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Gigabyte GA-EP55-UD6 Socket 1156 Motherboard

The P55-UD6 has just what the enthusiast will be looking for with a BIOS that is meant to allow the best and highest overclocks. For the person willing to pay a little extra, this is what he or she is looking for: a motherboard that allows high BLK at the highest possible multiplier. Add in the dual GPU configurations in Crossfire and SLI, we can see Gigabyte adding to its awards and world record collection. One feature that I like about the new Gigabyte motherboard is that it is pretty. So, lets take the P55 and the new Intel i7 860 for a spin and see if it is worth your time and money.

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The P55-UD6 has just what the enthusiast will be looking for with a BIOS that is meant to allow the best and highest overclocks. For the person willing to pay a little extra, this is what he or she is looking for: a motherboard that allows high BLK at the highest possible multiplier. Add in the dual GPU configurations in Crossfire and SLI, we can see Gigabyte adding to its awards and world record collection. One feature that I like about the new Gigabyte motherboard is that it is pretty. So, lets take the P55 and the new Intel i7 860 for a spin and see if it is worth your time and money.

Introduction to the Gigabyte GA-EP55-UD6

For some time now, Gigabyte has been trying to prove to everyone that they are the best motherboard manufacturer in the world. Yes, even better than that other company. The case was really made when Intel introduced the P35 chipset a few years back. When this chipset came about, Gigabyte motherboards were some of the top overclockers out there. Since then, things have gotten even better as they have introduced higher end capacitors, better phase power and the Ultra Durable method.

The success continued with the P45 and X48 chipset as we seen the
GA-X48-DQ6 perform with the best. The overclocks were extreme and the stability was very reliable. We saw this with the X58 chipset also.
Looking at the more popular forums, we see the EX58 Extreme and UD5P achieve high BLK frequencies making them the motherboard to have when it comes to the Core i7 processors.

But now that all heads have turned to Intel newest offering the Core i5, Gigabyte is not holding anything back. Coming to market on launch date will be a complete line of P55 motherboards. We predict the best seller to be the P55-UD4P as it offers the most for the money. Crossfire, SLI and support for DDR3 2200 is what everyone will be looking for when upgrading to the newest Intel platform. But the board with the most bang for the most will be the GA-P55-UD6.

The P55-UD6 has just what the enthusiast will be looking for. Which begins with a BIOS that is meant to allow the best and highest overclocks. For the person willing to pay a little extra, this is what he or she is looking for: a motherboard that allows high BLK at the highest possible multiplier. Add in the dual GPU configurations in Crossfire and SLI, we can see Gigabyte adding to its awards and world record collection. One feature that I like about the new Gigabyte motherboard is that it is pretty. So, lets take the P55 and the new Intel i7 860 for a spin and see if it is worth your time and money.

What Gigabyte would like you to know about the EP55-UD6

The GA-P55-UD6 is based on Intel’s innovative 2-chip architecture and supports the next generation Intel® Core™ i7 and Intel® Core™ i5 processors with LGA1156 package. With integrated graphics and memory controllers in the processor, the GA-P55-UD6 is able to support up to 6 DIMMs of dual channel DDR3 memory for remarkable memory performance.

The GA-P55-UD6 features the revolutionary 24 phase power VRM design that provides the very best power delivery to the CPU, giving extreme users unparalleled overclocking ability and the lowest temperatures to reach maximum performance levels. With support for NVIDIA SLI™ and ATI CorssFireX™ technology, the GA-P55-UD6 also delivers powerful graphics performance.

The GA-P55-UD6 enables a new level of smart computing with its Smart 6 technologies. Designed with user-friendliness in mind, GIGABYTE Smart 6 features a combination of 6 innovative software utilities that provide easy and intelligent PC system management. Coupled with the unique GIGABYTE Dynamic Energy Saver2™ and Ultra Durable3™ technologies, the GA-P55-UD6 provides outstanding performance with optimized power efficiency and durability.

Specifications

CPU
  1. Support for an Intel® Core™ i7 series processor/Intel® Core™ i5 series processor in the LGA1156 package
    (Go to GIGABYTE’s website for the latest CPU support list.) 
  2. L3 cache varies with CPU
Chipset
  1. Intel® P55 Express Chipset
Memory
  1. 6 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 2600+/2200/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
  4. Support for non-ECC memory modules
  5. Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules

(Go to GIGABYTE’s website for the latest memory support list.)

Audio
  1. Realtek ALC889A codec
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for Dolby® Home Theater
  5. Support for S/PDIF In/Out
  6. Support for CD In
LAN
  1. 2 x RTL8111D chips (10/100/1000 Mbit)
  2. Support for Teaming
  3. Support for Smart Dual LAN
Expansion Slots
  1. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1)
  2. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1) (The PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX8_1 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
  3. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4_1)
  4. 2 x PCI Express x1 slots
  5. 2 x PCI slots
Multi-Graphics Technology
  1. Support for ATI CrossFireX™/NVIDIA SLI technology Technology (The PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX8_1 slots only.)
Storage InterfaceChipset:

  1. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATA2_0, SATA2_1, SATA2_2, SATA2_3, SATA2_4, SATA2_5) supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10

GIGABYTE SATA2 chip:

  1. 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
  2. 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATA2_2, GSATA2_3) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  3. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD 

2 x JMB362 chips:

  1. 2 x eSATA 3Gb/s connectors (eSATA/USB Combo) on the back panel supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD
  3. 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATA2_0/GSATA2_1) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  4. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD

iTE IT8720 chip:

  1. 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
USB
  1. Integrated in the Chipset
  2. Up to 14 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (10 on the back panel, including 2 eSATA/USB Combo, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
IEEE 1394
  1. T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
  2. Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (2 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header)
Internal I/O Connectors
  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  4. 1 x IDE connector
  5. 10 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  6. 1 x CPU fan header
  7. 3 x system fan headers
  8. 1 x power fan header
  9. 1 x Chipset fan header
  10. 1 x front panel header
  11. 1 x front panel audio header
  12. 1 x CD In connector
  13. 1 x S/PDIF In header
  14. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  15. 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  16. 1 x IEEE 1394a header
  17. 1 x serial port header
  18. 1 x clearing CMOS button
  19. 1 x power button
  20. 1 x reset button
Back Panel Connectors
  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
  2. 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
  3. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  4. 2 x IEEE 1394a ports
  5. 8 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  6. 2 x eSATA/USB Combo connectors
  7. 2 x RJ-45 ports
  8. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/ Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
I/O Controller
  1. iTE IT8720 chip
H/W Monitoring
  1. System voltage detection
  2. CPU/System temperature detection
  3. CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
  4. CPU overheating warning
  5. CPU/System/Power fan fail warning
  6. CPU/System fan speed control
BIOS
  1. 2 x 16 Mbit flash
  2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  3. Support for DualBIOS™
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Unique Features
  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Q-Flash
  3. Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
  4. Support for Download Center
  5. Support for Xpress Install
  6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
  7. Support for EasyTune
  8. Support for Dynamic Energy Saver™ 2
  9. Support Smart TPM
  10. Support for Smart 6™
  11. Support for Q-Share
Bundle Software
  1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Operating System
  1. Support for Microsoft® Windows 7/Vista/XP
Form Factor
  1. ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm
Note
  1. TPM function is optional due to different regional policy
Remark
  1. Due to different Linux support condition provided by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors’ website or 3rd party website.
  2. Due to most hardware/software vendors no longer offer support for Win9X/ME. If some vendors still has Win9X/ME drivers available, we will publish on website.

Features

  1. Industry leading 24 phase power VRM design for optimum power efficiency and thermal solution
  2. Leading quality standard of Ultra Durable™ 3 technology with 2oz copper PCB design
  3. Innovative Smart 6 technology for Smarter PC management
  4. Support Intel® Core™ i7/ Core™ i5 processors with LGA 1156 socket
  5. New Dynamic Energy Saver™ 2 technology enables best energy efficiency
  6. Support both ATI CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI for ultimate graphics performance
  7. Smart TPM provides 2048 bits key via Bluetooth cellphone
  8. Smart DualLAN with Intelligent LAN port auto-switching
  9. XHD technology accelerating hard drive performance with ease
  10. AutoGreen technology Greening your PC via Bluetooth cellphone
  11. Integrated eSATA/USB combo connectors for enhanced storage flexibility
  12. Patented GIGABYTE DualBIOS™ technology delivering highest level failure protection
  13. Supports Dolby Home Theater audio to create a stunning surround sound listening experience
  14. Onboard debug LED simplifies motherboard troubleshooting
  15. The Precision OV provides more precision voltage control for system
  16. Compatible with Windows 7 to deliver the best operation experience

 

Closer look at the EP55-UD6

Like we said earlier, the P55-UD6 is pretty and I am not talking about the shades of blue, orange and white that make up the motherboard for the technical aspects of the motherboard. There are a few things that makes this board stand out from the rest, but chief among them is the physical layout. Everything connected to this motherboard is in the right place. We will explain as we examine the motherboard.

The absolute first thing that will catch you eye will be the six DIMM slots. That’s right. The UD6 has a total of six DDR3 slots. Don’t get this confused with the X58 series of motherboards that also have six slot and support triple channel DDR3 kits. The UD6 is still a dual channel board but it does DDR3 up to 2600MHz which we have yet to see on the market. When that time comes, we will bring you the news. With Intel’s i5 and i7 processors, memory voltages should not exceed 1.65 volts.

The UD6 is covered with passive aluminum heat sinks topped with decorative cover plates. The are covering components like the North Bridge and power mosfets. There is no water-cooling inlets like we saw on the X58 Extreme, but the heat sinks are connected via a heat pipe. What we like about the heat sinks on the UD6 compared to others is they are not over-the-top. The 24 phase power VRM which is responsible for ultimate power efficiency and with better thermal results. Hopefully, this will lead to some nice overclocks.

The UD6 offers several combinations of expansion slots. There are three PCIe x16 slots. When all used together, the following configuration is possible: x16, x8, 4x. The x16 and x8 slots can be used to enable Crossfire and SLI. The bottom x16 slot would be ideal for a third Nvidia card for Physics. The top x1 PCIe may be unusable depending on the card you use. It could be hampered by the over-sized North Bridge cooler and the close-by x16 PCIe .

We love the right angle SATA ports on the UD6, but the angled stance is not all there is. There are three controllers onboard the UD6. The six blue ports are controlled via the Intel chipset, while two others are managed by a Gigabyte SATA2 chip and the last two are governed by a JMicron controller, JMB362. An onboard LED lets you know what is going on with the motherboard, if anything comes up. Right behind the last set of white SATA plugs in a reset button.

There are a few things different about the CPU socket on the new i5 motherboards. The first thing is the ZIFF socket itself. The CPU cover is held in place by a special screw. Once the new lever is locked into place, the cover slides forward and is held securely in place. Gigabyte made sure there was plenty of room for large heat sinks and even water-cooling components.

Talking about combinations, the rear of the UD6 has a few. We see there are eight USB ports as we recognize them. However, there are two others combined with the the two eSATA plugs the board has to offer. The same thing goes with for the lone PS/2 port. The one connector can be used for a mouse or keyboard. I would like to see legacy totally gone, but I guess this is a good idea in case of BIOS or USB problems. The firewire (two of them: 6 and 4 pin), optical plugs and LAN ports are as we know them.

 

BIOS of the GA-EP55-UD6

The BIOS of this motherboard reminded us a lot of the X58 series of motherboards from Gigabyte. Though a lot of the BIOS screens were identical to the others, some were slightly different.

Going straight into the M.I.T. or Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker, you have access to the tabs leading to the beginning stages of overclocking. You also get basic CPU and ram readings like frequency and voltages. Neither of which can be changed from this screen.

The M.I.T. Status screen gives more details on the processor like actual speeds of each core of the processor as well as ram timings. This is just a status screen. Nothing can be changed from this location.

The Advance Setting is were you get to play with all the frequencies for the QPI, BCLK, SPD and PCIe.

If you are not down for tweaking your ram settings, the EP55-UD6 does supports Intel’s XMP features.

 

Testing Begins

To be honest I was so super excited to get the review started, that I went straight to the overclocking of the CPU. Before I got too far into it, I caught myself and begun the typical testing of the motherboard. The testing consisted of your typical synthetic benchmarks. But before we get into the testing phase this is how CPU-Z read the processor, motherboard and ram.

Testing Hardware:

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP55-UD6
Processor: Intel Core i7 860 ES
Ram: Patriot Viper DDR3 PC12800 4GB Dual-Channel
Video Card: XFX HD 4770
HDD: Seagate 7200.11
Power: Thermaltake Tough Power XT 1000 (Donated by Thermaltake for our test bench)
Case: Open Air
Cooling: Coolermaster 212 Plus
OS: Windows 7 RC

 

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
3DMark Vantage is a PC benchmark suite designed to test the DirectX10 performance of your graphics card. We’ve been making 3DMark for over 10 years, with each new edition using the latest 3D technology to determine real-world performance.

Futuremark 3DMark 06
Futuremark 3DMark06 Build 1.0.2 3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests. 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today. Futuremark’s exclusive Online ResultBrowser tracks and compares 3DMark06 scores.

SiSoftware Sandra Lite 2007 SP1
SiSoftware has announced the availability of Service Release 2 (SR2) for SiSoftware Sandra 2005, the latest version of its award-winning utility. The focus of this service release has been improved support, compatibility and reliability rather than new features. We have been working closely with more hardware vendors than before to be able to bring greater direct support of an increased market share of commodity and server technologies.

Lavalys Everest
Lavalys EVEREST Home Edition is freeware system information, system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for home PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. It offers the world’s most accurate system information and diagnostics capabilities, including online features, memory benchmarks, hardware monitoring, and low-level hardware information. EVEREST Home Edition is uniquely available for home users without any charges, based on the freeware license.

Maxon Cinebench
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer’s performance capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

Super PI Modded 1.5
In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi in collaboration with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center. This record should be the current world record. (Details are shown in the windows help.) This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environment such as Windows NT and Windows 95. In order to calculate 33.55 million digits, it takes within 3 days with a Pentium 90 MHz, 40 MB main memory and 340 MB available storage.

Sierra F.E.A.R. Update 1.08
F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.

Street Fighter IV Benchmark Tool
This test the performance of the video game on your system.

Resident Evil
This test the performance of the video game on your system.

 

Overclocking the EP55-UD6 and the Intel Core i7 860

After spending some time with the X58 motherboards, especially the Gigabyte one, we were pretty familiar with the overclocking process. To begin, we left all at defaults, except for the CPU voltage which we set at 1.4 in the BIOS.  However CPU-Z reported it at 1.36. These simple settings netted us a 4095MHz. It was easier to achieve this speed on this processor than my i7 920. Since we were familiar with the BIOS, we tweaked the voltage settings without disabling any of the CPU features. When It was done, we saw an extra 125MHz gain. We can go all day talking about the overclocking ability of the UD6 and the i7 860, but we have to save some room for the rest of this conclusion.

Besides the overclocking abilities the layout of the motherboard is 95% positive and 5% negative. The positive aspects are the sweet color combination. The Gigabyte traditional blue and white has grown on me in a good way. Gigabyte has not fallen in the same rut as other manufacturers, thinking that their top of the line board has to be black. For those that like to color coordinate their components, the blue and white looks great in an all black interior or even a simple gray metal background. The passive heat sinks of the UD6 do a great job at keeping all the temps under control. And there is no fan noise at all as there are no fans on this board.

There is more than enough SATA and DIMM slots on the motherboard. There are six and ten respectively. Gigabyte unleashed all the bells and whistles for this one. Even with the available six DIMM slots, the motherboard as well as the P55 will only support dual channel modes. There are no other P55 motherboards out there that will support a total of 24 gigs of ram.  If you are a memory hog, you can take advantage of buying two triple channel kits and not having to spend extra on three dual channel kits.

 

Conclusion

The Gigabyte EP55-UD6 is a great way to start our introduction into the world of the 1156 socket. With it, we achieved a better overclock than what we got when we first tested the Core i7 920. They struggled to reach the 4GHz mark with the 1366, but some of that was due to the unfamiliarity of the new CPU and the BIOS of the X58. With the new i7 860 sitting inside the UD6, we were easily able to surpass the 4GHz mark ended with a modest 4.2GHz.

Besides the overclocking abilities, the layout of the motherboard is 95% positive and 5% negative. The positive aspects are the sweet color combination. The Gigabyte traditional blue and white has grown on me in a good way. Gigabyte has not fallen in the same reign of other manufacturers and thinking that their top of the line board has to be black. And for those that like to color coordinate their components the blue and white looks great in an all black interior or even a simple grey metal color background. The passive heat sinks of the UD6 does a great job at keeping all the thermals in control. And there are no fan noise at all as their are no fans on this board..

There is more than enough SATA and DIMM slots on the motherboard. There are six and ten respectively. Gigabyte unleashed all the bells and whistles for this one. Even with the available six DIMM slots the motherboard as well as the P55 will only support dual channel modes. There are no other P55 motherboards out there that will support a total of 24 gigs of ram. And if you are a memory hog, you can take advantage of buying two triple channel kits and not having to spend extra on three dual channel kits. And we can not forget about the USB/eSATA ports. This is a very clever idea. The plugs worked great from the start as we used them for our keyboard and mouse. But after a bad overclock, you do lose legacy support until Windows reload.

Between the Gigabyte UD6 and the new Intel Core i7 860, you have the beginnings of have a very nice rig. But with the UD6 being the top P55 motherboard from Gigabyte, you will pay the price. We can’t find any Internet shops posting prices yet, but we can speculate it will retail for approximately $199 or so. At this price, you get a few options that you will not find in any other motherboard sporting this chipset.

 

 

 

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