A New Breed
P55 (code name Ibex Peak) is just around the corner but thanks to our friends at Asus, they have given us a sneak preview of their P7P55D 'EVO' motherboard based on Intels LGA1156 socket designed for Intel Lynnfield Processors or Core i5 to you and me. As the socket type suggests, Core i5 will need a different socket type and will not work with current X58 motherboards as the architecture is quite different from Core i7 as we will see later in the review. I'm not sure this is the best move for Intel as it will inevitably prevent cross platform upgrading but we will reserve judgement on performance until we put the new processors and chipset through their paces.
Intel have been busying themselves with a new line up of CPU's to complement the already successful Intel Core i7. These new processors will be called Intel Core i5 (mid-level) and Core i3 (entry level) for the desktop using the 45nm process. This is in addition of the mobile revision of the Core i7 (Clarksfield). This is not to say that the Pentium (basic) and Celeron (value) brands will be finally brushed aside nor will the Atom processor which will still be used for netbooks and smartphones, rather the 'Core' name will be reserved for the best Intel currently has to offer.
Missing from P55 is the QPI bus (Quick Path Interconnect), still lovingly referred to as the Northbridge, which will likely have a detrimental effect on performance compared to the i7/X58 chipset. Also missing is triple channel DDR3, replaced instead by dual channel DDR3 supporting a maximum 16GB which, if you have read our article on the benefits of 3GB vs 6GB vs 12GB is no big deal and the increase in performance triple channel currently offers over dual could be written on the back of a postage stamp so there's no great shakes there.
I was however intrigued to learn that the P55 chipset will restrict the bandwidth of PCI express to 8 lanes if you intend on using a dual card set. While this is the same as it's P45 brethren I would have appreciated an upgrade in this department. Not that it will concern anyone apart from those lucky enough to be running dual GPU cards such as the 4870x2 or GTX295. If you are just using one card though then the full benefits of PCIe 2.0 are available. Information regarding SLI compatibility is sketchy at present but you can be assured that Crossfire will at least work on P55, much the same as P45.
Before we take a sneak preview of the Asus P55 Evo motherboard let's take a peek at it's specification which, is subject to change being that it is a very early sample: