EVGA X58 3X SLI Motherboard - BIOS and Overclocking

Article Index
EVGA X58 3X SLI Motherboard
Close Look at the EVGA X58
X58 Features and Specifications
BIOS and Overclocking
Test Setup, HDD Testing and More
Synthetic System, CPU and Memory
Real World Application Benchmarks
Game Performance and Final Thoughts

EVGA X58 BIOS:

The motherboard BIOS is probably one of the most boring areas to look at if you're not an overclocker or enthusiast.  Mainstream users will probably want to skip down to the overclocking section to see how easy it is to tweak and overclock this board.  For you hardcore users, check out the BIOS screenshots of the SZ1N BIOS below.  During testing, EVGA updated the BIOS three times, and the last update enabled the XMP Memory Feature and fixed a Virtualization Bug.  However, for the month or two we've had this board, there was no XMP support.  Many sections like "Boot Order" have been left out as we simply can't handle that much excitement.  For now, the advanced bios settings will have to keep you happy - and tweaking your RAM, CPU and voltages until your heart's content.

Main BIOS Screen
Main BIOS Screen

 

EVGA uses the standard Award BIOS and this should be very familiar to most overclockers and tweakers.  I like this much better than other BIOS renditions as I've found the layout much more sensible and easier to navigate.  Before we jump into the hardcore stuff, let's take a looks a few of the more basic screens.

Integrated Peripherals
Integrated Peripherals
Profile Slots
Profile Slots

 

One thing that surprised me with this new board is that it comes with full Serial support.  I didn't expect the latest chipset from Intel to support 9-pin serial, let alone EVGA to ship a rear bracket cable.  After you've done the tweaking and customization that you want, you can save your profile to one of several slots.  This is ideal as you can have your bleeding edge overclocking settings saved to one spot, your default clocks/RAID setup to another and even have some room for other profiles in-between.

The X58 chipset brings some new features to the table.  This is due in part to the integrated memory controller.  It also has to do with how the Intel CPU architecture has changed.  Notice the different CPU screen below.

 CPU Features
CPU Features
CPU host Frequency
CPU Host Frequency
 CPU Uncore Frequency
CPU Uncore Frequency

 

I think that EVGA is generous with their CPU Host Frequency settings as we never got anywhere close to 500MHz - up from the stock 133MHz of the Core i7 920 CPU. We did manage to run stable at 214MHz, and we got it to run quite a bit of our tests at 220MHz, but ran into a bit of stability issues.  As we review more motherboards we'll find out the limit of the CPU and the memory in different scenarios.

It's safe to say that there is enough voltage headroom to absolutely cook your computer if you don't know what you're doing.  DDR3 default voltage is 1.5v, but this board will allow you to crank it up to well over the safe 1.65v maximum for the processor; although it is not recommended.  Apparently the voltage applied to the RAM can affect the CPU as the memory controller now resides on the Core i7 processor itself.

 Frequency & Voltage
Frequency & Voltage
Voltage Control
Voltage Control

 

Speaking of memory settings there are a lot to play with and I'm sure that you'll be able to get lost if your not a power user.  To learn about the quirks, moods and little tricks to this board, I spent a bit of time in the EVGA forums and got a lot of help there.  In the end, I was pretty happy with the memory flexibility, but disappointed with the lack of XMP support - until the last BIOS update.

 Memory Features 1
Memory Features 1
 Memory Features 2
Memory Features 2

 

Overclocking:

Most of the overclocking results have been documented in our Core i7 920 CPU review over here,  The only thing we tried different this time around is that we tried to max out the bus and reduce the multiplier in order to achieve the highest bus possible.  We didn't gain a whole lot and we actually topped out at a slightly slower clock speed when we maxed out the bus.  We're probably CPU limited, but we managed to get to 214MHz stable and tweaked out at 220MHz with about 98% stability.  Better cooling or a little more voltage might have made this stable, but we were pushing the voltages a bit as it was.

214 FSB Stable
214 FSB Stable

For our first X58 motherboard review we thought we'd stick to basics and are borrowing a bit from the Intel Core i7 920 review.  That being said, we tested the Core i7 920 at stock speeds and did some overclocking by trying to reach the highest CPU speed as possible as well as by reaching the highest FSB as possible.  This is the default setup that most consumers will use out of the box and gives a very good representation of how the Core i7 920 performs. Our best CPU scores come from the original Intel Core i7 920 review and although we managed to turn down the CPU multiplier and turn up the FSB a little more, the end results weren't as good as when the multiplier was at stock 21x200 FSB.

 220 FSB
220 FSB

 

On the next page we'll start testing out the board and dive into the HDD, Audio and Network subsystems before we get into overall performance testing.