GIGABYTE P55 & Second-Gen X58 Motherboards Revealed

by MAC     |     June 15, 2009

GIGABYTE P55 & Second-Gen X58 Motherboards Revealed

During our time in Taiwan for the GIGABYTE Open Overclocking Championship 2009, we had the opportunity to take a peek at GIGABYTE's upcoming motherboard lineup, as well as examine the company's new software and technological innovations. In total, GIGABYTE were showing off 28 models, a significant number of which were current models that have been updated or refreshed with new features. This shows that the company is focused on continually developing and improving the base features list of all its motherboards. However, there were obviously some sweet new models as well.

The centerpiece of the showroom was without a doubt the hotly anticipated new GA-EP55 motherboard series. GIGABYTE had four nearly production-ready P55 motherboards on the display for the upcoming Intel Lynnfield LGA1156 processors. As expected, this new EP55 series utilizes the Ultra Durable 3 technology that was first introduced with the EP45 series, namely the 2 oz copper PCB, long-lasting Japanese capacitors, and Lower RDS(on) MOSFETs, and robust ferrite core chokes.

First, let's start off with the lower mid-range EP55-UD3P. This models sports a 12-phase power delivery system, two mechanical PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, two Marvell SATA 6Gb/s ports, six standard SATA 2 ports, two eSATA/USB combo ports, two gigabit Smart LAN ports, fourteen USB 2.0 ports, Smart TPM functionality, Dynamic Energy Saver 2, and the new Smart 6 utilities package. This model also sports an Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) slot, which can you identify above the white IDE connector. It is unlikely that the ONFI interface will remain on any of the retail motherboards since the P55 chipset does not support it...or so we have been told thus far. For those who don't know, ONFI should function in a similar manner to Vista's ReadyBoost, but provide greatly improved performance (~200MB/s) and memory sizes should be large enough to accomodate an operating system.

Although not on display, GIGABYTE will also manufacture an EP55-UD3R, which will lack the Smart TPM feature which will be positioned below the UD3P.

Many of you are probably wondering why this motherboard (and the one's below) appear to have two chipset coolers, since the Intel P55 Express "Ibex Peak" chipset is a single-chip design. The cooler in the traditional southbridge location is actually there to help cool down the notoriously hot running SATA controller(s).

Fundamentally speaking, the EP55-UD4 and EP55-UD4P are identical motherboards, with the only difference being the UD4's lack of Smart TPM functionality. They differ from their lower-end brethren by the inclusion of three mechanical PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, an improved SATA controller cooler, four Marvell SATA 6Gb/s ports, and onboard power & reset buttons.

Barring a possible Extreme model down the line, the GA-EP55-UD5 represents the pinnacle of GIGABYTE's EP55 series motherboards. Although similar to the UD4/UD4P model, the EP55-UD55 does have two very attention-catching features. First, it has an unprecedented 24-phase power design, which may sound like overkill but we'll see what the advantages are once we get one in-lab. Second, this is the only P55 motherboard that has been shown to have six DDR3 memory lots, which is a feature that more and more power users are looking for in a high-end motherboard.

Located between the SATA cooler and the memory slots, GIGABYTE's engineers have installed the ONFI flash memory directly onto the EP55-UD5's PCB. This is likely a temporary design, as the engineers are still testing whether onboard memory has any worthwhile performance benefits over the standard ONFI slot. Also, let us not forget the aforementioned fact that the P55 chipset does not (yet) officially support the ONFI interface. It will however be supported by the upcoming P57 chipset, which is pin-compatible with the P55 chipset and thus will be a simple drop-in solution for motherboard manufacturers.

So when can we expect these motherboards to be available? Well that obviously depends on when Intel decides to launch their Lynnfield LGA 1156 "yet-to-be-named-but-not-only-Core-i5" processors, but expect an early September launch date.

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