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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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  • 2 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , December 15, 2009 6:19 AM
    Always the question in mind. Is it possible for the manufacturers to make a P55 with FULL SLI 16x 16x? I wouldn’t know. I do know tests have proven that the difference in a 8x, 8x isnt all that bad but If I were going to invest next year on a motherboard Id want the best possible one for the best possible "upgradability".

    Also for just $50 more one could get a reasonable X58 board and the core i7 920 would be a great buy. The only motherboard here that would be a "smart" buy with "long term" in mind would be the Gigabyte UD6 since it at least sports USB3.0 AND Sata 6.0. One would not need to purchase any expansion card for this feature as it will be used in the years to come. Also knowing that X58 will be used for 6core chips way ahead is comforting as these boards then will still be around and mainstream by the time those processors will even be relevant for avid/regular PC users.

    I just have a few questions you may be able to answer, do you guys also choose motherboards from other countries? I have seen Foxconn and Emaxx in some reviews but I also know that they may not be the best quality boards but it would be great to compare those boards as well. Its also good that you placed a reference Intel P55 so people would know the standard in which to compare with. Also how come we still dont have a P55 or X58 XFX board? Has XFX stopped making mb's and only started to focus on GPU's?


  • 1 Hide
    nerrawg , December 15, 2009 6:50 AM
    liquidsnake718"Is it possible for the manufacturers to make a P55 with FULL SLI 16x 16x? I wouldn’t know."

    In the article first page:" Can any LGA 1156 system truly be considered high-end? After all, there’s no practical way to supply two graphics cards with a full 16 lanes of bandwidth. However, only the most expensive graphics cards need more than eight PCIe 2.0 lanes, and not every high-end buyer wants a gaming system."

    The reason for this is the GPU - CPU bridge on core i5 systems, which in previously intel boards was part of the southbridge chipset, is now integrated onto the CPU. Therefore it isn't the boards that limit GPU lanes to a maximum of x16 lanes total, but it is the p55 core i5 & i7 CPUs that do this.

    Check this link for more on the CPU-motherboard layout:
    http://www.tweaktown.com/articles/2920/intel_s_p55_express_lynnfield_chipset_overview/index2.html
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , December 15, 2009 6:55 AM
    I not quite agree with Gigabytes UD6 being the best choice with "long term" in mind. If using USB3.0 or SATA3, your VGA will run at 8x PCIe 2.0 instead of 16x. That might not be a problem with mainstreamcards, but would you rather have your high end GTX295, R5870 or R5970 run at 8x or 16x? I know what I want when buying a topdog card.

    Also see this artice on VR-Zone which explains the pitfalls of Gigabytes USB3/SATA3 implementation: http://vr-zone.com/articles/gigabyte-p55a-boards-usb3-sata3-issues-analysis/8158.html
  • 3 Hide
    tacoslave , December 15, 2009 7:24 AM
    the 8x pci was the only thing that kept me from buying an i5 but instead i got a phenom II 955 and never looked back and i got a great deal with a bundle from newegg. gotta love em.
  • 2 Hide
    kumaiti , December 15, 2009 7:27 AM
    I would like to suggest a little more depth on the software features of each board. Performance tests are nice and everything but the differences are so small that often the features are the main deciding factor on getting a Mobo. It would be nice to know, for example, which boards support Dolby Digital Live.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , December 15, 2009 7:48 AM
    kumaitiI would like to suggest a little more depth on the software features of each board. Performance tests are nice and everything but the differences are so small that often the features are the main deciding factor on getting a Mobo. It would be nice to know, for example, which boards support Dolby Digital Live.


    Good point, perhaps the features comparison chart could be expanded a little.
  • 1 Hide
    apache_lives , December 15, 2009 9:55 AM
    1156 platform is mid-range, if you want the full 16x + 16x you go for 1366 its that simple, and nativly there are not enough lanes for dual 16x slots btw and nvidia chips can open them up to almost 16 16 but no real benifit anyhow

    who would buy a Phenom II rig to get 16 16? not comparing AMD but you would see better performance from a high model i5 with 8 8 lol good one
  • 1 Hide
    donkeykong2009 , December 15, 2009 10:34 AM
    It will be great to see the performance impact on the Games for the Gigabyte board when USB 3.0 and SATA 3 is enabled.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , December 15, 2009 10:43 AM
    donkeykong2009It will be great to see the performance impact on the Games for the Gigabyte board when USB 3.0 and SATA 3 is enabled.


    You can't enable USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 Gb/s at the same time.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , December 15, 2009 10:44 AM
    I'm not talking about full speed CrossFireX or SLI at two times 16x PCIe speed. I'm talking about single VGA solutions. I want my HD5970 to run at fullspeed 16x PCIe express and that's not happening if I connect a USB3 or SATA3 device. Even in single VGA setups, the speed will be cut in half on my PCIe 16x slot to 8x.

    I'd rather have the ASUS or MSI (GD85) solution who use an additional PLX chip. The question was about being future proof and the Gigabyte solution is not as future proof as it seems.

    Unfortunately Intel seems to be steering away from the X58 platform. There are more and more P55 motherboards coming out which have high end features. The top end Lynnfield CPUs have no problem outrunning the lower end Bloomfield CPUs. So saying a 1156 is midrange... that's giving it less credit than it deserves.

    Btw, there are P55 mainboards from ASUS, MSI and EVGA with an NF200 chipset which do offer fullspeed dual CrossFire/SLI at 16/16. And those definitely don't have midrange prices. :o 
  • 0 Hide
    apache_lives , December 15, 2009 11:01 AM
    6 core i7 chips for 1366 shortly - i dont think they are steering away from 1366, its there high end platform

    msi products? lol yeah no thankyou

    look at the benchmarks and tell me wether that nvidia chip is worth it, or 99% marketing BS, and paying that premium is stupid when you can get that 1366 platform for a little more with full options for 16 16 if required AND USB3 and SATA3 cards if required or onboard depending on model
  • 1 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , December 15, 2009 11:02 AM
    Thanks for including a few productivity benchmarks.
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , December 15, 2009 11:23 AM
    Nick BergsmaBtw, there are P55 mainboards from ASUS, MSI and EVGA with an NF200 chipset which do offer fullspeed dual CrossFire/SLI at 16/16. And those definitely don't have midrange prices.


    Nor do they have full speed dual x16/x16 PCIe 2.0 bandwidth. NF200 isn't magic, it's simply a PCIe hub with x16 on one side and 2x x16 on the other. Tom's will likely have an article later showing how well this works compared to x8/x8 (p55 native) and true x16/x16 (x58 native) solutions.
  • 2 Hide
    silentbobdc , December 15, 2009 12:13 PM
    what I'd like to know is who makes the physical CPU socket on each of those boards (maybe it was mentioned but I didn't see it). I'm personally staying clear of foxconn socket based boards until the pin/pad burning problems are fixed. What's the sense in getting a board to OC with if a faulty socket fries everything in short order?
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , December 15, 2009 12:18 PM
    I'm in the market for a P55 board myself, and I like many others have waited a bit to get USB3 and SATA3. So I just want to point out that ASUS have updated their whole P7P55D line into the P7P55D-E line, which incorporates USB3 and SATA3 into all the boards. And as far as I can tell, their solution is far superior to Gigabyte's, as it does not cripple the graphics card. I myself will get the P7P55D-E Pro.
  • 1 Hide
    theLaminator , December 15, 2009 1:35 PM
    I just can't see purchasing a P55 board with USB 3 and SATA 6.0 Gb/s. You're going to lose functionality somewhere because of the lack of PCIe lanes. If you want USB 3 and SATA 6 Gb/s get X58 or AM3; both platforms have the lanes to support it, and your graphics solution without compromise.
  • 6 Hide
    jcwbnimble , December 15, 2009 2:23 PM
    When P55 was being introduced, everyone was talking about how cheap the MB's were going to be since the southbridge was being done away with. What happened to $100 P55 MB's?

    You can get a very good X58 MB for $250, and the I7-920 can be had for $200-$250. So why would anyone spend the same amount of money on an inferior product (P55)?

    Intel seems to have stepped over their own feet with this new chipset/CPU configuration. The only people benefitting from the 1156 is Intel and MB manufacturers. The new CPU's and MB's cost them less, but they are charging almost the same price as the superior I7-920 and X58.
  • 3 Hide
    theLaminator , December 15, 2009 2:53 PM
    +1 jcwbnimble
  • -1 Hide
    flyinfinni , December 15, 2009 2:53 PM
    apache_liveswho would buy a Phenom II rig to get 16 16? not comparing AMD but you would see better performance from a high model i5 with 8 8 lol good one

    You are forgetting that the AMD Phenom II 965 provides nearly identical gaming performance to the i5 for a few $$ less, and you can get an x16/x16 graphics solution, or even an x8/x8/x8/x8 quad type setup. Really, that is going to give you a better performance machine for similar cost as an i5/p55 setup. Don't just write off the AMD lines. BTW- I am running and i5 on the MSI P55-GD80 and I love it.

    Also- for what its worth, the article mentions that MSI's OC genie exists, but doesn't say anything more about it, and compares it to the Asus remote thing? totally different things- OC genie is an automated overclock- not just onboard buttons to change OC settings.
  • 1 Hide
    flyinfinni , December 15, 2009 3:04 PM
    jcwbnimbleWhen P55 was being introduced, everyone was talking about how cheap the MB's were going to be since the southbridge was being done away with. What happened to $100 P55 MB's?You can get a very good X58 MB for $250, and the I7-920 can be had for $200-$250. So why would anyone spend the same amount of money on an inferior product (P55)?Intel seems to have stepped over their own feet with this new chipset/CPU configuration. The only people benefitting from the 1156 is Intel and MB manufacturers. The new CPU's and MB's cost them less, but they are charging almost the same price as the superior I7-920 and X58.


    The $100 P55 boards still exist and there are some really good ones. Some people want the newer stuff, but still want more options and features. Remember- this is the "Enthusiast" version of the p55 lineup.
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