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Intel DP55KG

P55 On Boost: Five LGA 1156 Boards Between $200 And $250
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Normally thought of by enthusiasts as an processor and chipset vendor, Intel also has its own brand of motherboards. These were traditionally produced to Intel’s higher-quality standards by third-party manufacturers to satisfy the needs of whitebox and large scale OEM builders, providing added stability in applications as constant-duty office PCs and workstations. Yet for several years Intel has also embraced the enthusiast market, while its DP55KG could be the best-suited product yet. Unlike the DX58SO that preceded it, the DP55KG has no weird graphics-slot order or peculiar number of DIMM slots.

The DP55KG is the only board in today’s roundup to exclude any PS/2 ports on the I/O panel. We don’t see any advantage to that exclusion since Intel didn’t make use of the remaining I/O panel space, but there are builders out there who truly hate legacy connectors. Other Intel I/O panel exclusives include an external digital audio input connector and a "Back to BIOS" button that forces the board to boot at default values without deleting custom presets, which makes a recovery from a failed overclocking attempt easier.

Also missing from the I/O panel compared to typical motherboards of the $200+ enthusiast class is any secondary wired-network connection, but Intel thinks it has gone one better by instead supplying the DP55KG with integrated Bluetooth personal area networking (PAN). With the ability to wirelessly transfer data to and from mobile devices and Bluetooth-enabled printers, Intel’s decision might be a good bet.

It’s no coincidence that the DP55KG looks exactly like an extended version of the company’s DP55SB microATX motherboard, as the smaller board was designed to provide similar capabilities for portable gaming machines. The big board adds an open-ended PCIe x4 slot with a separate card latch where it would normally be found on an x16 slot, an extra PCI slot, an extra fan connector, and two more SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports via Marvell’s PCIe-based 88SE6121 controller.

We wouldn’t want to exclude any mention of the skull logo, which can be set to a broad number of lighted modes, but the most interesting feature of the DP55KG (as well as its smaller sibling) is its CrossFire and SLI capability. The uppermost PCIe x16 slot is located in the top-slot position for extra cooling space between it and the x8 slot beneath, a part that’s also open-ended to support x16 cards and has a card latch where it would normally be found on the longer interface. The combination is functionally identical to the Asus P7P55D Deluxe we praised earlier, with four double-pathway electronic switches automatically configuring x16/x1 or x8/x8 modes depending on what type of card is installed in the x8 slot.

Intel relies on a six-phase digital CPU voltage regulator rather than the elaborate 19-phase Asus analog part and its memory slots are latched on both sides rather than one. Installing and removing memory with a graphics card already in place is more difficult, but the latches give clamp-on memory-cooling fans a gripping point.

Intel added a new location for its front-panel audio connector at the bottom of the DP55KG, but thankfully left this connector in the original DP55SB position. We say thankfully because the front-panel audio jacks of modern cases are typically located near the top-front corner, and connecting closer to the board’s center point eases cable installation.

One extremely unique feature of the DP55KG (and its microATX clone) is the upward-facing USB 2.0 connector on the board’s top side, which is in front of the I/O panel’s “Back to BIOS” button. We’re not certain what Intel’s intentions are, although it does make the microATX version a perfect match for the USB remotes of some cases. We also think it might be a good place to install a USB thumb drive repurposed for Windows ReadyBoost.

BIOS

Although it looks like traditional BIOS, Intel’s DP55KG uses an extensible firmware interface as described in an upcoming UEFI article. This is, in fact, the same motherboard model used in that article, with the same artificial 2TB boot partition limitation in Intel’s RAID manager that would normally apply to non-EFI systems. Because this is an artificial limitation of the RAID system, disabling chipset RAID enables boot partitions larger than 2TB as seen on that upcoming story's solution page.

The main Performance menu is used to change the CPU base-clock settings, with several submenus for advanced configuration.

The Processor Overrides submenu includes CPU-voltage and voltage-droop compensation settings. While we were unfamiliar with the screen, we had no trouble achieving the required settings for our overclocking stability tests.

The Memory Configuration submenu retains automatically detected timings as the base value when switching from automatic- to manual-configuration modes.

A Bus Overrides submenu allows altering P55 PCH voltage and PCIe frequency.

Accessories

As a legacy-free product, the DP55KG’s accessory kit isn’t littered with support for outdated devices, although we would have liked to see at least six SATA cables included with a board that supports eight internal drives. Intel saves some trees by including the full installation manual only in digital form, but does add the necessary Bluetooth antenna and SLI bridge.

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