Hands on with Gigabyte’s high-end P67 boards

But where are the processors?

GIGABYTE HAS FINALIZED its P67 motherboards designs and we got some hands on time with the first of Gigabyte’s new high-end P67 models, namely the GA-P67A-UD5 and the GA-P67A-UD7. These were the two boards Gigabyte showed off at IDF in September, but back then Gigabyte had covered up some features and wasn’t showing the final board designs.

Starting with the P67A-UD5 the obvious thing that you notice is the new black PCB design which we’ll be seeing on several new boards from Gigabyte, as well as the new style of heatsinks that will be another re-occurring feature across Gigabyte’s LGA-1155 boards. The board has three x16 PCI Express slots, although the two topmost will operate in x8 mode when both are in use and the bottom most slot only gets four lanes worth of bandwidth. The board also has two PCI Express x1 slots and two PCI slots courtesy of an ITE PCI Express to PCI bridge.

Gigabyte has also gone for an interesting USB 3.0 solution on this board, as there’s only a single second generation USB 3.0 host controller from Renesas, yet there are no less than a total of eight possible ports on the board. This solution is dependent on two VLI 800 USB 3.0 hubs, each connected to one of the ports from the Renesas controller. This adds four ports at the rear I/O and four ports via two pin headers on the board. This will limit the bandwidth to each of the eight ports, but it’s unlikely to make a huge difference at the moment, since there is no single device that could use up all of the bandwidth available.

Lovers of legacy ports will be disappointed, as the only legacy port left on this board is a single PS/2 port. We like to call this progress and it’s about time, but what we’re not so happy about is the fact that this board only has six SATA ports, that’s two less than what we’ve gotten used to on most modern motherboards. Two of the ports are of course SATA 6Gbps and there’s also a pair of eSATA/USB 2.0 combo ports around the back. Considering the amount of USB 3.0 ports, we feel like the eSATA ports could’ve been more useful as internal SATA ports. You also get four USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire ports, Gigabit Ethernet and 7.1-channel audio with optical and coaxial S/PDIF out.

Throw in pin headers for four more USB 2.0 ports – of which one pin header supports Gigabyte’s On/Off charge function – a pin header for a third FireWire port, a 20 phase PWM and three buttons that consists of a power button, a reset button and a clear CMOS button and you’ve pretty much summed up the PG67A-UD5. Not a bad board, but we feel the UD5 series have been demoted compared to the current model.  The current model might not have as many USB 3.0 ports, but it has a second Ethernet port and two additional SATA ports and that doesn’t even take the legacy ports into consideration for those that still crave them.

This moves us on to the P67A-UD7 and this is Gigabyte’s flagship LGA-1155 and the company has highlighted this by adding gold coloured highlights on the heatsinks instead of the blue highlights you’ll find on all of the other boards. In other words, it’s prettier in person than you’d think. The P67A-UD7 has no less than four PCI Express x16 slots and thanks to an NF200 chip you can either run this board in dual x16 or four x8 mode depending on how many graphics cards you have, although the board is limited to three cards in SLI. The board also has a single x1 PCI Express slot and two PCI slots courtesy of an ITE PCI Express to PCI bridge.

Gigabyte has taken USB 3.0 to the next level on this board by offering no less than 10 ports in total, six around the back and four via two pin headers. This time around you’ll find two of Renesas latest generation low power USB 3.0 host controllers as well as two VLI 800 USB 3.0 hubs. This means that two of the eight USB 3.0 ports will get full bandwidth from the host controllers, while the rest have to share the bandwidth. This seems like a more sensible solution than on the P67A-UD5, as bandwidth demanding devices can have access to additional bandwidth if plugged into the right ports.

This time around Gigabyte has added a Marvell controller for an additional two SATA 6Gbps ports, while you still get two eSATA/USB 2.0 combo ports around the back alongside a pair of USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire ports, a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports, a PS/2 port and 7.1-channel audio with optical and coaxial S/PDIF out. In addition to this the P67A-UD7 also sports a pin header for a FireWire port, two pin headers for an additional four USB 2.0 ports of which again two ports supports Gigabyte’s On/Off Charge feature. You get the same buttons on this board as the UD5, but Gigabyte has also added a small POST80 debug LED display and the PWM design has been boosted with an additional four phases for a total of 24.

Common Gigabyte features for the two boards include CrossFireX and SLI support, 2oz copper PCB, Dynamic Energy Saver support and dual BIOS. Overall we have to say that we quite like Gigabyte’s new colour scheme and heatsink design on its new LGA-1155 boards, although the choice of colour doesn’t scream Gigabyte in the same way as the blue PCB’s have done for such a long time. Now we’re just waiting for Intel to launch the new CPU’s so we get a chance to see what this platform offers over the current LGA-1156 platform.S|A

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