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Gigabyte P55-UD3 Motherboard

Decent and affordable.

November 16, 2009



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We have already reviewed the top P55-UD6 board of Gigabyte's new series. Today we are going to take a look at one of the cheaper solutions. As usual, the company rolled out a large series of products, which look rather similar to each other. You can guess that a simpler motherboard with fewer features and a poorer bundle should probably have smaller digits in its title, the last character indicating minor differences. In our case, it's as simple as "P55-UD3." This board has an elder sister P55-UD3R that has a more complex CPU power circuitry, rear-panel eSATA ports, and an extra (4th!) PCI slot instead of PCIEx1. There is also a slightly better P55-UD3P that differs from P55-UD3R by a TPM module). On the other hand, there are models inferior to P55-UD3 -- P55-UD3L and P55-US3L. These feature narrow PCBs, four PCI slots, and an interesting assortment of rear-panel connectors (e.g. COM and LPT). The P55-UD3 is presently the lowest-end series among full-size Gigabyte motherboards based on the P55 chipset. There is only one microATX board that is cheaper and has fewer features.

Design



It's logical to expect simplified design with fewer peripheral controllers from a lower model in its series. However, the P55-UD3 series has an interesting surprise in store for us: the sign of a junior model here is an unexpectedly high number of PCI slots! And the P55-UD3 we are reviewing today "keeps up appearances" by offering only three such slots. The other models, including the more functional and expensive P55-UD3R and P55-UD3P, are equipped with four (!). We haven't seen that on such a mass scale since 2004, when Intel 915/925 with PCI Express were rolled out. The company had manufactured such motherboards (even with five PCI slots!), but they were extremely budget models with cheap chipsets. Socket 1156 did not leave many options, and Intel P55 is used for the entire range of models. This way or another, if you dreamed of installing many expansion cards with the outdated interface into a modern computer with a powerful processor, Gigabyte P55-UD3 motherboards are just what you need. (By the way, all motherboards from this series support COM and LPT ports, although top three models offer only headers on the board.)

However, we cannot say that owners of this model will lack modern expansion slots: 2 x PCIEx1 (one of them may be blocked by a cooling system of a graphics card) and 1 x PCIEx4 -- not bad. The second PCIEx16 slot in the P55-UD3 family is connected to the chipset, it's electrically compliant with PCIEx4 and provides throughput of this slot (PCI Express 1.1). No one will install the second top graphics card into this slot, of course. So Gigabyte saved on the SLI license (CrossFire, is supported, as it's an open standard). In other respects, we have no complains about its PCB design -- we can only disappoint hard-edged advocates of technical progress by mentioning onboard IDE and FDD connectors.



CPU power converter of budget motherboards are certainly less complex than those of top overclockers' solutions. This voltage regulator looks like 4+2 (4-phase power supply for a CPU and 2-phase power supply for Uncore) with three MOSFETs per channel. Memory voltage regulator also has two channels. On the whole, it's quite an adequate design, although it does not guarantee high voltage stability in case of heavy overclocking. Besides, this motherboard features all advantages of Ultra Durable 3: thicker power and ground layers of the PCB, polymeric capacitors made in Japan (Nichicon) with prolonged service life, RDS(ON) MOSFETs, and ferrite chokes. All P55-UD3 models have a similar VRM design in the key circuits. But senior models have the increased number of channels, and junior products use less progressive components (for example, standard MOSFETs). What concerns the P55-US3L, even the remaining polymeric capacitors are used only in the CPU power circuit, not across all the board.



We have no gripes with the on-board cooling system. The P55-UD3 boards do not belong to the top segment, so they can afford efficient cooling as opposed to effective, like in the P55-UD6. But the P55-UD3R and P55-UD3P actually do have a heat pipe, which pointlessly connects heatsinks on MOSFETs in the CPU power circuit. But at least it does not interfere with system assemblage. The P55-UD3 we are examining today has three separate aluminum heatsinks (the third one on the chipset) with an intricate profile. These heatsinks are fixed to the board with plastic latches instead of metal screws. But it's OK for a budget motherboard. The heatsinks barely get warm.



More hardware features include LED indicators that show CPU load and the number of active channels in the VRM in real time. Frankly speaking, a common user would prefer a simple indicator to solve startup problems, but this system requires additional money to implement. On the contrary, reduction of the number of active channels in the idle mode comes free of charge (together with the corresponding PWM controller from Intersil), so the choice of illumination was obvious (yep, even budget motherboards want to attract attention!)


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