After spending some time with the H5x series and the Clarkdale, we decided to head back and look at the newly revised "E" version of ASUS' P7P55D series. These boards have been worked over to include both SATA 3.0 and SuperSpeed USB, all for a relatively low $189.99 over at Newegg. With the P55's limited PCIe lanes, including these new technologies has required the use of a bridge chip to allow for proper PCIe bandwidth.
The P7P55D-E Pro also includes ASUS' 16-Hybrid Phase (12+2 with T.Probe) which allows for real time balancing of power and heat generation. ASUS rounds out the P7P55D-E Pro with Auto-Tuning, Express Gate OS (a linux based OS for quick use) and Turbo EVO.
We take a look at this and see if the P7P55D-E Pros combination of features and new standards can hold up or if they are a case of stuffing too much into a single package.
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
The P7P55D-E Pro comes in a box that is only a little gaudy. The large emblem on the front does not seem to fit with the product under the cover. However, the rest of the front has enough information to quickly and easily convey that this is a motherboard with some nice features packed inside.
One item on the front that does confuse me is the PhysX ready sticker on the box. Unless ASUS is saying that it is ready for an extra GPU for use as a PPU, I am not sure why it is there.
The back of the box looks more like the typical motherboard box, but in a more organized and clean fashion. It conveys what ASUS feels are the major highlights of the board in an unusually organized manner.
The goodies inside are complete without going overboard and include an extra USB/e-SATA bracket, an SLI/ Bridge and other more normal parts.
The P7P55D-E Pro follows the very familiar ATX form factor. The top of the board is dedicated to the CPU and memory while the lower half is all about the peripherals.
Of course there is more to it than that, but in general terms it is much like every other motherboard on the market.
Taking a quick look at the layout, we do see some nice touches that ASUS has thrown in. For starters, they have included a pair of SATA II ports up near the 24-Pin ATX Power socket. These are well placed for SATA DVD/CD/Blu-ray drives. ASUS has also continued with their one-armed RAM slots. We have come to like these very much and have found that they do not have any issues keeping your RAM firmly in place.
The area around the CPU socket is well organized, but has a small problem. If you look at the upper left mounting hole you will notice that the area is very constricted. This can cause issues with certain heatsinks like the Thermalright Venomous X for the 1156 socket. The heatsinks for the PWMs also get in the way here and make installation and removal a little of a pain. On the positive side, ASUS has continued the inclusion of two 4-pin fan headers here for use with a push/pull air cooling system.
Another annoyance with the current layout is the unfortunate placement of the 8-pin Aux power socket. However, this is not a failing on the part of ASUS. The ATX layout and the increasing demand for power by most modern systems forces the inclusion of this and the need to have it close to the source puts it in an awkward spot.
As ASUS is a company that puts the enthusiast first, they have included a couple of features in this upper area to help the enthusiast get the most out of their P7P55D-E Pro. The first and least exciting is a 3-pin fan header; this allows easy installation of a RAM cooler. Right next to this is a small switch; this is the DRAM Overvolt switch. Moving this to the right (as seen in the image) enables advanced voltage options for RAM in the BIOS. The last is the MemOK button; this allows you to quickly tune any RAM automatically for a clean boot.
Moving towards the bottom of the board we see that ASUS has put some distance between your GPU and the CPU. They did this by dropping in a single x1 PCIe 2.0 slot. The rest of the slots are a nice compromise and allow for good flexibility for different user needs.
Moving to the right hand side of the P7P55D-E Pro, we see the rest of the SATA II ports, a single e-SATA port (to go with the bracket) and the two SATA 3.0 ports (the white ones). The controller for these is the Marvell SE9123. This is connected to a PLX bridge (along with the NEC USB 3.0 controller and the two PCIe 2.0 x1 slots) before connecting back into the system along a single PCIe gen one lane. The Marvell controller is underneath the star shaped (well, sort of star shaped) heatsink.
The I/O ports area is pretty typical, with the obvious exception of the two USB 3.0 ports. These are the blue colored ports under the single LAN port.
The P7P55D-E Pro is a nicely laid out board despite some of the limitations of the ATX form factor. It offers excellent flexibility in the peripherals that you can drop in. We have to say that it is one of the better thought out boards and in practice (with a few minor exceptions) is also one of the easier to use.
BIOS and Overclocking
The P7P55D-E Pro uses ASUS' customized version of the AMI BIOS. But as with almost every motherboard ASUS makes, you will spend 90% of your time in the AI-Tweaker section.
For some this area will have way too many settings to play with. Thankfully, ASUS has included some quick and easy overclocking features that even a beginner can use.
The first is the CPU level up. This is a simple BIOS adjustment that allows you to "level-up" your CPU to act as a faster CPU. As you can see, the BIOS gave us the option to push ours to act like an i7 860, 870 and even run at 3.2GHz with a simple keystroke. The next is the built in BIOS auto tuning. This is much like the Auto Tuning that is done by the software driven TurboV EVO, but simply at the BIOS level without the need to boot into Windows.
The rest of the BIOS is clean and easy to navigate once you get the hang of it (which does not take long).
As more and more companies throw in software to allow for easy overclocking, we are changing to ensure that we can cover how this works in practice. As such we are now including the results of any "auto" overclocking software into our overclocking section. We will still only show you the testing results from our maximum stable OC, but you can get a good idea of what you will get from these new offerings.
For ASUS the software is called TurboV EVO. This is a Windows based software that is able to directly alter settings in the BIOS to affect an overclock in real-time. We have covered this software before in our review of the ASUS P7H57D-V Evo. Using the same fast auto tuning we were able to push our Core i5 750 to 3.715GHz (195x19). However, once we started tinkering we improved that clock to a stable maximum of 4.213GHz (201x21).
You can see the validation for the TurboV EVO software here. Our manual overclock can be found here.
As all overclocking results are dependent on the hardware you use, your results may vary.
Results of our overclocking tests are included in the performance section with the stock scores.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Comments
Processor: Intel Core i5 750 (Supplied by Intel)
Mainboard: ASUS P7P55D-E Pro (Supplied by ASUS)
Memory: 4GB Kingston KHX12800D3T1K3/6GX (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk: Kingston SSD Now M (Intel X25-M 80GB SSD) (Supplied by Kingston)
SATA 3.0 Drive: Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB (Supplied by Seagate)
USB 3.0 Drive: BlackArmor USB 3.0 Performance Kit PS-110 (Supplied by Seagate)
Graphics Card: Zotac GTX 285 AMP! Edition 1GB (flashed to stock BIOS) (Supplied by Zotac)
Cooling: Cooler Master Hyper 212 (with an extra fan) (Supplied by Cooler Master)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Drivers: Intel INF 18.104.22.1685, ForceWare 195.62
We had very few issues with setting up the P7P55D-E Pro. We had a minor problem with the Hyper 212+ cooler we use due to the cramped upper-left mounting hole and an issue with posting with RAM in the black slots. In the end we had to use the light blue ones; when we contacted ASUS we were told that was by design and not an issue with the board. I looked in the manual for the board and did finally find a diagram that shows this, but it is not over clear and as many people do not read the manuals, this may be something that is easily overlooked.
Synthetic Tests - Part I
With any system you will want to see a combination of synthetic testing and real-world. Synthetics give you a static, easily repeatable testing method that can be compared across multiple platforms. For our synthetic tests we use Everest Ultimate, Sisoft Sandra, Futuremark's 3DMark Vantage and PCMark Vantage, Cinebench as well as HyperPi. Each of these covers a different aspect of performance or a different angle of a certain type of performance.
Memory is a big part of current system performance. In most systems slow or flakey memory performance will impact almost every type of application you run. To test memory we use a combination of Sisoft Sandra and HyperPi 0.99.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2010c 1626
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
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I was surprised to see that the ASUS P55 board with the core i5 750 did not do as well as the ASRock. I was so surprised that I ran the test multiple times to make sure it was accurate. However, even after several runs I will still getting the same results.
Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99
Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
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HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.
For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.
Despite the showing in memory bandwidth, the P7P55D-E Pro shows that it can handle heavy computational loads by giving a great HyperPi showing. Here it out does the ASRock P55 Deluxe fairly easily.
Synthetic Tests - Part II
Disk Drive Controller and USB 3.0
The system drive controller is an important part of system performance. In most modern boards your drive controller will run off of the PCI-e bus. The PCI-e bus performance can be affected by poor trace layout as well as many other design choices that show up on different boards.
For testing we use Sisoft's Sandra and Everest.
With the inclusion of SATA 3.0 on newer motherboards, we have added that to our normal testing suite. As there are multiple methods for including this on the motherboard, we may see large differences in performance. USB 3.0 performance on the ASUS P7P55D-E Pro is also quite impressive getting us speeds close to some attached SATA II drives.
Again we see from Everest that our impressions of the HDD and USB 3.0 performance are accurate. The ASUS P7P55D-E Pro does well here.
Synthetic Tests - Part III
Overall System performance and Gaming
Here is where we dig out the FutureMark tests.
Version and / or Patch Used: 22.214.171.124
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
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For overall system performance we use PCMark Vantage. This is run in both x86 and x64 mode to give the best indication of performance.
The ASUS P7P55D-E Pro comes in slightly behind the ASRock P55. But as we have found on more than one occasion, this does not mean it will not perform well in other common tasks.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.futuremark.com
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For synthetic gaming tests we used the industry standard and overlockers bragging tool 3DMark Vantage. This is a test that strives to mimic the impact modern games have on a system. Futuremark went a long way to change from the early days of graphics driven tests to a broader approach including physics, AI and more advanced graphics simulations. 3DMark Vantage uses the DX10 API in addition to having support for PhysX. Due to the PhysX support and our use of an NVIDIA GPU, we run with PhysX enabled and disabled to give you the best indication of real system performance. For testing we use the Performance test run.
In 3DMark Vantage we again find the ASUS P7P55D-E Pro behind the ASRock P55. This one is more than a little interesting as they should be much closer than we saw. Still, a single test (and a synthetic one at that) is not the whole story.
Cinebench R10 x64
Version and / or Patch Used: R10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: www.maxon.net
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Cinebench is a synthetic rendering tool developed by Maxon. Maxon is the same company that developed Cinema4D, another industry leading 3D Animation application. Cinebench R10 tests your systems ability to render across a single and multiple CPU cores. It also tests your systems ability to process OpenGL information.
The scores here are so very close, but in the end the ASUS P7P55D-E Pro does win out in all of the tests except for the multi-core rendering test.
Cinebench R11.5 x64
Version and / or Patch Used: R11.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
Product Homepage: www.maxon.net
Download It Here
Beginning with this review, we are shifting to the new build of Cinebench. This new version offers an improved rendering test with over 2,000 objects for a total of 300,000 polygons for multicore CPUs (up to 64 cores total) and also a better OpenGL engine to see how well your GPU can process this real time information.
This is the first time we are using the new version of Cinebench with a motherboard review. We still see comparable scores for the CPU and GPU we are using.
Real-World Tests - Part I
Real-world testing allows us to see how well a product will perform when used in the same manner as it would be in your house or office. It is an important side to performance testing as it can uncover hidden glitches in the way a product performs.
It is especially true when testing a mainboard; there are so many components of a board that have to interact that any problems between parts can cause a failure of the whole.
For real-world testing we use some common applications and functions. We test with LightWave 3D for rendering performance, AutoGK for transcoding from DVD to AVI and two games for gaming testing.
Rendering of 3D Animation is a system intensive endeavor. You need a good CPU, memory and HDD speed to get good rendering times. For our testing we use LightWave 3D. This software from Newtek is an industry standard and has several pre-loaded scenes for us to use.
Version and / or Patch Used: 9.6
Developer Homepage: http://www.newtek.com
Product Homepage: http://www.newtek.com/lightwave/
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We recently uncovered a slight flaw in LightWave 9.6 that has forced us to re-test more than one CPU and board. It seems that adaptive sampling is not always on if you turn it on. We have corrected this error and checked the existing scores for older boards and CPUs. As such, you may see scores that differ from older reviews. We will note where needed if any scores are re-tests for accuracy.
The performance between the ASUS and ASRock is almost identical in LightWave. There is really not much more to say than that.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.55
Developer Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.autogk.me.uk/
Download It Here
AutoGK stands for Auto Gordian Knot; it is a suite of transcoding tools that are compiled into an easy to install and use utility. It allows you to transcode non-protected DVDs and other media to Xvid or Divx format. For our testing purposes we use a non-DRM restricted movie that is roughly 2 hours in length. This is transcoded to a single Xvid AVI at 100% quality.
In our transcoding tests the P7P55D-E Pro wins under stock speeds, but loses when we push the CPU.
Real-World Tests - Part II
Here we have our real gaming tests. Each of the games we chose use multiple cores and GPUs. They are able to stress the system through use of good AI. Both have decent positional audio that adds impact to the sound subsystem of the board. We ran each game through the level or parts listed and recorded frames per second using FRAPS. This brings the whole game into play.
Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Timedemo or Level Used: From Ship Entry until third Spirit Journey
Developer Homepage: http://www.505games.co.uk
Product Homepage: http://cryostasis-game.com
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Cryostasis : Sleep of Reason is an interesting game. It is heavy on PhysX, so to play it properly you will really want an NVIDIA GPU. However, that aside, it can be immersive. Imagine Myst with guns and monsters. One of the cool concepts is the spirit journeys. These allow you to enter the past of lost souls. You have to change their past to change your future. Each one makes for a nice diversion and requires you to think about what you are doing and how it will affect the outcome of the game. The settings we used are shown below.
The ASUS P7P55D-E Pro comes in behind the ASRock for Cryostasis, but not far enough that it would make the game unplayable.
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: Clearing the Safe house through to the Rescue
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com
Product Homepage: http://farcry.us.ubi.com
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Far Cry 2 is a large sandbox style game. There are no levels here, so as you move about the island you are on you do not have to wait for the "loading" sign to go away. It is mission driven so each mission is what you would normally think of as the next "level".
In the game you take the role of a mercenary who has been sent to kill the Jackal. Unfortunately your malaria kicks in and you end up being found by him. Long story short, you become the errand boy for a local militia leader and run all over the island doing his bidding. The settings we used for testing are shown below.
The ASUS P55 board managed to squeak out a win here, but it is by less than 2 FPS.
After playing with the HD GMA on the Core i5 661, it is nice to get back to some real gaming performance. With that said, we still see that for the most part gaming is GPU oriented. This may change as both NVIDIA and ATi compete to push more and more gaming functions onto the GPU (for either OpenGL or CUDA).
We are also seeing a side effort to utilize the full number of cores in CPUs. As it stands right now there are very few games that can deal with more than two cores on a CPU. We can only hope that we see something soon to shake up the industry and bring a real evolution in gaming. Until that happens, we will see that the choice of CPU and motherboard will have little effect on your gaming performance, especially at high resolutions.
Power Usage and Heat Tests
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
Power consumption between the P55s is about equal. The ASUS P7P55 does do much better while idling at stock speeds due to the EPU-6 software and the EPU engine. However, once you start pushing it or overclock it all of that is out the window.
As a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboard; this being the Northbridge, Southbridge (if it contains one) as well as the Mosfets around the CPU. The results are recorded at idle and load during the power consumption tests.
As with power consumption, the ASUS P7P55D-E Pro generates a lot more heat than the ASRock. Then again, the ASUS has more under that heatsink than the ASRock does.
Overall the ASUS P7P55D-E Pro is a nice board. For the fairly low price of $189.99 over at Newegg, you get full speed USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0. In addition to that, you also get TurboV, EPU-6, high quality audio and a few other handy features that you would normally only find in a more expensive motherboard.
Performance wise the P7P55D-E Pro was right around where it should be when compared to other P55s. There are some areas where it exceeds and others where it is behind, but again nothing major and in keeping with what we have seen from other P55 Express based motherboards. Overclocking performance was good and the inclusion of the very easy to use TurboV EVO makes the P55D-E Pro a great choice for those just getting into overclocking and those that are looking to push farther.
The P7P55D-E Pro was also easy to install and build. The layout (with a couple of exceptions) is excellent and gives a healthy amount of room for an oversized CPU cooler. The extra PCIe 2.0 x1 slots are a left over from the PLX bridge that gives the NEC USB 3.0 and Marvell SATA 3.0 controllers the bandwidth they need to operate at full speed. These slots are also handy for PCIe cards (like the Xonar or a TV tuner) that may benefit from the greater bandwidth.
ASUS has done an excellent job of balancing performance, features and price, making the P7P55D-E Pro a good choice for an "all-around" motherboard.
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