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Asus P7P55D-E Premium

Extreme P55: Four LGA 1156 Motherboards Over $250
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Less visually exciting, but with a broader appeal than its R.O.G. product line, is Asus’ Premium series, and the P7P55D-E Premium is no exception. Asus packs it with over twice the number of power regulator phases and several more connectors compared to its gaming motherboard, adding new features such as SATA 6.0 Gb/s and the USB 3.0 controller previously reviewed here.

Only one of the P7P55D-E Premium’s network interfaces is limited to PCI bandwidth, since the primary controller is a PCIe part. The chipset’s remaining seven PCIe lanes go to the motherboard’s two x1 slots, a JMB368 Ultra ATA controller, and the PLX PCIe bridge. The bridge is required to convert four 2.5 GT/s lanes to two 5 Gb/s links used by the USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 Gb/s controllers.

As the first Premium series motherboard we’ve recently tested, the P7P55D-E Premium is also the first in recent months to include Asus’ Express Gate flash drive, as less expensive models now rely on a hard drive to store the included Splashtop OS. Boot times of as little as five seconds can quickly launch important applications such as a Web browser or Skype client.

The Express Gate flash drive consumes two USB ports, limiting the P7P55D-E Premium to two twin-port headers. Two rows of empty solder points remain where the third header is placed on the less-expensive P7P55D-E Deluxe.

With all eight of the P55’s PCIe lanes dedicated to devices and x1 slots, Asus had no room to add the x4 slot found on many competing products. The P7P55D-E Premium still includes two x16-length slots and a set of lane switches that allow these to share the processor’s 16 lanes in x8/x8 mode, which happens whenever the second slot is occupied.

Like most of Asus’ current products, a MemOK button next to the 24-pin power connector eases the use of improperly-programmed memory, slowing speed and/or timings to more easily allow the system to enter BIOS where such modules can be configured manually.

Our two major layout complaints focus on the P7P55D-E Premium’s bottom-rear corner, where both the front-panel audio and IEEE-1394 breakout connections are found. Most high-end cases now have these ports near the top front corner, making cable installation extremely difficult, if not impossible. Remaining cable headers are so conveniently placed that only these two problems stand out, although there is a surprising scarcity of fan connectors given the motherboard’s high-end market.

Asus mixes up the SATA connectors, placing two of the chipset’s six ports along the P7P55D-E Premium’s bottom edge. Two SATA 6.0 Gb/s connections above the other four forward-facing ports are intended for internal drive use, and the mixed placement allows easier access to the chipset’s ports for an included single-port eSATA breakout plate. No eSATA is available through the I/O panel.

Overclockers won’t need access to a notebook computer to tune the P7P55D-E Premium externally, as Asus includes its TurboV Remote with this model. The big differences are more convenience and fewer features. It's up to the enthusiast to decide which is the more rewarding path to tuning his or her machine.

BIOS

Asus' Ai Tweaker menu contains both manual and automatic overclock settings, including CPU Level Up to approximate a faster processor’s settings and OC Tuner to automatically increase and stability test BCLK and RAM settings.

Asus adds Clock Skew and reference voltage controls to its enthusiast-level motherboards, and Load-Line Calibration reduces Intel’s designed-in core voltage fluctuation to improve overclocking stability.

The P7P55D-E Premium has a full list of DRAM timing controls to assist even the most aggressive performance seekers. The board also supports flashing from non-bootable media via its EZ Flash 2 interface.

Up to eight custom BIOS configurations can be saved as user profiles or exported to a drive.

Accessories

A relatively basic installation kit includes four SATA 3.0 Gb/s and two SATA 6.0 Gb/s cables, an Ultra ATA cable, and an SLI bridge. Included but not shown is a breakout plate featuring two USB 2.0 ports and a single eSATA port.

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