In one of the biggest cases of the Chicken Little syndrome I think I have ever seen, we have all been inundated with comments, articles, Facebook posts and more over the flaw on the Intel Cougar Point MCP. Some e-tailers have stopped selling even the CPUs; websites have stopped publishing reviews and worse. Estimates of the financial impact have ranged up to one billion dollars.
However, all the companies involved have stepped up to ensure the consumer that they are going to be taken care of; one way or another. Intel has even begun shipping the B3 Stepping of the Cougar Point MCP and some manufacturers are hinting that boards with this new MCP will be out much earlier than the original mid-April predictions. Now, add on top of that the fact that performance between the B2 and B3 Cougar Points will be identical and you can see why we say that some people overreacted. It is with this in mind (and the fact that no one has been able to get a B2 Cougar Point to fail in the lab yet) that we will continue to test P67 based motherboards and publish our findings.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's dive into GIGABYTE's P67A-UD4. This is the "little brother" to the UD7 that we have already told you about. The P67A-UD4 is sort of a scaled back version of the UD7. You get dual x8 SLI and Crossfire and lose a few other features on top of that. Of course, it is not marketed to the same high-end crowd as the UD7, so it does not need the same feature set. But even without Three-Way SLI the UD4 is still a member of the Ultra Durable line and has a great feature set of its own.
Read on to find out how this P67 board from GIGABYTE performs under our battery of tests.
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
The box for the P67A-UD4 is almost a photo-negative of what we are used to from GIGABYTE. Normally you get a stark white box with blue lettering. Here we find a new style of box completely. It is black with green and orange lettering. The change in color scheme and the new graphics help to make it an eye catching box.
Even the back of the box has been cleaned up as the typical marketing graphics have been reorganized for easier reading.
The accessories are a tad light with only a set of blue SATA cables, an SLI/Crossfire bridge, I/O shield, various manuals and drivers disk included. Ok, there are a couple of stickers and a warning not to try and use an 1156 CPU on this board. But other than that, there really is not much here. Of course, this is in keeping with the market it is being aimed at.
Like its big brother, the UD7, the P67A-UD4 is a nice looking board. GIGABYTE has made a good move (in my opinion) with the new black PCB and stylized cooling. The layout is also very clean with good component and peripheral spacing. As there is no NF200 on the board, the cooling is broken into two parts; the voltage regulators and the Cougar Point MCP that everyone is talking so much about.
The clean layout starts for us around the RAM and CPU (just because that is where we start our walk around). Here you can see the nicely spaced components. You can also see the Phase LEDs. These LEDS light up as each power phase kicks on. I would like to start seeing a little more room between RAM slots, though. As it is, there is very little clearance for air flow with most setups. However, this is a market wide issue and not something we can fault GIGABYTE or the P67A-UD4 for.
The cooling on the UD4 is not as beefy as on the UD7. This is very obvious from even a quick glance. It uses the same style of cooling, but it simply does not (nor does it need to) cover as much area.
The 8-pin Aux power connector (always a pet peeve of mine) is slightly awkward to get to for both installation and removal. I have a feeling that until we can move to a new motherboard layout we will continue to see this one across the board, though.
The peripheral slots are always of interest and will continue to be so as we see the slow demise of the PCI slot. I can remember going through the same design shifts as the old 16-bit ISA slots went away (which was a very good thing). We will continue to see these slots on boards for a few years yet, but their number and use will be limited. The two PCIe x16 mechanical slots is really one x16 in the first slots and then only if you do not have anything in the 2nd PCIe x16 slot. As soon as you do, these both drop back to x8.
Looking at the opposite corner, we see a continuation of the clean layout and design. GIGABYTE has made the most of the board real estate here. Even the tracing is well done. Of course, the thing that everyone will think about in this shot is the SATA 2 ports. Yes, there is a flaw. Yes, there is a potential for a decrease in performance on these ports down the track. However, the new B3 Cougar Points are already shipping, the performance is the same between them (obviously the performance is the same between an unaffected B2 and a normal B3), so let's move on.
The I/O ports on the P67A-UD4 are similar in layout to the UD7, but again due to its lower cost and the market it is aimed at, they are not as...let's say, complex. You do still have good options for connectivity, just not at the same level. I like the clean layout and component choices on the P67A-UD4; to me these speak volumes about GIGABYTE and the direction the company is taking. Of course, we still have to see the P67A-UD4 perform. Luckily that is not too far off, so keep reading.
The BIOS on the UD4 much like the UD7 still comes in the old fashioned format. Although you can get the EFI BIOS on the UD4, many have bought this board without it, so we will test it with what is pretty much the shipping version of the BIOS for most people. We may return and cover the UD4 with the EFI BIOS at a later date but for now this is what we will be working with.
The Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) is one that you will want to hang out in. After all, it gives you everything you need to get your board tweaked for the best performance. This includes current status CPU adjustments, advanced memory settings and of course all of your voltage tweaks.
GIGABYTE has broken everything down into pages. In some ways this is nice as it keeps things clean, but in others it is a pain due to the amount of moving around you have to do.
Of course, you still have the other sections that you need just to get things going like the Integrated Peripherals page.
Power Management is still here with the usual settings. Really, there is not much difference here between the X58, P55 and the P67.
The Boot menu is what you would expect. Not much to talk about here; even the PC Health Page is typical.
Same thing for the Tools page with the exception of the ability to look at the programmed SPD information for your RAM.
The P67A-UD4 is about as easy to overclock as any Sandy Bridge motherboard. The issue is that not all are capable of the same level of performance. To get things started we tried for the same OC we have seen on other P67 based boards. This is 48x100 for 4.8GHz. Unfortunately that was not to be; we had POST issues at that speed and had to back things off to 47x100 or 4.7GHz.
Now, this is not bad at all considering the price point and market that this board is aimed at. The interesting thing is that at 4.8GHz we could not post. At 4.7GHz we were fully stable. It was a very odd thing and something that we intend to look into when time permits.
You can see the CPUz validation here.
If you know anything about GIGABYTE then you know about their overclocking and system tweaking utility, EasyTune6. This is a fairly complete utility, but it does have some cosmetic and navigation issues. The overall software is nice, but it can be bulky and cumbersome to navigate.
When you first launch the software you get the Tuner page. This page has some quick overclocking profiles that you can click on to get a fast boost for your system (that might be why GIGABYTE calls it QuickBoost).
But before we get to the overclocking, let's look at EasyTune6 from the beginning.
The first tab in the EasyTune suite is the CPU tab. This gives you pretty much the same information that you get from CPU-Z. It is a nice touch, but I think that it might be better as a sidebar or a button inside another tab instead of its own tab.
The next tab is a continuation of the CPU-Z like functions and provides information about your memory. Not bad information to have, but again I think it could be part of another page to keep things simple.
The next tab brings us back to the Tuner. Since we have already seen the QuickBoost page, let's talk about your other options here. As you can see above, after the three choices of the QuickBoost you can click over to the easy overclocking tools. Here you can adjust only the BCLK and Ratio. Since you do not want to play with the BCLK too much, you will end up in the Ratio settings.
Of course, you know that GIGABYTE is not going to leave you with just the simple tools like we find in QuickBoost and the easy overclocking. You knew they would have something more advanced than that, and they do. This is called (unsurprisingly) the advanced mode. These tools give you some great flexibility when it comes to Windows based overclocking. You can even adjust the memory performance form here. This is something that many other boards are still missing.
Moving on from the CPU overclocking tools, we come to a GPU overclocking tool. It is interesting that this tool was willing to let us overclock our test GPU considering that it was from another manufacturer.
Smart fan settings are the cool thing to have now and if you can put tools to adjust these inside Windows, then you are even cooler.
The hardware monitor tab offers a fairly functional collection of monitoring utilities that can let you keep track of voltages and temperatures. In all, EasyTune6 is a pretty nice suite, but it could use an overhaul to make it even better.
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.
One of the things that I like about some (upper?) mid-range boards is the fact that you get so many extra utilities to tinker with. In looking over the suite that comes with the P67A-UD4 and the Smart6 suite, I have to say that when you setup the UD4 you have some very nice options.
One of my favourites is the Smart Recorder along with the Smart Lock. These two can be very beneficial to a parent setting up a system for their kid (or for the paranoid trying to find out who is using their system).
The Smart Recover can be useful for backing up your system in the event of a disaster. However, be sure you are not just backing up to the same drive, as that is pretty much a useless back up.
Another piece of software that is often overlooked is the Dynamic Energy Saver 2. This can control the power to all parts of your system. It has multiple profiles that can be set depending on your usage model and can even let you turn GIGABYTE's new Dual Power feature on or off.
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 Finalwire's AIDA64, 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, AIDA64 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
Memory performance is about par for the P67A-UD4. It is right where is should be for a Sandy Bridge + P67 system. We should see some decent performance with HyperPi, LightWave 3D and Cinebench unless the HDD performance is not where it should be.
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.
Nothing to see here really; the P67 and the Core i7 2600K have memory performance covered.
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.
With HyperPi the UD4 is about normal for a P67 motherboard. It was not great, but then again, not bad. It is a little faster than the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe, but much slower than the P67A-UD7. I would say that with come BIOS work some of this performance could be corrected.
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.
Drive performance on the UD4 is actually pretty good. It falls right in between the P8P67 Deluxe and the P8P67 WS from ASUS. The performance between these three boards is only one MB/s each.
AIDA64 confirms our Sandra findings and also gives us a little more detail.
Synthetic Tests - Part III
Here is where we dig out the FutureMark tests.
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/
Product Homepage: http://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-UD4 was at the bottom of the P67 boards we have tested. This was a little disappointing, but to be honest, the performance is still better than many boards in the same price range.
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 V11 uses the DX11 API in addition to having support for CPU based Physics. Gone are the days of the PhysX inclusion giving you inflated scores.
Interestingly enough we find the UD4 at the top of the list for 3DMark11. This could be a good indicator for gamers that might be thinking about this board for a lower cost system.
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 scores for Cinebench are close; VERY close. If you take a look you can see that the difference between most of the boards is only a single point. Of course, you cannot tell the whole story from a single synthetic test, so let's see what happens once we kick in the real-world tests.
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
The P67A-UD4 comes in at the bottom of our P67 group again. But once again, considering the market it is aimed at and the price, it did not do too bad.
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.
Our AutoGK transcoding tests went well. We see the P67A-UD4 go well at stock speeds and then again when we kicked the CPU up to 4.7GHz.
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.
For our DX9 gaming test we find that the UD4 combined with the i7 2600K can hold its own against much more expensive products. It is even faster than many of the overclocked boards we tested (including itself).
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://www.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.
The UD4 again does well in our Far Cry2 testing. I am pretty impressed with it here to be honest. It tops the list for both stock and overclocked performance.
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.
Well look at this; the UD4 is at the bottom of the list for stock speeds, but at the top with what is essentially a slower OC than some of the other boards we tested.
When I first started playing around with the UD4 my impression was that it was a lower end version of the UD7. Even the beginning tests seemed to indicate that this would be the case. That is until I broke out the gaming tests; then things got interesting.
The UD4 has some excellent gaming potential; the audio is clean and does not impact performance that we could see. The LAN chip is Realtek, but it should not be a problem if you are looking to game online. Considering the expected price of the board, it would make a great gaming platform.
Power Usage, Heat Tests and Final Thoughts
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).
As with most Sandy Bridge motherboards, the P67A-UD4 does pretty well when it comes to power. It is not the most efficient, but it still keeps things under 100 Watts at idle and inside 240 when under full load.
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.
Heat generation is also not too bad with the P67A-UD4 even with the abbreviated cooling. This is good for the consumer as it can mean longer component life.
I was not exactly sure what to think of the P67A-UD4. Where it stands in the market is just under the top end P67A-UD7. However, it is something of an anomaly. While it did not perform all that well in our common computing testing, it certainly excelled at gaming.
The thing that makes this even odder is that it only uses the PCIe controller from the CPU to control the video line. The rest of the package is nice and clean with good supporting software. GIGABYTE really is moving into their own with the last few products. We can see this in the level of thought and manufacturing effort put into both the P67A-UD4 and the P67A-UD7.
Once things return to normal with the B3 stepping Cougar Points we can expect to see this board squarely aimed at the mid-level consumer market. It has good overclocking potential, good gaming potential and with some work on the BIOS it will probably pick up the general computing side of things as well.
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