Review and Overclocking results of the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R Motherboard

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Introduction

AMD had a beautiful parade a couple years ago, we called it K8. In virtually every conceivable comparison, it would beat the Intel P4 chips into the ground. Those days were sweet for AMD, but out of nowhere Intel began a surprise attack on AMD dropping the Conroe bomb, then the Penryn bomb, then the Nehalem bomb, and now the Lynnfield bomb…or is it more of a “miss”?

For years AMD had been the enthusiast CPU of choice. AMD was not as openly opposed to overclocking as Intel had been, and for good reason – their chips OC’ed relatively well and did not generate as much heat as Intel’s. Since Intel released Conroe into the wild a little over three years ago, the enthusiast landscape has shifted dramatically. Intel’s newest architecture was an enthusiast’s delight. And since then, Intel has been more openly embracing the overclocking community.

Where does Lynnfield fit in? Nehalem already holds the performance crown, AMD doesn’t have anything that can compete for performance. Thus, AMD has had to compete with pricing, dropping the prices of it highest performing CPUs to be even slightly competitive from a price/performance standpoint. This leaves Intel in a bit of a predicament at the low end, because they have been forced to compete against AMDs top CPUs with older hardware. Enter Lynnfield, a CPU designed to compete at a lower price point, yet still have the performance to beat AMD’s best.

So, I’m here today to talk about Lynnfield, right? And I’m an extreme overclocker, so I’ll be using an i7 870 to test the platform right? And I’ll be using one of the most expensive motherboards on the market, because it will give me the most potential for over clocking, right? Oh, and let’s not forget the LN2, right? No, no, no, and….no!

Gigabyte Japan asked me to look at their entry level board, the GA-P55-UD3R. At first I was hesitant – what am I going to do with an entry level board like the UD3R? I would probably kill it within the first 5 minutes – right? So, I decided to do one for the people, the gamers, you! So, the first part of this review will be for the GA-P55-UD3R with an i5 750, and WITH AIR COOLING ONLY! In this case I’m using a Prolimatech Megahalems cooler with the new LGA1156 compatible bracket.

First off, the board:

GIGABYTE Model GA-P55-UD3R

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Features

•    Ultra Durable 3 technology with 2oz copper PCB design
•    Innovative Smart 6 technology for Smarter PC management
•    New Dynamic Energy Saver 2 technology enables best energy efficiency
•    Support ATI CrossFireX for ultimate graphics performance
•    Features high speed Gigabit Ethernet connection
•    XHD technology accelerating hard drive performance with ease
•    AutoGreen technology Greening your PC via Bluetooth cell phone
•    Patented GIGABYTE DualBIOS technology delivering highest level failure protection
•    Home theater quality 8-channel High Definition Audio
•    Compatible with Windows 7 to deliver the best operation experience

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Physical Specs:
Form Factor – ATX
Dimensions – 12.0″ x 9.6″
24 Pin Power connection

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Rear Panel Ports:
PS/2 1
10 x USB 2.0
2 x eSATA 3Gb/s
S/PDIF Out – 1 x Optical, 1 x Coaxial
6 x Audio Ports

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Onboard Audio
Audio Chipset – Realtek ALC888
Audio Channels – 8 Channels

Onboard LAN
LAN Chipset – Realtek 8111D
Max LAN Speed – 10/100/1000Mbps

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Supported CPUs:
CPU Socket Type – LGA 1156
CPU Type – Core i7/i5

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Chipsets:
North Bridge – Intel P55

Storage Devices:
PATA – 1 x ATA133 2 Dev. Max
SATA 3Gb/s – 8
SATA RAID 0/1/5/10

Onboard USB:
Onboard USB – 4 x USB 2.0

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Memory:
Number of Memory Slots – 4×240pin
Memory Standard – DDR3 2200/1333/1066/800
Maximum Memory Supported – 16GB
Dual Channel Supported

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Expansion Slots:
PCI Express 2.0 x16 – 1
PCI Express x16 – 1 (@x4 bandwidth)
PCI Express x1 – 1
PCI Slots – 4

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Overclocking

My first step was to run it through a basic battery of CPU benchmarks at “stock speed” to get some baseline measurements.

Super PI 1M

This program calculates the digits of the number PI out to 1 million digits, it is single threaded.

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Super PI 32M

This program calculates the digits of the number PI out to 32 million digits, it is single threaded.

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PiFast
This program that crunches through the digits of the number PI, it is single threaded.
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wPrime

This program calculates prime numbers. It allows for two tests, to calculate the first 32 million, or the first 1.024 billion prime numbers. This program is great for multi-core and/or multi-processor systems, and scales very well with each additional core.

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With the new Lynnfield CPUs, “stock speed” has different meanings in different tests. The “stock” multiplier of this i5 750 CPU is 20x, but in multi-threaded benchmarks it runs at 21x, and when I ran Super PI or PiFast it ran at an impressive 24x! That took the “stock” speed of 2660 MHz to either 2793 MHz or 3192 MHz depending on the test. Wow! 20x is only used when the CPU determines that the load is too heavy and thermal throttling kicks in to prevent the use of the higher multipliers.

You have probably noticed that this CPU is very similar to the i7 920 – they both have the same “stock speed” of 2660 MHz, they both have the same amount of L1, L2, and L3 cache, and they both have 4 physical cores. But there are some important differences as well. The 920 has a triple channel memory controller, the 750 only dual channel. The 920 uses Hyper Threading (HT) to enable the operating system to treat the CPU is if it has 8 cores.

On the other hand, the 920’s turbo mode has a maximum multiplier of 21x and is therefore more limited in its overall clock speed for single threaded applications, this would help the 750 make up for some of the performance lost with the lack of triple channel memory.

The final and most important difference between the two CPUs is the price. At only about $200, the i5 750 is significantly less expensive than its i7 brethren (about $280). Not only the CPU but the entire platform is designed to fill a lower price bracket. So, while an entry level 1366 board, like the GA-EX58-UD3R runs about $200, the P55 variant shown here sells for only $140.

Also, you must factor in a set of DDR3 memory, since the Lynnfield architecture only supports 2 channels of memory, you could get a 2×2 GB kit for as little as about $70, whereas those who chose to get a platform based around Nehalem would need a 6 GB kit to be competitive, which would drive the price up to about $110 or more. Altogether, a new setup based on Lynnfield (using the price estimates shown above) would only cost about $410 whereas the i7 rig would set you back about $590, or an increase of about 44%. So the question is, does the i7 platform perform 44% higher?

Since my main goal these days is to push hardware to the brink with extreme cooling methods with high scores being the only end in sight, I wasn’t sure how to proceed with this more entry-level hardware. I decided to review this motherboard to benefit the target audience, the budget friendly crowd looking to maximize performance/cost; hopefully that means YOU! As I stated before, I will only be using air cooling for this portion of my review, and I will not be using any LGA1156 i7 CPUs either.

For this portion of the testing, I wanted to find the very best performance I could with air cooling, that means using a powerful fan, in this case a 252 CFM Delta strapped to the side of the Megahalems. I tweaked the OS a bit for each bench, and adjusted the voltages to whatever was needed for the highest clocks for each test. Using the same tests used with the stock speed testing, here are the results:

Super PI 1M

Ninth fastest i5 750 on HWBot (1st with air cooling).

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Super PI 32M

Third fastest i5 750 on HWBot (1st with air cooling).

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PiFast

Third fastest i5 750 on HWBot (1st with air cooling).

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wPrime 32M

Fourth fastest i5 750 on HWBot (1st with air cooling).

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wPrime 1024M

Third fastest i5 750 on HWBot (1st with air cooling).

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Next up, I’ve got some 24/7 settings for you everyday overclockers and later I will be putting this setup under some LN2.

Right off the bat, I was impressed with the ability of this board and CPU to attain stable overclocks with low voltage. With a stock voltage of 1.1V, it does not seem like there is a whole lot to work with. I have pushed 45nm CPUs to 2.0V and beyond with liquid nitrogen, so limiting myself to only 1.1V seemed really silly. But I wanted to see the potential for this chip with absolutely zero voltage increases. Here is a shot of the BIOS voltage page for the following run:

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The result: 3.45 GHz 14 hours Prime95 stable – sounds pretty good to me with only 1.1V.

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* temps only reached 60C due to a high ambient temp of 32-34°C during this run.

So the next step was to see what I could get with a bit extra voltage. I wanted to give you an idea of what this setup is capable of with decent air cooling for a 24/7 based setup. With that in mind, made the following changes in the BIOS:

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The result: I was able to reach 4.2GHz 30 minutes Prime95 stable. I know some of you believe in 24 hours or some such nonsense for true “stability testing,” but I apologize; I do not have the patience for it these days. But, I think it is quite obvious that it would not be a challenge with this board and CPU.

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By the way, I did not use the Delta fan for these tests either; I swapped for a much quieter 1600 rpm fan. LN2 testing soon…
OK, time for the fun stuff! This board turned out to be a real blast when pushed to the extreme with liquid nitrogen.

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As you can see, I have the Kingpin Cooling F1EE liquid nitrogen pot mounted on the board. With the same CPU/memory used at the beginning of the testing, I tweaked and tuned this chip to find its maximum potential.

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Current i5 750 SuperPI 1M world record!

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This is currently i5 750 SuperPI 32M 2nd fastest time in the world. The first place title is still held by Massman, despite my higher clock speeds. He obviously has skills in tweaking SuperPI 32M that I lack.

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Current i5 750 PiFast world record!

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Current i5 750 wPrime 32M world record!

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Current i5 750 wPrime 1024M world record!

Conclusion

WOW! Obviously this board has what it takes to compete with the best in the overclocking department!!!

So, let’s wrap this up. I set out to answer a couple different questions during this testing. Does this chip compete with the AMD Phenom II series from a price/performance standpoint? And, is the i7 920 worth the 40-50% price hike?

Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the means to do that completely. But I think we can safely draw a few conclusions with this testing. Yes, the platform definitely has what it takes to compete with the best from AMD, and being that cost is about even between the two, and the fact that the Intel stuff overclocks a bit better, this is hands down the budget-minded enthusiasts platform of choice right now.

This brings us to my second question. There is no doubt that Nehalem is more powerful than Lynnfield, but is it worth a 44% price increase? In this case I’m comparing the i5 CPU, which lacks Hyper Threading capabilities. If multitasking or heavily threaded applications care common in your typical usage, you would probably benefit from Hyper Threading. The good news is, this does not mean you need to go all the way to Nehalem, thanks to the i7 860.

The price advantage is not as great as with the i5 series, but the multi-tasking/multi-threaded performance should be just about on par with Nehalem, and it will still be less expensive. For the rest of you, the i5 is exactly what you have been waiting for, a quad core CPU with zero compromises for single threaded applications, thanks to aggressive turbo modes.

Finally, let’s discuss the main subject of this review – the Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R.

I am very impressed with the performance capabilities of this entry-level board.

Carrying on the UD3R series tradition of top-shelf overclocking capabilities for a fraction of the price, this board carries the UD3R legacy into the current generation. Sure, it does have a few limitations: it only has four fan headers on board and it lacks SLI support. But if you are looking for more features, you are shopping in the wrong price bracket.

This board is designed for the budget enthusiast — max overclocking potential and only essential features — with that goal in mind this board is an excellent choice. Gigabyte also offers a full range of models to address some of the features lacking here. For instance, if SLI support is essential to you, the GA-P55M-UD4 can be had for only $10 more.

Lastly, when pushed to the extreme, this board did not disappoint. It obviously was built to be a beast of an overclocker. Gigabyte has spared no expense for the enthusiast community, giving this board the best of Gigabyte technology to allow for some incredible overclocking potential! This is highly recommended for those who do not need SLI.

A big thanks to Gigabyte Japan for the chance to show off this awesome product, cheers! Please feel free to post comments, suggestions for future review, and any questions about the board.

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