Asus P7P55D P55 Motherboard
First impressions are this is one very, very nice looking motherboard. With a black PCB and two tone blue effect carried through the various ports and heatsinks on the board, the theme is cold, freezing and simply lush to look at. Even the 24pin and 8pin ATX power slots are colour coded rather than being the bland white slots of old.
The first thing I noticed about the new motherboard was that the CPU socket looks so much smaller than the 1366 socket size I am used to. Framing this and in turn framing the CPU, making it look smaller than it actually is, are two weird looking heatsinks. Presumably, these heatsinks are anodised aluminium as with the P5Q range of motherboards and not the Cobalt metal the colour would have us believe. Interestingly, these heatsinks are further away from the edge of the motherboard than previous models which may or may not be a good move depending on you choice of cooling. What certainly is a good move is the 14+2 power phase design of the board which should ensure that overclocks will come thick and fast with this motherboard.
As previously stated, the memory configuration differs from the i7/X58 range of motherboards in that the P55 boards will run with dual channel only but with the point to point interface of P55, memory speed will hopefully be such that bandwidth will not be a problem. I have never really advocated the absolute need for triple channel memory anyway and while I do welcome progress, I don't think the eventual P55 users will notice any serious performance drops, they just won't notice the gain i7 users have. It's nice to brag about numbers but in all honesty, I have yet to notice any tangible difference between Dual and Triple channel setups. E-peen hunters will however no doubt beg to differ on this opinion. Squint your eyes a little and you may notice that the memory slots have clips to just one side. This is because with the primary PCIe slot located so close to the memory, removing said memory with the GPU in position will be a difficult task indeed. This neat little design allows memory to be added or removed without disturbing the graphics card.
PCI Express bandwidth is one area which may or may not be the downfall of P55. With the ever increasing bandwidth requirements of GPU's, PCIe lanes become all important. Single card users need not worry as the P55 comes with a full fat PCIe 2.0 standard GPU slot which provides all the bells and whistles X58 does. This bandwidth however is split between two ports (x8 + x8) should you wish to use a dual card configuration. Again this is not so much of a problem with mid - high end cards as PCIe 2.0 x8 provides just as much bandwidth as PCIe 1.1 x16. The problem however arises when one wishes to use 2 top end cards such as ATI's 4870x2 and NVidias GTX295 in Crossfire and, if this board does support it, SLI. These monster cards will suffer some (though not too much) throttling by using 8 lanes instead of the full 16. Admittedly though, users of these extremely expensive GPU setups would most likely plump for X58 anyway so this is a null point but a point worth making nonetheless.
Next we arrive at what appears to the the Southbridge but is in effect the NB, or should I say P55 chipset core itself. The heatsink does not look like what will be the final design as I would expect a much more intricate design to be employed. Also note the white outline which serves to back up this assumption. The chip itself functions more or less like the traditional ICH chip of old, controlling the same functions bar memory. This controller acts as a one chip for all, and replaces the dual ICH and MCH chips on previous designs with the one chip controlling all of the I/O functions in one place. As with Core i7, Lynnfield cores will have an on-board memory controller and will also act as as the PCIe controller.
Perhaps one of the biggest upgrades you are likely to get with P55 is the introduction of SATA-III. Judging by the picture above at least that's what I assume it is as the current standard is 3GB/s not the 6GB/s advertised on the mainboard. Either way there are 6 of these ports controlled by Intel and a further two (white slots) controlled by the Marvel Controller.
Finally, we arrive at the I/O backplate area which is no different from high end X58 motherboards. The P7P55D EVO features a whopping 8 USB ports, Firewire, dual LAN ports, 10 Channel audio courtesy of 6 3.5mm audio jacks or the S/PDiff output. Asus have also included traditions PS/2 ports for both keyboard and mouse.
There's no doubting that the Asus P7P55D EVO is a premium board despite it's mid range chipset. First impressions are it will be a corking board that will deliver on it's promises. We at OC3D are brimming with excitement over this motherboard and new chipset with everyone gathered around my virtual desk drooling over its form and features. Ushering them away was no easy task as I'm sure it won't be for those lucky enough to eventually get one installed in there PC. Unfortunately, that's about all I can tell you about Asus's P55 EVO for the time being as the NDA is not officially lifted until September unless there is a revised date, in which case you can expect OC3D to let you know those performance figures before you can say 'Gimme that P55 EVO!'.
We will keep you posted on all developments...
Feel free to discuss the preview in our forums.