Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, January 3rd, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Roundups/Intel_Sandy_Bridge_P67/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
We've recently trickled out previews of the upcoming motherboards based on the Intel P67 and H67 Express chipsets. There we were able to showcase the motherboards and list some of the features, but we couldn’t take a deep dive into the actual performance of the boards along with the BIOS. This was because the Sandy Bridge NDA hadn’t yet lifted, but now that we have that out of the way and everyone has read up on Intel's second generation Core architecture, we can at last reveal all about the new 6-series chipset based motherboards. So, this time around we won't just be taking a look at the motherboards, we will actually install them in our system and run all the models through our benchmarking testbed at both stock and overclocked settings.
In this roundup we are going to be examining three high-end motherboards all using the P67 Express chipset. The new P67 is an consumer based chipset that includes enthusiast grade features such as support for CrossFireX/SLI, Intel Extreme Tuning, SATA 6Gb/s and native RAID support. Of course these are only the standard options for the chipset as each of the boards in this roundup also include additional features that greatly exceed the stock specifications. Some of the enhancements include up to four USB 3.0 ports, improved cooling, the use of all high-end components and built-in overclocking tools.
In this roundup we will look at the MSI P67A-GD65, ASUS P8P67 Deluxe and Gigabyte P67A-UD4. Each include their own take on the P67 Express chipset, but all utilize the new LGA-1155 socket that adds support for the Sandy Bridge processors. So, if you are looking for the best option for that new Sandy Bridge CPU, read on to see how these motherboards compare.
The Gigabyte P67A-UD4 comes packaged in black box with a very very clean look, highlighting the motherboard's support and key features. There is also a large 4 on the front of the box, indicating this board is part of the UD4 series.
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 and caps adding a touch of blue. In my opinion the new style, though different for Gigabyte's traditional look, 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.
|Internal I/O Connectors||
|Back Panel Connectors||
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.
The 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.
Intel® Socket 1155 for Intel® 2nd Generation Core™ i7 Processor/Core™ i5 Processor/Core™ i3 Processor/
Support Intel® 32nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
* The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 support depends on the CPU types.
* Refer to www.asus.com for Intel CPU support list
|Chipset||Intel® P67 Express Chipset|
4 x DIMM, Max. 32 GB, DDR3 2200(O.C.)*/2133(O.C.)/1866(O.C.)/1600/1333/1066 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* According to Intel® SPEC, the Max. 32GB memory capacity can be supported with DIMMs of 8GB (or above). ASUS will update QVL once the DIMMs are available on the market.
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs. Some hyper DIMMs only support one DIMM per channel. Please refer to Memory QVL for details.
* Due to CPU behavior, DDR3 2200/2000/1800 MHz memory module will run at DDR3 2133/1866/1600 MHz frequency as default.
* Please refer to www.asus.com or user manual for Memory QVL.
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (single at x16 or dual at x8/x8 mode)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 [Black] (at x4 mode, compatible with PCIe x1 and x4 devices)
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
2 x PCI
Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
Supports ATI® Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
Intel® P67 Express Chipset
2 xSATA 6.0 Gb/s ports (gray)
4 xSATA 3.0 Gb/s ports (blue)
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10
Marvell® PCIe 9128 SATA 6Gb/s controller with HyperDuo function*
2 xSATA 6.0 Gb/s ports (navy blue)
JMicron® JMB362 SATA controller*
2 xExternal SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports (1 x Power eSATA)
* These SATA ports are for data hard drives only. ATAPI devices are not supported.
Dual Gigabit LAN controllers- 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) appliance
Intel® 82579 Gigabit LAN- Dual interconnect between the Integrated LAN controller and Physical Layer (PHY)
Realtek® 8111E Gigabit LAN controller
Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR
ASUS BT GO! Utility
Realtek® ALC889 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Absolute Pitch 192khz/24bit True BD Lossless Sound
- BD Audio Layer Content Protection
- DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC
- Supports Jack-Detection, Multi-streaming and Front Panel Jack-Retasking
- Coaxial / Optical S/PDIF out ports at back I/O
|IEEE 1394||VIA® 6315N controller supports 2 x 1394a port(s) (one at mid-board; one at back panel)|
NEC USB 3.0 controllers
- 4 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (2 ports at mid-board for front panel support, 2 ports at back panel [blue])
Intel® P67 Express Chipset
- 12 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 ports at mid-board, 8 ports at back panel)
|ASUS Unique Features||
ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 2 with DIGI+ VRM:
- EPU, EPU switch
- Auto Tuning, TurboV, TPU switch
ASUS Digital Power Design
- Industry leading Digital 16+2 Phase Power Design
- ASUS DIGI+ VRM Utility
ASUS BT GO! (Bluetooth)
- Folder Sync, BT Transfer, Shot & Send, BT to Net, Music Player, Personal Manager, BT Turbo Remote
ASUS Exclusive Features
- AI Suite II
- AI Charger
- Anti Surge
- ASUS EFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution
- ASUS Fanless Design: Heat-pipe solution
- ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS EZ DIY
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS Q-Connector
- ASUS O.C. Tuner
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
- ASUS Q-Code
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
Precision Tweaker 2
- vCore: Adjustable CPU voltage at 0.005V increment
- vCCIO: Adjustable I/O voltage at 0.00625V increment
- vCCSA: 144-step system agent voltage control
- vDRAM Bus: 160-step Memory voltage control
- vPCH: 90-step Chipset voltage control
- vCPU_PLL: 160-step CPU & PCH PLL voltage control
SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection)
- BCLK/PEG frequency tuning from 80MHz up to 300MHz at 0.1MHz increment
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
|Back Panel I/O Ports||
1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Combo port
1 x Bluetooth module
2 x External SATA (1 x Power eSATA)
1 x IEEE 1394a
2 x LAN(RJ45) port(s) (1 x Intel® LAN)
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 (blue)
8 x USB 2.0/1.1
2 x S/PDIF Out (1 for Coaxial, 1 for Optical)
8 -Channel Audio I/O
1 x Clr CMOS switch
|Internal I/O Connectors||
1 x USB 3.0/2.0 connector(s) supports additional 2 USB ports (19-pin)
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 connector(s) support additional 4 USB ports
1 x MemOK! Button
4 x SATA 6.0Gb/s connectors (2 x gray; 2 x navy blue)
4 x SATA 3.0Gb/s connectors (blue)
1 x IEEE 1394a connector
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4-pin)
2 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (1 x 4-pin; 1 x 3-pin)
2 x Power Fan connector(s) (2 x 3-pin)
1 x TPU switch
1 x EPU switch
1 x Power-on switch
1 x Reset switch
1 x S/PDIF Out connector
24-pin EATX Power connector
8-pin EATX 12V Power connector
Front panel audio connector
System Panel (Q-Connector)
|BIOS||32 Mb Flash ROM , EFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3|
|Manageability||WfM 2.0,DMI 2.0,WOL by PME,WOR by PME,PXE|
2 x SATA 3.0Gb/s cables
4 x SATA 6.0Gb/s cables
2 in 1 Q-connector
1 x ASUS Front Panel USB 3.0 Box
1 x ASUS SLI bridge connector
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
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.
• Supports Intel® Sandy Bridge processors in LGA1155 package.
Please refer to CPU Support for compatible CPU; the above description is for reference only.
|Chipset||• Intel® P67 Chipset|
• Supports four unbuffered DIMM of 1.5 Volt DDR3 1066/1333/1600*/2133*(OC) DRAM, 32GB Max
- Supports 1Gb/ 2Gb/ 4Gb/ 8Gb DRAM size
- Supports Dual channel mode
• 2 PCI Express gen2 x16 slots
• 3 PCI Express gen2 x1 slots
• 2 32-bit v2.3 master PCI bus slots.
- Support 3.3v/5v PCI bus interface.
• SATAII controller integrated in Intel® P67 chipset
- Up to 3Gb/s transfer speed.
- Supports four SATAII ports (SATA3~6) by P67 PCH
• SATAIII controller integrated in Intel® P67 & Marvell SE9128 chipsets
- Up to 6Gb/s transfer speed.
- Supports two SATAIII ports (SATA1~2) by P67 PCH
- Supports two SATAIII ports (SATA7~8) by Marvell SE9128
- SATA1~6 ports support RAID 0/1/5/10 mode by Intel P67 PCH
- SATA7~8 ports support RAID 0/1 mode by Marvell SE9128
• eSATAII controller integrated in JMicron® JMB362 chipset
- Supports two eSATA ports (back panel)
|USB 3.0||• 4 USB 3.0 ports(2 by back panel, 2 by interanl ports) by NEC® uPD720200F1|
• Chipset integrated by Realtek® ALC892
- Flexible 8-channel audio with jack sensing
- Compliant with Azalia 1.0 Spec
- Meet Microsoft Vista Premium spec
|LAN||• Supports one PCI Express LAN 10/100/1000 Fast Ethernet by Realtek 8111E.|
|IEEE1394 / FireWire||
• VIA® VT6308P chipset
- Supports up to two 1394 ports. (Rear panel x1, pinheader x1)
- Transfer rate is up to 400Mbps.
|Internal I/O Connectors||
- ATX 24-Pin power connector
- 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
- CPU x 1 / System x 4 FAN connectors
- CD-in connector
- Front panel audio connector
- Front panel connector
- 1 x chasis intrusion connector
- 1 x USB 2.0 connector
- 1 x USB 3.0 connector
- 4 x Serial ATAII connectors
- 4 x Serial ATAIII connectors
- 1 x IEEE1394 connector
- 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
- 1 x SPDIF-out connector
- 1 x TPM module connector
- 1 x Serial port connector
- 1 x Voltage Check Point
- 1 x Power button
- 1 x Reset button
- 1 x OC Genie button
|Back Panel I/O Ports||
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard port
- 8 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x Clear CMOS button
- 1 x Coaxial SPDIF port
- 1 x Optical SPDIF port
- 1 x IEEE1394 port
- 2 x eSATA ports
- 1 x RJ45 LAN Jack
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- 1 x 6 in 1 audio jack
• The mainboard BIOS provides "Plug & Play" BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
• The mainboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your mainboard specifications.
• 30.5cm(L) x 24.5cm(W) ATX Form Factor
Mounting• 9 mounting holes.
The Gigabyte motherboards use the Award BIOS which has a very well known and simple interface. The first screen when entering into the BIOS is the main menu. From this menu you can select from a list of categories, save current settings, load defaults and set a password.
Standard CMOS allows the user to adjust the stored date and time, as well as view and configure the installed IDE/SATA devices.
The Advanced BIOS features menu allows the user to make changes to the boot devices, and other settings like displaying the full screen logo during boot and where to store the back up BIOS file.
The Integrated Peripherals menu gives the user direct access to the add-on components, such as the hard drive and USB features.
The Power Management option is used to make changes to the power options, including how you can turn on the PC.
PC Health Status is a page that monitors the temperatures of the motherboard and CPU, as well as the rotation speed of any installed CPU/system fans.
The MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) is where all the overclocking for the Gigabyte board is done. From this menu you can adjust the board's voltage, clock speeds and much more. Even though the Award BIOS allows for some very complicated changes, the interface is still setup in a way that should be accessible to novices and enthusiasts alike.
The ASUS P8P67 Deluxe uses a new EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) BIOS interface that gives users control over the system's internal settings with a new, easy to navigate UI compete with support for mouse controls. Navigating the BIOS with a mouse is a huge improvement over the standard keyboard-only system. Additionally, the new interface has a new EZ Mode feature that allows for easy system adjustments from one screen menu.
Navigating away from EZ mode screen gives the user more advanced settings. The first tab in the advanced BIOS is the "main" menu, which lists the date, time and current frequencies of the installed processor.
The next tab is the "AI Tuner" menu. From within this menu you can overclock the processor and memory frequencies, as well as make changes to the system voltage. This menu is designed for enthusiasts, but it is still very easy to navigate and adjust the settings.
The "Advanced" tab gives users direct control over the CPU settings as well as other on-board devices.
The "Monitor" tab is where all the component temperature and voltage levels can be found. From this menu you can set the fan speed controls.
The last two menus are the "Boot" and "Tools" menus which allow you to select a boot device, or use an ASUS tool such as EZ Flash.
The MSI P67A-GD65 also uses an EFI BIOS interface called "Click BIOS" that allows for mouse control, but MSI opts for an easy to navigate menu system consisting of large icons. When selected, each icon opens a secondary menu that allows changes to be made to the system. The options on this screen include Green Power, Utility, OC, Game, and Settings. Also, above these options are two tabs that can close the BIOS screen or change the language.
The "Settings" menu is where the chipset features, boot devices and passwords can be modified by the user. This menu also includes options to flash the BIOS as well as save the current settings and exit.
One of the more interesting features that MSI has included a "Game" option to play quirky little titles from within the BIOS menu.
MSI has put most of the settings relevant to system overclocking in one easy-to-use "OC" menu that displays the adjustable settings on the left, and helpful information regarding the selected setting on the right. Usually the guide included within the BIOS is not very helpful, but the one on the MSI board proved to be very informative. When voltage is selected for a specific component for example, the guide will tell you what voltage levels not to exceed and so on.
The "Utility" tab includes options to check the memory stability, live update the BIOS, backup your HDD and select a boot screen.
The "Green Power" icon allows you to adjust the phase level for either best performance or power saving.
Overclocking the Intel K series Sandy Bridge chips is an easier task than it has been in previous Intel Core CPUs, because relying on a motherboard to have a high bclock ceiling is no longer a concern. With the K series, the overclocking is done via the unlocked multiplier; adjustments to the bclock are now just a means to fine tune the final clock speed. In our Sandy Bridge review, the 2600K was able to achieve nearly a 4600MHz clock speed on the Intel P67 Express reference motherboard, but stock motherboards usually don't have the same overclocking potential as those made by the likes of the three manufacturers in this review.
High-end motherboard manufacturers pull out all the stops to ensure their board will achieve the highest overclock possible. The Gigabyte motherboard utilizes their Ultra Durable III design featuring high-end components, along with features such a 2x copper PCB to achieve a higher overclocking ceiling. The MSI board on the other hand uses "military grade" components in their design, along with the ability to monitor the voltage level in real-time. Lastly, the ASUS motherboard uses high quality parts like the rest, but also includes their DIMI+VRM solution to enhance overclocking. As you can see, each of the companies have devised their own means to ensure stability, but there is only one real way to see whose design wins out in the end!
Intel Core i7-2600K
The Gigabyte motherboard was the first one to go into our test system, so its results come up first. Since most of the overclocking was done through the multiplier there is little to mention regarding the actual process. After some tweaking to the bclock and voltage, the Gigabyte board was able to achieve a rating that is over 100MHz better than the Intel P67 Express motherboard. The end result was a stable CPU clock speed 4704MHz. For anyone who prefers not to overclock from within the BIOS, Gigabyte includes their Easy Tune 6 utility for easy overclocking from within Windows itself.
Intel Core i7-2600K
Next up was the ASUS motherboard, and its overclocking potential just blew us away. This motherboard had what seemed like an endless amount of voltage options not just for the standard components, but it also gives the user direct control over the DIMI+VRM voltage level. Once all of these settings were adjusted to the max, the ASUS motherboard gave the highest CPU overclock in our roundup: a stable 4780MHz!
Within its BIOS the ASUS P8P67 has an easy overclock feature that allows the motherboard to find the best overclock for the system. With this overclocking tool active, the chip was pushed up to 4120MHz, which is a decent increase for an auto overclocking tool. (Pictured on the left).
Intel Core i7-2600K
The MSI motherboard was also able to achieve a stable CPU clock speed of 4700MHz, and ended just shy of 4710MHz. The MSI P67A-GD65 also has the easy overclocking Genie II button on the motherboard which allows for auto-overclocking simply by pressing the button. With the button pressed, the auto overclock feature adjusted the chip speed to 4120MHz, which is right to the same level as the ASUS model. This is an impressive performance increase for simply pressing a button on the board.
Like the other models, the MSI P67A-GD65 includes an easy to use overclocking utility in the from of Control Center II, which allows the user to adjust the voltage for the CPU and memory from within Windows.
7-Zip is a compression program, much like WinRAR. It features a built-in test, which gives a score for compression and decompression.
At the stock level, all the motherboards made good use of the Sandy Bridge processor, and the performance was spot on for each model. Once the overclock settings were applied, the ASUS model demonstrated additional performance, but the MSI and Gigabyte offerings were right on its heels.
HandBrake is an application that converts sound and video files to other formats. It makes use the many available threads so it can exploit the processor to its full potential.
We are looking at a three-way tie in the Handbrake benchmark at both the stock and overclocked settings.
POV-Ray, for Persistence of Vision Raytracer, is a 3D rendering software that has impressive photorealistic capabilities.
At stock settings the motherboards were only within a few points from each other. Once overclocked, the ASUS motherboard takes the top score.
Cinebench 10 is another rendering program, also optimized for many-core processors. I will run both the single-threaded benchmark as well as the multi-threaded.
The Cinebench test sees another three-way tie.
Sandra, by SiSoftware, is a tool capable of benchmarking about every component found inside a computer. The processor arithmetic and multi-core efficiency will be ran as well as the memory bandwidth and latency benchmarks.
The Sandra benchmark is an ideal test to show off the power of the new Sandy Bridge chips, and none of the tested boards disappointed with their ability to leverage the CPU.
PCMark resembles a lot to the 3DMark suite from FutureMark, except the fact that it includes many other tests like hard drive speed, memory and processor power, so it is considered as a system benchmark and not just a gaming benchmark.
At stock the MSI board comes out with the highest level performance, but once overclocked the scores were again tipped in ASUS' favor.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack of the original Crysis, at that time well known for requiring the most powerful hardware to play at maxed settings. It uses an enhanced version of the same engine.
In Crysis Warhead all of the tested motherboards had excellent in-game performance. Overclocking the system did help to achieve a few additional frames-per-second, but ultimately the gains were minimal.
Far Cry 2 is another first person shooter that has been developed by Ubisoft. The story takes place in Africa, where the ultimate goal is to assassinate an arms dealer.
DiRT 2 is the most recent driving game in the Colin McRae series. It features a built-in benchmark consisting of displaying a race of computer players using the same view as the gamer would.
All the boards achieved great gaming performance at both the stock and overclocked settings in Far Cry 2, and DiRT 2.
The Sandy Bridge processors that were just released raised the bar in terms of CPU performance, and the motherboards based on their H67 andP67 Express chipsets similarly represent a substantial step forward over previous generation designs. All of the P67 motherboards we looked at in this roundup included features that just a year ago were considered luxury add-ons, in any market. These include support for SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0. The USB 3.0 options we saw today include dual on-board NEC chips, allowing for up to four USB 3.0 options per board. The ASUS and MSI motherboards also included a new EFI BIOS interface which support both keyboards and mice for easier navigation. All of the models supported features such as SLI and CrossFireX in an x8/x8 configuration and RAID 0/1/5/10 support.
In terms of performance all of the motherboards achieved excellent results when paired with the Intel Core i7 2600K processor. For the most part the results were very similar across the three models when the benchmarks were performed at the stock settings, including the synthetic, gaming and real-world tests. Overclocking yielded similar results, but since the ASUS motherboard was able to achieve the highest CPU clock frequency it often performed better than the other models. Even though the ASUS model had the highest overclocking ceiling, the MSI and Gigabyte motherboards weren't too far behind as each board was still able to push the 2600K beyond the 4.7GHz mark.
Also, for those uneasy with overclocking the system from within the BIOS, all three of these motherboards include excellent options for more a user friendly overclocking experience. The MSI P67A-GD65 features the OC Genie II button, which overclocks the system with a simple touch, as well as their Control Center II overclocking utility. Both of these methods give the user an easy means to increase the frequency of the system, and in our tests the OC Genie II increased the overall clock speed 720MHz above the non-Turbo frequency. The ASUS P8P67 Deluxe motherboard similarly includes an auto tune feature that is found in the BIOS, that like the MSI motherboard was able to automatically set the CPU speed to beyond 4.1GHz. All without having to adjust a single setting. The Gigabyte motherboard meanwhile sports the Easy Tune 6 utility that gives the user a handy overclocking tool that can be used from within a Windows based operating system.
With each model offering exceptional performance, a high overclocking ceiling and more supported features than most motherboards on the market, it is hard to recommend one over another. So, we'll just say that you can’t go wrong with any of these boards and that they all come highly recommended!
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