Free from its clothing
Gigabyte supply the motherboard in the typical anti-static bag/sheet of foam combination and once those are dispensed with and the extraordinarily hefty motherboard freed it is instantly apparent that this is a quality item. Tipping the scales at 1.1kg this probably isn't the motherboard to choose for those LAN parties.
Long gone are the days in which Gigabyte took a lucky dip into the parts bin and used whatever colour they drew out, this is a very nice sky-blue and white affair with a deeper blue used for the heatsinks. Very attractive indeed and even the SATA ports have been decked out in this colour scheme. Only the red SPDIF and the yellow USB ports distract the eye, but with so many places to attach things it's a small and useful concession to usability.
The P55-UD5 is dominated by four large heatsinks, connected by a single heatpipe. This should really help to keep temperatures stable as the heat generated is spread through the heatpipe across all the heatsinks, rather than one being over-stretched and one twiddling its thumbs.
The back of the motherboard is very simple but a nice touch is that the few chips on the reverse of the board are kept well away from the CPU Cooler bracket holes.
Taking a closer look at the RAM slots and surrounding area reveals many cool little touches. The white pair of RAM slots are the two to be used if you are only utilising a single or dual sticks of RAM, and with RAM density as high as it is at the moment most of us will be using two sticks. In a single stick configuration Gigabyte recommend using DDR3_3 (the bottom white slot) which is as far away from the CPU area as possible. Very handy for those with truly enormous heatsinks. On the top right edge you can see the CPU fan header which is also in a very good position. Allowing for cooler or fan changes without dismantling the whole PC.
Below the RAM is the IDE header. Strangely positioned just above the ATX 24 Pin, but perhaps a subtle reminder that by now there is no excuse to not be fully SATA, especially as even SATA HDDs are too slow to keep up with modern PCs. Just below the IDE header is a IDE LED, one of many LEDs strewn across the board that provide a very visual indication of it's POST procedure and any potential issues. If you look just above the fan header above the "12 Phase Power" writing you can see another bank of six LEDs that cycle on POST.
The bottom right picture shows the large amount of expansion slots available. From top to bottom we have a PCI-E x1, PCI-E x16, PCI-E x1, PCI, PCI-E x8, PCI and a PCI-E x4. Although the secondary PCI-E slot is only 8x it wont make much of a difference in actual use.
Underneath the PCI-E x4 slot are things that ought to be in a museum by now, the COM and FDD headers. Quite who would buy the latest P55 motherboard and a LGA1156 CPU and still have stuff on 3.5" floppy is beyond me. Finally on the bottom right are the two internal USB headers.
It's these little touches like the LEDs and CPU fan header that separate the amazing from the merely great.
Finally before we look at the last couple parts of the motherboard and todays test setup, a close look at the LGA1156 spring clip mechanism. Unlike a lot of solutions, in which the lever merely locked the CPU in place, this really applies pressure on the CPU helping to keep it locked in place and allowing a really firm base to ensure the best possible contact between the CPU cooler and the CPU.
On the right it's clear how much room Gigabyte have left around the socket to accommodate even the largest heatsinks. The three main points of the heatpipe/heatsink cooling solution have been designed in such a way that the maximum possible space is available. By moving the Ferrite chokes far away too this should be the ideal board for anyone who wants to apply an extreme cooling solution such as LN2 because there is so little surrounding the CPU slot. Another plus for Gigabyte and their designers. As is the placement of the 8-pin CPU power, right at the top left corner of the board making cable-routing a joy rather than the chore it can become.
Move over the page for a look at the mind boggling amount of connectivity supported by the P55-UD5, including a very ingenious eSATA solution.