iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Intel DP55WB "Whitesburg" Motherboard

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As we may already know, three of four Intel motherboards based on the P55 chipset have the same PCB, even despite different form factors, and similar features. In particular, each of those models has full support for allocating lanes of the built-in PCIe 2.0 controller to two graphics slots, as well as full support for both CrossFire and SLI.

However, the junior motherboard in this series, DP55WB, (which nevertheless has own codename "Whitesburg") differs a lot. It cannot handle multiple graphics cards, or other cards with "wide" interface. On the other hand, is it really a serious drawback? Only a third of all PCs have discrete graphics at all, 90% of those having only one card. All right, what other expansion cards might one need? Obviously, a mainstream PC doesn't need more than one LAN adapter. Besides, six SATA ports supporting RAID (also present on any P55-based motherboard) are quite enough. Some users might want to install a TV tuner, some might need an external sound card. Anyway, we're talking three adapters maximum, graphics card included. But not only these features are available in full-ATX motherboards, they are offered by µATX solutions as well. Which makes them more and more popular, especially with regard to the LGA1156 platform -- the only core logic microchip doesn't need much space, so a miniature motherboard can have a pretty convenient layout. Besides, such models rarely have auxillary controllers, which fact has a positive effect on price. This is very important for both LGA1156 and other affordable solutions, because $20-$50 saved on a motherboard may easily buy you a better CPU. So, this is where DP55WB comes in as a fine example, having only the features you need and almost nothing else. As a result, it has a very attractive price and is one of the cheapest LGA1156 motherboards in general.


Some people still believe that µATX form factor is inferior, because of its crammed layout. Well, Intel strongly disagress. Today, all full-sized motherboards of this company look like smaller counterparts, with some extra textolite and a few additional slots and controllers. So, DP55WB is quite similar to the previously reviewed DP55WG, with one modification -- a PCI slot instead of a long PCIe one. Just cutting the extra part of the PCB off would leave the today's motherboard with two graphics slots and no PCI slots (that's actually DP55SB which we'll review a bit later). Two graphics slots would've been too many, while leaving no PCI slots would've been too daring -- for an inexpensive motherboard. Anyway, one long PCI slot should be enough for a modern PC. You can use it for an older sound card, for example. Besides, DP55WB also has two PCIe x1 slots, one of which may be blocked by a dual-slot graphics card, though. Given you'll use one with such an inexpensive motherboard. Oh, and there's also PCIe 2.0 x16 slot connected to controller built into CPU.

Compared with the full-size counterpart, simplifications haven't been excessive so far. The motherboard only lost one PCI slot and two PCIe slots (x8 and x4).

Anyway, DP55WB has enough features for most users. And the four slots it supports are located rather conveniently. It's a pity that some of the PCIe lanes remain unused. The second PCIe x1 slot could've been PCIe x4, similar to the one in ASRock P55M Pro, but such a configuration would've been more expensive and not as popular.

One thing Intel can be criticized for is further simplification of CPU power circuitry. Even the Extreme series motherboards have rather mediocre 4+2-channel power circuitry (4 channels for cores and 2 channels for the UnCore unit). Of that DP55WG has only 3+1 channels that are sufficient for the typical mode, but will hardly please an overclocker. In particular, no motherboards with 1 UnCore channel can manage 200 MHz on the bus when overclocking Core i7 CPUs. It's not enough for cache working at 3.6 GHz.

Many inexpensive LGA1156 motherboards have similar power circuitry, but DP55WB sets a kind of record with just 2+1 channels. However, this is surprisingly enough for the top-end Intel Core i7-870 CPU to complete our heavyweight performance test method in the normal mode. Guess who needs those fancy 10-12 power converter channels found in some high-end motherboards.

Unlike higher-end counterparts and many other motherboards on P55, DP55WB has a 4-pin +12V connector instead of an 8-pin. But then again not all of those 8 pins are needed even when they are present. Besides, unlike other models in the series, the today's solution has no connector for supplying power to the PCIe slot directly from PSU. Considering that modern power-consuming cards do not require much power from the PCIe slot, because they get 90% of that via own connectors, it's clear why this PCIe power connector looks kinda unnecessary. No one, even overclockers, never felt a difference between using and not using it. Like we've said before, DP55WB has all the fancy stuff removed to reduce the price.

A funny thing is that motherboard's BIOS still has all the related overclocking settings. That's Intel's attitude for you. They provide you with all the features (because it doesn't cost them a dime), but they only support them properly in the Extreme series. Besides, Intel has limited CPU's and other voltage adjustment ranges, which results in certain issues. For example, if you have a Core i7 CPU, you may want to select the memory multiplier of 12 to get the frequency of 1600 MHz. But earlier motherboard firmwares only allowed 1.6 V memory voltages, while almost all PC3-12800 kits are designed for 1.65 V. With all the ensuing consequences. On the other hand, we've already confirmed that there is little sense in using high-speed memory with the LGA1156 platform. Besides, one should hardly expect that from buyers of inexpensive motherboard anyway.

Later, Intel did expand memory voltage adjustment ranges, probably after getting lots of requests. But they did it in a special way. You could only select one of these values: 1.35 V, 1.5 V, 1.6 V, or 1.65 V. Flexible, huh? Speaking of CPU voltages, you could only add another 50 mV or 100 mV.

As you can see, there are overclocking features, formally. But all of those correspond to mediocre power circuitry and other aspects of a low-end product.

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