Intel Sandy Bridge P67 3-Way Motherboard Preview

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Saturday, January 1st, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/P67_Gigabyte_MSI_ASUS/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

The release of Intel's latest Core architecture is getting ever closer, and our labs have started to overflow with the incoming motherboards based on the new P67 "Sandy Bridge" chipset. We know this is a very anticipated launch, so we are excited the manufacturers have given us the green light to showcase the new P67-based motherboards before they officially launch. In this preview we will be looking at three LGA 1155 based motherboards from three of the biggest names in the business -- Gigabyte, ASUS and MSI.

Closer Look: Gigabyte P67A-UD4

The Gigabyte P67A-UD4 comes packaged in black box with a very very clean look, highlighting the motherboard's support and key features. Since the Sandy Bridge processors are still under NDA, we can't discuss any of the processors details, so portions of the packaging have been blurred.

 

The back of the packaging continues along the same theme as the front, but here Gigabyte has listed the benefits of their exclusive technologies, such as the Ultra Durable II design, on/off charger, Easy6 and Auto Green technologies.

Inside the box, the motherboard is stored at the bottom with a cardboard layer separating it from the rest of the goods. The included accessories are packaged toward the top portion of the box and include an I/O shield, SATA cables, the manual, drivers disc, quick install guide and a Dolby Digital case badge.

The P67A-UD4 utilizes a new aesthetic style that we have not yet seen from Gigabyte. This new design eliminates much of the "colorful" look Gigabyte is known for, and instead uses a solid black color scheme with only the heatsinks adding a touch of blue. In my opinion the new style, though different for Gigabyte, is a big improvement over the previous design. One thing that has not changed is their excellent layout scheme, as all expansion slots and add-on areas appear to have ample room for installation.

The board uses a standard ATX form factor including all of Gigabyte's high-end technologies like the Ultra Durable III design. This means this board features twice the amount of copper in the PCB's ground and power layers, all Solid Japanese capacitors, lower RDS(on) MOSFETs, and ferrite core chokes. These all improve the motherboard's temperature level, power efficiency and overclocking potential. In addition, this model also includes Gigabyte's Dual-BIOS technology, Dynamic Energy Saver and On/Off USB charger.

The CPU area on the P67A-UD4 uses the new LGA 1155 interface supporting Intel's Sandy Bridge processors. The included voltage regulation area on the board is very robust, as Gigabyte utilizes a 12 phase power VRM design along with the all solid capacitors and a dual heatpipe cooling solution. This will all ensure the installed processor has ample current, increasing system performance and power stability.

Next to the CPU socket are four memory DIMMs that utilize a dual channel architecture, supporting up to 16GB of DDR3 memory. By default the motherboard will supply the memory with 1.5V of power. This isn't really an issue as voltage requirements for DRAM have been decreasing at a constant pace, and many kits now use a thermal envelope well under the old standard of 1.65V. The color scheme of the memory DIMMs might be an issue for some users though, as there is no indication of which slots run on the same channel.

The I/O panel on the Gigabyte P67A-UD4 has more options than 99% of us will ever need, but we prefer it this way. The options starting from the top include a PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, optical S/PDIF out connector, Coaxial S/PDIF out connector, dual eSATA 6Gb/s ports, six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a RJ-45 LAN port and six jack audio port. The USB 3.0 ports are connected via an on-board NEC controller, while the audio is handled by Realtek's 8-channel ALC892 codec.

The expansion slot options consist of 3 PCIe x1 slots, two PCIe x16 slots and and two PCI slots. The two PCIe x16 slots support both CrossFireX and SLI. The uppermost PCIe x16 slot runs at a full x16 bandwidth when a single card is installed, but this bandwidth will be reduced to x8/x8 when utilizing multiple graphics cards.

The Gigabyte P67A-UD6 has six SATA ports integrated on the board, with two using the SATA 6Gb/s interface and the additional two using the older 3Gb/s standard. The ports are connected directly through the P67 Express chipset and support RAID 0,1,5 and 10 configurations.

The on-board cooling solution on the P67A-UD4 features a robust dual heatpipe cooler on the MOSFET and a stand alone heatsink on the chipset. Both these coolers should be more than enough for the MOSFET and chipset to operate at their idle temperatures, and will certainly help increase the overclocking ceiling.

Toward the bottom of the motherboard Gigabyte has added a COMA (Serial Port) header, three USB 2.0 headers, a USB 3.0 header, clear CMOS jumper and the front panel connectors. The USB 3.0 port is connected via an second on-board NEC controller, and the red USB port utilizes Gigabyte On/Off charger technology. If you are not familiar with it, the technology essentially allows a device that has a connection to the port charge regardless if the system is on or off.

The packaging of the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe motherboard is very simplistic, as the front is not cluttered with details of the product's support. Even with the front panel being relatively clean, ASUS was able to squeeze in some icons advertising key features.

 

Thr front panel of the packaging can be opened like a book, allowing more information to be revealed. On this panel ASUS has listed the supported features of the P8P67 Deluxe, as well as more detailed descriptions of the features. With the side panel open there is also a clear view into the contents of the box, giving us a good look at the ASUS motherboard while it is still in the packaging.

The motherboard and accessories come packaged in separate areas of the box, with the motherboard at the top in its own protective packaging and the accessories at the bottom. The accessories that come with the P8P67 Deluxe consist of a user guide, support DVD, 4 SATA 6Gb/s cables, 2 SATA 3Gb/s cables, 1 SLI bridge connector, a rear I/O Q-Shield, and a 2-in1 Q-connector kit. This is more than a standard motherboard bundle already, but ASUS also includes a front panel USB 3.0 I/O. This panel can be used in an open drive bay in your case and is connected to the USB 3.0 header on the motherboard.

The ASUS P8P67 Deluxe is an ATX sized motherboard that uses high quality components such as solid Japanese capacitors, a robust 16+2 phase architecture, heatsinks on both the MOSFET and chipset, and a feature called "Dual Intelligent Processors 2 - DIGI+ VRM". The Dual Intelligent Processors 2 design consists of a Energy Processing Unit that automatically monitors the entire system's power consumption, and a TurboV Processing Unit that gives superior performance for any task. Both of these increase the motherboard's performance and power efficiency, which in turn improve the operating temperature and extends the board's operational lifetime.

Along with its exceptional quality, the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe also has a very attractive design that uses shades of blue and black throughout the PCB. The color scheme works very well together, and is in some ways similar to other ASUS boards that we have been seeing throughout the past year. This model also boasts a very nice layout, and even with a large heatsink, it should have no issues with add-on components.

The CPU socket on the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe uses the LGA 1155 interface that supports all second generation Intel Core i7 and i5 processors. This is of course the case will all the upcoming P67 based motherboards, but where this model differs is the use of a 16+2 phase design along with a large heatpipe on the MOSFET and Dual Intelligent Processors. This will ensure the CPU area has adequate power while remaining thermally cool.

There are four memory DIMMs on the P8P67 Deluxe that support DDR3 memory in a dual-channel configuration. This motherboard can support up to 16GB of memory rated at 2133(O.C),1866(OC), 1600, 1333, and 1066MHz. Some of the additional features found in the memory area are ASUS's MEMOK and TPU switches. The MEMOK switch, when enabled, will ensure the installed memory is configured for the best compatibility to boot the motherboard. The TPU switch is a simple means to enable or disable the on-board TPU feature.

For power sources, the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe includes a main 24-pin ATX power connector and a 8-pin 12V power connector. The main power connector is found to the right of the memory DIMMs and the additional connector is located at the upper left hand portion of the PCB.

The rear I/O options on the P8P67 Deluxe include a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, optical S/PDIF out port, Coaxial S/PDIF out port, eSATA port, power eSATA port, a Bluetooth module, IEEE 1394a port, eight USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, One Realtek LAN RJ-45 port, one Intel LAN RJ-45 port, a clear CMOS button and the audio I/O ports. This is a massive amount of expansion and should be more than even enthusiasts will need.

The included rear expansion ports consist of 2 PCI Express x16 slots, one PCI Express x16 slot (in x4 mode), two PCI Express x1 slots and two PCI slots. The first two PCI Express x16 slots support SLi and CrossFireX, and work at x16 in a single graphics card configuration or x8/x8 when two cards are installed.

There are a total of eight SATA ports on the motherboard with the top four utilizing the SATA 6Gb/s interface and the bottom four using the SATA 3Gb/s interface. The four SATA 6Gb/s connectors are divided into two groups (those connected via the chipset and those connected through an add-on controller) and color coded accordingly. The top navy blue ports are not connected directly to the P67 Express chipset and are instead utilized via an on-board Marvell PCIe 9128 SATA 6Gb/s controller. The two gray ports are the 6Gb/s options that are connected through the chipset and as such support RAID 0,1,5 and 10 configurations. The remaining ports all use the SATA 3Gb/s interface and support RAID 0 through 10.

Just above the SATA ports is an integrated USB 3.0 header that is in a convenient location to install the aforementioned USB 3.0 box, giving the user four additional USB 3.0 ports. This is quite impressive; motherboard manufacturers are utilizing the USB 3.0 interface faster than I had originally anticipated.

To cool the vitals, ASUS uses a large heatpipe solution on the MOSFET and a stand alone cooler on the P67 Express chipset. All of the included heatsinks use a very robust design, which should keep the motherboard at a lower thermal level. The heatsinks play a large part in the overall look of the motherboard, with their blue and black color scheme and use of wave-like fins to add to the aesthetics.

Along the bottom of the motherboard, ASUS has included plenty of expansion options and from left to right you have a SPDIF out header, front panel audio header, IE1394a header, EPU switch, power/reset buttons, two USB 2.0 headers, two 3-pin fan headers, a diagnostics LED and the front panel connection headers. For the most part these are self explanatory, with the exception of the TPU switch. What this switch does is enable or disable the TurboV technology.

The MSI P67A-GD65 motherboard comes packaged in a white box with icons indicating the motherboards support, as well as the Military Class II design. It also lists the motherboard's warranty period, USB 3.0/SATA 6Gb/s support, and the 1-second OC Genie II feature.

 

The back of the box goes into additional detail of the supported features and included technologies. The accessories that come with the MSI P67A-GD65 motherboard are a quick installation guide, software guide, manual, rear I/O shield, SLI bridge interconnect, driver disc, Molex to SATA adapter, four SATA 6Gb/s cables, a SATA 3Gb/s cable and a USB 3.0 rear bracket. The USB 3.0 bracket can be connected to the on-board USB 3.0 header on the motherboard and placed in any open expansion slot. Unfortunately, Gigabyte chose to pass on an included USB 3.0 bracket unlike ASUS and MSI.

The MSI P67A-GD65 uses a standard ATX form factor measuring 12 x 9.6 inches. This size gives the board ample room to support dual PCIe x16 lanes, eight SATA ports, a on-board heatpipe cooling solution and include a very robust VRM. All of this along with the use of MSI's "military grade" components such as Hi-C Caps, Icy chokes and solid capacitors should ensure this model has enhanced power efficiency and thermal design. This level of quality really shows that MSI is going all-out to enhance the board's efficiency, cooling and lifespan.

The design of the P67A-GD65 is not entirely new for MSI, as they have used the same color scheme for some time. Still, the overall look is very good and should appeal to a wide spectrum of DIY system builders.

The CPU installation area uses the new LGA 1155 socket type that will support Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge processors. Unique to this board is the Military Class II design which uses SFC (Super Ferrite Chokes) for dynamic switching, for 30% higher current capacity and a 10% improvement in power efficiency. This design also uses a Hi-C Cap that has a highly conductive Tantalum core. These capacitors utilize a low profile design that improves the thermal levels and will last up to 8x longer than a standard capacitor. Their small nature allows them to utilize less space in the CPU area. Another feature that will improve the motherboards overall power and cooling efficiency is the heatpipe cooler on the MOSFET.

The memory DIMMs on the motherboard support up to 16GB of DDR3 memory with a max rating of 2100MHz (OC). The memory runs in dual-channel and is color coded per channel to make installation easier for the average user.

The power connectors on the P67A-GD65 consist of a 24-pin power connector and a 8-pin 12V connector. Additionally, this model has a APS LED (Active Phase Switching LED) that indicates the current CPU power phase mode.

For I/O expansion, MSI has included a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, Clear CMOS button, Coaxial S/PDIF out connector, Optical S/PDIF out connector, IEEE 139 port, 8 USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA ports, a LAN RJ-45 port, two USB 3.0 ports, and 6 flexible audio ports. To add USB 3.0 support, MSI has included an add-on NEC controller that supports up to two signals and can transfer data 10x faster than the standard USB 2.0 connection.

The rear expansion ports on the P67A-GD65 include two PCI Express x16 slots, three PCI Express x1 slots and two PCI slots. This board supports SLI and CrossFireX in a x8/x8 configuration. Like the other boards, the amount of expansion on both the rear I/O panel and expansion slots is exceptional and should be more than enough, even for enthusiasts.

There are a total of eight on-board SATA ports, which gives the end-user a massive amount of storage expansion. There are four SATA 3Gb/s options that are connected via the P67 Express chipset and support RAID 0,1,5 and 10. For the SATA 6Gb/s options, two are supported through the P67 Express chipset and the other two are connected via an on-board Marvell 9128 controller.

Along the bottom of the board, MSI has included the on-board headers which consist of your standard front panel options with USB 2.0 and IEE1394a. The more non-conventional options include USB 3.0, power/reset buttons and the OC Genie overclocking button. The OC Genie button is an automatic overclocking tool which when pressed (when the system is power off), will find the system's optimal OC settings upon reboot. This can essentially increase the system performance by up to 36% with just a touch of a button.

Also, one of the USB ports along the bottom is red, which indicates it as the "Super Charger" header. Essentially, when this port is in use with a mobile device it can dynamically find the voltage requirements of the device and adjust to meet the voltage needs.

A feature that MSI has included exclusively for the enthusiast market is voltage regulation checkpoints for use with a multimeter. The included checkpoints can give the user real-time voltage readings of the CPU, memory and PCH levels via multimeter reading . This is a great feature for extreme overclockers who require real-time voltage readings while pushing their system to the max.

 

Summary:

All of the motherboards teased in this preview boast a high degree of build quality, features and support. There is going to be no shortage of enthusiast grade motherboards available when the Sandy Bridge processors finally hits the market! Unfortunately, we aren't able to release the performance numbers from these P67 based motherboards yet, but check back after the Sandy Bridge launch for our full reviews!

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