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EVGA P55 SLI

Enthusiast P55: Eight LGA 1156 Boards Between $150 And $200
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Listed on the manufacturer’s Web site as the EVGA P55, part number 132-LF-E655-KR targets enthusiasts who prefer the clean look of a “legacy-free” motherboard, with only a single PS/2 port left behind to support the older mice occasionally preferred by seasoned gamers.

Other “enthusiast-friendly” features include a Port 80 diagnostics display, power, and reset buttons along the bottom edge, and CLR_CMOS buttons both internally and externally. Like most similarly-priced P55 products, the P55 SLI is also capable of splitting the processor’s 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes across two slots for proper SLI support, but x4 pathways on the third x16-length slot make it suitable only for added displays, RAID controllers, or low-performance graphics cards that have been repurposed for use as PhysX processors.

EVGA spreads its six slots across all seven positions with a design that offers as much practical expansion room as seven slots, since the “missing” slot below the first graphics card is normally blocked by any oversized GPU sink.

EVGA is one of very few companies that designed its LGA 1156 motherboard with simultaneous support for LGA 775 coolers. Many owners of liquid-cooled Core 2 systems will be grateful that they don’t have to replace their water blocks, though making an LGA 775 cooler support plate fit under the LGA 1156’s integrated brace will require some ingenuity.

Two more enthusiast-friendly features that top off EVGA’s $199 offering are a jumper to switch between primary and backup BIOS, and a row of contacts above the DIMM slots that make it easy to check voltage using a meter.

BIOS

A well-designed BIOS is a huge credit to EVGA’s resourcefulness, revealing nothing of the company’s short life as the manufacturer of the motherboards it sells.

The Frequency/Voltage menu spreads the most significant overclock settings across two pages. EVGA adds DIMM reference voltage and PWM controller frequency to the basic ratio, clock, and voltage controls.

DRAM settings require a little more than a single page in the Memory Configure submenu, and EVGA’s engineers are wise enough to include “automatic” values for individual settings that many users won’t change.

EVGA adds floppy drive emulation for thumb drives, a feature this tester hadn’t seen since the days of Socket 370 motherboards. A potential boon to XP users who want to add RAID or AHCI drivers during installation, this feature would have been good enough to exclude EVGA from all criticism concerning the board’s lack of floppy support. We tested the feature and found that Windows XP does search the emulated drive and load drivers following the proper user response to its F6 prompt.

Windows XP unfortunately “loses” the emulated floppy after reassigning its drive letter from "A:” to “D:” during its drive-detection phase, wiping out the usefulness of emulation. We’ll follow this article’s comments in search for a solution that doesn’t require buying additional hardware.

Accessories

EVGA gets a little cheap in its accessory kit, providing only two SATA cables for a motherboard that supports six internal drives. Because most builders will use internal USB and FireWire connections for front-panel devices, we’d have preferred more SATA cables rather than the FireWire/USB breakout plate.

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