Gigabyte unveils top of the line P55 board

Adds a couple of interesting features

BY NOW P55 based motherboards are a dime a dozen. Well, maybe not quite, but all the big motherboard makers have pretty much put their entire product line-ups out the door already. However, it seems like Gigabyte wasn’t happy with its GA-P55A-UD6 as its top of the range model and as such, the company has launched the GA-P55A-UD7 as of today.

You might wonder what Gigabyte could possibly have added in terms of features to make this board any better than the UD5 model. So did we until earlier today when we had a chance to swing by Gigabyte’s office in Taipei and take a few pictures (ok a lot of pictures) of the new board. As you can see, the new board comes packed in a big fancy box and Gigabyte has brought back the nice, although maybe not so environmentally friendly, protective plastic hard shell that will add to the protection of the board during transit.

Looking at the board itself, one of the first things you’ll notice is that it has four x16 PCI Express slots and Gigabyte has added a NF200 chip from Nvidia to make them all work as well as it’s possible to make it work on the P55 platform. You’d never end up using more than three at a time in an SLI configuration, although it seems like you’re limited to three-way CrossFireX as well, despite the fourth slot. The board also features USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s and this is where things get tricky.

Gigabyte has implemented a PLX bridge that connects to the NF200, but when you use three graphics cards it will be switched over and connects directly to the P55 chipset instead. In the latter mode you won’t see full USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps performance numbers. However, as long as the PLX bridge interfaces with the NF200 you should be able to get the full performance for both USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps simultaneously.

The UD7 series – Gigabyte also has an X58 model – builds on Gigabyte’s Extreme series and a such this board also has 24-phase power regulation and Gigabyte’s unusual chipset cooling which can either interface with your watercooling kit or you can remove the waterblock in favour for a rather large heatsink. The heatsink will sadly block the top PCI Express x1 slot, as it takes up the top expansion slot and protrudes outside of the case. It uses natural convection to improve the cooling of the chipset, just like Gigabyte’s Silentcell graphics cards.

Other features of interest includes the now standard 3x USB power, two eSATA/USB 2.0 combo ports, also with three times the power, a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports that support bonding for extra performance, a total of 10 internal SATA ports, two rear FireWire ports, a POST80 debug LED display and a power button for when the board is being run on a test bench.

It’s a pretty impressive board, although we’re sure it’ll have a price tag to match the features on offer. Just adding up the cost of the NF200 and PLX bridge chips and you’ve got an extra BOM cost of about $40 to $50 over your average P55 board. Only you can decide if the extra features are worth it, but then again, this isn’t a board for the average user, as it’s targeting overclockers and general performance junkies.S|A

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