There has been a lot of talk about how GIGABYTE and ASUS added next generation high bandwidth USB 3.0 and SATA 6G to their P55 motherboards. The P55 chipset was designed for the mainstream market and was never supposed to compete with flagship X58 chipset motherboards. For many years creative motherboard producers have found ways to turn mainstream chipsets into high end products that are able to compete with the performance of high end flagship products, but at a reduced cost. This practice has become second nature for motherboard manufacturers and as an enthusiast we applaud them for it since we are able to get products that have a high price vs. performance ratio.
Intel for the first time in many years decided to add an additional barrier between the flagship and mainstream. This was achieved by changing the way the processors interface with the rest of the system. On the high end the LGA 1366 processors and the X58 architecture allow for a large number of PCIe and PCIe 2.0 lanes. X58 is also able to work with NVIDIA's NF200 chip that allows additional PCIe 2.0 lanes. On the mainstream P55 chipset PCIe and PCIe 2.0 lanes are few and needed for the most basic accessories like video cards. If you happened to catch Sean's article titled SATA 6G Implementation Preview - Ironing Out The Creases, you already know that Intel's P55 chipset posed serious obstacles for motherboard engineers trying to add USB 3.0 and SATA 6G.
At first the lines appeared to be drawn down manufacturers lines; GIGABYTE chose to use a digital switching mechanism and ASUS chose to add an additional bridge chip from PLX. The lines became blurred when it came to light that ASUS also used a switch on the P7P55D-E and P7P55-E LX, similar to GIGABYTEs method. For all of the marketing that came from ASUS, their IO Level UP appears nearly identical to what GIGABYTE has done on their P55A boards.
The first shot in the marketing war was clearly fired by ASUS; reviewers were getting hit with digital fire before we even saw a SATA 6G hard drive or USB 3.0 drive enclosure. Today we are going to look past the marketing and take a look at two motherboards and see how they perform with SATA 6G.