A Closer Look
The P7P55D EVO motherboard is in Asus’ EVO colors, a black PCB with a royal blue/light blue/silver color scheme. It will take me quite a while to get accustomed to looking at a motherboard without a Northbridge. The lack of an NB allows for a larger SB cooler, and a slight rearrangement of the board components, including the CPU socket being located farther forward.
Layout of the board is excellent, with all internal connectors being located around the perimeter of the board. Including the ATX12v connector…this is the first board I’ve seen with that connector actually located at the top of the board rather than nestled between the CPU socket and the back of the I/O panel. The board has three fan connectors besides the CPU_fan, with one of the three being a 4-pin PWM connector.
As I mentioned, the P55’s CPU socket is located farther away from the rear of the board than earlier Intel boards. This gives a little more room for huge CPU coolers with twin fans by making the CPU more centrally located. The P55’s CPU retaining bracket has been totally redesigned.
Be aware that Intel has created yet another hole pattern for mounting the CPU cooler. The cooler mounting hole pattern for LGA 1156 is slightly smaller than LGA 1366 and slightly larger than LGA 775. Ensure that your cooler supports LGA 1156.
The P55 has a serious power supply, clearly shown by the massive array of ferrite chokes lined up around the CPU socket. It allows for more sophisticated voltage regulation. The P7P55D EVO has 12 phases of regulation for the CPU, which means cleaner power than the four or eight phases of the past, giving longer life to motherboard components and a better environment for stable overclocking. The power supply heatsinks are connected by a heatpipe. All capacitors are solid Japanese-made capacitors, which are well known in the electronics industry as being the best.
The P7P55D EVO has a well developed expansion array, with three PCI-E 2.0 x 16 slots (1 x16/2 x8/2 x8 + 1 x4 as allowed by the P55 chipset), two dedicated PCI-E x1 slots (any of the x16 slots double as x1 slots) and a pair of traditional PCI slots. The board supports both CrossfireX and Hybrid SLI.
There is plenty of room between the main and second x16 slots, allowing for pretty much any pair of cards to be used. I’ve usually had problems with a pair of video cards in Crossfire or SLI with 2-slot cooling due to protruding screws on the bottom of the card interfering with the card above. Again we feel the extra breathing room due to the lack of a Northbridge.
Along the bottom of the board we see I/O and Reset switches, now found on most motherboards above the economy level.
The darker blue and gray SATA ports support Asus Drive Xpert. Drive Xpert is basically a plug in and go RAID 1 setup for someone that finds the whole RAID concept a little confusing. No special drivers and no BIOS enabling is required.
The P7P55D EVO will support up to 16 gigs of DDR3-2200 memory. Of course, the CPU must be overclocked to support memory speeds over DDR3-1600.
The motherboard also has Asus’ MemOK!, which is a function that helps eliminate memory incompatibility. It is a small button located at the forward edge of the board in front of the memory. MemOK! patches memory issues by determining failsafe settings.
The board has a complete I/O panel consisting of PS/2 mouse and keyboard, optical and coaxial S/PDIF, 8 x USB 2.0 ports, 2 x LAN ports, an IEEE 1394 port, an eSATA port, and HD Audio. There is also a CCMOS button, but you won’t use it much as Asus’ Crashfree BIOS 3 works very well. The only time I ever have to clear the CMOS is when overtightening memory timings. Later, I did some memory overclocking, and all I had to do is turn off the system by the I/O switch and the system booted back up. Maybe you will never use the CCMOS button. I like the way it is set up, rather than an exposed button that you could push by accident, you will need a small object like a pen point to push the button. I have only pushed one once by accident, but I really pay attention when I’m back there.
The bundle includes one of Asus’ awesome Q-shields (padded and insulated I/O shield), newly designed (new for Asus bundles anyway) SATA cables, floppy and IDE ribbon cables, an expansion bracket including an eSATA port and an additional pair of USB ports, Q-connectors for case header wires and one USB port, and a Crossfire bridge.