Intel DP55WB "Whitesburg" Motherboard
The motherboard is based on the Intel P55 chipset (P55 PCH). Additional controllers include:
- 5.1+2-channel audio based on Realtek ALC888 HDA codec, frontal I/O, S/PDIF Out for HDMI-equipped graphics cards;
- Gigabit LAN based on Intel 82578DC PHY;
- FireWire based on Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A (PCI) supporting 2 ports, including one on the rear panel.
While the quantity of controllers is the same as that on the full-sized DP55WG, their quality differs. On the other hand, the LAN is the same -- not the best, but more than sufficient for a mainstream motherboard. Using FireWire controllers from Texas Instruments deserves three cheers as well. The matter is that mainstream solutions often feature VIA controllers which may sometimes cause issues with video cameras. So, having TI's on an affordable motherboard is an advantage plus.
Now let's take examine audio features. To do that, let's look at the rear panel.
It's much simpler comparing to DP55WG. I think we won't miss the button for loading BIOS with default settings. The remaining changes are related to the audio system. The motherboard doesn't have optical I/O and has only 3 analog connectors of the previous 6. So the only digital output is the internal S/PDIF Out transferring sound to an HDMI-equipped graphics card or similar device.
Analog features are generally sufficient for connecting a set of speakers to the rear panel and a headset to the frontal connectors. However, ALC888 is a lower-end codec, with 98 dB SNR vs. 106 dB SNR of the top-end ALC889 found in higher-end motherboard. Let's look at the results obtained with RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.0 suite and a Terratec DMX 6fire sound card.
|Frequency response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB
|Noise level, dB(A)
|Dynamic range, dB(A)
|THD + noise, dB(A)
|IMD + noise, %
|Channel crosstalk, dB
|IMD at 10 kHz, %
As we can see, the codec is good enough. The only thing to criticize is high intermodulation distortions, especially in the 44kHz mode. But this will hardly be noticeable with inexpensive speakers. We believe that the simplification of audio system has sense in this case. Many people -- most of those who have at least some demands to audio -- will use discrete sound cards anyway. So why overpay for a higher-quality codec they will probably not use. On the other hand, those content with integrated audio will, most likely, use inexpensive speakers connected via analog interfaces. They won't like paying more for additional quality they don't need as well. Left is a small group of people who need the most from integrated audio. Well, they might not need this motherboard at all, so it's all right.
The only question Whitesburg may start is, "Why is it based on P55 and not H55?" But that's not engineers' fault. Blame those who decided on the gradual rollout of the LGA1156 platform. As a result of which, P55 PCH was the only available chipset for the first six months. They had to use this formally top-end solution in all series, from top to bottom. Now that there's a choice, the number of similar motherboards based on H55/H57 will grow fast. Even H55 has plenty of features for products like DP55WB. You can't really consider 12 USB ports (instead of 14) and the lack of RAID support (in a PC with a single HDD) a limitation. In turn, H57 offers even more. Besides, using these chipsets has more sense now that we have dual-core Core i3 and i5 processors. P55 won't let you use their built-in graphics cores, forcing you to buy discrete graphics. On the other hand, if you plan on buying a discrete graphics card anyway, or if you need a quad-core LGA1156 CPU that has no integrated graphics -- well, you'll just have some extra connectors on the rear panel (for which you'll still have to pay). So, price will be the key. If DP55WB remains one of the cheapest in the market, its life cycle will be long. If similar motherboards based on H55 will be cheaper, for example, thanks to the cheaper PCH, then there will be no sense in buying DP55WB. Though, it might have already returned the expenses anyway -- in the months of being the only mainstream LGA1156 offering in the market.
This motherboard is obviously not perfect. What mainstream product is? Moreover, we can hardly say that it's the best in class. For example, the similarly priced Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2 looks more attractive in terms of both features (eSATA, PATA, PS/2) and their implementation (6-channel CPU power circuitry, top-end audio codec). But then again Whitesburg is a bit cheaper. Like it is, most likely, cheaper than other competitors, even those initially aimed at the mainstream market. Maybe just five bucks cheaper. But should you pay a fiver for something you'll never use? Now that is a rhetorical question.
The motherboard provided by the manufacturer.
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