Sandy Bridge motherboards from Asus, Gigabyte, Intel, and MSI


Even the most cynical of PC enthusiasts—AMD fanboys included—have to admit that Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPUs are all kinds of impressive. The latest architectural overhaul in Intel’s tick-tock approach to processor development brings with it phenomenal performance, low power consumption, and prodigious overclocking potential. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a really sweet CPU, either. The Core i5-2500K sells for just a little more than $200, yet it offers quad cores clocked at 3.3GHz with a 3.7GHz Turbo peak and a fully unlocked upper multiplier. Want Hyper-Threading as a part of the package? For an additional $100, the Core i7-2600K juggles eight threads, adds more cache, and bumps the default clocks up by 100MHz.

Like most new Intel CPU architectures, Sandy Bridge arrives hand-in-hand with fresh core-logic chipsets. Translation: you’re gonna need a new motherboard. As one might expect, there are no shortage of options from which to choose. After two years of refreshing mid-range offerings based on the same 5-series chipsets, motherboard makers have been especially eager to show off designs based on Intel’s new 6-series core logic.

Now’s a good time to be in the market for a motherboard upgrade, too. Support for 6Gbps SATA and USB 3.0 has become all but ubiquitous. Just about any external hard drive can take advantage of USB 3.0, and next-gen solid-state drives are sure to exploit the SATA 6Gbps. The new Intel chipsets have proper, full PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth, doubling the data throughput available to add-in cards like that high-performance SSD you’ve been eyeing. We’ve also seen motherboard makers start to pay more attention to automatic overclocking and fan control features. Some are offering luxuries like EFI BIOSes and onboard Bluetooth, as well.

Not too long ago, such goodies would have been confined to high-end flagship products priced well above the $200 mark. Today, they’re staples of the wave of mid-range motherboards built to host Intel’s latest CPUs. But which one is best for enthusiasts? To find out, we’ve rounded up Asus’ P8P67 PRO, Gigabyte’s GA-P67A-UD4, Intel’s DP67BG, and MSI’s P67A-GD65. We’ll explore them all over the following pages, and we’ll also take a closer look at Intel’s new P67 Express chipset to see how its peripheral performance compares to the venerable P55 and AMD’s latest south-bridge silicon. Buckle up.

All aboard the P67 Express

Before diving into the new motherboards primed to take on “Sandy Bridge” Core CPUs, we should spend a moment considering the P67 Express chipset. The P67 replaces the P55 as Intel’s mid-range chipset for desktop systems with discrete graphics cards. A graphics card is a requirement rather than a suggestion, because the P67 lacks the display controller and FDI interface needed to use the GPU built into Sandy Bridge processors. That display logic is present in the H67 Express, which supplants the H57 as Intel’s premiere integrated graphics platform.

While the P67 lacks the H67’s display logic, it does have more control over the CPU. Tapping a Sandy Bridge processor’s unlocked core and memory multipliers requires a P67 chipset. You’ll need the P67 to adjust the CPU’s power threshold, too. And only the P67 will allow a motherboard to split the processor’s 16 lanes of PCIe connectivity between pair of x8 links for CrossFireX and SLI. Despite the fact that those lanes reside on the CPU and never pass through the chipset, motherboards based on the H67 are limited to a single 16-lane connection.

Otherwise, the P67 and H67 have similar capabilities. The two are so closely matched that we asked Intel whether the P67 is simply H67 silicon with its display bits disabled. As it turns out, that’s not the case; the H67 and P67 diverge earlier in the manufacturing process. I wouldn’t expect any difference in the performance of their integrated peripherals, though.

At 10.5 x 9.5 mm, the P67 Express is a very small chip. It’s only marginally larger than the P55, which is about a millimeter smaller in each dimension. That parity is unsurprising considering that both chipsets are built on a 65-nano fabrication process—at least for now. Intel tends to craft chipsets with fabrication technology that’s one step behind what’s used to fab CPUs. Like the Westmere silicon behind Core 2010 CPUs, Sandy Bridge processors are built on the 32-nano process node, putting the P67 two rungs down the ladder. When asked, Intel said that only the “current” version of the P67 uses 65-nm process technology. We may see a die-shrunk refresh before long, perhaps as a long-overdue replacement for the high-end X58 Express chipset. A finer fabrication process isn’t strictly necessary for a core-logic chipset, though. Even at 65 nm, the P67 Express’s TDP is just 6.1W.

Calling the P67 a chipset is a little odd considering there’s only one chip, which Intel refers to as a Platform Controller Hub or PCH. The PCH hooks directly into the CPU via a Direct Media Interconnect (DMI) that’s very similar to PCI Express. First-generation versions of this link offered 2GB/s of bidirectional bandwidth split between four lanes. The P67 has a second-gen DMI implementation that doubles the speed of each lane, bumping aggregate interconnect bandwidth up to 4GB/s.

That extra bandwidth may come in handy given how many high-speed peripherals one can hang off the PCH. The chip has no fewer than eight second-generation PCI Express lanes available for expansion slots and onboard peripherals. Unlike the P55’s half-speed PCIe 2.0 lanes, the ones in the P67 Express offer a full 1GB/s of bidirectional bandwidth. Motherboard makers won’t have to use bridge chips and other tricks to provide ample bandwidth to PCIe 2.0 peripherals like they did on P55 boards.

Although those peripherals will be easier to accommodate, we may not see as many now that Intel has integrated a 6Gbps Serial ATA controller into the PCH. This two-port controller is joined by a second SATA controller that offers four 3Gbps ports. Intel cites the additional complexity in the 6Gbps controller as one reason why it didn’t go with the new SATA standard throughout. The fact that mechanical hard drives have little chance of saturating a 3Gbps Serial ATA connection surely factored into the decision, as well. If you’re going to opt for a solid-state drive that can take advantage of a 6Gbps SATA link, odds are you won’t be running more than two of ’em.

Of course, we should point out that all six of the Serial ATA ports in AMD’s SB850 south bridge offer 6Gbps connectivity. Actual performance matters more than specifications, though. In a moment, we’ll see how the P67’s 6Gbps ports fare against their counterparts in the AMD camp.

Support for multi-drive RAID arrays has been included in Intel core-logic chipsets for several generations now, and nothing has changed with the P67. Users can still configure drives in RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5 arrays. Those arrays can span drives connected to the 6Gbps and 3Gbps ports, although in such a configuration, the 6Gbps ports will throttle down to 3Gbps speeds.

Despite dipping its toe into next-gen Serial ATA, Intel is sticking with USB 2.0. When asked why, probably for the umpteenth time, the company’s reps rattled off several well-rehearsed reasons: there are no native drivers in Windows 7, adoption of USB 3.0 devices hasn’t yet reached a critical mass, and there’s “near zero adoption” in the corporate segment. That’s a fair assessment of the landscape, but one that conveniently ignores the growing number of external hard drives with USB 3.0 connectors. For the average consumer, USB 3.0 is arguably far more useful than 6Gbps SATA.

Also included in the P67 is a Gigabit Ethernet controller that, like Intel’s previous integrated GigE implementations, will probably be ignored by most motherboard makers in favor of discrete networking chips from Realtek. We’ve long speculated that the auxiliary PHY chip required to interface with the Intel controller is more expensive than a standalone Realtek solution, and a couple of big-name motherboard makers have confirmed that to be the case.

At least motherboard manufacturers won’t be tempted to use crappy PCI-based Gigabit Ethernet controllers. Why? Because the P67 doesn’t have a native PCI interface. To provide users with PCI slots, motherboard makers have taken to hanging a PCIe-to-PCI bridge chip off of one of the P67’s PCIe lanes. As we’ll illustrate in a moment, that has some interesting performance implications.

Four paths to the Sandy Bridge

The following pages dive into considerable detail on each motherboard. Before digging deeper into what each has to offer, let’s briefly compare all four side by side.

Asus P8P67 PRO Gigabyte P67A-UD4 Intel DP67BG MSI P67A-GD65
Power phases 12+2 12+2 6 6+2
Expansion slots 3 PCIe x16
2 PCIe x1

2 PCI

2 PCIe x16
3 PCIe x1

2 PCI

2 PCIe x16
3 PCIe x1

2 PCI

2 PCIe x16
3 PCIe x1

2 PCI

Gigabit Ethernet Intel P67 Express Realtek RTL8111E Intel P67 Express Realtek RTL8111E
Auxiliary SATA Marvell 88SE9120
JMicron JMB362
Marvell 88SE9128 Marvell 88SE8111 Marvell 88SE9120
JMicron JMB362
USB 3.0 2 x NEC D720200F1 2 x NEC D720200F1 NEC D720200F1 2 x NEC D720200F1
Audio Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC892
FireWire VIA VT6308P NA Texas Instruments
TSB42AB22A
VIA VT6308P
Warranty length Three years Three years Three years Three years
Price

$190

$199

$184

$180

In many ways, the boards we’re looking at today are very similar. They all use the same Realtek audio codec and NEC USB 3.0 controller, for example. You’ll also find a few of the same auxiliary storage, networking, and FireWire chips listed in the chart above. Three years of warranty coverage is provided across the board, as well. Asus scores a few bonus points on that front by offering advanced replacement for the first year of coverage.

There are other tidbits we’d be remiss not to point out. Take the Gigabyte board, which is the only one that lacks FireWire connectivity. Note, too, that the Intel and MSI models don’t have nearly as many power phases as what’s being offered by Asus and Gigabyte. And only the Asus serves up a third physical x16 slot.

Obviously, pricing varies from one board to the next. The collection we’ve assembled is set to reside in a $20 span from $180 to $200. Those are suggested retail prices, and we could see street prices shake out a little differently once availability becomes widespread.

Asus’ P8P67 PRO motherboard

We caught our first glimpse of the P8P67 PRO motherboard while previewing Asus’ Sandy Bridge lineup back in November. The PRO sits smack in the middle of that family, which has 10 models based on the P67 alone. In case you’re wondering, no, PRO doesn’t actually stand for anything. Nothing says professional like abbreviating in all-caps.

At least Asus hasn’t gone with a shouty aesthetic. The muted blue ports, slots, and heatsinks give the PRO a much softer appearance than a lot of enthusiast-oriented motherboards. I’d almost call it elegant.

What’s most remarkable about Asus’ Sandy Bridge lineup is that so many features have been applied from top to bottom, at least among the ATX models. One of those features is so subtle you’d never notice without a microscope. Asus has adjusted the fiber weave used to make the circuit board, rotating the pattern slightly to reduce the size of the gaps that individual traces must traverse. This change purportedly results in better signal delivery, which, like most minor tweaks to materials and components, is said to improve stability when overclocking.

Gone are the days when motherboard makers were seemingly in competition to see who could strap more metal to the voltage regulation circuitry on their motherboards. The P8P67’s VRM coolers are really quite small, providing ample clearance for larger coolers. Unfortunately, they leave little room around the bottom screw hole in the picture above. This fact made installing the last thumbscrew on the cooler we used for testing a little awkward, at least for my fat fingers.

More interesting than the VRM coolers is the circuitry they cover. All ATX members of Asus’ 6-series mobo lineup feature a digital VRM system dubbed Digi+ VRM. Instead of being controlled by the CPU, these VRMs are governed by an Asus EPU microcontroller that scales the number of phases based on demand and temperatures. As many as 12 phases can feed the CPU at once, and the system can ramp down to just one phase to conserve power. Asus says the all-digital design can switch phases faster than its analog equivalents, resulting in more efficient power delivery.

The P67’s dual storage controllers make color-coding a must for SATA ports. In light blue, we have the P67’s 3Gbps ports, followed by the chipset’s 6Gbps ports in white. The darker blue ports over to the right also offer 6Gbps Serial ATA connectivity, but via an auxiliary Marvell controller rather than through the chipset.

All the usual caveats apply to these and other edge-mounted Serial ATA ports. Longer graphics cards won’t block any of the ports or their associated cabling. However, tighter cases that put the hard drive bays or other internal scaffolding right next to the motherboard tray may make accessing the edge-mounted ports difficult.

A massive but low-profile chipset heatsink leaves plenty of room for longer graphics cards to stretch out. You can run three of them in the P8P67 PRO thanks to the third x16 slot at the bottom of the stack. The last x16 slot has to share lanes with the x1 slots, though. Even when both of the x1 slots are unoccupied, the black slot only gets four lanes of bandwidth. Keep in mind, too, that double-wide cards installed in the bottom x16 slot may extend below the motherboard and fail to fit into some cases.

That said, the third x16 slot can be used with any PCI Express card. It’s especially nice to have up to four lanes of bandwidth available for the PCIe-based SSDs that seem to be on track to become more prevalent over the next couple of years.

The P8P67 PRO is graced with one of the most complete port clusters we’ve seen from a modern motherboard. You get one of everything, including standard and USB-powered eSATA ports. I particularly like the inclusion of coaxial and optical digital S/PDIF audio outputs, which are the best way to tap the onboard audio. The Realtek audio codec behind those ports isn’t particularly inspired. However, Asus has picked up the codec’s optional DTS Surround Sensation support, which provides virtualized multi-channel audio for stereo speakers and headphones.

That little purple lump sticking out above the red USB ports is a receiver for the board’s built-in Bluetooth 2.1 module. Bluetooth may not be a must-have feature for a desktop system, but it’s a nice little extra for such an affordable motherboard.

Half of the PRO’s four USB 3.0 ports are located in the rear cluster. The remaining two reside on an expansion slot cover that connects to internal headers. Those headers can also be used to fuel the front-mounted USB 3.0 ports available in some newer cases.

Speaking of extras, we should point out that Asus continues to include handy jumper blocks for front-panel connectors that have yet to be standardized. We’ve also grown fond of the soft-backed I/O shields that Asus bundles with its motherboards—no more slicing your fingers open on thin bits of razor-sharp metal.

Arguably the most impressive feature of Asus’ 6-series motherboards is a new Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) BIOS framework that represents a fundamental change in how the operating system talks to the motherboard. The P8P67 PRO isn’t the only motherboard in this round-up with a UEFI BIOS, but its implementation is far and away the best. First, there’s the interface, which first presents the user with a simplified screen offering control over the boot order and a couple of pre-baked performance settings. Believe it or not, the picture above shows the BIOS interface and not a Windows system utility.

Dig into the advanced view, and you’ll find access to all the usual widgets, including multiplier, clock, and voltage controls. There’s more than enough range to satiate serious overclockers, and the menu options grant full control over the various Turbo multipliers available in Intel’s latest CPUs. Asus hasn’t pursued overclocking excellence at the expense of fan speed controls, either. Users can tune the temperature thresholds and fan speeds associated with the CPU and system fan headers.

What really makes the BIOS is how smooth and responsive it feels when navigating with a keyboard, mouse, or both. Asus carries over the same overall layout it uses on standard motherboard BIOSes, so there’s no need to relearn where everything is. Being able to scroll through and select the usual settings while using a mouse is truly liberating.

Gigabyte’s GA-P67A-UD4 motherboard

Perhaps the most natural competition for the P8P67 PRO comes from Gigabyte’s GA-P67A-UD4. Like the PRO, the UD4 sits smack in the middle of Gigabyte’s P67 motherboard lineup. Below it lie the UD3P and UD3, neither of which is capable of running its x16 slots in a dual-x8 configuration for CrossFireX or SLI. The UD4, like all the other boards in this round-up, supports both multi-GPU teaming schemes.

Gigabyte is rolling out a new color scheme for most of its 6-series motherboards. The company’s signature shade of turquoisey blue has been replaced by a matte black finish that looks more sinister but also a little generic. Take away Gigabyte’s name, and this could be anyone’s board. The shades of blue and gray used on the chipset and VRM heatsinks don’t appear to match, either. They probably should.

As one might expect, motherboard makers continue to tout the quality of components used on their enthusiast-oriented motherboards. The UD4 is a part of Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable family, which means the board has two-ounce copper layers and all sorts of fancy surface-mounted components. New this time around is the use of driver MOSFETs. These MOSFETs combine high-side, low-side, and driver components that usually reside on separate chips onto a single slice of silicon. This consolidation saves Gigabyte some board real estate. The company says its new design runs more efficiently and at lower temperatures, as well.

Perhaps that’s why the coolers strapped to the board’s power regulation circuitry aren’t particularly extravagant. The heatsinks are set back a little more from the socket than on the Asus board, leaving more room for your fingers to twirl the thumbscrews that anchor a good number of modern CPU coolers. As you can see, there isn’t much to get in the way of larger aftermarket coolers that fan out upwards from the socket.

Like the Asus board, the Gigabyte drives the CPU core with a 12-phase power delivery system that scales the number of phases based on processor demand. In a unique twist, the board can also split its power phases into two sets of six. The board will then alternate between those sets with each reboot, spreading the wear more evenly than a single 12-phase configuration. Phase scaling still works in this configuration, and six phases is probably plenty considering that’s how many are used by the Intel and MSI boards.

There isn’t much to see as we move down the board. Once again, color-coding separates the 6Gbps SATA ports from the 3Gbps ones. Unlike with the Asus board, there are no additional Serial ATA ports, at least internally. Six ports is probably going to be enough for most systems, even with a couple of optical drives thrown in the mix.

From this angle, we have a nice view of the UD4’s dual BIOS chips. Neither chip is loaded with UEFI goodness, which is a bit of a disappointment. Gigabyte does, however, claim that the board can boot from 3TB hard drives—a feat that has previously required a UEFI BIOS.

Although it lacks a third PCI Express x16 slot, the Gigabyte board’s slot stack had plenty of expansion capacity. Most folks will probably stick to running a single graphics card, which means the second x16 slot can be used to power high-bandwidth peripherals. Fill that slot with a graphics card, and you’ll be stuck with standard PCI and PCIe x1 slots. The 1GB/s of bidirectional bandwidth offered by a single second-gen PCI Express lane should be more than enough for most peripherals. However, none of the x1 slots are notched to accept longer x4, x8, or x16 cards that should otherwise be able to subsist on a single lane’s worth of bandwidth.

At the rear, the UD4’s port cluster feels like a bit of a step back. Sure, there are modern conveniences like two flavors of S/PDIF output and dual USB 3.0 ports. There are even onboard headers for an additional two SuperSpeed USB ports. But the eSATA ports aren’t as good as what we’ve seen on some other Gigabyte boards. Unlike hybrid ports that marry an eSATA connector for data with USB jack for power, the UD4’s external Serial ATA connectivity requires an auxiliary power source. The lack of FireWire will surely irk some with older camcorders, and its absence hasn’t been balanced by something new like integrated Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or more USB 3.0 ports than the other guys.

Gigabyte does offer a little something extra on the audio front, although it’s nothing new. The UD4 taps the real-time Dolby Digital Live encoding option present in Realtek’s ALC892 codec. This feature allows multi-channel game audio to be encoded on the fly and passed to a compatible receiver or speakers over a pristine digital connection. If you’re going to use a motherboard’s integrated audio, that’s the best way to do it.

The UD4’s lack of an UEFI goodness stands out considering that the other three boards use the new firmware interface. Don’t think for a second that Gigabyte is giving up any ground when it comes to tweaking options, though. The old-school BIOS offers plenty of control over Turbo multipliers, clock speeds, and system voltages. At least on the performance front, there appear to be more dials and knobs to tune than on the other boards. Flipping through the options can be a bit tedious because the BIOS interface itself feels more sluggish than we’re used to, especially in the voltage and status sections. It’s almost as if the interface is getting bogged down trying to keep track of so many variables at once, and the lag is immediately noticeable.

Fortunately, Gigabyte appears to be heeding our calls for more robust fan speed options—sort of. Users now have some control over how the CPU fan responds to changes in temperature. The “Slope PWM” options aren’t terribly intuitive, and they’re not available for the system fan, which means Gigabyte still has the worst fan controls of the bunch. Some fan control is better than none, though. Let’s hope this is but the first of many enhancements to Gigabyte’s BIOS-level fan speed controls.

Intel’s DP67BG motherboard

Rather than relying solely on third-party interpretations of the P67 Express platform, we’ve gone straight to the source. The DP67BG represents Intel’s vision of what a Sandy Bridge motherboard should be. Lest you think that means something dull and boring designed for corporate environments, we should point out that the DP67BG is part of an Extreme series that targets gamers and enthusiasts who might otherwise be considering mobos from the likes of Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI.

At first glance, the DP67BG looks like it could have come from any one of those manufacturers. I guess black and blue are in this season. To be fair, Intel’s been using these colors on its Extreme-series boards for several years now. In a surprising twist, the other guys are following its aesthetic lead.

Intel hasn’t been sucked into the pissing match between mobo makers over which offers the highest number power phases. The DP67BG’s CPU power circuitry features only six phases, which is half what you get from the Asus and Gigabyte boards. Don’t worry, though. According to Intel, those six phases can combine to supply the processor with over 200 amps of current. The company says that’s enough to take Sandy Bridge CPUs up to 5GHz. Liquid-nitrogen-fueled overclockers may desire more power, but everyone else should be served well enough by this arrangement.

Like the other boards, the DP67BG scales the number of power phases in use based on processor demand. Judging by the modest heatsinks that flank the socket on two sides, the design doesn’t produce copious amounts of heat. The smaller heatsinks also leave a decent amount of room around the heatsink retention holes.

The DP67BG just wouldn’t be an Extreme-series motherboard without a skull silk-screened somewhere on the PCB. This one’s eyes light up with hard drive activity, which is a nice little touch, albeit one that will be lost without a case window. If you’d rather not have the light show, it can be disabled via the BIOS.

Edge-mounted SATA ports are all the rage these days, and Intel has six of ’em on the board. I’m sure you can make sense of the color-coding on your own. That’s it for internal Serial ATA ports. You will find an eSATA connector fed by an auxiliary Marvell controller in the rear port cluster, though.

Despite offering the same number and type of PCI and PCI Express slots as the Gigabyte and MSI boards, Intel stacks its slots a little differently. The end result is the same. Even with a pair of double-wide graphics cards installed, users will still have access to one PCI slot and a pair of PCIe x1s.

Intel has never been shy about eliminating legacy connectors, so it’s no surprise that PS/2 ports are nowhere to be found on the DP67BG. The omission is understandable. However, it might frustrate folks with older KVM switches or vintage Model M keyboards that require PS/2 connectivity. If you’re running either, it’s probably time to upgrade, anyway.

There’s plenty of USB connectivity at the rear, but no internal headers for additional USB 3.0 ports. USB power isn’t routed to the eSATA port, either. Ugh. At least the port cluster hosts a handy Back-to-BIOS button that allows the users to boot the board with the BIOS defaults in the event of a failed overclock attempt. Ideally, a motherboard should detect a failed boot attempt and revert to those defaults on its own. However, automatic recovery methods haven’t always worked consistently for us in the past. We’d expect the Back-to-BIOS switch to be more reliable.

Speaking of the BIOS, the DP67BG offers a rather unusual UEFI implementation. The new BIOS framework allows for fancy graphics and conveniences like mouse control, but you won’t find any of that here. Instead, there’s a simple interface with a decent array of overclocking and tweaking options. In a bit of a surprise, the BIOS offers higher CPU voltage options than the other boards. The only thing that’s really lacking is the ability to set a blanket Turbo multiplier for all four cores. Instead, you’ll have to manipulate individual Turbo multipliers for one-, two-, three-, and four-core loads. Those multipliers and the rest of the overclocking options closely match what’s available from the competition, right down to control over the CPU’s power limits.

We’ve praised AMD for incorporating robust fan control logic in its SB850 south bridge silicon, but no such functionality exists in the P67 chipset or Sandy Bridge CPUs. Motherboard makers need to use third-party silicon, usually a SuperIO chip, to govern temperature-based fan speed controls. The DP67BG’s implementation is reasonably good. Users have control over the minimum and maximum fan speed for the CPU and three other onboard fan headers. We’d like to be able to set temperature targets and control how aggressively the fan speed shifts in response to changes in temperature, though.

MSI’s P67A-GD65 motherboard

Like the other big-name Taiwanese motherboard makers, MSI has quite a lot of new models ready for Sandy Bridge CPUs. The P67A-GD65 sits a couple of notches down from the top-of-the-line Big Bang Marshall and that high-end P67A-GD80. The former is an entirely different beast, while the latter is a more modest upgrade that adds a third x16 slot and boatload of additional USB 3.0 ports.

See what I mean about black-and-blue color schemes? Here’s another one. I have to admit, part of me misses the days of garish motherboard designs that were at least unique to each manufacturer. The GD65 doesn’t look bad, but it does look very similar to the other boards.

With MSI eager to push the GD65’s “military-class” electrical components, a camouflage motif might have been more appropriate. The board’s solid-state capacitors and ferrite-core chokes are said to meet stringent military standards, which means they should be able to withstand more extreme thermal environments than lesser components. MSI is particularly proud of the tantalum-core “Hi-C” capacitors around the CPU socket. The company also points out that it has been using driver MOSFETs for a couple of years now. In other words: take that, Gigabyte.

The GD65’s power regulation circuitry doesn’t have nearly as many phases as what’s being offered by the Gigabyte and Asus boards. That’s been a pattern among MSI mobos for several generations now, and we haven’t noticed any problems as a result. The fact that the Intel board gets away with six-phase power gives us little reason to think that the GD65 will be at a serious disadvantage.

Before moving on, note that the GD65’s VRM heatsinks give the socket area plenty of space. All four of the boards we’re looking at today should be able to accommodate larger aftermarket coolers with ease. On the GD65, installing them is a breeze thanks to easy access to all four screw holes that surround the socket.

Onboard power and reset buttons seem to go in and out of style. They’re on the GD65 and the Intel board but missing from the Asus and Gigabyte models. The buttons are really only useful for folks running systems out in the open. That’s why we’re a little dubious about the OC Genie auto-overclocking button being right on the motherboard. Automatic CPU overclocking is a great feature to have, and we like being able to invoke it with a single button. Putting that button at the bottom of a motherboard that will reside in one’s case may not be the best idea, though.

Using the same color to identify the 6Gbps SATA ports connected to the GD65’s P67 chipset and auxiliary Marvell controller isn’t a great idea, either. The ones on the far right are linked to the P67, while the block on the left stems from the Marvell chip. Not to give away the results of our Serial ATA performance testing, but you’ll want to use the former.

The GD65’s slot stack matches that of the Gigabyte board and offers plenty of expansion capacity. You won’t be able to run a PCIe-based solid-state drive alongside a pair of graphics cards, but that’s the only practical limitation imposed by the lack of an x4 slot or a third x16. Multi-GPU schemes typically don’t scale as well beyond two graphics cards, making three-way configs considerably less desirable. It would have been nice if one of the x1 slots was notched to accept longer expansion cards, though. There’s certainly enough clearance behind a couple of the x1 slots.

Now that’s a port cluster! The GD65 may force users to choose between a PS/2 keyboard and mouse, but it otherwise has a full suite of ports. Dual digital audio outputs? Check. At least one hybrid eSATA/USB port? Check. Throw in FireWire and loads of USB connectivity, and you start running out of space for more ports. Fortunately, the handy CMOS reset button over to the left doesn’t take up much room.

Even though the GD65 uses the same Realtek audio codec as the other boards, it gets an added dose of goodness thanks to Creative’s THX TruStudio Pro. This software provides surround-sound virtualization for stereo speakers and headphones, much like the DTS functionality included with the Asus board. There’s no support for multi-channel encoding in real time, though.

Lining up individual pins for front-panel connectors is a hassle, which is why we’re so fond of the jumper blocks MSI throws in the box. Also included is an expansion slot cover that pipes the internal SuperSpeed USB headers to the rear of your case. There’s a little something for the hardcore overclocking crowd, too. The four leads pictured above plug into voltage probing points on the motherboard, allowing users to monitor voltages in real time with a multimeter or oscilloscope.

Yep, MSI’s gone the UEFI route. The opening screen for this so-called Click BIOS nicely illustrates the sort of visual flair that’s possible with the firmware interface. MSI’s implementation isn’t quite as slick as Asus’, though. The interface feels sluggish, perhaps because mouse clicks don’t seem to register all the time. Some buttons require a double click when only a single tap should be necessary, and the back button doesn’t work consistently.

There’s certainly potential here, but the BIOS needs a dose of refinement to stand toe-to-toe with what Asus is offering. At least MSI doesn’t give up ground in the overclocking and tweaking departments. Users have plenty of clock, timing, and voltage knobs to twirl. The CPU fan speed controls are decent, as well. A CPU temperature target can be set alongside a minimum fan speed. Unfortunately, the user can only define a static speed for the board’s system fan headers, and that speed can’t be less than 50% of the fan’s default RPM.

Digging into the details

Before moving onto the results of our performance testing, I’m going to bust out a couple of big, scary charts that should make it a little easier to compare the motherboards we’re looking at today. First, we’ll look at the range of BIOS options available with each board.

Asus P8P67 PRO Gigabyte P67A-UD4 Intel DP67BG MSI P67A-GD65
Clock speeds Base: 80-300MHz
DRAM:
1066-2400MHz
VRM: 300-500kHz
Base: 80-200MHz
DRAM:
1066-2133MHz
Base: 100-120MHz
DRAM:

1066
-2133MHz
Base: 38.1-480MHz
DRAM:

1066
-2133MHz
Multipliers CPU: 35-255
1-4 core limit: 35-255
CPU: 16-57
1-4 core limit: 34-57
1-4 core limit: 5-65 CPU: 34-60
1-4 core limit: 35-255
Voltages CPU: 0.8-1.99V

DRAM: 1.2-2.2V

CPU PLL: 1.2-2.2V

PCH: 0.8-1.7V

VCCSA: 0.8-1.7V
VCCIO
:
0.8-1.7V

CPU: 0.75-1.7V

DRAM: 0.9-2.6V

CPU PLL: 1.52-2.52V
PCH: 0.8-1.94V
QPI/VTT:
0.8-1.7V

System
agent: 0.655-1.305V
DRAM ref: 0.7-0.82
DRAM termination: 0.46-1.4V

DRAM a/b data: 0.54-1.4V
DRAM a/b address: 0.54-1.4V

CPU: 1.0-2.3V

DRAM: 1.2-2.0V

CPU PLL: 1.5-2.4V

PCH: 1.0-1.5V

CPU turbo: +0.02-1V
System agent: 0.85-1.75V
CPU IO: 1.0-1.8V

CPU: 0.8-1.8V

DRAM: 1.08-2.464V

CPU PLL: 1.4-2.43V
PCH: 0.775-1.724V

System agent: 0.925-1.585V
DRAM a/b data: 0.435-1.125V
DRAM a/b
address: 0.435-1.125V

Fan control CPU, system CPU CPU, system CPU, system

The minute differences in voltage, clock, and multiplier ranges will mean very little to the average enthusiast. All four BIOSes serve up more than enough options for spirited overclocking and memory tuning.

So, what about the hardware? Here’s how each board’s array of slots, ports, and other widgets line up:

Asus P8P67 PRO Gigabyte P67A-UD4 Intel DP67BG MSI P67A-GD65
CPU power 12+2 12+2 6 6+2
DIMM slots 4 DDR3-1333 4 DDR3-1333 4 DDR3-1333 4 DDR3-1333
Expansion slots 3 PCIe x16
2 PCIe x1

2 PCI

2 PCIe x16
3 PCIe x1

2 PCI

2 PCIe x16
3 PCIe x1

2 PCI

2 PCIe x16
3 PCIe x1

2 PCI

Storage I/O 2 6Gbps SATA RAID

4 3Gbps SATA RAID

2 3Gbps SATA

2 6Gbps SATA RAID

4 3Gbps SATA RAID

2 3Gbps SATA RAID

2 6Gbps SATA RAID

4 3Gbps SATA RAID

2 6Gbps SATA RAID

4 3Gbps SATA RAID

2 3Gbps SATA RAID

Audio 8-channel HD 8-channel HD 8-channel HD 8-channel HD
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
2 USB 3.0 w/ 2 headers
6 USB 2.0 w/ 6 headers
1 eSATA

1 eSATA/USB
1 FireWire w/ 1 header
1 RJ45


1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog
rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1
coaxial S/PDIF out

1 optical S/PDIF out

1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse

2 USB 3.0 w/ 2 headers
6 USB 2.0 w/ 6 headers
1 eSATA

1 eSATA/USB
1 FireWire w/ 1 header
1 RJ45


1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog
rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1
coaxial S/PDIF out

1 optical S/PDIF out

2 USB 3.0
8 USB 2.0 w/ 6 headers
1 eSATA

1 FireWire w/ 1 header
1 RJ45


1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog
rear out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 optical S/PDIF out

1 PS/2 keyboard/mouse
2 USB 3.0 w/ 2 headers

8 USB 2.0 w/ 4 headers
2 eSATA

1 FireWire w/ 1 header
1 RJ45


1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog
rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1
coaxial S/PDIF out

1 optical S/PDIF out

Get all that? Good. Let’s move on.

Our testing methods

We’re testing on two fronts today. First, there’s the matter of how the P67 Express chipset performs. To put that into perspective, we’ve run it against AMD’s mid-range 890GX chipset and Intel’s venerable P55. The CPUs used for each of those platforms aren’t a perfect match for our Core i7-2600K, but we’re focusing on the performance of each chipset’s integrated peripherals, which shouldn’t be greatly affected by our CPU choices. If you’d like an in-depth look at how the performance of a full suite of Sandy Bridge CPUs compares to the last generation of Intel processors and AMD’s finest, check out our Sandy bridge CPU review.

Our second area of focus is the motherboards. We’ve put each of the four P67 boards through an expanded suite of performance, power, and overclocking tests. Incidentally, we used the Intel board to gather performance data for the chipset-specific benchmarks. For the sake of completeness, the P55 and 890GX boards ran the full gauntlet of chipset and motherboard tests.

With few exceptions, all tests were run at least three times, and we reported the median of the scores produced.

Processor

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T
3.2GHz


Intel Core i7-870
2.93GHz
Intel Core i7-2600K 3.4GHz

Motherboard


Asus M4A89GTD PRO/USB3


Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P

Asus P8P67 PRO

Intel DP67BG

Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD4P

MSI P67A-GD65
Bios revision 1606 F14 0907 10J.86A.1780 F5R E7681IMS.152

Platform hub
AMD 890FX Intel P55 Express Intel P67 Express Intel P67 Express Intel P67 Express Intel P67 Express

South bridge
AMD SB850
Chipset drivers Catalyst 10.12 Chipset: 9.2.0.1019

RST: 10.1

Chipset: 9.2.0.1019

RST: 10.1

Chipset: 9.2.0.1019

RST: 10.1

Chipset: 9.2.0.1019

RST: 10.1

Chipset: 9.2.0.1019

RST: 10.1

Memory size 8GB
(2 DIMMs)
8GB
(2 DIMMs)
8GB
(2 DIMMs)
8GB
(2 DIMMs)
8GB
(2 DIMMs)
8GB
(2 DIMMs)

Memory type


Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM
at 1333MHz


Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM
at 1333MHz


Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM
at 1333MHz


Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM
at 1333MHz


Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM
at 1333MHz


Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM
at 1333MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-24-1T 9-9-9-24-1T 9-9-9-24-1T 9-9-9-24-1T 9-9-9-24-1T 9-9-9-24-1T

Audio
Realtek ALC892 with 2.55
drivers
Realtek ALC889 with 2.55
drivers
Realtek ALC892 with 2.55
drivers
Realtek ALC892 with 2.55
drivers
Realtek ALC892 with 2.55
drivers
Realtek ALC892 with 2.55
drivers
Graphics

Asus EAH5870 1GB
with Catalyst 10.12 drivers
Hard drive
Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB
Power Supply

PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W
OS

Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64

We’d like to thank Asus, Corsair, and Western Digital for helping to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available. Thanks to each of the motherboard makers for supplying their boards, too, and to AMD and Intel for providing the CPUs.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at a 60Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Serial ATA performance – HD Tune

Apart from its compatibility with Sandy Bridge CPUs, the P67 Express’ 6Gbps SATA controller is by far the chipset’s most exciting feature. To see what it has in store, we’ve split our storage testing between mechanical and solid-state drives. Western Digital’s latest VelociRaptor will represent traditional hard drives, while Crucial’s RealSSD C300 with the latest 0006 firmware revision sits in for SSDs. Both drives feature 6Gbps Serial ATA interfaces.

Our storage testing begins with HD Tune, which lets us probe a handful of key performance metrics. We’ll tackle the VelociRaptor before moving onto the RealSSD. Up first: a burst speed test that should operate entirely out of each drive’s DRAM cache.

Score one for the P67 Express. The chipset manages substantially higher throughput than the competition. Despite sporting AMD’s latest SB850 south bridge chip, which features a 6Gbps SATA controller, the 890GX board is actually slower in this test than the P55. We’re using AMD’s latest AHCI drivers with the board, too.

Things level out a little when we look at average read and write speeds, which are bound more by the hard drive than the chipset. The 890GX looks considerably more competitive here.

Scores are close in HD Tune’s random access time tests, too. But what happens when we throw a solid-state drive into the mix?

The P67 stays in the lead in the burst speed tests. Interestingly, the RealSSD’s burst speeds are a little lower than those of the VelociRaptor.

Of course, the SSD manages much higher sustained transfer rates. Once again, the P67 Express enjoys a commanding lead. AMD’s SB850 south bridge may have more 6Gbps SATA ports than the P67, but those ports don’t appear to be much faster than what you get with Intel’s old P55 chipset. Storage controller performance has never been a strong suit of AMD chips.

SSD access times are remarkably quick overall. As a result, I’m hesitant to make much of what amount to minute differences between the chipsets.

Serial ATA performance – IOMeter

Next, we tackle IOMeter, which hammers drives with increasing I/O loads. We’ve restricted our testing to IOMeter’s workstation and database access patterns because they should be more relevant to desktop users than the file or web server test patterns. IOMeter makes good use of the Native Command Queuing capability built into the AHCI specification, and as one might expect, it loves the quick access times of solid-state drives.

The mechanical VelociRaptor is up first, and its transaction rates don’t vary much from one chipset to the next. Notice that all three hit a wall at 32 concurrent I/O requests. That just happens to be the depth of the Native Command, er, Queue.

Keep in mind that we’re using a different CPU with each chipset. The 890GX’s CPU utilization may be a little higher in IOMeter, but it’s working with two fewer threads than the Hyper-Threading processors in our P55 and P67 systems.

With the RealSSD, IOMeter is able to extract additional performance from the 6GBps SATA controllers in the P67 and 890GX. The two are equally matched, although the P67 does have a higher transaction rate with less demanding loads. Even the P55 is quicker there. However, its 3Gbps controller can’t match the peak transaction rates of the 6Gbps alternatives.

Once again, we’re hitting a wall at 32 concurrent I/O requests. We’ve seen IOMeter transaction rates continue to scale upward after 32 I/Os with older Intel drivers and the standard AHCI drivers built into Windows 7. According to Intel, optimizations to improve performance with “common client workloads” are responsible for the change in behavior of its drivers. AMD appears to be pursuing a similar optimization strategy.

What were minor differences in CPU utilization with a mechanical hard drive are amplified by our SSD. Once again, the 890GX system consumes more CPU cycles than the Intel ones.

Serial ATA performance – TR DriveBench

TR DriveBench simulates disk-intensive multitasking sessions by playing back pre-recorded traces of all disk activity associated with different workloads. You can read more about DriveBench on this page of our latest SSD round-up. We’re only using the file copy and virus scanning traces today, since they’re the most demanding of the workloads we’ve concocted.

Interesting. Scores are close, but the 890GX has a measurable lead over the P67 with both workloads, at least with our mechanical hard drive. The P55 matches the P67 here, suggesting that 6Gbps connectivity isn’t doing much for the VelociRaptor’s performance.

AMD and Intel trade blows when we switch to the RealSSD. The 890GX comes out ahead by a smidgen with the file copy workload, while the P67 takes the lead with virus scanning. In both instances, the P55 trails in last place. The RealSSD is better equipped to take advantage of the faster Serial ATA interface than our VelociRaptor. However, the P55 and its 3Gbps controller aren’t lagging too far behind.

Peripheral performance
USB 2.0

It may not have a fancy new SuperSpeed controller, but you still get plenty of USB 2.0 connectivity in the P67 Express. So, how does it stack up against the competition? We used a Super Talent USB 3.0 RAIDDrive to find out. The drive defaults to USB 2.0 speeds when plugged into an old-school port, so we can use it in our USB 2.0 and 3.0 testing.

The P67 is a couple of MB/s quicker than the 890GX with reads but slower by the same margin with writes. Overall throughput is painfully anemic, though. The very same flash drive sustains read speeds in the 170-180MB/s range when plugged into a USB 3.0 port.

PCI Express

We had intended to test PCI Express performance with a fancy new PCIe 2.0 RAID card and a couple of very fast SSDs. But the RAID card has yet to arrive, so we’re stuck with an old PCIe Gigabit Ethernet card for now. Oddly, the card wasn’t recognized at all by the Intel P67 board, so we had to switch over to the Asus for testing.

A Gigabit Ethernet connection isn’t fast enough to saturate the P55’s half-speed PCIe lanes, so there’s little room for improvement with the P67. We’ll take a fresh look at chipset-level PCIe performance when our RAID card arrives.

PCI

The P67 Express doesn’t have a native PCI interface, but the P55 and 890GX do. For this test, we popped in a PCI-based Gigabit Ethernet card of Intel’s own design.

Whoa. The native PCI implementations of the P55 and 890GX chipsets allow our GigE card to achieve substantially higher throughput than the P67. An ITE PCIe-to-PCI bridge chip feeds the Intel P67 board’s PCI slots, and it doesn’t do quite as good of a job as the bridge chips used on the other boards. The Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI boards score between 635 and 655Mbps in our GigE throughput test without registering higher CPU utilization. While those are better results, they’re still a ways behind the native implementations offered by the other chipsets. Fortunately, high-bandwidth PCI peripherals are rare these days. That’s what PCI Express is for.

Application performance

So concludes our look at chipset-level peripheral performance. Time to move onto the motherboards. It’s been a long time since mobos had an impact on application performance. You can probably thank on-die memory controllers for leveling the playing field on that front. However, the Turbo functionality built into Sandy Bridge CPUs is somewhat reliant on a motherboard’s power delivery circuitry. Some implementations may be able to maintain peak Turbo speeds for longer than others, so we’ve taken a closer look at application performance to see if that’s the case with any of today’s contenders.

We began our testing by probing the maximum Turbo frequency that each board can sustain with an eight-way Prime95 load. All four held steady at 3.5GHz for at least 10 minutes with all their cores at full utilization. Next, we fired up some real-world applications to see if that level playing field extends to them.

We used a relatively low resolution and detail level to try to take the graphics card out of the equation in Metro: 2033. That seems to have worked, because the Sandy Bridge boards have a healthy lead over the others even though they’re all using the same Radeon HD 5870. There isn’t much of a delta between the average frame rates of the P67 offerings, though. I wouldn’t make much of the differences in low frame rates, either. They varied more from run to run than the averages.

If you’re wondering why we haven’t tested CrossFireX and SLI performance, we simply didn’t have enough time. Well, we had time, but we thought it was better spent exploring Serial ATA performance. We didn’t find much of interest the last time we looked at multi-GPU scaling with real-world resolutions and gaming tests, and that was between a batch of chipsets that support dual-x16 and dual-x8 configs. The P67, P55, and 890GX are all limited to dual-x8 multi-GPU configs, so they’re all in the same boat

Anyway, back to the application tests. 7-Zip’s built-in benchmark is up next.

Once again, the P67 boards offer nearly identical performance.

The same is true in the x264 video encoding benchmark…

And in TrueCrypt. As you can see, our P67 systems’ Core i7-2600K has a commanding lead over the Core i7-870 and Phenom II X6 1090T in the other rigs. This is but a small taste of what makes Sandy Bridge so special.

Memory performance

Although Sandy Bridge’s memory controller resides on the CPU, motherboards have some say in how that controller is tuned. To see whether that tuning produces any differences in memory bandwidth or access latencies, we ran a few tests with each board using the same memory speed and basic timings.

Nope. Well, not among the P67 boards, anyway. They all offer equivalent bandwidth and very similar access latencies.

CPU-Z measures access latencies in clock cycles, which features like Turbo make somewhat difficult to pin down. In this case, we’ve assumed that the Intel CPUs are hitting their peak Turbo frequencies during the latency test. We’ve also guessed that the Phenom II X6 in our 890GX system isn’t reaching its Turbo Core peak, which appears to be a valid assumption based on how the results stack up versus what we’ve seen in more focused CPU reviews.

Power consumption

We measured system power consumption, sans monitor and speakers, at the wall outlet using a Watts Up Pro power meter. Readings were taken at idle and under a load consisting of a Cinebench 11.5 render alongside the rthdribl HDR lighting demo. We tested with Windows 7’s High Performance and Balanced power plans.

Motherboard makers usually ship their boards with energy-saving features that promise to lower power consumption without resorting to CPU throttling that might hinder performance. The Gigabyte achieves this with Dynamic Energy Saver software, while the Asus 890GX offers a similar EPU app. That application isn’t necessary with Asus’ P67 board, which has an EPU switch right on the PCB. MSI’s power-saving mode can be activated via the BIOS, so there’s no need for extraneous software there.

We’ve tested the Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI boards with their power-saving features enabled and disabled. The Intel board doesn’t have such a feature, so it only appears once in the graphs below.

So, that’s why Intel didn’t bother with a special energy-saving mode. The DP67BG draws fewer watts at idle than all the rest, and it has the second lowest power draw under load. Of course, the Intel board also has fewer onboard peripherals to power than some of the other P67 models.

Among them, the Asus and Gigabyte have the most to gain from enabling power-saving features, at least under load. There’s little to no drop in idle power consumption with either. MSI’s BIOS switch doesn’t do much to reduce power consumption at idle or under load. That’s not a problem at idle, but it does result in 10-20W more power draw under load than the rest of the P67 field.

Overclocking

By driving all of the major components in its Sandy Bridge CPUs with a single 100MHz base clock, Intel has effectively put the kibosh on base-clock overclocking. Increasing the base clock by even a modest amount causes other components to run out of spec, and those logic blocks don’t necessarily have as much headroom as the CPU cores. Motherboard makers haven’t found a way around this issue. The ones we’ve talked to are only boasting single-digit increases in the base clock speed, which isn’t going to get you very far.

We’d be more irked by the situation if Intel weren’t allowing users to adjust Turbo frequencies on its K-series and other Sandy Bridge CPUs. You can only increase the Turbo peak by 400MHz with standard models, but the multiplier is completely unlocked with K-series chips that carry only a modest price premium over their partially unlocked counterparts. We think that’s a pretty good deal for the vast majority of PC enthusiasts. Given the choice, we’d rather overclock by adjusting Turbo multipliers than fiddling with base clock speeds, anyway.

To test the overclocking chops of each motherboard, we’ve approached the problem from two directions. Auto-overclocking schemes are de rigueur these days, so we first gave each board a crack at overclocking the CPU on its own.

Asus lets you do this a couple of ways: through a BIOS option and its TurboV software. The latter is part of a new AI Suite of applications that’s very slick indeed. The interface matches the look and feel of the new UEFI BIOS yields all kinds of control over system variables and overclocking options. You can also mix and match AI Suite components to streamline the installation.

As it turns out, the software is a little more aggressive at auto-tuning the CPU than the BIOS. Both settled on a 103MHz base clock speed, but while the BIOS selected a 43X multiplier, the TurboV software pushed the multiplier to 44X. As we do when testing overclocking performance, we checked stability with an eight-thread Prime95 load. No dice. Prime95 spit out errors on several cores at 43 x 103MHz and crashed completely with the multiplier set to 44. Asus should probably take a closer look at the stability testing built into its auto-overclocking algorithm.

Gigabyte’s QuickBoost auto-overclocking scheme doesn’t inch up clock speeds or perform any kind of stability testing. Instead, QuickBoost offers pre-defined overclocks for a number of different CPU models. Gigabyte sets those speeds based on the data it gleans from overclocking the very same chips in its labs. We’ve found the estimates to be pretty conservative overall.

Then again, QuickBoost is part of a larger EasyTune 6 application that’s loaded with manual overclocking and performance tuning options if you want to push your luck. EasyTune 6 also includes more robust CPU fan speed controls than are exposed by the BIOS. But let’s get back to overclocking.

Instead of nudging the base clock, QuickBoost stuck with tweaking the CPU multiplier. With our Core i7-2600K, the app pushed the peak Turbo multiplier to 42X, and the system was perfectly stable at that speed.

MSI has new Windows overclocking software to show off, although it isn’t necessary to trigger the board’s auto-overclocking feature. Lured in by the application’s flashy interface, we poked around a bit. Unfortunately, the multiplier controls didn’t seem to be working. That stalled our interest, so we turned our attention to the OC Genie button on the motherboard. Triggering this auto-overclocking scheme is simple: power down the board, hit the OC Genie button, and fire it back up. Minutes later, we were chugging along in Windows at 4.2GHz.

Like QuickBoost, OC Genie didn’t touch the base clock speed. Instead, it settled on the same 42X CPU multiplier, which was perfectly stable in Prime95. Interestingly, CPU-Z reported a CPU voltage of 1.4V with OC Genie in action. Neither the Asus nor the Gigabyte auto-overclocking schemes pushed CPU voltages higher than 1.3V, at least according to CPU-Z. With fewer power phases at its disposal, overclocking on the MSI board may need a little extra voltage.

Once hostile to overclockers, Intel has been far more receptive in recent years. The latest Extreme Tuning Utility is good evidence of the company’s efforts to win favor with PC enthusiasts. With loads of overclocking and tweaking options, plus a monitoring capability and quite a nice interface, the tuning utility should make it easy for folks to push their CPU to its limits without leaving the comfort of Windows. An auto-overclocking feature is usually a part of the application. However, the latest BIOS for the DP67BG doesn’t support it, so we were stuck with manual overclocking.

After a little trial and error, and many failed attempts to get our Core i7-2600K stable with a 46X Turbo peak, we settled on 4.5GHz with a 45X multiplier and a 100MHz base clock speed. This resulted in a higher CPU clock speed than the Asus board’s failed attempts at auto tuning, suggesting that the base clock was the culprit on that front.

To get the DP67BG stable at 4.5GHz, we had to nudge the core voltage up to 1.3V. We also increased the maximum sustained Turbo wattage allowed by the BIOS to prevent throttling under our eight-way Prime95 stress test.

Next, we tackled manual overclocking with the other three boards. The Asus sailed up to a 45X multiplier without needing so much as a voltage tweak. We used the “auto” voltage setting with that board, and CPU-Z reported the CPU voltage as 1.304V at 4.5GHz. Booting with a 46X multiplier was possible. However, not even manual voltage tweaking was able to coax the board into Windows at 4.6GHz.

We hit a similar ceiling on the Gigabyte and MSI boards, although both required a voltage bump to maintain stability at 4.5GHz. On the Gigabyte, we had to apply 1.4V in the BIOS, which was reported as only 1.308V by CPU-Z. The MSI needed a 1.3V CPU voltage setting at this BIOS. Again, CPU-Z (or the BIOS) was a little off, reporting 1.344V. Both boards were perfectly stable crunching an eight-way Prime95 load with those settings.

All of our overclocking tests were performed with a tower-style air cooler designed by Intel. The cooler has high and low fan speed settings, and switching between them had no impact on our overclocking success. As is always the case with such matters, your mileage may vary.

Motherboard peripheral performance

Our last stop on the testing front is the wonderful world of onboard peripherals. Here’s how the boards’ most important ports perform:

HD Tach USB 3.0 performance
Read burst

speed (MB/s)

Average read

speed (MB/s)

Average write

speed (MB/s)

CPU utilization

(%)


Asus 890GX
153.2 125.8 48.3 12

Gigabyte P55
163.4 153.7 55.2 1

Asus P67
182.2 169.5 55.6 2

Gigabyte P67
224.5 179.3 61.2 2

Intel P67
195.8 170.1 53.0 2

MSI P67
215.8 175.8 60.0 2

For the average consumer and probably most enthusiasts, USB 3.0 is the most compelling peripheral upgrade to come along in recent memory. Each and every one of the motherboards we’ve looked at today uses the same NEC USB 3.0 controller. Still, there are notable performance differences between the various implementations. The Gigabyte P67 board offers the highest transfer rates, for example. The other P67 models aren’t far behind, and they definitely have an edge over the 890GX and P55 boards.

HD Tach USB
2.0 performance
Read burst

speed (MB/s)

Average read

speed (MB/s)

Average write

speed (MB/s)

CPU utilization

(%)


Asus 890GX
33.2 30.7 25.2 7

Gigabyte P55
34.3 32.5 22.5 3

Asus P67
36.6 34.6 24.6 4

Gigabyte P67
37.6 36.8 26.2 2

Intel P67
34.9 32.4 22.9 2

MSI P67
36.4 34.3 23.9 2

Gigabyte’s P67 reigns supreme in our USB 2.0 testing by a couple of megabytes per second. Of course, if you’re worried about maximizing transfer rates, you’re better off using one of the SuperSpeed ports.

HD
Tune Serial ATA performance – VelociRaptor
Read Write
Burst
(MB/s)
Average
(MB/s)
Random
4KB (ms)
Burst
(MB/s)
Average
(MB/s)
Random
4KB (ms)

Asus 890GX
199.6 125.5 7.3 199.8 124.0 2.4

Gigabyte P55
213.9 129.9 7.0 213.8 128.1 2.7

Gigabyte P55 (Marvell)
240.9 129.9 7.2 240.8 127.7 2.7

Asus P67
283.4 129.7 7.3 252.4 123.4 2.7

Asus P67 (Marvell)
201.8 129.7 7.2 203.0 92.3 2.6

Gigabyte P67
292.6 129.9 7.0 295.1 126.1 2.7

Intel P67
260.3 129.8 7.3 256.2 123.0 2.6

MSI P67
235.2 129.4 7.2 232.8 124.8 2.6

MSI P67 (Marvell)
189.8 128.5 7.3 187.0 87.0 2.6

This is why you want to use the P67’s storage controller over the auxiliary Marvell chips offered by most of the other boards. With our VelociRaptor hard drive, the P67’s 6Gbps SATA ports are simply faster than those stemming from the Marvell controllers. Note, too, that some of the P67 boards have higher burst speeds than others. The MSI looks particularly sluggish on that front.


HD Tune Serial ATA performance – RealSSD
Read Write
Burst
(MB/s)
Average
(MB/s)
Random
4KB (ms)
Burst
(MB/s)
Average
(MB/s)
Random
4KB (ms)

Asus 890GX
165.2 225.9 0.22 165.0 201.6 0.34

Gigabyte P55
181.4 236.8 0.13 180.7 200.2 0.43

Gigabyte P55 (Marvell)
196.2 258.6 0.17 190.8 177.7 0.38

Asus P67
198.0 292.8 0.15 194.5 210.6 0.36

Asus P67 (Marvell)
172.2 258.5 0.18 172.6 116.0 0.39

Gigabyte P67
242.2 317.2 0.13 245.8 215.8 0.40

Intel P67
243.2 307.3 0.14 222.4 215.2 0.40

MSI P67
183.3 287.0 0.17 186.5 206.6 0.38

MSI P67 (Marvell)
165.9 215.4 0.20 165.6 109.7 0.36

Moving over to the RealSSD further highlights the performance disparities between different storage controllers and motherboards. Once again, the auxiliary Marvell chips are slower than the P67’s 6Gbps SATA controller. The P67 landscape looks similar to what we saw with the VelociRaptor. This time around, the Asus model loses a little luster thanks to a comparatively poor showing in the burst speed tests. It’s still faster than the MSI board, though.

NTttcp Ethernet performance
Throughput (Mbps) CPU utilization (%)

Asus 890GX
940.3 11

Gigabyte P55 (1)
936.8 2.7

Gigabyte P55 (2)
945.4 2.1

Asus P67
924.9 1.9

Gigabyte P67
935.0 3.2

Intel P67
941.4 2.0

MSI P67
935.9 3.8

For reference, the Asus and Intel P67 boards use the chipset’s embedded GigE controller, while the Gigabyte and MSI models rely on Realtek silicon. Throughput is pretty even between those implementations. So is CPU utilization. Move along.

RightMark Audio Analyzer audio quality
Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD THD + Noise IMD + Noise Stereo Crosstalk IMD at 10kHz Overall score

Asus 890GX
5 4 4 5 3 5 5 5 5

Gigabyte P55
5 5 5 5 4 5 4 5 5

Asus P67
5 4 4 5 3 5 5 5 5

Gigabyte P67
5 4 4 5 3 5 5 5 5

Intel P67
5 4 4 5 3 5 5 5 5

MSI P67
5 4 4 5 3 5 5 5 5

RMAA’s 24-bit/192kHz loopback test gives us a quick impression of the analog signal quality of each motherboard’s audio implementation. The P67 boards score identically, which is really no surprise given that they’re all using the same Realtek codec chip and associated drivers.

Conclusions

We’ve covered a lot of ground, so let’s tackle things one by one. Intel’s new P67 Express chipset anchors all the motherboards we’ve looked at today. If you’re in the market for a Sandy Bridge desktop and are itching to overclock the CPU or run a discrete graphics cards, this is the chipset you want. In fact, it’s really the only choice.

Fortunately, the P67 is pretty good. Intel has dealt with the P55’s most glaring weakness by providing full-speed PCI Express lanes throughout. At the same time, it’s added a couple of 6Gbps Serial ATA ports that are much faster than the ones integrated in AMD’s SB850 south bridge silicon. We’d much rather have two really fast 6Gbps SATA ports than six slower ones, especially considering that the P67 retains a quartet of 3Gbps Serial ATA links for slower storage devices.

We’d also rather see USB 3.0 moved into the chipset, but that’ll have to wait. Motherboard makers are doing a good enough job of providing SuperSpeed USB connectivity with third-party controllers. They aren’t quite as adept at making up for the P67’s lack of a native PCI interface, though. If you need high-performance PCI connectivity, the P67 probably isn’t a good idea. For everyone else—and that means pretty much everyone—the P67 makes an excellent Sandy Bridge sidekick.

So, which motherboard offers the best implementation? Intel’s DP67BG makes its case with a very slick Windows tweaking utility, low power consumption, and solid peripheral performance. The board is among the most affordable of the ones we’ve tested, as well. Unfortunately, it’s also a little lacking in the features department. You only get a couple of USB 3.0 ports, the eSATA connector lacks USB power, and the integrated audio can’t encode multi-channel bitstreams or virtualize surround-sound speakers. Those might seem like minor details, but it’s the little things that make a difference when you’re up against a fresh crop of enthusiast-oriented motherboards from the big three.

As the most expensive board in the bunch, Gigabyte’s GA-P67A-UD4 has more to prove than its rivals. There’s a lot to like here, including low power consumption under load and integrated audio with Dolby Digital Live support. The UD4 also has the best peripheral performance of the bunch. However, it’s missing the powered eSATA ports and FireWire connectivity available on cheaper alternatives. The lack of UEFI support is also disappointing, but not as much as the sluggish responsiveness of the board’s old-school BIOS. If the UD4 were cheaper than the alternatives, we might be more enthusiastic. But it’s not, so we’ll move on.

Despite sharing a few letters with the Gigabyte board, MSI’s P67A-GD65 is a different animal. The GD65 offers more Serial ATA ports, powered eSATA connectivity, FireWire support, and even an expansion slot plate with a couple of extra USB 3.0 ports. You get a UEFI BIOS, too, but it’s surprisingly clunky for what’s supposed to be a swanky new interface. Add in the fact that the MSI board has the slowest peripheral performance and higher power consumption under load, and it’s hard to get excited about the fact that this is the cheapest of the bunch.

Asus P8P67 PRO

January 2011

For just $10 more than the GD65, you should be able to pick up Asus’ P8P67 PRO. Totally worth it. Asus ticks all the right boxes on the peripherals front and even adds a few extras like built-in Bluetooth and a third PCI Express x16 slot. The UEFI BIOS is a revelation, offering both a slick presentation and an incredibly responsive interface that’s really a pleasure to use. And, while the PRO’s peripheral performance isn’t particularly stunning, it’s very competitive.

The P8P67 PRO has a few niggling flaws, but they’re easily balanced by all the things the board does right. Among the four, the PRO feels like the most refined attempt at a next-generation motherboard. If we were building a desktop system with a Sandy Bridge CPU, that’s exactly the kind of motherboard we’d want.

Comments closed
    • Ruthless Reuban
    • 9 years ago

    As for page 14 Peripheral performance, I really cannot agree with those results. (I also have Asus 890GX platform)

    HD Tach USB 3.0 performance

    Asus 890GX Average readspeed (MB/s) 125.8 vs Average write speed (MB/s) 48.3

    HD Tach is obsolate program. Last updated several years ago. Also results are very poor. I can easilly get around 145 MB/s read and 130 MB/s write speeds using on-board USB 3.0 interface.

    My suggestions: Drop HD Tach, obsolate program. Also consider not using flash drives, they tend to have very crappy write performance.

    HD Tach USB 2.0 performance

    Asus 890GX Average readspeed (MB/s) 30.7 vs Average write speed (MB/s) 25.2

    Again, even when HD tach gives higher results than HD Tune, with HD Tune I can get around 31 MB/s read and 31 MB/s write speeds. It seems again that Flash drive is restricting write performance.

    My suggestions: Same as above.

    HD Tune Serial ATA performance – RealSSD

    Asus 890GX Read Average (MB/s) 225.9

    Getting anything less than 250 MB/s sequential read speed with modern SSD suggests that something is very wrong.

    My suggestions: HD Tune is not designed to test flash drives, that is why it gives strange results. Consider using other program. That result does not compare to other programs or even real world performance.

    Burst rate in general

    As of HD Tune manual, “The burst rate is the highest speed (in megabytes per second) at which data can be transferred from the drive interface (IDE, SATA, SCSI, USB,…) to the operating system.”

    As for this, burst rate cannot be lower than transfer rate. After all, how can one get more data than bus is capable to transfer? Either program is buggy, we have some kind of cache system playing on, data is transferred also on other way than SATA/USB bus or something else. I all cases, result does not tell anything and should not be included. Burst rate results lower than actual transfer rate are useless.

    • lsatenstein
    • 9 years ago

    Do any of these three Mother Boards come with a Trusted Platform Module( TPM) (For security)?
    Nowadays security, disk encryption, and in encryption in general for ssh, etc. is looking to put keys into the tpm module. There was no mention as to whether said module was on the Mother Board, or if it requires a upgraded mother board.

      • swaaye
      • 9 years ago

      Look up the manuals

    • chip
    • 9 years ago

    “What really makes the BIOS is how smooth and responsive it feels when navigating with a keyboard, mouse, or both. Asus carries over the same overall layout it uses on standard motherboard BIOSes, so there’s no need to relearn where everything is. Being able to scroll through and select the usual settings while using a mouse is truly liberating.”

    This isn’t exactly new – there were 486 motherboards with a bus mouse interface that worked in the BIOS. Kids these days!

      • swaaye
      • 9 years ago

      AMI Winbios? 🙂

      That one went away for essentially the same reasons Geoff mentioned for why he dislikes this new take at a BIOS GUI. There’s just no real gain.

        • chip
        • 9 years ago

        That’s the one! Apparently it was around until the 440BX days.

    • DougG
    • 9 years ago

    Solid review. The only missing piece I would have liked to see is brief coverage of system boot/startup time, as typically seen during storage reviews. Time startup with each of the Raptor and the SSD, for each motherboard. I suggest this only because quicker boot is one of the headline features of UEFI.

      • shalmon
      • 9 years ago

      ditto,

      i like a snappy boot time

    • swaaye
    • 9 years ago

    So who else has switched over to buying uATX? I love ’em. I don’t need 6 expansion slots anymore with almost everything being integrated. I’m also not really interested in dual GPU setups.

    Years ago I started thinking about how I had these full ATX boards that only had a video card and perhaps a sound card and a lot of empty space. The lack of an IGP also made them harder to give away/sell down the road to the ubiquitous non-gamer acquaintance. You don’t really want to saddle grandma with an 8800GTX burning 75W by itself, and it’s also nice to sell off old GPUs to ebay people who will curiously pay good money for them.

      • eitje
      • 9 years ago

      Let me know when you start to get interested in m[b<]I[/b<]TX. 🙂

      • flip-mode
      • 9 years ago

      [quote<] The lack of an IGP also made them harder to give away/sell down the road to the ubiquitous non-gamer acquaintance. You don't really want to saddle grandma with an 8800GTX burning 75W by itself, and it's also nice to sell off old GPUs to ebay people who will curiously pay good money for them.[/quote<] Um, I've been beating this drum for at least two years now, but there are many out there who just plain dislike having IGP on an enthusiast mobo, such as TR's own Geoff Gasior.

        • Voldenuit
        • 9 years ago

        I like having an IGP because it means you have something to fall back on when troubleshooting (or RMA’ing) your GPU.

          • swaaye
          • 9 years ago

          Another excellent reason to have one.

    • jthh
    • 9 years ago

    What about Firewire chip performance? I am interested to know the difference, if any between the TI and VIA chipsets, as I connect my Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 Audio Interface via firewire.

    • rechicero
    • 9 years ago

    What about multimonitor support with IGP+discrete? If you can plug 4 monitors (2 to the IGP, 2 to the discrete), as I think I read somewhere, that’d mean one bullet point less for AMD. No need for Eyefinity.

    • dsarchs
    • 9 years ago

    Thanks for the article — I’ve been looking for a comparison of the various motherboards since they were released.

    Are you planning on reviewing the next step down (p8p67, P67A-GD55, GA-P67A-UD3)? The p8p67 and the GD55, specifically, seem like good options and might save a bit of money. The main difference I saw between the p8p67 and the p8p67 pro is the addition of SLI — but as I’m planning on going with a 6950 that’s moot.

      • shalmon
      • 9 years ago

      well,

      i just bought a ud3p for a new rig for my ol’ lady, and i snagged it for $126 – $29 less than what i could find a p8p67 for, and $57 less than what i could find a ud4 for ($183)…and the only difference i could find between the two gigabyte boards was esata – and she doesn’t want or need that…

      if one considers “removing” the non powered esata ports on the ud4 to shave $57 off the price…would that paint a different picture of which board is recommended?

    • UberGerbil
    • 9 years ago

    Looking forward to the mATX round-up.

    (And the ITX barebones too, hopefully)

    • Ryhadar
    • 9 years ago

    Why does AMD’s SB850 lose so much to the P67? In your review of the 890FX boards the 890GX was incredibly competitive with the Intel’s core logic: [url<]https://techreport.com/articles.x/18825/7[/url<] Oh I see, you changed from using HD Tach to using HD Tune for your tests. Still though, the 890GX loses [i<]80MBps[/i<] of burst speed because of a different program? I'm not accusing TR of any fudging, but I really would like to know the reason for the discrepancy.

      • Dr. Zhivago
      • 9 years ago

      I also would like to know why the performance of the 890GX suffered so much. Did you use the newest Southbridge and SATA drivers? Or were you using the MSAHCI driver?

      • Dissonance
      • 9 years ago

      HD Tach and HD Tune appear to measure burst speed differently. We’ve seen a discrepancy between the results that the two generate with not only different chipsets, but also hard drives. You can’t compare the numbers from one with those collected with the other.

      HD Tach is old enough that it’s not supported anymore, so we’re moving over to HD Tune, as we have with storage testing. Tune offers more granularity with its random access time tests and a number of other useful features, which is another reason for the move. However, it doesn’t always play nicely with USB storage devices, so Tach will stick around for those tests until I settle on a better substitute that can probe both read and write speed.

      Incidentally, we used the latest BIOS and AMD AHCI drivers with the 890GX board. Both are newer than the versions we used in the initial 890GX review.

        • Dr. Zhivago
        • 9 years ago

        Thanks for the clarification.

    • MaxTheLimit
    • 9 years ago

    I have overclocked 5 mobos from MSI using the P55 chipset, and I noticed that they had overly high CPU voltages. Manually overclocking on all of these boards allowed for much lower voltages to achieve even higher clock settings. I doubt the high voltage is a requirement of the board, but rather MSI’s tendency to be a bit over the top with voltages on their profiles.

    • Voldenuit
    • 9 years ago

    Question: since the P67 needs a discrete GPU, does that mean that you can never use Quicksync on the Sandy Bridge IGP for encoding?

      • emorgoch
      • 9 years ago

      Correct. This was mentioned explicitly on [url=http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/the-sandy-bridge-review-intel-core-i7-2600k-i5-2500k-core-i3-2100-tested/9<]Anand's review[/url<] of Sandy Bridge.

      • Farting Bob
      • 9 years ago

      For some annoying reason you cant use quicksync with any P67 board, which is needed for OCing and other useful enthusiast features. Quicksync looks great for enthusiasts though, but you have to choose between OCing and QS. 🙁

      • JumpingJack
      • 9 years ago

      There are a couple of three ways to get Quicksync and discrete to play nice together from what I have found around the web.
      1. Run windows 7 and dual monitor one with a discrete and the other with the IGP.
      2. [url<]http://pcper.com/#NewsID-9593[/url<] It has been reported that Lucid is offering up a software solution to run both the IGP and discrete, no dual monitor needed. 3. Wait for Z68, which enables all the features of P67 and allows the IGP to function.

        • travbrad
        • 9 years ago

        Those are some nice workarounds I guess, but it also demonstrates just how artificial and arbitrary these restrictions are (if they can get around it with software).

    • ChangWang
    • 9 years ago

    Is it just me or do I see little reason for anyone to buy anything other than the Asus…???

    • Next9
    • 9 years ago

    [quote<]Speaking of the BIOS, the DP67BG offers a rather unusual UEFI implementation....[/quote<] Intel has been shipping EFI firmware on its "consumer" motherboards since Intel 945 chipset. This plain-text (or lets say bios-like) style of GUI is original and usual and common in every profesional solution. What is unusual are those shiny kitschy interfaces, distributed by ASUS and MSI and others. How could anybody (except overclocking gaming kids) be satisfied with it....???

    • Voldenuit
    • 9 years ago

    Any chance of telling us which boards use Foxconn sockets so we can avoid them like the plague?

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      I bet they all have Foxconn sockets… but that’s OK – you don’t really [i<]need[/i<] to have all the pins touching...

        • Voldenuit
        • 9 years ago

        Hehe. Some mobo makers have been tricky dicks by using a Foxconn socket but covering it up with a LOTES retention mechanism. So unless you pay [i<]very[/i<] close attention, you think you're getting a LOTES socket. Evil.

          • bimmerlovere39
          • 9 years ago

          It only actually matters if you’re bathing it in liquid nitrogen, no?

            • Voldenuit
            • 9 years ago

            IIRC, Anand managed to burn a couple on air, but the problem definitely manifested itself quickest with the LN2 crowd.

    • shank15217
    • 9 years ago

    The boards have even less core logic on them thanks to more integration on the cpu side however board prices are averaging at $190, there seems to be a $100 SB tax on entry into this platform. Intel is far ahead of AMD at the moment with processors but their chipsets are just cash cows with hardly any innovation generation to generation.

      • bimmerlovere39
      • 9 years ago

      I’m no fan of Intel boards, but, to be fair, these are high-end boards. Not really any worse than similar P55 models.

      Now if we could just get some budget P67 goodness WITHOUT all of the freaking PCI slots.

    • Fiercedeity
    • 9 years ago

    So when will these boards actually be available?

      • webkido13
      • 9 years ago

      All but the MSI board have been available in Switzerland since the 20th of December 2010. Too bad the CPU’s aren’t. I’m waiting….

    • NeelyCam
    • 9 years ago

    Idle power consumption is disgusting. >70W!?? Are you kidding me?!? Was HD5870 powersaving mode somehow disabled?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 9 years ago

      Looking at other reviews, I’d say those numbers are pretty reasonable. I believe TR is measuring at the wall, so PSU efficiency does come into play.

      [url<]https://techreport.com/articles.x/19712/4[/url<] [url<]https://techreport.com/articles.x/17789/5[/url<] We're also dealing with slightly different setups otherwise, too. Different GPUs for example. But 70-75W is pretty darn good.

      • anotherengineer
      • 9 years ago

      Who knows, I know when I plug my watt meter into my power bar, which powers, the cable modem, printer, router, 2 monitors, and the pc(amd 955be, radeon 4850, 2xWD 640gb blacks, 2 burners, 3 120mm fans, sound card, discrete network card, and usb 3.0 card) it reads 85W or wait is it 185W?

      I will have to check when I get home.

    • BoBzeBuilder
    • 9 years ago

    These boards are still expensive, but thank god they don’t have ridiculous price tags.

      • continuum
      • 9 years ago

      Indeed. I don’t wanna see X68 when it hits…

      As is, a P8P67 PRO with 4x4GB DDR3 and an i5-2500K or i7-2600K is mighty tempting…

        • Next9
        • 9 years ago

        while you loose vt-d feature (with K-series CPU)

          • derFunkenstein
          • 9 years ago

          I doubt many, if any, OC enthusiasts will miss it.

            • Next9
            • 9 years ago

            Well, OC enthusiast are quite minor obscure group of users. At least with CPUs like Sandy Bridge, who really cares about OC…

            • derFunkenstein
            • 9 years ago

            An obscure group of users that the K series is aimed at. If you’re not going to OC why would you pay the (minor) premium for a 2600K?

            • Next9
            • 9 years ago

            That is exactly what I mean. But the situation is a little bit complicated, since among the desktop variants only only K-series include Intel 3000 graphic core.

            This is what I usually dislike on the Intel solutions the most. Every time you have to do compromise. I have no logical explanation, why I can not buy dual PCIe 16x (8+8) solution, with vt-d and Intel 3000 graphics. There is no such a solution….

            • derFunkenstein
            • 9 years ago

            Yeah, I don’t get that either. It makes more sense to me to put the Intel 3000 graphics in the whole i5 and i7 line. You never get a fully un-crippled chip in the current lineup. Overclockers aren’t going to use the 3000 graphics in the first place, unless you get some sort of Optimus-style switchable graphics setup on the desktop.

    • flip-mode
    • 9 years ago

    I have to say that I’m totally disappointed in the fact that the P67 cannot do the integrated graphics, and the H67 will not be able to work with unlocked multipliers. That kinda sucks, but I guess it’s not the end of all civilization.

    I like seeing the death of PCI, but there’s something I obviously don’t understand. The article and the PCH diagram image show 8 PCI Express 2.0 lanes, but all the motherboards have 2 or 3 PCIe X16 slots and then multiple x1 slots. What am I missing here? How can you have even 1 PCIe X16 slot if you only have 8 lanes?

    AMD gets crushed with SATA performance too? Jeez, AMD. You’ve got no chance at being in my next system as things stand. Plz fix asap k thx bye.

    That Asus board is boss.

    Firstless post.

      • insulin_junkie72
      • 9 years ago

      Well, there’s always the rumored Z68 next quarter that’s supposed to be able to do both on-die GPU and overclock, I guess.

      Give me a cheap H67 (heck, even B65 or Q67 look like they could work for my overgrown HTPC/encoding box, what ever’s cheaper).

      The “business boards” (B65, Q67) seem to still have native PCI, which makes sense.

        • Kurotetsu
        • 9 years ago

        I am, personally, going to wait, if possible, for the Z68 chipset to come out before building (assuming Bulldozer doesn’t blow me away and I choose Sandy Bridge).

      • no51
      • 9 years ago

      I’m also somewhat underwhelmed by the number of PCIe lanes these mobos have. I was sold on Sandy Bridge, but the P67 got me disappointed.

      • Kurotetsu
      • 9 years ago

      [quote=”flip-mode”<]What am I missing here? How can you have even 1 PCIe X16 slot if you only have 8 lanes?[/quote<] The PCI-E lanes for the 2 x16 slots from the CPUs onboard PCI-E controller. The remaining 8 lanes come from the "Southbridge" on the motherboard.

      • bimmerlovere39
      • 9 years ago

      You’re on point on the death of PCI.

      But I’d really, really like to see it actually, you know, die. Not get bridge chipped. Leave the board. Period.

      The CPU has either 1×16 PCIe 2.0 or 2×8 PCIe 2.0, and the P67 has another 8 lanes of PCIe 2.0, which accounts for how you can half two x8, a x4, and then have four left over for SATA/USB/PCI/PCIe x1. It’s less bandwidth-starved than the P55, but it’s still too tight for my tastes.

      It’s a shame, too. Expansion bandwidth is one of a very few things that still tempt me about X58 and 890FX. (I’m not dreaming, they do have more bandwidth, right?)

      • derFunkenstein
      • 9 years ago

      That didn’t strike me as a big deal until I remembered that the best integrated graphics are on the K CPUs. It’s like Intel wanted to cripple them in some way besides VT-d. You get two reasonably fun features built into this CPU. You may have only one.

        • flip-mode
        • 9 years ago

        Yeah, how ridiculous – you get the best graphics on the Ks, but you need the mobos that don’t hook up to the graphics to overclock the them. That’s totally stupid!

        Intel should never have screwed around with castrating the graphics on any of these chips, and it should give you the option of tapping those graphics with all of the chipsets.

        This kind of crap is very irritating. I hope to heck that Bulldozer and it’s chipsets are much better than I’m expecting them to be.

      • anotherengineer
      • 9 years ago

      Ya pretty strange about the H67 and P67, I mean for the people that don’t read the reviews, goes out and gets an i7k and H67, they can’t use the unlocked mulitplier?!?! And the death of PCI…..my 150$ sound card ;(

      As for the AMD 850SB, the sata performance far exceeds any mechanical hdd, and it is last gen compared to the P67.

      As long as the South Bridge does not bottle neck the drive then it’s good enough for me. As for the raid’ers thats what dedicated raid cards are for.

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