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

Foxconn Inferno Katana GTI

The first thing that struck us about the GTI version of Foxconn’s upper-mainstream Inferno Katana was the sheer number of features the company left out. For a savings of around $30, buyers lose eSATA, FireWire, the overclock-friendly “Force Reset” button, DTS Connect, Dolby Digital Live audio functions, and even the “Fuzzy Equalizer” voltage-regulator status indicator.

Then again, remaining features such as automatic-mode switching from x16/x1 to x8/x8 lane when adding a second graphics card, dual BIOS, and a two-digit diagnostics display seem almost a bargain for a low $154 price. Bench testers will also appreciate power and reset buttons at the bottom edge; end users who overclock will value the CLR_CMOS button on the back panel; hardcore overclockers will prize the convenient front-edge voltage reading points.

Some Windows XP users will be sad to lose the “freebie” floppy header that’s handy for adding AHCI or RAID drivers during OS installation, while many new system builders will be upset to pay for the rarely-used Ultra ATA header. Yet neither of these design decisions excite us.

Instead, we were troubled by a CPU socket that sits just a little too close to the memory slots to allow our CPU cooler to fit in “normal” orientation with four modules installed. Performing our four-module stability tests required removing the fan from our slim 120mm tower cooler and putting it on the other side of the sink, blowing back-to-front rather than the correct direction.

Another thing that surprised us was the x16-length slot spacing, with only two spaces between the top-two slots, but three between the second and third. Because the third x16-length slot suffers x4 lane width, high-end CrossFire and SLI users will pick the top-two slots, where the narrower spacing will reduce airflow to the top graphics card.

Yet, the layout of the Inferno Katana GTI screams “overclocking,” and any superiority there could allow us to put other concerns aside as we seek “bang-for-the-buck” performance gains.

BIOS

The “Quantum BIOS” menu unfortunately doesn’t reveal much of the Inferno Katana GTI’s overclocking potential, having only BCLK and PCIe clocks, plus CPU and DRAM ratios.

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The voltage-control sub-menu isn’t much more detailed, though it does add reference voltage settings to the bare essentials. We further found the VDroop control problematic in that enabling it allowed the voltage to drop by over 80mV and caused a similar voltage increase under full load. The settings above resulted in the voltage output climbing to 1.45V under full CPU load at CPU frequencies over 4.1 GHz.

Memory timings must all be set manually unless all are left to automatic configuration, since the Inferno Katana GTI does not offer automatic mode for individual timings.

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The Inferno Katana can store up to eight custom-BIOS configurations onboard.

Accessories

The Inferno Katana GTI installation kit is even more basic than the board itself, though Foxconn is at least kind enough to include an SLI bridge.

  • 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