfield processors were released in late 2008, they offered undeniably excellent performance -- unfortunately, they also came at a high price point. Many consumers chose to stay with Intel's processors predating the company's new Nehalem microarchitecture. To combat this and move the market ahead, Intel launched a series of processors for mainstream consumption at a lower price point. Based on the Lynnfield core, fabricated using a 45nm process, and packaged into the new LGA1156 socket, Intel hopes to provide consumers with a price break in conjunction with the new P55 chipset. The Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD6 addresses this market, providing enthusiasts with a high end P55-based motherboard to unleash the potential of their Lynnfield processors.

The main difference between Bloomfield and Lynnfield -- besides the socket -- boils down to the replacement of Intel's high bandwidth 25.6GB/s QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) link with the slower 2-4GB/s DMI (Direct Media Interface) chip to chip link, as well as deletion of one of the memory controllers. The latter means that rather than having triple channel memory, Lynnfield processors will only support dual channel. Users familiar with Intel's previous designs should also be familiar with the company's DMI interface; however, it is now integrated onto the processor, rather than the Northbridge, to replace the legacy Front Side Bus. This reduces the physical size and number of pins required for the processor, but having different sockets for Nehalem microarchitecture processors may prove inconvenient with regards to the upgrade path in the future.

In addition to the DDR3-1333 64-bit wide on-die memory controller, Intel also integrated 16 PCI Express 2.0 lanes into the processor to overcome the inherent bandwidth limitation of the DMI interface. There are only two chips on the LGA1156 platform, as seen in the block diagram above. What was previously known as the Southbridge takes care of the standard connection interfaces such as providing up to 14 USB ports and 6 SATA ports, as well as providing six additional PCI Express lanes for PCIe based devices such as Ethernet. As many Northbridge functions are now on the CPU itself as aforementioned, the P55 chipset doesn't do nearly as much as it did in the past -- Intel resolved to call it the Platform Controller Hub, or PCH, instead. Later in this review, you might look at the photos and see that the Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD6 motherboard appears to have a Northbridge and Southbridge... what the heck? This is certainly no mistake -- we'll show you what's going on the following page.

Like all Gigabyte motherboards, the P55A-UD6 uses an Award BIOS. While American Megatrends' BIOS typically uses tabs in addition to pages, Award's BIOS uses a series of menus and pages to categorize each function. Standard adjustments and information links are placed on the left column, and miscellaneous controls are placed on the right column. While I am not going to dig through every menu in the BIOS for this review, I am going to point you to the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker screens. These screens should pose the most interest, since this is where you do all the overclocking fun -- and the rest should be fairly self-explanatory, haha.

The Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker screen further divides into five more sections, as shown in our image above. These sections are labeled M.I.T Current Status, Advanced Frequency Settings, Advanced Memory Settings, Advanced Voltage Settings, and Miscellaneous Settings, respectively. It should be generally clear what the kind of settings are listed under each section, but I will go into these sections in detail in just a moment. Furthermore, we can see at the bottom section of the MB Intelligent Tweaker screen the BIOS version, base clock frequency, memory frequency, total memory size, CPU surface temperature, PCH temperature, Vcore, and DRAM voltage -- right from the start. I found this particularly handy and convenient during my overclocking runs.

The M.I.T Current Status screen provides more detailed information with regards to overclocking and voltage. Where you will only find quick data such as BCLK, CPU frequency, and CPU/RAM voltage in the previous page as aforementioned, here you will find information like the CPU name, CPUID, CPU update revision, bus frequency, Uncore frequency, Turbo/Non-Turbo multiplier and frequency of each core, temperature of each CPU core, memory size in each DIMM, as well as current latency settings for each channel of memory. Again, I found this particularly handy while executing overclocking procedures -- and the fact that everything is laid out in organized tables on one screen is very convenient.

The Advanced Frequency Settings screen permits the user to adjust processor settings. Adjusting the CPU clock ratio and BCLK frequency brings up a dialog box with a field which requires the user to enter a decimal number, while adjusting the PCI Express frequency requires the user to scroll through a list of frequencies starting at 90MHz, and scales up by 1MHz every time. The bus speed, Uncore clock ratio, Uncore frequency, and memory frequency values will be updated immediately as you change the settings. Under the Advanced CPU Core Features section are options for enabling or disabling features such as Turbo Mode, SpeedStep, and enabled cores. It is also possible to select XMP profiles from the Advanced Frequency Settings screen as well.

The Advanced Memory Settings screen, as its name suggests, has memory setting options that the user can adjust. You can select XMP profiles in addition to the menu under Advanced Frequency Settings as aforementioned, but here you will also find quick data relating to memory voltage in addition to memory frequency. Timing settings for each channel can be adjusted under their respective timing settings screens, with default latencies in a static column and current/future settings in an adjustable column. Adjusting timing settings involves a dialog box for the user to enter a decimal value, so you won't need to scroll through a long list of numbers to find a desired value.

The last Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker screen I will cover in detail is the Advanced Voltage Settings screen, as shown in our image above. Again, you will find an organized table with a column for voltage type, static normal values, and current/future values that you can adjust. Voltage is adjusted by bringing up a dialog box with a list of voltages -- it is sometimes pretty tedious to go through a long list of voltages before finding the desired value, haha. CPU Vcore values start at 0.50000V and go up by increments of 0.00625V, and reach all the way to 1.90000V at the end of the list. DRAM voltage starts at 0.800V and goes up by increments of 0.100V until it reaches 1.100V, where from 1.100V it goes up by increments of 0.020V until it reaches 1.940V. If the desired value is high, the listed or selected value will be written in purple. If the value is extremely high, then it will flash in red.

The Q-Flash function is an integrated feature for the user to flash their BIOS safely and easily. I don't have any problems flashing the BIOS from an image located on an USB flash drives with other Gigabyte motherboards in the past (As long as you have USB legacy support enabled), but for some reason I couldn't get the Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD6 to detect any drives other than a non-existent floppy drive. I even tried to disable USB 3.0 on the motherboard, but for some reason none of them works.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Features, and Specifications
2. Bundle, Chipset, BIOS
3. A Closer Look, Board Layout, Test System
4. Benchmark: EVEREST CPU
5. Benchmark: EVEREST FPU
6. Benchmark: EVEREST Memory
7. Benchmark: PCMark Vantage
8. Benchmark: 3DMark06 Professional
9. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 7.0
10. Benchmark: SuperPI 1M, Cinebench R10
11. Onboard Sound (RMAA 6.2.3) Analyzation
12. Overclocking and Conclusion