PCB Design and Functionality
Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 mainboard, which we have reviewed long time ago, was the first one to disappoint us with excessively complex and therefore expensive and unnecessary cooling system with excessive functionality. Luckily, this time the developers decided to make things a lot easier that is why the layout of Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R is very close to the reference one:
However, you can easily notice some of the peculiarities at first glance. The board will become a good choice not only for those who are purchasing or putting together their first PC. It will also work well for those who are upgrading from older platforms. There are four PCI slots that can accommodate all old but perfectly operational expansion cards, such as a sound card, TV-tuner or satellite signal decoder card. You can connect your favorite printer or scanner using a COM or LPT port that are a pretty rare sight on contemporary mainboards. At the same time, the board doesn’t look archaic. It not only uses the great default functionality of the Intel P55 Express chipset, but also takes it further with a number of additional controllers.
Two PCI Express X16 connectors allow tying up two graphics card into an ATI CrossFireX configuration. In this case it is important to remember that the second card will only be working as PCI Express x4 maximum. Besides, the board doesn’t support Nvidia SLI. The chipset provides six Serial ATA ports, but thanks to the additional Gigabyte SATA2 controller there are two more ports available to you. The same controller provides support for PATA devices. You can connect a total of ten SATA devices to this board, because there are two more ports in the form of eSATA on the back panel.
The back panel of Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R mainboard carries the following ports and connectors:
- PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
- Ten (!) USB ports; four more can be implemented via onboard pin-connectors;
- Two eSATA ports provided by JMicron JMB362 controller;
- Optical and coaxial S/PDIF and six analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC888 codec;
- Local network connector (network adapter is based on Realtek RTL8111D controller).
The excellent components layout from the user manual for Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R will give you a better idea of the smart PCB design and allow estimating how convenient it will be to work with this mainboard:
By the way, a while back I shaped up my own empirical rule. If the components layout scheme is picture-perfect, then the board will most likely turn out good. Look at the layout scheme for Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R: everything is clear and precise, all markings, even the tiniest ones are perfectly readable. If the layout scheme looks sloppy, the fonts are poor and the markings are not distinguishable, then you shouldn’t expect much from a mainboard like that. The same is true for the information about the mainboard provided by the manufacturer. If the official web-site is all about marketing slogans and there are no real specifics, then you will hardly like this mainboard. It is a different story when there is detailed description of all mainboard features and functions. Like with Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R: in fact, you don’t need a review anymore – just read the mainboard specs on the official manufacturer web-site.
Gigabyte mainboard lineups for each of the system chipsets are always split into four sub-groups ranging from top models with the “UD6” index and ending with the junior solutions marked as “UD3” series. Intel P55 Express based mainboards appeared segmented even greater, since there appeared a new “UD2” sub-group. So, Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R is not the most junior model in the lineup, there are even simpler solutions there, but nevertheless, it is in the beginning of the model list. Despite this fact, there are very few differences between this model and the top flagship solutions. Among them are the absence of an additional IEEE1394 (FireWire) controller, for example. Gigabyte GA-P55-UD3R PCB design is excellent, but we did find one drawback. There are no LEDs of any kind anywhere on the board that could indicate if the mainboard receives any power. The Nvidia SLI fans may be upset about the absence of the corresponding configurations support, which appears only by UD4 mainboards and higher.