by Rob Williams on November 27, 2009 in Motherboards
S-ATA 3.0 and USB 3.0 devices may seem non-existent right now, but the motherboards to power them are certainly not. We’re taking a look at one of Gigabyte’s first “333” motherboards that supports both technologies, the feature-packed P55A-UD4P. At $180, it’s priced-right given its feature-set, and overclocks like a dream, too.
It goes without saying that power efficiency is at the forefront of many consumers’ minds today, and for good reason. Whether you are trying to save money or the environment – or both – it’s good to know just how much effort certain vendors are putting into their products to help them excel in this area. Both AMD and Intel have worked hard to develop efficient chips, and that’s evident with each new launch. The CPUs are getting faster, and use less power, and hopefully things will stay that way.
To help see what kind of wattage a given processor draws on average, we use a Kill-A-Watt that’s plugged into a power bar that’s in turn plugged into one of the wall sockets, with the test system plugged directly into that. The monitor and other components are plugged into the other socket and is not connected to the Kill-A-Watt. For our system specifications, please refer to our methodology page.
To test, the computer is first boot up and left to sit at idle for five minutes, at which point the current wattage is recorded if stable. To test for full CPU load, LinX is run with 2560MB memory usage for a total of five minutes. During that run, the highest point the wattage reaches on the meter is captured and becomes our “Max Load”.
Surprisingly, both of the Gigabyte boards had the exact same idle wattage, but the P55A-UD4P, despite having more features, drew 3W less at full load. Overall, the load wattage for all three boards is quite good.
The P55A-UD4P is a great addition to Gigabyte’s line-up, and it’s priced-right at around ~$180. That’s a bit higher than most might want to spend on a motherboard, but the features included with the board, along with its smart design (and almost flawless layout) and of course its incredible overclocking ability, make it a good choice for those who done mind shelling out $200 for a quality motherboard. Plus, it includes S-ATA 3.0 and USB 3.0, making the board that much sweeter.
As mentioned on the front page of this review, though, one rather significant issue at the current time with most (if not all) P55 implementations of either S-ATA or USB 3.0, or both, is that both technologies share the already-limited PCI-E bus. Because of this, using either will degrade the overall bandwidth of the primary graphics PCI-E slot from 16x to 8x. Because X58 has so much PCI-E bandwidth at its perusal, this problem doesn’t exist there.
This problem as a whole is rather new, and we’re unsure at this point just how much that throttling is going to effect graphics performance. From experience in the past in dealing with PCI-E 8x in SLI, it’s safe to say that the degraded performance of the slot isn’t going to be noticeable at all on most GPUs, but I would be concerned if installing something like the dual-GPU GeForce GTX 295 or Radeon HD 5970. I’m rather confident there would be noticeable speed degradation there.
Unfortunately, I don’t have an S-ATA 6Gbit/s drive, or USB 3.0 device, for testing, but this will change soon. As soon as I receive one of each, I’m going to get down to testing and see just how much of a problem this really is. If you ask Gigabyte, it will downplay the situation and say that for most users, there’s not going to be an issue, and I don’t disagree at all with that. But at $180 for a motherboard, you’d definitely want to build the machine and know that you’re getting what you paid for.
Aside from this issue, the board is fantastic, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, but again, it’s hard to at this point in time due to the aforementioned “issue”. I hope to be able to shed some more light on this in the coming weeks. If you’re not using a super-high-end graphics card, then you’re not going to have anything to worry about, but at this point, I’d buy the board at your own risk if you care about gaming and nothing else. I should also note that if there is a performance drop, the difference would be no more than 10% even on a high-end card (I am not counting dual-GPU… I’m certain the drop could be a lot more there), so it’s not a major concern, but one to keep in mind.
It’s also worth noting that if you’re looking for a P55 offering with S-ATA 3.0 and USB 3.0 on a budget, Gigabyte’s P55A-UD3 retails for around $130. It lacks some of what makes the P55A-UD4P so great, but nothing major is omitted.
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