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Extreme P55: Four LGA 1156 Motherboards Over $250

Conclusion

We noticed quite a bit of position-swapping in today’s performance charts, but a quick compilation of those scores should help us find the balance.

With a default overclock on the top three motherboards, the clock-for-clock performance difference between the first and last place finishers is actually less than 1%. That’s especially important for overclockers to remember, since even the most cautious among them will no longer rely on the alterations various manufacturers have made to default settings. Since all four premium P55 motherboards also offered similar overclocking capabilities, the best way of choosing a favorite is by examining features.

The P7P55D-E Premium targets traditional power users by supporting the latest USB 3.0 and SATA 6.0 Gb/s high-bandwidth interfaces, dual network controllers, and even any carried-over Ultra ATA devices. It’s the only recent board we’ve compared from Asus to include the company’s built-on Splashtop OS-loaded Express Gate dual-port USB 2.0 flash drive and it even supports two graphics cards for SLI or CrossFire configurations. The Swiss Army knife of motherboards, its biggest problem is that many of its potential buyers might instead be waiting for LGA 1366-based Gulftown processors. Not entirely a bad problem to have.

The Maximus III Formula targets high-end gamers, at least in name. But its most unique feature is a data link that allows overclockers to control its basic functions from another system. That is to say the Maximus III Formula is actually an overclocking competition board made to visually impress gamers, although the spacing of its two high-bandwidth slots is also suitable from a functionality standpoint.

MSI Trinergy attempts to satisfy an even higher-priced gaming market by adding a third high-bandwidth slot via Nvidia’s PCIe bridge, using a slot layout identical to the competing Maximus III Formula. But the Trinergy’s chief competitor isn’t designed to address 3-way SLI or triple CrossFire support, and we’re loath to suggest that positioning alone could make MSI’s high-bandwidth bottom slot as unappealing as the lower-bandwidth slot of the Maximus III Formula. Because the Trinergy has the extra bandwidth needed to make adding that third card worthwhile, it’s probably worth the added effort of finding a suitable card and case combination.

The only motherboard to feature “Hi-C” capacitors, the Trinergy also beats both Asus motherboards in network bandwidth by using two PCIe controllers rather than PCI versions. A combination of advanced features and legacy interfaces could make this the perfect product for the gamer who want the best of what’s old and new, but isn’t too concerned yet about emerging standards, such as USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 Gb/s.

Buyers who prefer to rid their system of “useless” legacy interfaces and add 3-way SLI or CrossFireX capability have one choice from today’s contenders, EVGA’s P55 Classified 200. Using the same nForce 200 bridge as MSI to enable three additional x16-length slots with up to x8 bandwidth, the P55 Classified 200 is also the only product in today’s lineup to properly support those three double-slot cards within the confines of a standard seven-slot case. EVGA adds a second eight-pin power connector and supersized digital voltage regulator to support CPU overclocking levels that would set many competing products on fire, adds extra gold to the LGA pins to slow the oxidization that’s sure to come with increased heat, and even provides an onboard volt meter and cable to ease voltage measurement of any component along the board’s surface. Intel’s LGA 1156 processors are its greatest limitation, and an oversized PCB its only challenge to builders.

Two leaders in the race for P55 supremacy have emerged today, the Asus P7P55D-E Premium for work and the EVGA P55 Classified 200 for play. MSI’s attempt to satisfy both markets is unfortunately diminished by the Trinergy’s difficultly-placed third graphics card slot, though determined builders can find eight to ten slot cases or use liquid-cooled cards to overcome this challenge.

  • kumaiti
    I will comment the same as in the previous motherboard roundup: please add more details the CODECs on each board. There is almost nothing about the Via VT2020 and many crucial features of the ALC889 are vendor-dependant. It would be really good to know if they support Dolby Digital Live, DTS connect, Dolby Headphone and so on.
    Reply
  • notty22
    Keep spreading the love for the best platform PERIOD.
    1156 FTW !!!!!
    Reply
  • dcay
    "Already several years old, we have yet to build a system that can overcome Crysis’ system demands at 2560x1600 and 8x anti-aliasing (AA). That makes this outdated game a solid benchmark application."
    Reply
  • dcay
    "Already several years old, we have yet to build a system that can overcome Crysis’ system demands at 2560x1600 and 8x anti-aliasing (AA). That makes this outdated game a solid benchmark application."
    Reply
  • johnbilicki
    So socket 1156 is supposed to be the most awesome thing in the world?

    - No six core CPU's, EVER.
    - Requires a glued on chip for more then 16 lanes.
    - Motherboards overpriced compared to socket AM3.

    When you buy a socket 1156 system that is all the performance you're going go get out of it. The top-end CPU's won't come down in price by much and Intel made it clear it's a mainstream platform. My socket AM3 has playable FPS, the motherboard is high end and under $200, and I'll be able to continue upgrading in the future. That is what matters to me. The Intel fan boy articles are getting so old.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    kumaitiI will comment the same as in the previous motherboard roundup: please add more details the CODECs on each board. There is almost nothing about the Via VT2020 and many crucial features of the ALC889 are vendor-dependant. It would be really good to know if they support Dolby Digital Live, DTS connect, Dolby Headphone and so on.
    They don't.
    johnbilickiThe Intel fan boy articles are getting so old.
    It might surprise you that new motherboard series articles follow new chipsets. So AMD fanboy, where's the new AMD chipset?
    Reply
  • kumaiti
    CrashmanThey don't.
    1. Do you mean on these boards or in general?
    2. If it is for these boards, did you install the drivers/software from each manufaturer or used the default Windows drivers?

    Thanks for the reply
    Reply
  • Crashman
    kumaiti1. Do you mean on these boards or in general?2. If it is for these boards, did you install the drivers/software from each manufaturer or used the default Windows drivers?Thanks for the reply
    None of the manufacturers list support for DDL or DTS Connect any longer. Those technologies were most likely licensed in the past and neglected due to lack of demand and cost, because typical buyers don't know what they are and won't pay extra for them.
    Reply
  • dman3k
    Sorry, I'm not an Intel fanboy, but AMD thoroughly sucks right now. Heck, even with their top of the line 5xxx series graphics, they still can't damn write a driver.

    It may well be Intel's monopolize actions that got AMD to this point when AMD had the top processors, but the truth is AMD products suck right now.

    There are P55 mobos under $160 that you can easily find, which will still beat AM3 systems quite handily. For example, get a DFI Lanparty P55-T36. johnbilickiMy socket AM3 has playable FPS, the motherboard is high end and under $200, and I'll be able to continue upgrading in the future. That is what matters to me. The Intel fan boy articles are getting so old.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    dman3kSorry, I'm not an Intel fanboy, but AMD thoroughly sucks right now...There are P55 mobos under $160 that you can easily find, which will still beat AM3 systems quite handily. For example, get a DFI Lanparty P55-T36.
    First of all, most reviewers are begging AMD to pull a rabbit out of the hat just to get the competition moving again. Second, AMD does give you more chipset for your money.
    Reply