Intel seems to be focused lately with their ‘skull and bones’ branding. Previous products have had the codename Skulltrail and Bonetrail and the new DP55KG arrives in a box which has a skull logo on the top. Inside the box is a press pack, IO shield, SLI connector and antenna. Retail products will have a full production manual, software CD and the various drive cables required to assemble a system.
The DP55KG, codename Kingsgate is one of Intel’s Extreme boards and as a result uses the colour scheme of black and blue which features on all of their performance boards. There are three system fan headers on this board and as always with Intel products they have applied their own unique twist to the design. The first layout change is that the 24pin connector is much higher on the PCB than most motherboards and immediately below this are the front panel connectors. Firewire and USB headers can be found on the right edge of the board, almost in the centre and sitting just under the CPU socket is the battery. Overall the layout is reasonably good but as with most motherboards there is one flaw which is quite inconvenient. On this board that is the proximity of the memory slots to the GPU. We need to remove the graphics card to insert/remove modules.
Slot layout on the DP55KG is good and runs PCIe 16x, PCIe 1x, PCIe 1x, PCIe 8x, PCI, PCIe 4x, PCI. Intel are also being clear about the speeds of the slots by not using full length PCIe 16 connectors on 8x circuits, no room for confusion here. It is also good to see that even with two dual slot cards installed we would still have access to two PCIe and a single PCI which is more than enough connectivity for most people.
Down at the bottom right of the PCB we find the SATA connectors, there are eight on this model and these allow us to take advantage of RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 along with JBOD. Sitting behind the drive connectors is a small green PCB. When first opening the box and finding an antenna it looks like the board has onboard wireless but this is not the case. The green PCB is actually Bluetooth hardware which although not as useful is still a nice addition to the board. Wireless lovers fear not though there is a useful feature we will look at shortly.
Also worth noting at the bottom corner of the PCB is a skull logo, the eyes on this flash with drive activity which may appeal to people with case windows. As mentioned earlier the 24pin power connector sits at the top right of the board and beside it we find the memory slots. As with all of the P55 boards we have seen so far there are four slots split over two channels and Intel allow selection of DDR3-1600, with even more available via overclocking.
External connectivity on this product is strong. We have two eSATA, 10 channel audio in/out with Dolby technology, firewire, GB-LAN, and eight USB 2.0. We mentioned earlier that it was a slight disappointment to see the antenna included with this board was for Bluetooth rather than wireless LAN however Intel offers a feature which negates this issue, an internal USB connector which sits just behind the optical audio. Install a USB wireless card in there and not only do we not have a large USB device sticking out the back of the PC, we also have all of the external ports free.
The final point of note on the DP55KG is the LED readout which sits to the side of the memory slots. This is the first Intel board we have seen to feature this and it allows for easier fault diagnosis of any boot issues.
Intel’s BIOS will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used one of their recent boards or even those as far back as the D975XBX. All of the usual options are available such as increasing the CPU voltage or overclocking via BCLK/Multiplier. Intel also includes a handy summary screen which shows the default settings, current settings and how our changes will impact the various items. Another user friendly option is the Intel BIOS update procedure. Still by far the best update procedure available, simply double click an exe file in Windows and the board reboots, flashes and boots back into Windows.
In recent months we have taken a look at a number of Z97 boards, including Gigabytes exceptional Z97X- Gaming G1 WIFI-BK and their more affordable, mainstream Z97X-Gaming 5. Of course when it comes to motherboards there are many needs and budgets which require solutions and so as with their...