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ECS P55H-AK: P55/NF200 Versus X58 In 3-Way SLI

The P55 Challenger

Dual SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0 controllers, a slew of PCIe 2.0 pathways, and three-way SLI are features found only among a small group of elite motherboards, yet many readers thought they’d never see a product of that elite group from the company Elitegroup. ECS is announcing its third assault on the enthusiast market in a big way with its P55H-AK.

The previously-mentioned Nvidia NF200 bridge duplicates the data from the CPU's sixteen-lane PCIe 2.0 controller to 32 PCIe pathways, feeding three slots in x16-x8-x8 transfer modes. Duplicate data also explains why an SLI'ed set of three 1.5 GB cards has only 1.5 GB of total addressable memory.

The LGA 1156 platform’s PCIe limitations don’t end there, though. All eight of the P55's PCIe lanes are limited to v.1.1-generation transfers. Like a few of its competitors, ECS has multiplexed these using a second PCIe bridge to provide true PCIe 2.0 transfers to a few onboard devices.

The PLX PEX8608 connects two NECD720200F1 USB 3.0, two 88SE9128 SATA 6Gb/s, and two RTL8111E gigabit networking controllers to the P55 PCH. Though all of these controllers must share the chipset’s 20 Gb pathway with other onboard devices, ECS knows that even high-end programs rarely push the limits of multiple controllers simultaneously.

The rear panel exposes two of the P55H-AK’s four USB 3.0 ports. ECS takes the unusual step of adding striping and mirroring capabilities to the nearby eSATA 6Gb/s ports.

Additional USB 3.0 connectivity is provided via the new front-panel interface recently validated in our own labs.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • TheRockMonsi
    Well, if I'm shocked at anything, it's that the P55 platform actually outdid the x58 on some benchmarks. From a pure video card usage's perspective, you really won't be missing out on anything going for the P55 over the x58.

    And while this makes the P55 look good, what really sucks - if you're looking into the longevity of the P55 motherboards anyway - is that the new "Sandy Bridge" CPU's coming out in 2011 will feature a 1155 socket instead of an 1156, which means upgrading to a new motherboard.
    Reply
  • rmmil978
    Very interesting reading, a bit shocked at the outcome. P55 can really be a viable alternative to X58 after all, even for the enthusiast crowd.
    Reply
  • adbat
    Yes the 1156 platform is going bye bye it's realy sad.
    But i think that it shows that moving PCIa to CPU die is not a good idea as P55 with additional chip wins in the end - even the power usage test.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    adbatYes the 1156 platform is going bye bye it's realy sad.But i think that it shows that moving PCIa to CPU die is not a good idea as P55 with additional chip wins in the end - even the power usage test.Remember that in this case, the additional chip is acting as a signal repeater. That is to say, you really don't need more than sixteen lanes from the CPU, for optimal SLI performance you only need those same 16 lanes to feed all graphics cards simultaneously.
    Reply
  • tacoslave
    TheRockMonsiWell, if I'm shocked at anything, it's that the P55 platform actually outdid the x58 on some benchmarks. From a pure video card usage's perspective, you really won't be missing out on anything going for the P55 over the x58.And while this makes the P55 look good, what really sucks - if you're looking into the longevity of the P55 motherboards anyway - is that the new "Sandy Bridge" CPU's coming out in 2011 will feature a 1155 socket instead of an 1156, which means upgrading to a new motherboard.yeah i hate how they took of one pin just to f@#$ with us.
    Reply
  • compton
    What an awesome board ECS has put together. I'd like to see a full review of this board - I'm intrigued with the effort ECS has put it to make what seems like a excellent piece of gear. Perhaps this will result in the trickle down effect if ECS is successful, that is, maybe starting at the high end will result in better mid- and low- range boards.
    Reply
  • Nvidia does not seem to be bothered by continuing production of 65nm NF200. Would like to know if there is any R&D into a die-shrink to 40nm or less.
    Reply
  • martel80
    tacoslaveyeah i hate how they took of one pin just to f@#$ with us.IIRC they didn't just take out one pin but they also redesigned how clocking of the CPU works. 1155 CPUs will have their own clock generator (as opposed to 1156's board-generated clock) and the board needs to support this. They could possibly hack-around this but why would they bother? Sheep will always buy the latest Intel stuff no matter what. :)
    Reply
  • BoxBabaX
    This is an excellent article, nice analysis that I enjoyed reading before bed :).
    Reply
  • dogman_1234
    Now let all the trolls come out about the LGA 1155 release!
    Seriously, as a respective consumer to Intel, i have began to dislike their practices. Why do I not want SB? Hmmm...good question, same reason I do not want P55..short live and full of disaster!
    Reply