Not only did we get to see GIGABYTE's early adoption of SATA-III today, but we also got to see both of its UD5 and UD4P motherboards based on Intel's upcoming Core i5 supporting P55 Express chipset.
In this early Computex live demo, GIGABYTE mentioned that it is not only focusing on new hardware features but also new software additions to its lineup. The major new piece of software is GIGABYTE Smart TPM, but we will talk about that early next week once Computex begins as there may be some changes planned from what we saw today. You will be surprised just how easy it is to completely secure your private files and folders with a USB pen drive or Bluetooth device such as a mobile phone.
The main difference between the UD5 and the UD4P is that the UD4P has less power phases and less DIMM slots.
We will start off with the GA-P55-UD5, the high-end mainstream board with Intel Core i5 support. Before we begin, keep in mind that this board is by no means finished and is purely a R&D sample which will go through many changes before it is released later in the year when the first Core i5 processors start selling. The board we can see here is actually a P57 motherboard as it includes an Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) slot, which adds flash memory to the system to speed up access times and improve performance. This will not be supported by the P55 chipset.
One of the major points of interest with the P55 based UD5 mobo is that it has - get ready for it - a grand whopping total of 24 CPU power phases. That ought to be enough to push your Socket 1136 based Core i5 mainstream processor through the roof and partly up into space, we think.
The next new feature on the list for both P55 boards is SATA-III / SATA 6 Gbit/s support. As we mentioned in our previous story, the chip used is from Marvel and is a SATA-II/III combo design. It supports four SATA-III ports and six SATA-II ports with RAID 0 and 1 support as well as port multiplier. It is ready and working right now, although with a lack of drives, we were unable to run any tests.
MSI got in early and announced this new feature a few weeks ago, but it is also a feature that GIGABYTE will be adding to its upcoming P55 boards. Power over eSATA allows users to power external eSATA hard drives with a single cable. Rather than having one cable for data and a separate one for power (usually USB or AC), data and power can be delivered over a single eSATA cable. Not many devices support it at the moment, but they will be coming out soon.
What we have above is probably your first look at an Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) slot - on the right side. On the left side, you can see the flash memory installed directly onto the board. GIGABYTE engineers are still testing each option and which works best. They may end up providing an option for both on different model boards, but that hasn't been decided as yet.
Users will initially be able to buy the ONFI flash memory cards from Intel (and later probably sold by other memory companies) and it will act as a speed boost to the system by using fast NAND flash memory. Users should even be able to detect the ONFI slot as a new hardware and install their main operating system on it. It will also work similar to ReadyBoost in Windows Vista, but should provide a much faster boost in performance. Keep in mind this feature will not be supported by the P55 chipset - you'll need to wait till probably next year before it becomes available on future P57 motherboards.
We'll have some more coverage of new GIGABYTE motherboard technology early next week once Computex officially gets underway.