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.
One interesting design choice Gigabyte decided to make on the UD7 is to include a total of four PCI-E 16x slots. It might seem a little strange when looking at it from certain angles, but not from others. For one, those who want to run a dual (or triple) GPU configuration will be able to without issue (bearing in mind the PCI-E 8x limitation), and for those who are passionate about Folding (like our very own Robert Tanner), they could run a total of four GPUs here and crunch out some truly impressive numbers.
Despite the fact that there are four PCI-E 16x slots taking up a bunch of room, along with a lone PCI-E 1x slot at the top, there are still two legacy PCI slots available. For those who might be unaware, even though most of the PCI-E slots here are 16x, most other PCI-E standards work fine also, even though the slot is much larger than their row of contacts. I currently run an ASUS Xonar Essence STX, for example, which is a 1x card, but I have it installed in a 16x slot, and it works great.
Here we have the built-in waterblock that Gigabyte considers a standard feature on its UD7 offerings. The entire heatsink spreads downward towards the “7″ portion of the heatsink, and upward towards the PWM area. The effect of water on a motherboard chipset with regards to temperatures or overclocking is debated, but in personal experience, it doesn’t make a major difference in the latter.
Where it does make a major difference is with the overall board temperature. If you’re planning to go the water-cooling route anyway, having this feature built-into the UD7 will be hugely appreciated. There is a cost premium for it, but you would be paying even more for an after-market chipset waterblock, so this actually proves cost-effective in that regard.
When I first took the P55A-UD7 out of its box, the first thing I uttered was, “This board doesn’t phase me.” Alright, so that might be the kind of humor that keeps me from ever having a serious girlfriend, but it’s true… I have a hard time believing that 24 phases have any use, even for overclocking. Gigabyte and other vendors disagree with me to some extent, but for that many phases to have a real use, you would have to be one of the more extreme extreme overclockers (yes, I said extreme twice).
What that number of phases does tell you, though, is that this board should have stable power delivery unlike anything else underneath it, model-wise. Because there are even dedicated phases for the memory, you can be sure that no matter how hard you push your overclock, you’re not going to do much harm to the board. You know, assuming you aren’t bringing dry ice or LN2 into things.
At the back, we can find a total of ten USB ports, two of which support 3.0, two eSATA ports, two different FireWire connections, full audio support, two LAN and a port to use a PS/2 peripheral (believe it or not, people still have these… including me).
The P55A-UD7 is unique in a couple of ways, but the contraption below might be what sets it apart. In the event that you don’t want to use the waterblock for the chipset, you can use this instead. You simply have to remove that portion of the built-in heatsink and install, which will vastly improve the heat dissipation capabilities. Is this thing truly needed? Not for the normal user, but if you want to overclock, or simply want the coolest-running motherboard, it sure won’t hurt.
That wraps up our look at the board, so we’ll continue onto a look at the BIOS, and then finally get into our look at the performance that the P55A-UD7 offers.