In the last year or so GIGABYTE has been on a rampant run to a leader in the enthusiast and mainstream markets. With offerings like the X58A-UD7, the 890FXA-UD7, the P55A-UD7 and of course the X58A-UD9, we have watched GIGABYTE work their way back to the lead group in the motherboard market. At every step of the way GIGABYTE has been working with partners, press and consumers to make their products better and to actually give you what you want from a component motherboard.
Now things are different; they have had a year of input and also have a new chipset and CPU to build upon. Can GIGABYTE pull this one off, too? - Today we are taking a look at one of the first P67 based motherboards on the market; the P67A-UD7. This board features what you would expect from an enthusiast level product including SLI, Crossfire, Dual Channel RAM, good cooling at the board level and more.
With the P67 you are finally getting SATA 3.0 direct from the chipset, but no USB 3.0 just yet (unlike what we had previously been told). So let's dive into our first P67 motherboard and see what we get out of it.
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
Remember how I said that GIGABYTE is listening to the community? Well, we see our first indication of that in the packaging. Before GIGABYTE had white packaging with blue lettering and the most annoying reflective coating. With the P67A-UD7 they have moved away from this and gone with a sleek black and gold style. You do still get some of the typical marketing hype, but for the most part is has been subdued on the front cover.
Under the front cover, we do find some of the usual marketing fluff we have all become used to, but for the most part you are getting a clean box.
The back of the box is sort of a compilation of everything that is presented on the front along with some additional information that could sway a potential buyer You see the Ultra Durable 3 logo alongside the 333 logo and many others that we are all so fond of.
Inside the box things seem to return quickly to the traditional. GIGABYTE added in the now familiar extra box and of course the plastic top for seeing your new prize.
After you crack open box number two you will find the rest of the goodies. Unfortunately the "goodies" are nothing special you have the typical SATA cables, the familiar GIGABYTE eSATA bracket, SLI and Crossfire bridges (including a Tri SLI Bridge), a manual and driver disc. You also get a nice warning label telling you not to try and use an 1156 CPU on this board.
Not a bad haul, but for this level of board I would have expected a bit more to be honest.
We have talked about some of the new design features on the P67A-UD7 before in our preview of this same board. It is certainly a change from what we are used to seeing from GIGABYTE, but also has some of the same flavor. The first thing we noticed was the nice black PCB with a new style of board level cooling.
We also noticed a few subtle changes around the CPU socket. These were more about the placement of components than anything major, but it was still noticeable. GIGABYTE also has kept their new metallic blue power button next to the RAM slots. These tie in with a small flat reset button and a CMOS switch.
Looking more closely at the CPU socket and the cooling, we are again drawn to the fact that GB has changed things. In the past GB used heatsinks with smaller fins and also added in extra cooling (on the UD7 series) in the form of Silent Pipe II and the option for water cooling of the chipset. The P67A-UD7 does not have this, but has moved to a more blocky design that should offer a small cooling advantage as long as you have good airflow.
The 12V aux power connector is still in an awkward place and has been given another obstacle. There is a 3-pin fan header here that you will need to navigate when you finally hook everything up. I would recommend using an 8-pin extension cable for this as it can become a pain to reach when mounted in a case.
Slots, slots and more slots. Although not as chaotic as the UD9, the P67A-UD7 has plenty of slots to go around. As usual, not all of these are fully x16. Slots 1 and 3 are both x16 electrical (and stay that way thanks to an NF200 chip on the board), while slots 2 and 4 are x8. This allows you to setup three-way Crossfire and SLI for your gaming and benchmarking pleasure.
Also visible in this shot are two PCI-2.0 slots and a single PCIe x1 slot. If you take a closer look you can also see dual NEC USB 3.0 controllers, two Realtek LAN chips (for the dual GBe network ports), and also the Realtek audio CODEC.
One thing you might miss if you are not looking closely is the VLI 4 port USB 3.0 Hub which is used to replicate the USB 3.0 ports. VLI is actually VIA in disguise and the VLI VL810 is actually visible at the top of this image just above the PCIe x1 slot.
Here we see another VLI 810 for some more USB 3.0 goodness. The problem here is that we have nothing to plug into these headers just yet.
In this picture we see what once was the Southbridge, then it became the MCP (media control processor). Now...well, it is just the chipset. You can also see eight SATA ports. There are four SATA 3.0 - two are handled by the P67 and two by a Marvell controller. The white ports are for GIGABYTE's own RAID function and are only SATA II. This can get a little confusing as previously these ports could have been SATA 3.0.
Speaking of ports, let's take a look at the back of the board. Here we find a nice array of ports including no less than six USB 3.0 ports. As we told you, these are here thanks to that VLI 810 hub we talked about. We also see the dual GBe NICs and a set of power USB ports (with eSATA also) and 1394a ports. The rest is rather normal with your typical audio outputs and a PS/2 port.
All in all, not a bad design; but as with everything, there is room for improvement.
BIOS and Overclocking
One of the things with the new P67 chipset and Sandy Bridge was going to be the move to a new BIOS format. This format was going to be more graphical and also incorporate the use of your mouse. The GB P67A-UD7 does not have this BIOS type and instead has stuck to the original BIOS format. Because of this there is not much new to cover here.
As you can see, the traditional M.I.T. page is here with your usual options.
As we mentioned before, you have to really crank up the multiplier to get good overclocking. Here we have ours pushed up to 47.
Although most of the voltage options are the same, you can see there is a new one. This is the System Agent Voltage. For the most part this can be left alone, or bumped up to around .955 for stability.
The options above are very familiar; really not much to talk about.
Like we said, a fairly typical BIOS. We hope to tinker with the new BIOS style shortly after CES.
The GIGABYTE P67A-UD7 was pretty easy to overclock. We simply adjusted the multiplier and bumped up the voltage until we had a stable clock We were able to push it up to 4.7GHz (47x100). This was accomplished at 1.425 Volts and everything was rock solid. In fact, it was not that hard to get this speed.
We were able to do a full OC using the stock Multiplier and then again adjusting the individual cores to a 48 Multi. Not much to it really. Memory clocking was much simpler as we were able to just set it at 1600MHz and run instead of trying to find the right divider for stable memory.
EasyTune 6 is a nice utility as far as overclocking goes. There are better out there, but for the most part this gets the job done and gives you the tools and options you need to push your CPU from the comfort of Windows.
The first two tabs are more informational than anything. They give you a run down on the speed of your CPU and RAM. It is not until the third tab that you get some real tools to work with
The first item of the tuner tab is the Quick Boost. It is pretty self-explanatory, as you can see.
Next up is the easy page; this allows you to adjust very little, yet oddly enough gives you access to the BCLK. This is something that you should not tinker with.
It is not until you get to the advanced mode that you get more options and can also adjust the voltages and multiplier.
The Graphics tab lets you tweak your GPU (like you did not know that) right from EasyTune 6 without the need to pull up anything else.
Meanwhile, the HW monitor tab lets you keep an eye on your voltages and temperatures.
Like I said, not a bad utility.
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
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: GIGABYTE, ASUS, Intel, Corsair and Sceptre.
Building a system these days is very easy. You connect everything, install your OS and then run the drivers DVD-ROM. The P67A-UD7 was no different. In fact, we found it to be easier than normal as now at the end of the driver install it asks you if you want to install the included utilities.
One item that I am not happy with is the inclusion of a bunch of Facebook games with every install. This one is more of a personal pet peeve than anything else, though.
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, Everest and HyperPi 0.99.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2011
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Product Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.net
Buy It Here
Looks like the P67A-UD7 does quite well for memory performance. The numbers are well over the other boards we have tested with the new Sandra 2011.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com
Buy It Here
Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.
AIDA64 follows up by showing us a little more detail on the memory performance. The latency numbers in particular are very good here.
Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99
Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br
Download It Here
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.
The GB PD67A-UD7 shows great potential with some very fast HyperPi times. This could be a good indicator for good rendering and transcoding performance.
Synthetic Tests - Part II
Disk Drive Controller
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 AIDA64.
HDD performance was also very good with even the SATA II performance coming in slightly higher than the competition at this point.
AIDA64 backs up our findings with Sandra.
Synthetic Tests - Part III
Here is where we dig out the Futuremark tests.
Version and / or Patch Used: 188.8.131.52
Developer Homepage: http://www.Futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: www.Futuremark.com
Buy It Here
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 P67A-UD7 comes out on top again with some very impressive scores. We are pretty sure that we will see even more from this board in the rest of our testing.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.Futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com
Buy It Here
For synthetic gaming tests we used the industry standard and overlockers bragging tool 3DMark 11. 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 11 uses the DX11 API in addition to having support for Physics run from the CPU, not PhysX. This puts things on a semi neutral ground as neither GPU can gain an advantage from proprietary code.
Although it is the only CPU in the test pool, we have a feeling that once we start pushing out other numbers the P67A-UD7 will still come in right around the top in this new benchmark.
Cinebench R11. x64
Version and / or Patch Used: R11.5 x64
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: www.maxon.net
Download It Here
Cinebench is a synthetic rendering tool developed by Maxon. Maxon is the same company that developed Cinema4D, another industry leading 3D Animation application. Cinebench R11.5 tests your systems ability to render across a single and multiple CPU cores. It also tests your systems ability to process OpenGL information.
The P67A-UD7 is on top in Cinebench for both stock and overclocked performance. We were anticipating this with some of the other performance numbers we saw earlier.
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/
Buy It Here
As we expected, the P67A-UD7 does VERY well in rendering. True, much of this is due to the speedy little Core i7-2600K inside, but you still need a good board to handle that speed.
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.
More of the same as we see the P67A-UD7 outperform even overclocked boards; very impressive.
Real-World Tests Part II
Here we have our real gaming tests. Each of the games we chose uses 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 frame per second using FRAPS. This brings the whole game into play.
*** A word on gaming as a motherboard test; ***
Despite the fact that most games are very GPU limited, we are still noticing HDD and even audio creating issues in gaming performance. Because of this you may see differences in the number of frames rendered per second between different boards.
Usually the difference is very small but occasionally, because of bad tracing, poor memory or HDD performance this difference is significant. The issues are often more prevalent in older versions of DirectX but can still pop up in DX10 and 11.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (DX9)
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Timedemo or Level Used: First combat until the school is cleared
Developer Homepage: http://www.infinityward.com
Product Homepage: http://modernwarfare2.infinityward.com
Most of you know about the game Modern Warfare 2 - It caused quite a bit of controversy in the latter half of 2009. The game is a first person shooter with a heavy combat emphasis. It follows the events in the first Modern Warfare very closely and brings back several characters from the original.
As with most games in the Call of Duty franchise, it features a heavy AI load. This is not because of a complex AI routine, but more due to the sheer number of enemies in any given combat situation. It is also our single DX9 based game in our testing suite. Settings are shown below.
Well color me surprised; the P67A-UD7 with a Core i7-2600K is simply slower by a couple of FPS. Granted, at these speeds you would never know it.
Far Cry 2 (DX10)
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
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. Settings we used for testing are shown below.
In Far Cry2 we see the P67A-UD7 redeem itself, but again you would probably not be able to tell if you had these systems side by side.
Battlefield Bad Company 2 (DX11)
Version and / or Patch Used: V1.00
Timedemo or Level Used: From washing up on the beach to the mine fields.
Developer Homepage: http://www.ea.com/
Product Homepage: http://badcompany2.ea.com/
Battlefield Bad Company is another sequel and also another game "franchise". Bad Company 2 is also our DX11 Shooter game. The game follows a fictitious B company team on a mission to recover a Japanese defector. This puts you back in World War II (at least for the beginning of the game) while the multi-player game is centered on much more modern combat. For our testing we used the single player mode. Settings are shown below.
Back to the bottom of the list we go. Once again, though, you probably would have a very hard time seeing this difference.
The P67A-UD7 did pretty good in gaming. It is right up where it should be to give you a good gaming experience. It is not the fastest, but at the speeds boards are moving at now, who can really tell? - The audio was crisp and clean during all of our gaming tests and there were no network issues to be seen. If you are looking to game, this board would not be a bad choice at all.
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).
Idle Power consumption was not too terrible for an enthusiast board. We did see things kick up quite a bit when we overclocked, but we were not happy with the very large delta between stock and load power draw. We hope this can be adjusted with a more fine-tuned BIOS.
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.
Temperatures were a little on the high side for the P67A-UD7. We think this could be due to the limited air flow on our test bench. Still, no matter, you should be aware of these temps when looking into using this board.
As this is the first of the P67 boards we have tested, we cannot say that this is the best one out. We can say that we like it quite a bit and are looking forward to testing it out more and also running the latest BIOS that was released during our initial testing.
GIGABYTE has really listened to users and even press input and made some excellent design changes for this board with improvements in packaging, install DVDs, and also in subtle ways that they have laid out the board. GB has also given into the trend of putting in a large number of phases for their CPU and board power. This in the long run can give you a much more stable platform to overclock from.
The P67A-UD7 is a great addition to the line and also an excellent product for Intel's newest CPUs. We hope to see even more of this as we take a look at more P/H6x products from them.