iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






ASUS P7P55D-E Premium Motherboard

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With pleasure we can say that ASUS didn't yield to the temptation of using fancy coolers with a regular P55/H55/H57-based motherboard series. This decision is completely justified, considering the insignificant heat emission of the new chipsets (<5W). They could use another heatsink to cover peripheral controllers, but reason prevailed and those 1W chips remained as they were. Similarly, the CPU power converter has such a number of FETs that each doesn't emit much heat -- nothing a simple heatsink can't handle. But, obviously, the marking department had their say after all, so the engineers had to connect two heatsinks with a heatpipe. Like, to balance out the temperatures of elements under different load. Anyway, the cooling system has remained good-looking, not interfering with parts installation, efficient enough, and affordable at that.

There's also a right-angled slat mounted on the back side opposite the power converter heatsinks. Under it is a thick layer of thermal interface that reduces heat dissipation efficiency. But the slat itself is needed to fix the heatsinks on the front side. Note that all of the heatsinks are mounted by metallic screws -- another advantage of this motherboard.

Like any up-to-date motherboards, P7P55D-E Premium features a PWM controller that dynamically adjusts the number of active lanes depending on load. This feature is a part of the motherboard's power management and cooling system called ASUS EPU-6 Engine and managed by a corresponding utility. The latter lets you set a number of modes for reduced power consumption or overclocking. The modes can be selected quickly by means of the utility or TurboV Remote. Again, more details are provided in our review of P7P55D Deluxe.

Monitoring features found in BIOS are noticeably more advanced compared to regular motherboards, but only where system voltages are involved. Except for CPU core and three standard ATX voltages, it monitors that of the built-in memory controller and CPU PLL, as well as memory and chipset voltages. Three onboard LEDs indicate increased voltages of CPU core, memory controller and memory. Switches located by the LEDs let you expand voltage ranges.

Speaking of fans, the BIOS can also automatically adjust CPU and a couple of system fans, though only by means of Q-Fan profiles. Fine-tuning is provided by Fan Xpert.

The bundle is decent, though it yields to those of top-class models rolled out before the economic depression started. Essentially, it's similar to that of P7P55D Deluxe. It includes six SATA cables with latches (three have right-angled connectors), one IDE cable, a rear-panel bracket with two USB and one eSATA ports (eSATA connects to any SATA port). Also bundled is a standard faceplate, two headers for easier connection of front-panel ports, a SLI bridge, a user's guide, a software DVD, and of course the TurboV Remote.

Of six SATA cables two are proudly named "SATA 6Gb/s" and have grooves along their entire lengths. In all other aspects they are the same as ordinary SATA cables.

What they should've put in the box is USB 3.0 cables. This is a top-class motherboard after all. Besides, the support for the new interfaces is one of its few differences from similar models.


Now that they've added USB 3.0, we might not see Powered eSATA on ASUS motherboards ever again.

The motherboard is based on the Intel P55 chipset (P55 PCH) and has a tri-port PCIe 2.0 switch. That and the following controllers:

  • USB 3.0 based on NEC µPD720200 (PCIe x1, connected to PLX PEX 8613), supports 2 devices;
  • SATA 6Gb/s based on Marvell 88SE9123 (PCIe x1, connected to PLX PEX 8613), supports 2 devices;
  • Integrated audio based on 7.1+2-channel VIA VT2020 HDA codec with an optical (Toslink) and coaxial S/PDIF-Out on the rear panel and another S/PDIF-Out on the PCB;
  • Dual Gigabit LAN based on Realtek RTL8112L (PCIe x1) and Realtek RTL8110SC (PCI);
  • IDE based on JMicron JMB368 (PCIe x1) supporting two PATA devices, including CD/DVD drives;
  • FireWire based on VIA VT6308P (PCI) supporting two ports, one on the rear panel.

As we have already mentioned, all new ASUS motherboards come with VIA audio codecs. Except for the typical features, the top-class VT2020 supports HDCP and DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC. The former means that Blu-ray can be output via S/PDIF-Out with no loss in quality. Unfortunately, you'll only be able to use this feature, if you have a receiver supporting modes up to 24-bit/192kHz on S/PDIF-In. While typical receivers and graphics cards only support the standard 16-bit/48kHz on S/PDIF-In. Unless you have a graphics card with its own audio codec onboard.

DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC simply emulates surround sound on stereo speakers and has a couple of sound-enhancers like deeper bass and clear voice recordings. Note that all of that is only supported by drivers for Vista and Windows 7. If you have Windows XP, you'll get a utility with a somewhat clumsy interface, the minimum of features and a not-so-informative main window. Besides, according to a tradition of ASUS, of the two most popular sampling frequencies S/PDIF only supports 48kHz (44.1kHz is not supported).

We tested the integrated audio solution in the 16-bit/44kHz and 16-bit/48kHz modes using RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.0 and a Terratec DMX 6fire sound card. Overall grade: Very Good (both modes).

Test 16-bit/44kHz 16-bit/48kHz
Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB: +0.02, -0.19 +0.01, -0.10
Noise level, dB(A) -93.1 -94.3
Dynamic range, dB(A) 92.8 94.2
THD, % 0.0083 0.0074
THD + noise, dB(A) -78.0 -79.3
IMD + noise, % 0.012 0.0091
Channel crosstalk, dB -93.5 -93.3
IMD at 10 kHz, % 0.011 0.0088
Overall grade Very Good Very Good

The new peripheral controllers work excellently in the compatibility mode, allowing to boot from flash drives with no additional drivers required. Note that you'll have to switch the SATA 6Gb/s controller to the IDE mode, not AHCI, to do that. Also note that the PATA controller, JMicron JMB368, is configured without UDMA support by default. Or at least it turned off automatically in our every testbed. So, if you try to boot from an IDE drive, much time will be wasted on reading files. And you definitely shouldn't install an OS that way. In all other respects JMicron JMB368 works fine.


We have already accepted the ASUS P7P55D series as one of the best choices for a Socket 1156 machine. The series includes both inexpensive and top-class models. The current update, ASUS P7P55D-E, will come in handy, if you need support for USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s, urgently or for the future. Just remember that if you choose a junior model, you'll sacrifice some graphics slot performance. The Premium models, on the other hand, uncover the potential of the existing USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s controllers without limiting other interfaces. The latter is definitely the best possible implementation today.

Speaking of the today's motherboard, it justifies its top-class nature, offering corresponding features, quality, as well as power and cooling systems. However, pursuing the new interfaces, ASUS ignored Powered eSATA that has been actively promoted by the industry. Moreover, this motherboard only has eSATA ports on a rear-panel bracket. But that may be its only drawback. Some of you may think that TurboV Remote is unnecessary. Well, you're the customer. We think this toy is fun, though it naturally comes at a price.

The motherboard has been provided by ASUS.

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