Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD5 Review (Page 3 of 6)

Page 3 - A Closer Look, Board Layout, Test System

If the photo above looks slightly odd to you compared to the rest of the photos used in this review, good observation. The main profile shot I took ended up looking like a disaster for some reason, so I just stole the stock photo from Gigabyte's website and Photoshopped it into an APH style image. That said, I am glad Gigabyte finally ditched their ugly blue PCB and went for a much classier dark chestnut colored board. Sounds familiar? Yep, kind of like what ASUS uses -- except the color of components are still distinctively Gigabyte. The end results are excellent in my opinion. Although it makes you feel kind of 'blue' looking at a chestnut colored board with gray heatsinks, baby blue highlights everywhere, and black expansion slot connectors, its subtle style is well accentuated, making this the first Gigabyte motherboard that actually appeals to my personal tastes as far as looks are concerned. While aesthetics is not really an issue when it comes to internal components of a computer compared to the way the board is built and how well it performs, surprisingly it can be a deciding factor for some users. Of course, the comments on the look are just a personal opinion. As it has gained immense popularity for the last couple years, the Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD5, like all Gigabyte performance motherboards, features 100% Japanese manufactured 50,000 hour solid state capacitors, ferrite core chokes, and lower RDS(on) MOSFETS for maximum durability and energy efficiency.

As you can see the design of the heatpipes above, it is a little more than just an L-shaped heatpipe. The black colored copper heatpipes feature a C-shaped design which can be seen at the top, where heat dissipation is implemented over components in three of four sides of the CPU socket in the middle. Wait a second... didn't you say that P67 does not have a Northbridge and Southbridge? That is correct -- the bottom end section of the heatpipe system begins with a blue and silver block to bring additional cooling over P67 platform controller hub. The central block is used for pure heat dissipation carried by the heatpipes, since it actually sits over nothing. From there, it leads on to the main build via a single heatpipe. The heatpipe continues on from the central P67 PCH cooler directly to the first array of cooling fins for heat dissipation out the back -- this is taken advantage of when airflow is brought over this area by the rear exhaust fan in a standard chassis, as well as the CPU cooler. During our tests, the heatpipe system worked well and adequately cooled our P67 chipset even under overclocking scenarios in my low airflow silent setup.

As with its predecessors, the ATX 4-pin/EPS 8-pin power connector is located at the top left corner of the motherboard, behind the PS/2 connectors. It is fairly cramped in that area, especially considering adjacent to the power connector are several other components, in addition to a 3-pin fan connector. It is not as hard to disconnect once the ATX 4-pin/EPS 8-pin connector is clipped in, as compared to the past -- however, shuffling the components around to make the connector face up would have been easier on the end user.

A shot of the back of the motherboard. It is a relatively clean design, nothing in particular here. Just like Gigabyte motherboards from last year, all those "Crazy Cool" copper plates are gone, so it won't interfere with aftermarket heatsink backplates during installation. What you will find is the standard Intel backplate, but all heatsinks designed for LGA1156 should be designed to work with the backplate in its place. Two ounces of copper were used on the power and ground layers of the P67A-UD5 to improve its cooling efficiency by spreading the heat out more evenly, as well as delivering more power more efficiently to its components by lowering the PCB impedance. Regarding the use of capacitors, the use of surface mounts is evident, as shown in the image above. Pins still stick out for other components, for example, the RAM socket pins and PCI slots -- since SMT is not capable of withstanding higher mechanical stress required for this purpose.

Within close proximity of the LGA1155 processor socket is the usual array of items -- components relating to the CPU voltage regulator circuit, as well as heatsinks from the heatpipe loop. The components in general are relatively low profile, so I have experienced no problems in installing large heatsinks such as the Noctua NH-D14. The Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD5 also features ferrite core chokes rather than iron core chokes; additionally, MOSFET transistors with low RDS(on) characteristics are implemented on this motherboard as aforementioned. Counting the "black blocks" around the processor, as shown in our photo above, reveals that the P67A-UD5 features a 20-phase power VRM design. This is generally excellent for lower voltage ripples and steady power, and also contributes to good overclocking results. New to the 6-series motherboards is what Gigabyte calls the Dual CPU Power Technology, designed to allow voltage regulators to operate as two evenly distributed sets in tandem. In the past, all phases are always active at all times, and by splitting up the work, Gigabyte claims it improves motherboard reliability in the long run. The P67A-UD5 also runs an Intel approved VRD 12 compliant PWM controller. With all this in mind, power usage should be more optimized compared to its predecessors with improved performance and stability, while reducing heat and power loss. You can even further enhance its auto phase switching with Gigabyte's Dynamic Energy Saver 2 software installed to work with its hardware.

The RAM slots are placed a reasonable distance away from the CPU socket, but since the CPU socket is shifted to the middle of the board rather than left biased like old LGA 775 boards, you may experience clearance issues with the inside slots if you have memory with tall heatspreaders in conjunction with a large CPU heatsink/fan. The ATX 24-pin power connector is placed along the side of the motherboard as far as standard design is concerned, with a 3-pin fan connector sitting next to it. A large power button can be seen on the motherboard itself, as shown in our photo above. This is especially convenient for enthusiasts who may not be installing their motherboard in a standard chassis, or have their case power buttons connected at all times. Meanwhile, an array phase indicator lights can be found next to the power button, with a much smaller reset and clear CMOS button in close proximity.

Six color coded Serial ATA connectors are angled perpendicular to the motherboard for optimal cabling convenience. All SATA ports are native to the P67 chipset; and supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. The white ports are SATA 6Gb/s ports, while the black ports are SATA 3Gb/s ports. The latter of which are the ones affected by the recall. Gigabyte's GA-P67A-UD5 motherboard does not feature any PATA or floppy connectors, which in my opinion it is about time we got rid of them, haha. Missing from Gigabyte's flagship board is a two-digit display that shows an error code if there are any POST problems, so you will have to listen to the good old beep codes on the UD5.

The 3V CR2032 battery is placed between the SATA ports and 24-pin power connector, near the edge of the board. This is a good location for the battery, because it is not prone to physical obstruction by other components. To the left side of the array of SATA ports are the main BIOS and backup BIOS chips, respectively. If the main BIOS become corrupted, the system will automatically restore the image from the backup BIOS onto the primary BIOS. If the main BIOS become unusable for some reason (Such as physically damaged), the P67A-UD5 will automatically disable it, and the secondary BIOS will take its place.

The expansion slots, in order from the top, are: PCIe x1, PCIe x16, PCIe x1, PCI, PCIe x16, PCI, and another PCIe x16 slot. The Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD5 takes the best of both worlds and supports both CrossFireX and SLI. However, do keep in mind that only the first PCIe x16 slot is a "true" PCIe x16 slot; the second one will do a split (Share the bandwidth) with the first slot if a graphics card is installed to become two x8 slots. This is due to limited availability of PCIe lanes provided by Sandy Bridge core processors. The third slot isn't even a true x16 slot by any means; it only gets four lanes allocated to it from the chipset -- and reduces to an x1 slot when the other PCIe x1 slots are populated. So while you can install a video card there, you won't get full bandwidth. The top PCIe x1 slot will only support very short cards, since the heatpipes will get in the way. Since Intel's P67 chipset has no native support for PCI slots, the ones found on the Gigabyte P67A-UD5 are connected to one of the PCI Express lanes by an ITE IT8892 bridge chip.

The usual array of internal headers can be found at the bottom of the P67A-UD5. From the left, we have Firewire 1394 provided by a Texas Instrument TSB43AB23 controller through the ITE IT8892 PCI bridge as aforementioned, two 3-pin fan headers, two sets of Renesas D720200 through VLI VL810 powered USB 3.0 ports for a total of four, two sets of native USB 2.0 ports for a total of four, and the front panel case I/O header block.

The back panel offers a generous array of available external connectors. It features one dual purpose PS/2 connector provided by its ITE IT8728 chip, and a total of ten (!) USB ports of varying colors. Despite the fact that the USB ports come in yellow, black, and blue, the only Renesas D720200 powered USB 3.0 ports on the P67A-UD5 are the ones colored in blue -- and there are four of them. The two next to the PS/2 port are regular USB 2.0 ports. As shown in our photo above, two out of four yellow USB 2.0 ports are combo jacks that double as eSATA connectors. It would have been less confusing if only the special ports carry this contrast. One thing to note is that these eSATA ports provided by Marvell's 88SE9128 SATA 6Gb/s controllers are capable of delivering power. On the topic of USB ports, rather than the standard 500mA power delivery, the Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD5 is able to provide up to 1500mA on each USB port. It is certainly a very nice touch by the engineers, since many devices such as 2.5" external hard drives require 1A at 5V to work. This saves the need to use two USB ports due to insufficient power delivery. Additionally, the On/Off charge function allows the USB ports to deliver power even when your computer is turned off. Two Firewire ports powered by Texas Instruments' TSB43AB23 controller is found, as well as one Realtek RTL8111E based Gigabit LAN port connected via one PCIe lane. I was surprised to see only one Gigabit LAN port on such a high end motherboard, and that's from the same company that brought us a whopping four a few years back. The rest are audio connectors based off the Realtek ALC889 codec; both S/PDIF coaxial and optical outputs can be seen in addition to the six standard 3.5mm analog jacks.

Our test configuration as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K @ 3.33GHz (Stock speed, Turbo Boost disabled)
CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-D14
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD5
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws F3-12800CL7D-8GBRH 2x4GB @ DDR3-1333 7-8-7-24 (Reduced frequency @ stock latencies)
Graphics: Gigabyte Radeon HD 6850 1GB
Chassis: Cooler Master 690 II Advanced NVIDIA Edition (Noctua NF-S12B FLX, NZXT Sleeved LED Kit)
Storage: OCZ Vertex 2 60GB; Western Digital Caviar Blue AAKS 500GB
Power: NZXT HALE90 750W
Sound: Auzentech X-Fi HomeTheater HD
Optical Drive: LiteOn iHAS224-06 24X DVD Writer
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64

Update: For comparison benchmarks involving the Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD5, please read our ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution review.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Features, and Specifications
2. Bundle, Chipset, BIOS
3. A Closer Look, Board Layout, Test System
4. Benchmarking Results - Absolute Values
5. Onboard Sound (RMAA 6.2.3) Analyzation
6. Overclocking and Conclusion