This week saw the launch of Intel's brand new Core i7 800 and Core i5 700 (Lynnfield) CPUs along with the P55 motherboard chip that will be supporting them. In a nutshell, the platform as a whole looks very impressive with it offering great performance, low power usage, and reasonable pricing. Today, then, we're going to start our analysis of just which one of the new motherboards you should go for and we're kicking off with the Asus P7P55D Deluxe.
Back in July Ed gave a first look to the Asus P7P55D EVO, and was suitable impressed so we had high hopes for this board, it being the Deluxe version and all.
Overall, the Deluxe is quite similar to the regular P7P55D EVO but one change lies at the foot of the board where the SATA connections have been reorganised. This has created slightly more space around the P55 chipset and has allowed Asus to employ a large low profile aluminium heatsink. The heatsink is covered in turn by a plastic plate that carries an Asus logo that is illuminated by blue LEDs. Thankfully you can disable the LEDs in the BIOS and we did so, rapidly, although this had a strange consequence. It seems that the LEDs are configured to be on by default. When you turn your PC on the LEDs also come on then after POST they go off, provided you have disabled the setting in the BIOS, but oddly when you turn off your PC the LEDs will briefly flash into life again.
Another change in the layout of the Deluxe lies up by the CPU socket where the power regulation hardware has been upgraded from the 12+2 set-up on the basic model that we previewed and has become 16+3 on the Deluxe. Asus has used tiny chokes and capacitors and has managed to fit the hardware in very neatly without any need to locate components on the back of the board.
As Ed mentioned the P55 chipset is a single chip rather than the old Northbridge/Southbridge combo so the layout of the P7P55D has the capacity to be neater than you would find on a Core 2 or Core i7 900 (X58) motherboard. X58 motherboards also tend to look cluttered due to their triple channel memory controller - as opposed to the dual channel controller employed on P55 boards.
Despite having these inherent advantages we have to say that Asus has done a superb job with the styling of the P7P55D in particular - there are neat touches everywhere you look. The passive coolers on the power regulation hardware are extremely funky and gain a touch of class as they are secured by screws rather than those dreadful plastic pop pins. We're also big fans of the single sided RAM retention mechanism, called QDIMM in Asus' bumph. Down at the foot of the board the Power and Reset micro buttons nestle next to three USB headers and a Firewire header. There are eight USB ports and a Firewire port on the I/O panel as well as a bracket that carries two USB ports and an eSATA port.