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Enthusiast P55: Eight LGA 1156 Boards Between $150 And $200

Does Biostar Win?

If CPU overclocking were the sole qualification for today’s comparison, the TPower I55 could be our top pick. But narrowing our focus to that extent would render useless those ugly performance and power tests. Moreover, the point of so large a comparison is to find the best overall motherboard and hopefully, the best value within a narrow price range.

We can start with the least expensive of today’s roundup, the Jetway HI05. Packed with features, a few unfortunate circumstances prevent this model from taking the checkered flag. First, its $150 price is only an estimate, since the HI05 isn’t available yet in the United States. Second, the inability to compensate for core voltage fluctuation put it near the bottom of our list in overclocking. Buyers who aren’t concerned about class-leading overclocking might find this to be their best value, but only if they can find it.

The next cheapest board, Foxconn’s Inferno Katana GTI is almost completely devoid of high-end features. Designed to appear as a stripped-down overclocking model, it didn’t even fill that role well and unfortunately breaks from the company’s recent history of high-value performance boards.

The true value gem of today could be ASRock’s P55 Deluxe. Packed with more features than any other board in today’s comparison, our only reservation in recommending this $160 part is that its voltage regulator isn’t powerful enough to cope with the moderate settings we normally use to overclock. However, buyers who expect less in the way of overclocking will find huge value in this particular model and that’s almost enough to earn the board an award.

The greatest problem in recommending a board with even the slightest shortcoming in power output is that this price range represents the lower rungs of enthusiast-level parts. We’ve already seen perfect stability in the top-two boards of our mainstream P55 comparison and expected these higher-priced models to increase features without sacrificing other capabilities. After all, it’s not like our stability tests were particularly strenuous, as our settings were chosen to fall within the capabilities of air-cooled overclocking and represent a target for the average system tuner.

The four boards that remained 100% stable are Gigabyte’s $170 P55-UD4P, Biostar’s $185 TPower I55, Asus’ $195 P7P55D EVO, and EVGA’s $200 P55-SLI. Of these, Gigabyte’s P55-UD4P has the second-highest CPU overclock, highest base clock, highest memory clock for high-end four-module configurations, lowest power consumption, and lowest VRM temperature. Gigabyte’s P55-UD4P also has the lowest price of the four top-quality boards and is thus the best value in its class.

Yet the one thing missing from the Gigabyte P55-UD4P is any PCIe x4 slot, an interface that enthusiasts might use for an x8 RAID card or “spare” x16 graphics card dedicated to additional displays or PhysX processing. For that we look to Asus and EVGA, since Biostar’s x4 slot has a closed end that prevents longer cards from being installed. Of the two motherboards that support a third x16-length card at x4 bandwidth, Asus provides 1.2% better performance, 0.2% higher CPU overclocking, 1% higher BCLK capability, and 5.3% higher average efficiency. None of those miniscule leads are capable of giving the P7P55D EVO a clear advantage over EVGA’s P55 SLI, but combining them with a 2.5% lower price gives Asus the edge it needs to take honorable mention behind value-leader Gigabyte.

  • enzo matrix
    interesting
    Reply
  • skora
    There's two market segments. Once you get the features you need, there's overclockers, and stock users. I've never seen a mobo recommended based on its application performance and all thats looked at is how well it OCs. Hopefully, people read the article and don't just go buying biostar expecting the regular quality of gigabyte or asus though the asus is a little overpriced here for my taste. That $25 can go towards a better GPU, but I'm a gamer.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    enzo matrixinteresting
    Gigabyte had some additional interesting news about the new P55A-UD4P, where the addition of the letter "A" supposedly means "Advanced" and refers to the addition of SATA 6.0 Gb/s and USB 3.0 controllers. Unfortunately, it wasn't ready when the comparison was written. The "A" also cost slightly more.
    Reply
  • ibnsina
    For $15 more is best to go for the newly released Giga-byte GA-P55A-UD4P, the extra’s you get are:-

    2 x USB 3.0
    2 x SATA 6Gb/s.

    $184.99 on newegg.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    ibnsinaFor $15 more is best to go for the newly released Giga-byte GA-P55A-UD4P, the extra’s you get are:-2 x USB 3.0 2 x SATA 6Gb/s.$184.99 on newegg.
    $15 for all that sounds great, unless those features are useless to you. SATA 6.0 Gb/s will remain completely useless until long after the board is outdated, and USB 3.0 is nothing more than an eSATA substitute at the moment.
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    Why do we bitch about IDE and FDD connectors? If your using windows xp and IDE hdd/dvd drives your should be ashamed, and even then you can get USB floppys etc, and if you are using those fittings you are not getting the true performance out of your modern system, and IDE also makes boot times longer thanks to detection and legacy delays - cudos to those who ditch those ports in an effort to modernise modern systems, and to those who keep them - its like adding ISA ports to the board - times up.
    Reply
  • cahl
    The new P55A-UD4P has better power phasing, 12+2 vs 8+2 on the old gigabyte UD4P, and probably more stuff aswell, like the LOTES socket, well worth the extra $15 to me.
    Reply
  • bigballinggpr
    You don't bring up MSI's board at all in the conclusion. . . i'm a little curious as to what your final thoughts are on it.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    apache_livesWhy do we bitch about IDE and FDD connectors? If your using windows xp and IDE hdd/dvd drives your should be ashamed, and even then you can get USB floppys etc, and if you are using those fittings you are not getting the true performance out of your modern system, and IDE also makes boot times longer thanks to detection and legacy delays - cudos to those who ditch those ports in an effort to modernise modern systems, and to those who keep them - its like adding ISA ports to the board - times up.
    You mean complain? Like you're complaining right now? It's all a matter of logic: There are probably more Windows XP users carrying over their old OS into a new build than there are Ultra ATA users carrying over their ancient hard drives. Therefor, the floppy interface, as outdated as it is, is more useful than the Ultra ATA interface.

    The problem as described is that you PAY for an Ultra ATA controller. Why bother? Even if you're an XP devotee you probably don't WANT to pay for an Ultra ATA connector.

    But for most motherboards, the floppy interface is free. It doesn't slow down boot times or performance either, if you don't need it you can ignore it.

    Well, maybe you can't ignore it, but a logic dictates over emotion in reviews.

    THG has no reason to love or hate the floppy connector, no stake in the legacy OS game, but anyone reader who wants to play the hater deserves to be called out for it. As for the manufacturers, honest reporting is Tom's Hardware's goal. Personally, I like the fact that some manufacturers provide legacy features and others don't, both types of products work well.
    Reply
  • doomtomb
    with only a single PS/2 port left behind to support the older mice occasionally preferred by seasoned gamers

    This is from the page on the EVGA P55 but you can clearly see it is a purple PS/2 port which is for keyboards... lol
    Reply