Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Functionality

Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4 mainboard is very small: it will fit into a square with sides less than 25 cm long. However, it is very heavy just like all contemporary Gigabyte mainboards using 2 oz copper PCBs. The more you look at this mainboard, the more you get amazed with the developers talent to fit such an enormous number of components onto a small PCB surface like that. The small Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4 features absolutely everything a contemporary mainboard should have.

I believe I should start with the processor voltage regulator circuitry. This circuitry is based on contemporary component base and consists of twelve phases. The number of voltage regulator phases may change dynamically depending on the current CPU utilization level. A special row of LEDs will show you the number of currently active phases in the converter at all times. All power connectors on Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4 are very conveniently located, there is enough free room around the processor socket to fit even large CPU coolers normally. For example, we didn’t have any issues with a pretty large Cooler Master GeminII cooler we used during our test session.

Despite limited PCB space, Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4 managed to retain its FDD connector, and PATA support on it is provided by an additional Gigabyte SATA2 controller. Thanks to this controller there are also two white SATA connectors. Next to them you can see another four SATA connectors in the same vertical stacks and one more a little farther away in the back. All these five connectors receive SATA support from the chipset, while the sixth one is laid out on the mainboard back panel in the form of a combination eSATA/USB port.

Besides eSATA/USB on the back panel, Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4 also has a combination PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse, ten USB ports (including the above mentioned eSATA/USB). Four more USB ports are available as onboard pin-connectors on the PCB. Optical and coaxial S/PDIF as well as six analogue audio-jacks are supported by eight-channel Realtek ALC889A codec. Network adapter is based on Realtek RTL8111D Gigabit controller, IEEE1394 (FireWire) port is implemented via Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 controller and one more port is available as an onboard pin-connector as well.

When we list all the features of Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4 mainboard we can’t help mentioning that it supports not only ATI CrossFireX graphics card configurations, but also Nvidia SLI. Therefore, there are two PCI Express x16 connectors on the board. When there are two graphics cards installed into the system, these connectors switch to x8/x8 mode. The board has Power On, Reset and Clear CMOS buttons. Power On button glows and also serves as an indicator that the board receives power. There are four fan connectors, which is a very good number for a small mainboard like that. Like all other contemporary Gigabyte mainboards, GA-P55M-UD4 also supports Dual BIOS technology and has two corresponding chips onboard.

I believe we haven’t missed anything when we listed the features of Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4 mainboard, but just for the sake of it, let me offer you the official specification sheet:

Here I would like to add that Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4 also boasts Gigabyte’s typical little bonuses that make working with this board a lot more fun. For example, color coding and polarity indication for front panel buttons and connectors as well as markings not only next to the USB and IEEE1394 (FireWire) ports but also inside them.

Surprising as it might seem, but relatively small size of Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4 didn’t prevent the developers from making it extremely functional and featuring a lot of additional controllers. Moreover, the PCB layout looks very convenient and smart, it is very pleasant to work with, which sets things off on a positive note right from the start.

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