Are you looking for the most feature-rich P55-based motherboard possible? With its P55A-UD7, Gigabyte looks like its up to the challenge. In addition to the usual slew of features we’ve come to expect, the UD7 includes a built-in waterblock, a Silent-Pipe add-on, 24 power phases, SATA and USB 3.0, four PCI-E 16x slots, and more.
The P55A-UD7 isn’t a motherboard that’s hard to write a “Final Thoughts” section around, because there’s a lot to talk about. For the sake of no one wanting to hear me ramble, I’ll keep it simple and wrap up the general idea around this board. First and foremost, at $279.99 US, this board is a hard sell. Not because it’s over-priced, but because the number of people out there who want to spend that much on a motherboard is small.
So to figure out just what this board is “worth”, let’s take a look at the overall package that the board delivers. For one, the UD7 is meant to be a decked-out offering, and it is. It offers 10 SATA ports right out the box, and all are vertical, which is a huge deal for keeping your build tidy. It’s also extremely important if you want to install multiple GPUs.
In fact, I just upgraded my home PC from a motherboard that had standard SATA ports, which actually forced my primary GPU (the long GTX 285) to be pushed up slightly out of its slot (yes, it still worked fine despite that). The motherboard I upgraded to (Gigabyte’s X58A-UD5) uses vertical SATA ports as well, and I honestly believe them to be one of the best motherboard inventions ever, despite being unbelievably simple in theory. I am not sure who invented them, but they sure as heck deserve a beer.
Enough about SATA, though. What this board also offers is 10 USB ports on the back, 2 of which support the 3.0 standard, along with other functionality that might be needed, such as the two different types of FireWire, along with 2 eSATA. From a connectivity/peripheral standpoint, this board has truly got it all.
If there was one thing I found a bit strange, it’s that the UD7 doesn’t include 6 DIMM slots like the UD6. This is of course a minor detail, as most people aren’t going to be affected, but it’s an odd difference nonetheless. As mentioned earlier, I assume this was a conscious decision made by Gigabyte, and it probably was made due to the fact that six DIMM slots aren’t exactly in demand, except on the X58 platform.
As you would hope to see on such a pricey motherboard, both ATI’s CrossFireX and NVIDIA’s SLI are supported in full here, although due to the limitations of the P55 chipset, two GPUs in a multi-GPU configuration will be downgraded to 8x PCI-E bandwidth. It’s fairly safe to say that this won’t be a problem for most people, as today’s GPUs generally aren’t able to saturate the available bandwidth that PCI-E 2.0 avails. Dual-GPU cards may change that a little bit, but as long as you are using it in a single slot, you shouldn’t run into an issue.
For the overclockers, there’s not only an unbelievably robust BIOS at hand, but the right hardware to back all of it up, such as the 24 power phase solution. I’m still of the mindset that this is overkill, but at least there’s a ton of breathing room, and you certainly would never have to consider the on-board power solution to be the limitation. And to improve things even further, if you plan to water-cool your rig, Gigabyte has hooked you up with a built-in waterblock. It’s a niche feature, but one that water-cooling enthusiasts will appreciate.
But for the rest of us who don’t push water through the veins of our PCs, the company also includes its robust chipset heatsink, which is large in size, but can undoubtedly have a great effect on the temperatures across the motherboard. Regrettably, this is one feature I didn’t have a chance to test prior to publishing, but if experience proves itself here, something like this could make the difference of ~4 – 7 degrees. Nothing major, but given that lower temperatures are better, it’s again another appreciated feature.
One aspect of most motherboards we take a look at that we don’t touch on too much (that will change) are the other technologies that the companies bundle into their offerings. As you are probably aware, the leaders of the motherboard industry are relentless to announce and bundle new features onto their motherboards, and while some of them should invoke little more than a “meh”, some are worthwhile to talk about.
“Smart 6″ is one example of something Gigabyte is doing that others are not. First seen at Computex last summer, Smart 6 is software that works with hardware, namely the BIOS, in order to add some cool functionality to the PC. Want to recover files of old? Smart Recovery can take care of it. Want to limit the amount of time people can use your computer? Smart TimeLock is here. At one point, Smart 6 also offered a way to store passwords, but I’m not quite sure that exists anymore (it was kind of a foolish feature, to be honest).
Another feature that was unveiled at last Summer’s Computex, and is very unique (and somewhat niche), is the ability to put your PC into a sleep state simply by walking out of the room. This is of course controlled by Bluetooth, and it’s an interesting concept. Picture coming home from a hard day of work, and feeling too tired to push the power button. Simply sit down in your comfy computer chair, and let the Bluetooth do the talking.
I hope to talk more about motherboard-specific features in more depth in the future, given that the entire gamut of them all can be confusing as heck to sort through, but for now, those are the two I’ll mention. If you’re interested in looking through the range of features that Gigabyte offers on this board in particular, you can head on over to the official product page and read through.
As a whole, Gigabyte doesn’t do anything revolutionary with its P55A-UD7, but after having used it for a couple of weeks, I have nothing but good things to say about it. It’s a bit more expensive than other offerings, and that’s to be expected given the extras that Gigabyte tosses in here. But at the same time, you’re paying for quality here, not just extra needless features. When I first took this board out of its box, I could tell just by the feel that it was a well-built board. I never quite had that same feeling before. It wasn’t just heavy, but sturdy.
Still, with its price-tag of $279.99, it’s not a board for everyone. And while we’re at it, it’s not a board everyone needs, either. We know that, Gigabyte knows that, and it’s almost common-sense. But for those who are building a new machine and want as much functionality from their motherboard as possible, the P55A-UD7 proves to be a great choice.
It’s feature-packed, has a smart layout, is well-built, has great overclocking features and superb cooling with either the water-cooling block or add-in PCH heatsink. I have nary a complaint when it comes to this board, so with that, I award it our coveted Editor’s Choice.
What might be the absolute best part about this board? We happen to be including the exact same model in a contest PC we’ll be giving away with the help of a contest that runs through March. We haven’t completely revealed the full specs yet, but have been teasing them in a forum thread since last week. Consider this a cheap plug. The contest begins on March 1, and the prize is totally drool-worthy, so don’t miss it.
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