Gigabyte P55 motherboards are packed with features
Just.. Wow! Take a look at these!
Gigabyte will not only be the first out the door with S-ATA 6Gbps support on most of its P55 boards, but it's also adventuring into support for future Intel cache technology and soldering NAND Flash to the PCB itself.
Alongside the launch of P55, Gigabyte will join with Seagate in announcing support for 6Gbps S-ATA in the shape of new Seagate hard drives and these motherboards. Quite how useful it will be we're not sure - standard hard drives don’t exactly push the boundaries of the S-ATA 3Gbps standard in the way that SSDs do, but as ever in IT, progress is progress. The new Gigabyte boards will, in addition to the standard complement of six S-ATA 3Gbps ports offer an extra two to four 6Gbps S-ATA ports from Silicon Image chipsets (not yet soldered to these boards). Next generation X58/Core i7 motherboards will get the S-ATA 6Gbps treatment as well.
Despite the fact the Gigabyte boards look as if they're using standard dual chipsets, they're not - there's just a Southbridge, and it's just where you’d expect, down between the PCI slots and S-ATA ports. The cooling systems displayed here are certainly inventive and definitely feel chunkier than the usual heatsink/pipe solutions that have gone before.
24 phase power on P55 and the extra blue slot for Flash by the memory
SATA 6Gbps ports in white - the solder space on the right picture is where the Silicon Image chipset supplying it will go. Click to enlarge
On its premium boards Gigabyte will start using a massive 24
power phases for the CPU. Those are real phases with one driver per pair of MOSFETs and single choke, not the Virtual ones with one driver shared between many MOSFETs and multiple chokes. The chokes are small though and we strongly question whether 24 phase power is really worthwhile, other than being good for the boys in marketing.
Gigabyte's more mainstream boards will feature a standard 12 phase design with larger chokes to take up the space around the CPU socket instead.
The small slot by the DDR3 memory slots is for an additional SSD. We were told it’s not like TurboMemory - instead it can be used by applications inside the OS so they launch faster because of the much higher I/O throughput. We’re not sure yet what the socket is – either PCI-Express or a custom port – but clearly it’s upgradable. Gigabyte told us that the motherboard with the NAND Flash soldered instead of the mystery upgrade slot was a proof of concept only and might not make the final cut.
Intel NAND Flash soldered to the actual PCB itself and Gigabyte's "mainstream" P55 solution
Gigabyte's "extreme" P55 board with 24 phase power and three x16 slots: x16/x8/x4 and both rear I/Os. Click to enlarge
Gigabyte explained that depending on the size of Flash plugged in, it can be partitioned, so for example out of a 16GB stick, 8GB can be used to load a virtualised OS, while the other 8GB can be used by the main OS with the programs attached. It can also be used as a boot drive all on its own. There’s no word from Gigabyte of the kind of performance or how the SSD caching works to prevent stuttering and we've not seen this feature elsewhere, so it seems Gigabyte is either futureproofing itself, going out on a limb, or is indulging its engineers' dreams and will be able to change to more standard board designs later in the development cycle.
Good news for multi-GPU enthusiasts though – all Gigabyte’s P55 boards will be SLI certified and the cost of SLI certification is reduced compared to X58, now that PCI-Express is provided by the CPU. It will be interesting to see if the NF200 PCI-E multiplier chipset can be used with Lynnfield CPUs and if the PCI-E performance is increased by having a direct on-chip access to CPU cores and low latency memory.
In terms of rear I/O, the Gigabyte boards are packed out as usual, with eight USB 2.0, two powered
eSATA ports, two types of Firewire socket, dual Gigabit Ethernet, a single PS2 keyboard or mouse port and 7.1 channel High-Definition audio with S/PDIF options too.
Gigabyte's new X58 with 24 phase power and SATA 6Gbps - the full layout is below
Click to enlarge