Moving right along, it's to the board. in true GIGABYTE style the PCB comes in the usual attractive blue that GIGABYTE has been using for quite some time. In fact, this has to be my favourite colour PCB, especially under UV black light as it does glow a bit more than the traditional black and brown PCB's.
As usual from GIGABYTE, the layout is extremely clean and practical. The 24-pin ATX power connector is located behind the DDR3 memory slots on the left hand side of the board, while the 8/4 pin power connector is located between the Mosfet heatsinks and the rear I/O ports at the top left of the board.
For a P55 board, GIGABYTE has actually got six DDR3 memory slots here. Now, this may sound wield considering that the board only has dual channel DDR3 memory support, but this is done in an old cheating way, similar to how i815 motherboards used to have three SDRAM slots.
There are four blue slots and 2 white slots. If you want to populate all four blue slots, you can only use single sided DDR3 memory modules. This limits the size that channel A can contain. The white slots are setup as normal.
Cooling the board's onboard components is handled by a heatpipe system that channels heat away from the Mosfets, the single chip P55 chipset and the two SATA-II RAID controllers. Yes, this board does look like it has a Southbridge, but in point of fact the bottom section is just cooling the RAID chips.
Want almost endless storage? GIGABYTE has this covered. In total there are 10 SATA ports; six blue and four white. The blue ports are controlled by the P55 chipset and support the usual RAID functions. The white slots are connected to two JMicron 368 controller chips that use a Silicon Image bridge chip to allow all four white drives to be setup in a massive RAID array. In all, an extremely impressive setup.
It's rear I/O time and GIGABYTE has made a slight change to its layout. First off, there is only a single PS/2 port that can either operate as a keyboard or mouse port. Above it there are two USB ports. What is of major design is the USB/eSATA port setup. In the third and fourth towers at the bottom are combo ports. They have both eSATA and USB functions. When you plug a USB port device into the port it goes to USB mode. If a eSATA drive is plugged in it runs as eSATA thanks to a clever setup of placing the eSATA connectors upside down to the USB ones. It's just simple engineering and it saves space.
Expansion slots on the board are pretty impressive. Using the P55 chipset, you get SLI and Crossfire certification, but only using the 8/8 configuration. This is how Intel keeps the X58 chipset on top for full speed Crossfire and SLI.
Now, you may notice that there are three PCIe x16 slots on the board. The top most slot runs at full 16 lanes for single card configurations. If a second graphics card or any other PCIe card is inserted into the middle slot, the first slot loses eight lanes which are diverted to the middle slot. These slots are also run off the CPU itself since Lynnfield processors moved the primary PCI Express controller onto the integrated Northbridge that runs the on-chip memory controller.
The third or bottom x16 slot is electrically x4 compatible, so if you place a graphics card into it or any card greater than x4 speeds, it will only run at x4 mode. This slot runs off four of the six PCIe lanes that the P55 chipset supports. You will also notice there are two PCIe x1 white slots for x1 cards and two PCI slots for legacy cards. Depending on what video cards you use you will lose a few slots, especially if you're using double height PCIe graphics cards.
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