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Gigabyte P55-UD5

Date: September 29, 2009
Author(s): Rob Williams

Alongside Intel’s Lynnfield launch, Gigabyte launched close to ten motherboards, one of which we’re taking a look at here. The P55-UD5 is the company’s second-highest offering, and it shows, with its huge feature-set, 12-phase power solution, overclocking-ability, robust BIOS, keen design and more.



Introduction

When Intel launches a brand-new CPU architecture to the market, (in the most recent case, Lynnfield), vendors of all types waste no time in following-up with their own product to compliment it. In the case of motherboards, companies such as ASUS and Gigabyte really shine, as both offer not just one or two each, but a combined 20+.

That might seem like overkill at first, but when you think hard about it, it’s really not. After all, with more choice, means you’ll have an easier time finding a board that suits your needs best, and also your price-range. Who likes over-spending? I know I sure don’t.

In the case of Gigabyte specifically, the company has over ten models total, but only seven are currently available at retail. Of these, the price range starts at $110 and goes up to $250, for the P55-UD6. Yes, that really was a $110 you saw there, and granted, it’s mATX, but at least there’s the option. This is a stark contrast to the Nehalem launch last fall, when you were hard-pressed to find an X58 board for under $250.

The board we’re looking at today is one of Gigabyte’s upper mid-range offerings, settling in at $220. It’s a little more expensive than what most people would want, but you can be sure that the performance seen here would be pretty-well on par with the next few models that rank below it on Gigabyte’s scale. For the most part, motherboards, as long as they are not low-end, will offer equal performance from model to model. What it comes down to in the end, is features and overclocking-ability.

Closer Look at Gigabyte’s P55-UD5

What the P55-UD5 offers over Gigabyte’s other models is primarily in the number of S-ATA ports and PCI-E 16x slots that are available. Unlike the models below it, the UD5 includes 3x PCI-E 16x (you will still be limited to 8x operation for CrossfireX/SLI, but it’s not likely to matter in the real-world), and also has 12 S-ATA ports instead of 8 to 10. Another notable feature is that two ports on the back can be used for either eSATA or USB, depending on your needs.

One other improvement over the other models (and that it shares with the UD6) is a more robust power phase solution and heatsink design. So, it can be assumed that the UD5 and UD6 would be more appropriate for those who want to hit the highest overclocks possible. So without further ado, let’s take a tour of the board. Note that much of what’s said here is borrowed from our preview from a few weeks ago, as there’s no sense in repeating what has already been said.

If you’ve been following Gigabyte boards for a while, one of the first things you might notice is the, umm, lack of color. No oranges, greens, yellows or pinks here… just blue and white. Clean, and simple. First stop is around the new LGA 1156 socket, which is surrounded by many capacitors and the 12-phase power solution.

Here’s an alternative view to better show off the heatsinks.

Because Lynnfield features a dual-channel memory controller, the majority of P55 motherboards feature four DIMM slots, for a total of 16GB of RAM. Gigabyte’s P55-UD6 one-ups this, by offering six DIMM slots, for 24GB of RAM total.

If I had to choose one major motherboard innovation that I appreciate the most, it’d have to be the vertically-mounted S-ATA ports. They simply can’t be beat. When you see these on a motherboard, you know that your long graphics cards aren’t going to be a problem, and if you have a big graphics card and only top-mounted S-ATA ports, you know what I mean. All ten S-ATA ports here are vertical, which will no doubt be hugely appreciated by anyone who picks this board up.

Also around this area is the faux Southbridge (this portion of the heatsink is covering storage controllers), a power switch along with reset and CMOS reset buttons, the BIOS battery and the slew of internal connectors, such as USB, FireWire and the ATX chassis connectors.

Because NVIDIA has “allowed” SLI to be licensed on P55 boards, Gigabyte makes that option available here (along of course with CrossFireX). If you wanted, you could even go triple GPU, but the bottom of the board might cause the third GPU to suffer a tight squeeze. Aside from the triple PCI-E 16x slots, we have two PCI-E 1x and also two legacy PCI. The IDE and other various connectors can be found at the bottom here.

As we’ve seen on a few other Gigabyte boards before, the top right-hand corner features a variety of LEDs to show the status of your current phase state.

As a slightly higher-end board, the UD5 features the entire gamut of peripheral connectors on the back I/O panel. These include a total of ten USB ports (the two bottom yellow USB ports double as eSATA), two LAN ports (which can be linked for double the speed), your usual selection of audio ports, the two FireWire variants and also a PS/2 connector for a legacy mouse or keyboard.

Below, you can see the various manuals Gigabyte has included to explain every aspect of the board (four total!), the back I/O panel protector, an SLI bridge connector, various chassis stickers and also four S-ATA cables, an IDE cable and also an internal slot to add two more eSATA connectors to your machine.

As you can see, the P55-UD5 is a packed board, with enough bling and features to remain attractive to pretty much any enthusiast. The fact that it supports Windows 7 out of the box is another plus. Earlier, I mentioned that the UD5 and UD6 will likely become the preferred models by overclockers, so let’s see if the UD5’s BIOS lives up to my assumptions.

Look at the BIOS

I admit that in past reviews of Gigabyte’s motherboards, I haven’t been ultra-kind with my opinions regarding the BIOSes used. The boards themselves have been great, but ASUS has spoiled me with the BIOSes they implement, as they’re easy to navigate and use, which is extremely important if you are spending hours, or even days, on overclocking.

With the company’s P55 series of motherboards, however, Gigabyte has taken some great strides to improve things I didn’t like before, and I’d have to say that I am much happier with how things are laid out now. In my opinion, there’s still room for some improvement, but we’re on the right track. I should also note that like most things, what you think of the BIOS will come down to personal preference. So, don’t be alarmed if you completely disagree with me.

Like all other recent Gigabyte BIOSes, this one requires you to hit CTRL + F1 in order to access some of the more advanced options it has to offer. Personally, I wish this wasn’t a requirement, as very few people would even know about it, but on the other hand, those who actually need those options, likely do. Still, I think it’d be nice to know that all the options were available once in the BIOS.

You can tell that the P55-UD5 is built for overclocking when the very first available option in the main menu is just for that. Here, you can get a quick run-down of the BIOS version, clocks, CPU and PCH temperatures and the VCore and DRAM voltages. Please ignore the high CPU temperature, as it is the result of rebuilding the machine quickly since I forgot to take BIOS shots earlier on (whoops).

The first option in the above menu is what I consider to be my favorite. Simply put, it offers an immediate rundown of your system status, from clock speeds to memory timings, and even memory densities. Though simple, this screen really comes in handy when overclocking, as after a reboot, you can immediately see if it “clicked”, and also how high your CPU clock will go with and without Turbo.

Because this board was built with overclocking in mind, the sheer number of options in the BIOS reflect it. Since there are so many available, they’re divided up into main sections: Frequency, Memory, Voltage and Miscellaneous (primarily to enable VT). These shots are, for the most part, self-explanatory, so I’ll let them speak for themselves:

The screen below is going to be of no surprise to anyone, although the sheer number of HDD/ODD configuration options is rather staggering (who do you know with a total of 14 hard drives and/or ODDs installed?).

To disable the graphical POST, if you don’t care for it, the option can be found under the Advanced BIOS Features menu. Here, you can also configure your boot devices and priorities.

Under Integrated Peripherals, you can configure your storage and various controllers. Basically, anything peripheral-wise can be found here. It’s important to note the “eXtreme Hard Disk (XHD)” option. That term is essentially marketing for RAID, so if you are taking that route, you’ll need to choose it. To this day, I have been unable to get a straight answer out of Gigabyte as to whether or not XHD is using a proprietary Gigabyte chip or not. I’m leaning towards no, as there is only one RAID option, and it would seem a little odd to remove the functionality to the user offered by the P55 chipset.

In the remaining two screens, you can configure anything power, and also monitor your PC’s vitals.

I’m quite pleased with Gigabyte’s BIOS here. The overclocking/tweaking menu and sub-menus are fairly easy to navigate through, although they’re still a wee bit tedious after long overclocking sessions. But, when overclocking, chances are you won’t need to use more than one menu at a time before rebooting, so you may not consider it to be a real problem.

I really like the addition of the “M.I.T Current Status” screen, because when overclocking, being able to check up on the CPU and memory’s real values quickly is a huge plus. Without this screen, you’d have to boot into Windows to make certain your settings actually took effect. Sometimes, if you overclock too far, the BIOS may still show those values you set, but they may not actually click during POST due to instabilities.

On the following page, we’ll quickly review our testing methodology, and then we’ll get right into our results!

Test System & Methodology

At Techgage, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate as possible. Our testing is rigorous and time-consuming, but we feel the effort is worth it. In an attempt to leave no question unanswered, this page contains not only our testbed specifications, but also a fully-detailed look at how we conduct our testing.

If there is a bit of information that we’ve omitted, or you wish to offer thoughts or suggest changes, please feel free to shoot us an e-mail or post in our forums.

Test System

The table below lists the hardware for our current motherboard-testing machine, which remains unchanged throughout all testing, with the exception of the motherboard. Each motherboard used for the sake of comparison is also listed here, along with the BIOS version used. In addition, each one of the URLs in this table can be clicked to view the respective review of that product, or if a review doesn’t exist, you will be led to the product on the manufacturer’s website.

Component
Intel LGA1156 Test System
ProcessorsIntel Core i7-870 – Quad-Core, 2.93GHz, ~1.25v
Motherboard
ASUS P7P55D Pro – P55-based, 0606 BIOS (09/08/09)
Gigabyte P55-UD5 – P55-based, F3 BIOS (08/01/09)
Memory
Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-1333 7-7-7-20-2T, 1.65v
Graphics
Sapphire Radeon HD 4890 1GB (Catalyst 9.9)
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Intel X-25M 80GB SSD
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.11
Power Supply
Corsair HX1000W
Chassis
SilverStone TJ10 Full-Tower
Display
Gateway XHD3000 30″
Cooling
Intel Stock LGA1156 Cooler
Et cetera
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

When preparing our testbeds for any type of performance testing, we follow these guidelines:

Because it gives a more realistic interpretation of motherboard/CPU performance, we leave all of the power-related options in the BIOS to their default selection. This means that for Intel boards, SpeedStep is left in tact, and Cool’n’Quiet for AMD-based boards.


Our Windows 7 Desktop for Motherboard-Testing

To aide with the goal of keeping accurate and repeatable results, we alter certain services in Windows 7 from starting up at boot. This is due to the fact that these services have the tendency to start up in the background without notice, potentially causing slightly inaccurate results. Disabling “Windows Search” turns off the OS’ indexing which can at times utilize the hard drive and memory more than we’d like.

Application Benchmarks

To help test out the real performance benefits of a given processor, we run a large collection of both real-world and synthetic benchmarks, including 3ds Max 2010, Adobe Lightroom 2.5, ATTO, PCMark Vantage, Sandra 2009, WinRAR and more.

Our ultimate goal is always to find out which processor excels in a given scenario and why. Running all of the applications in our carefully-chosen suite can help better give us answers to those questions. Aside from application data, we also run two common games to see how performance scales there, including Call of Duty: World at War and Crysis Warhead. For a synthetic point-of-view, we also use Futuremark’s 3DMark Vantage.

Game Benchmarks

In an attempt to offer “real-world” results, we do not utilize timedemos in any of our reviews. Each game in our test suite is benchmarked manually, with the minimum and average frames-per-second (FPS) captured with the help of FRAPS 2.9.9.

To deliver the best overall results, each title we use is exhaustively explored in order to find the best possible level in terms of intensiveness and replayability. Once a level is chosen, we play through repeatedly to find the best possible route and then in our official benchmarking, we stick to that route as close as possible. Since we are not robots and the game can throw in minor twists with each run, no run can be identical to the pixel.

Each game and setting combination is tested twice, and if there is a discrepancy between the initial results, the testing is repeated until we see results we are confident with.

The two games we currently use for our motherboard reviews are listed below, with direct screenshots of the game’s setting screens.

Call of Duty: World at War

Crysis Warhead

Although the screenshots reflect a 1680×1050 resolution, we also test using 2560×1600.

System: SYSmark 2007 Preview

Synthetic benchmarks have typically been favored for performance testing, but the results they provide can be fairly abstract, and the methods they use to assign their scores can be dubious at times. By contrast, real-world application benchmarks provide performance metrics that apply directly to real-world usage, and we endeavor to apply both in our performance comparisons.

SYSmark 2007 Preview from BAPCO is a special case, because its synthetic scores are derived from tests in real-world applications. However, we still believe that synthetic benchmarking scores are best used to directly compare the performance of one piece of hardware to another, and not for developing an impression of real-world performance expectations. SYSmark is more useful than most synthetic benchmarking programs in our opinion, because its tests emulate tasks that people actually perform, in actual software programs that they are likely to use.

The benchmark is hands-free, using scripts to execute all of the real-world scenarios identically, such as video editing in Sony Vegas and image manipulation in Adobe Photoshop. At the conclusion of the suite of tests, five scores are delivered: an E-learning score, a Video Creation score, a Productivity score, and a 3D Performance score, as well as an aggregated ‘Overall’ score. These scores can still be fairly abstract, and are most useful for direct comparisons between test systems.

A quick note on methodology: SYSmark 2007 requires a clean install of Windows 7 64-bit to run optimally. Before any testing is conducted, the hard drive is first wiped clean, and then a fresh Windows installation is conducted, then lastly, the necessary hardware drivers are installed. The ‘Three Iterations’ test suite is run, with the ‘Conditioning Run’ setting enabled. Then the results from the three runs are averaged and rounded up or down to the next whole number.

Like most benchmarking results on motherboards, the scores here vary a small bit from board to board and from run to run. In the end though, both the ASUS and Gigabyte boards scored equally overall. This, and all the other charts throughout this review, will become a lot more interesting as we test more P55 offerings.

System: PCMark Vantage

Futuremark is no stranger to most any enthusiast out there, as the company’s benchmarks have been used to gauge our PC’s worth for many years. Although the company’s 3DMark Vantage (which we also use for testing) is arguably more popular than PCMark Vantage, the latter is a great tool to measure a system’s overall performance across many different scenarios.

Unlike SYSmark, PCMark is more of a synthetic benchmark, as very little is seen to the user during the run. However, each test tackles a specific and common scenario that’s typical of many computer users – enthusiasts and regular users alike – such as photo manipulation, gaming, music conversion, productivity, et cetera.

The main problem right now with PCMark is its inability (at least for us) to produce an overall score when being run under Windows 7. Even when run in compatibility mode (which is required by 3DMark), the application will crash during the Memories test, despite that particular test executing fine when run as its own suite. So, no overall score is produced, but the seven individual scores are.

While SYSmark uses modest numbers for their scoring, ranging in the hundreds, Futuremark opts for much higher scores with their entire suite, with the lowest being the TV and Movies, ranging around the 6,000 mark. On the high-end, our Intel SSD is capable of pushing the test’s HDD scenario well beyond 20,000.

As we’d expect, the boards here flip/flop their strengths and weaknesses here, although neither could be considered bad in any scenario. A difference of less than 5% in a given scenario isn’t going to be easy to recognize in a real-world test. Interestingly, the HDD test proved far better on the ASUS, and at this point, we’re not sure why.

Using our Acronis Windows 7 image, which was originally created on the ASUS board, we consistently saw slightly lower scores on the Gigabyte board. Thinking that it might be a storage controller issue, I reformatted everything using the Gigabyte board (including a fresh HDD Erase run) and the scores were a bit higher, but still didn’t touch the score of the ASUS board.

I don’t consider this to be a real issue, as we haven’t been able to rule that Gigabyte’s board is at fault. I’m hoping to explore this issue a bit more in the coming week.

Multi-Media: Adobe Lightroom, 3ds Max 2010, TMPGEnc XPress

Photo manipulation benchmarks are more relevant than ever, given the proliferation of high-end digital photography hardware. For this benchmark, we test the system’s handling of RAW photo data using Adobe Lightroom, an excellent RAW photo editor and organizer that’s easy to use and looks fantastic.

For our testing, we take 100 RAW files (in Nikon’s .NEF file format) which have a 10-megapixel resolution, and export them as JPEG files in 1000×669 resolution, similar to most of the photos we use here on the website. Such a result could also be easily distributed online or saved as a low-resolution backup. This test involves not only scaling of the image itself, but encoding in a different image format. The test is timed indirectly using a stopwatch, and times are accurate to within +/- 0.25 seconds.

Autodesk 3ds Max 2010

Autodesk’s 3ds Max is without question an industry standard when it comes to 3D modeling and animation, with DreamWorks, BioWare and Blizzard Entertainment being a few of its notable users. It’s a multi-threaded application that’s designed to be right at home on multi-core and multi-processor workstations or render farms, so it easily tasks even the biggest system we can currently throw at it.

For our testing, we use two project files that are designed to last long enough to find any weakness in our setup and also allows us to find a result that’s easily comparable between both motherboards and processors. The first project is a dog model included on recent 3ds Max DVD’s, which we infused with some Techgage flavor. This is rendered at an 1100×825 resolution.

TMPGEnc Xpress 4.5

When it comes to video transcoding, one of the best offerings on the market is TMPGEnc Xpress. Although a bit pricey, the software offers an incredible amount of flexibility and customization, not to mention superb format support. From the get go, you can output to DivX, DVD, Video-CD, Super Video-CD, HDV, QuickTime, MPEG, and more. It even goes as far as to include support for Blu-ray video!

There are a few reasons why we choose to use TMPGEnc for our tests. The first relates to the reasons laid out above. The sheer ease of use and flexibility is appreciated. Beyond that, the application does us a huge favor by tracking the encoding time, so that we can actually look away while an encode is taking place and not be afraid that we’ll miss the final encoding time. Believe it or not, not all transcoding applications work like this.

For our test, we take a 0.99GB high-quality DivX H.264 AVI video of Half-Life 2: Episode Two gameplay with stereo audio and transcode it to the same resolution of 720p (1280×720), but lower the bit rate in order to attain a modest file size. This test also utilizes the SSE instruction sets, either SSE2 or SSE4, depending on what the chip supports.

The scores throughout all three of these tests are incredibly close, as we’d expect, but the overall nod goes towards Gigabyte’s board, which only fell behind ASUS’ offering in our TMPGEnc Xpress test.

Storage & Memory: ATTO, 7-Zip, Sandra

In the world of benchmarking, there seem to be many tools that can accomplish the same thing as a hundred others, and where storage is concerned, that couldn’t be more true. Although we’ve used HD Tune Pro, HD Tach and others in the past, we’ve opted to begin using ATTO, as it’s incredibly lightweight (at less than 100KB), yet offers a fair amount of flexibility.

For our run with ATTO, we leave all options at default, except the Queue Depth, which is increased to the max value of 10. It’s also important to note that we’re benchmarking the OS drive, which happens to be Intel’s X25-M 80GB (Gen 1).

7-Zip

Thinking back about a decade ago, archiving applications were kind of scarce. Well, the free ones were. Applications such as WinRAR and WinZIP have been available for a while, but a free solution is going to appeal to a far greater audience, especially if you don’t need or want the extra features that come included with the aforementioned options.

While 7-Zip may not be the most robust archiver out there, in looks or in features, it’s free, and offers a great amount of functionality and performance given that fact. For our test with 7-Zip, we take a 4GB folder littered with just over 5,000 files and archive it to our secondary drive, the mechanical Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 500GB.

Typically, storage, above any other benchmark, is going to show variances throughout each run. But, our results remained consistent here across multiple OS restores, and in the end, neither board truly comes ahead in either ATTO or 7-Zip. The ASUS won some, and the Gigabyte won the rest. Again, this is typical, and to be expected.

SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP4

Like Futuremark, SiSoftware is another company that needs no introduction. As far back as I can remember using Windows, I was using Sandra to check up on my machine, and to stress it. Over time, the company has added in numerous ways to benchmark your PC, and there’s pretty much nothing it can’t tackle. The company even recently added in GPGPU benchmarking, so they’re really on top of things.

The overall bandwidth is near identical, but the ASUS board improved upon the memory latency ever so slightly. When dealing with these tight numbers, though, 3ns is actually rather noticeable.

Gaming: CoD: World at War, Crysis Warhead, 3DMark Vantage

While some popular game franchises are struggling to keep themselves healthy, Call of Duty doesn’t have much to worry about. This is Treyarch’s third go at a game in the series, and a first for one that’s featured on the PC. All worries leading up to this title were all for naught, though, as Treyarch delivered on all promises.

To help keep things fresh, CoD: World at War focuses on battles not exhaustively explored in previous WWII-inspired games. These include battles which take place in the Pacific region, Russia and Berlin, and variety is definitely something this game pulls off well, so it’s unlikely you’ll be off your toes until the end of the game.

For our testing, we use a level called “Relentless”, as it’s easily one of the most intensive levels in the game. It features tanks, a large forest environment and even a few explosions. This level depicts the Battle of Peleliu, where American soldiers advance to capture an airstrip from the Japanese. It’s a level that’s both exciting to play and one that can bring even high-end systems to their knees.

Crysis Warhead

As PC enthusiasts, we tend to be drawn to games that offer spectacular graphics… titles that help reaffirm your belief that shelling out lots of cash for that high-end monitor and PC was well worth it. But it’s rare when a game comes along that is so visually-demanding, it’s unable to run fully maxed out on even the highest-end systems on the market. In the case of the original Crysis, it’s easy to see that’s what Crytek was going for.

Funny enough, even though Crysis was released close to a year ago, the game today still has difficulty running at 2560×1600 with full detail settings – and that’s even with overlooking the use of anti-aliasing! Luckily, Warhead is better optimized and will run smoother on almost any GPU, despite looking just as gorgeous as its predecessor, as you can see in the screenshot below.

The game includes four basic profiles to help you adjust the settings based on how good your system is. These include Entry, Mainstream, Gamer and Enthusiast – the latter of which is for the biggest of systems out there, unless you have a sweet graphics card and are only running 1680×1050. We run our tests at the Gamer setting as it’s very demanding on any current GPU and is a proper baseline of the level of detail that hardcore gamers would demand from the game.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

Although we generally shun automated gaming benchmarks, we do like to run at least one to see how our GPUs scale when used in a ‘timedemo’-type scenario. Futuremark’s 3DMark Vantage is without question the best such test on the market, and it’s a joy to use, and watch. The folks at Futuremark are experts in what they do, and they really know how to push that hardware of yours to its limit.

The company first started out as MadOnion and released a GPU-benchmarking tool called XLR8R, which was soon replaced with 3DMark 99. Since that time, we’ve seen seven different versions of the software, including two major updates (3DMark 99 Max, 3DMark 2001 SE). With each new release, the graphics get better, the capabilities get better and the sudden hit of ambition to get down and dirty with overclocking comes at you fast.

Similar to a real game, 3DMark Vantage offers many configuration options, although many (including us) prefer to stick to the profiles which include Performance, High and Extreme. Depending on which one you choose, the graphic options are tweaked accordingly, as well as the resolution. As you’d expect, the better the profile, the more intensive the test.

Performance is the stock mode that most use when benchmarking, but it only uses a resolution of 1280×1024, which isn’t representative of today’s gamers. Extreme is more appropriate, as it runs at 1920×1200 and does well to push any single or multi-GPU configuration currently on the market – and will do so for some time to come.

Like the vast majority of our benchmarks throughout this review, neither motherboard totally overcomes the other in terms of performance, and gaming isn’t much different. Interestingly enough, Gigabyte’s board came out slightly ahead in our real-world game tests, while the ASUS delivered better scores in our 3DMark test.

Overclocking Gigabyte’s P55-UD5

As I’ve mentioned in past content, I’m not as interested in finding the highest overclock possible as much as I am interested in finding the highest stable overclock. To me, if an overclock crashes the computer after a few minutes of running a stress-test, it has little value except for competition.

How we declare an overclock stable is simple… we stress it as hard as possible for a certain period of time, both with CPU-related tests and also GPU-related, to conclude on what we’ll be confident is 100% stability throughout all possible computing scenarios.

For the sake of CPU stress-testing, we use LinX. Compared to other popular CPU stress-testers, LinX’s tests are far more gruelling, and proof of that is seen by the fact that it manages to heat the CPU up to 20°C hotter than competing applications, like SP2004. Generally, if the CPU survives the first half-hour of this stress, there’s a good chance that it’s mostly stable.

If the CPU stress passes without error, then GPU stress-testing begins, in order to assure a system-wide stable overclock. To test for this, 3DMark Vantage’s Extreme test is used, with the increased resolution of 2560×1600, looped nine times. If this passes, some time is dedicated to real-world game testing, to make sure that gaming is just as stable as it would be if the CPU were at stock. If both these CPU and GPU tests pass without issue, we can confidently declare a stable overclock.

Overclocking with Gigabyte’s P55-UD5

Earlier this month, we posted an article that took a look at overclocking Lynnfield, and this board happened to be the base for all of our results. So, you can say I’ve had a fair amount of experience with overclocking on the board, and this section as a result is pretty easy to write. Normally, I’ll stick to one CPU for benchmarking, but thanks to that article, I tried OC’ing with both the Core i5-750 and Core i7-870.

Please note that while Intel’s stock CPU cooler was used for our stock-clocked performance testing, we used Thermalright’s MUX-120 for all of our overclocking tests. However, the first two overclocks below are stable with the stock cooler using LinX, although temperatures got a wee bit too high.

From an absolutely stable and no voltage increase stand-point, here are the results across the two processors:

That’s right. 3.63GHz stable on the i7-750 and 3.72GHz on the i7-870. I should stress, these are 100% stable, throughout absolutely anything you can do on your PC. There was nothing we could do to thwart the stability, so I’d have to say that both the combination of Intel’s very overclocking-friendly new CPUs and Gigabyte’s robust UD5 make for simple, yet effective overclocking.

How about shaking things up with some extra voltage?

With each CPU bumped up to 1.40v, and the Bus voltage bumped to 1.30v for the i5-750 and 1.40v for the i7-870, we were able to hit just over 4.0GHz on each… stable. I certainly don’t recommend pumping more than the recommended voltage into your processor, but if you do, stability awaits!

Power Consumption, Final Thoughts

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”.

I admit that these results surprised me a bit. The Gigabyte board costs about $50 more than the ASUS board, so by that logic alone, I’d figure that the P55-UD5 was more robust overall, and would of course result in greater power consumption. That wasn’t at all the case though, as the P7P55D Pro actually drew an additional 17W at full load, and 10W at idle.

Final Thoughts

With the company’s P55 launch, Gigabyte has really impressed. After having used the P55-UD5 more than any other P55 to date, I’m comfortable in saying that top to bottom, this board is quality. Everything from the board design, to the features, to the BIOS, to the overclocking-ability… all top-rate. Even simple things like the 100% vertically-mounted S-ATA ports make a difference to me. If it costs little to implement, then it may as well be… it’s a nice feature.

If you read the previous page, then you saw just how amazing this board is when it comes to overclocking. Regardless of whether you are planning to pick up the ~$200 Core i5-750 or ~$555 core i7-870, 4.0GHz stable overclocks are a real possibility, as long as you have the cooling solution to tackle the heat. I can confidently say that overclocking Lynnfield is much easier than Nehalem, however, so even on a stock cooler, you could expect at least 3.6GHz from any LGA1156 offering.

The question comes down to whether or not you need a $220 motherboard. Back in the day, I’d quickly recommend a quality board at over $200, but nowadays, the value offerings are more impressive than ever. Typically, even if all you want to spend is $150, you’re going to score a board that is feature-packed and overclocks well. Luckily, Gigabyte offers boards for pretty-well any price-range, so there’s one bound to suit you.

As it stands though, the P55-UD5 isn’t at all a bad value. You really do get a lot with this board, including features we didn’t discuss, such as the Bluetooth OS locking system, Smart 6 (six unique features that aren’t exactly important, but are cool) and a huge number of S-ATA and USB ports. I can honestly say that few people are going to be able to take advantage of all the connectivity here, and if you can, I gotta tip my hat to you.


Gigabyte P55-UD5

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