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Asus P7P55D Deluxe

P55 On Boost: Five LGA 1156 Boards Between $200 And $250
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Previously representing Asus’ top parts, its Deluxe product line now falls second only behind its Premium offerings in features. The P7P55D Deluxe follows this trend with a 19-phase CPU voltage regulator, dual-gigabit network controllers, automatic lane switching from PCI Express (PCIe) x16 to dual x8 pathways for enhanced CrossFire and SLI performance, a third x16-style slot with x4 pathways for tertiary graphics cards or other high-bandwidth peripherals, and an I/O panel CLR_CMOS button to ease recovery from failed overclocks.

Asus also adds its TurboV remote, a hardware overclocking tool that works without the assistance of an operating system. This type of device could be especially useful to competitive overclockers, although connecting it through the I/O panel to the top side of the motherboard makes its cable somewhat vulnerable to accidental damage.

A button next to the power connector labeled “MemOK” can make problematic modules bootable by setting lower-than-SPD speeds and/or timings. This is a feature that’s most likely to be needed on “factory overclocked” memory that hasn’t been programmed properly to boot at default voltage. In such circumstances, forcing the memory to lower speeds or timings to make it bootable gives builders the chance to enter the BIOS and manually set the required voltage increase.

Three added SATA connections (for a total of nine) and an Ultra ATA interface use JMicron’s JMB363 controller located under the P55 Express chipset sink, with a JMB322 SATA port multiplier dividing one of the controller’s ports into two. Called Drive Xpert by Asus, the JMB322 port multiplier appears as a single drive to the JMB363 controller, adding hardware RAID 1 and Level 0 modes that are transparent to the operating system and require no additional drivers. Asus calls the JMB322’s Level 0 mode SuperSpeed and has named its RAID 1 mode EZ Backup, yet the term SuperSpeed sounds ironic since all drives supported by the JMB363 controller must share a single 250 MB/s PCIe link to the chipset (easily saturated by the best SSDs). However, the mirroring function really is easy, so its branding receives no such criticism.

The P7P55D Deluxe has a nearly perfect slot layout, with three spaces from the top to second PCIe slot allowing extra airflow to the top card in CrossFire, SLI, or other dual-card configurations. The third slot is only two spaces beneath the second, but this narrower spacing was required to allow a card with a double-slot cooler to fit into a standard seven-slot case.

Having the graphics card in the uppermost slot position normally crowds DIMM latches, but Asus solves the problem with slots that are latched on only one side. The top is the edge from which gravity tends to pull modules out, so the method should keep memory secure even in rough transit, so long as the system is carried upright. However, the lack of clips on one does prevent many clip-on memory cooling fans from fitting securely.

Asus uses the upper-range VIA VT2020 10-channel audio codec, a part that some listeners claim has a mellower tone than competing Realtek parts. Features include DTS Surround Sensation and BD audio-layer protection. The codec can also multi-stream different sources to front- and rear-panel jacks. Our only complaint is the location of its front-panel audio connector, which in the traditional bottom-rear corner, causes cabling nightmares in most modern ATX tower cases.

Other case-related issues include an IEEE-1394 connector near the bottom-rear corner and six forward-facing SATA ports from the P55 Express controller. Many modern cases are designed with added clearance for forward-facing SATA ports, but the hard drive cages of some are too close to the forward edge of the motherboard to allow cable insertion. Forward-facing ports are used by most high-end motherboards to allow cable ends to fit under long graphics cards, so builders must choose their cases carefully.

BIOS

The Ai Tweaker menu allows overclockers to adjust P7P55D Deluxe frequencies and ratios from an easy scroll-down menu. Asus adds amplitude, skew, and DRAM reference voltage to the list of standard settings. It refers to CPU Uncore as IMC (integrated memory controller) voltage, and includes a load-line calibration setting to minimize core voltage fluctuation under load.

The DRAM Timing Control submenu is detailed enough for most elaborate tuners, yet has automatic settings for individual timings to make less-elaborate adjustments easier.

Asus O.C. Profile allows up to eight custom BIOS configurations to be stored as user profiles, and also has a utility for exporting configuration files to a flash drive.

Accessories

Noticeably lacking from the P7P55D Deluxe were any eSATA ports on the I/O Panel, likely because Asus believes most users prefer the front-panel jacks available on many cases. The P7P55D does include an eSATA breakout plate for users who still want rear-access, although only a single port is supported.

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