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The P55 Challenger

ECS P55H-AK: P55/NF200 Versus X58 In 3-Way SLI

Dual SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0 controllers, a slew of PCIe 2.0 pathways, and three-way SLI are features found only among a small group of elite motherboards, yet many readers thought they’d never see a product of that elite group from the company Elitegroup. ECS is announcing its third assault on the enthusiast market in a big way with its P55H-AK.

The previously-mentioned Nvidia NF200 bridge duplicates the data from the CPU's sixteen-lane PCIe 2.0 controller to 32 PCIe pathways, feeding three slots in x16-x8-x8 transfer modes. Duplicate data also explains why an SLI'ed set of three 1.5 GB cards has only 1.5 GB of total addressable memory.

The LGA 1156 platform’s PCIe limitations don’t end there, though. All eight of the P55's PCIe lanes are limited to v.1.1-generation transfers. Like a few of its competitors, ECS has multiplexed these using a second PCIe bridge to provide true PCIe 2.0 transfers to a few onboard devices.

The PLX PEX8608 connects two NECD720200F1 USB 3.0, two 88SE9128 SATA 6Gb/s, and two RTL8111E gigabit networking controllers to the P55 PCH. Though all of these controllers must share the chipset’s 20 Gb pathway with other onboard devices, ECS knows that even high-end programs rarely push the limits of multiple controllers simultaneously.

The rear panel exposes two of the P55H-AK’s four USB 3.0 ports. ECS takes the unusual step of adding striping and mirroring capabilities to the nearby eSATA 6Gb/s ports.

Additional USB 3.0 connectivity is provided via the new front-panel interface recently validated in our own labs.

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