EVGA X58 3X SLI Motherboard

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Product: EVGA X58 SLI Motherboard
Provided by: BCCHardware
Price: Find Lowest Price Online

 

Introduction:

While we've spent a bunch of time lately reviewing ASRock boards, we've recently got a bunch of Core i7 stuff piling up on the review bench as well.  Our first official Nehalem supporting motherboard is the EVGA X58 SLI (132-BL-E758-A1).  This board is not cheap by any means, but it does offer a lot of features, overclocking support, support for three graphics cards and more.  While EVGA markets this as a "3X SLI" motherboard, the truth is that it can handle three AMD cards as well for some CrossfireX loving.  EVGA hasn't included any Crossfire bridges though - only SLI bridges.  Keep on reading as we take this board for a spin and see how it holds up.

 Box Shot
Box Shot
 Bundled Goodies
Bundled Goodies

 

The EVGA X58 comes in a large box with a ton of goodies inside.  Included in the box is the standard Rear I/O shield, manual, quick install guide, driver CD and Molex to SATA "Y" adapters.  Also in the box are a big bundle of SATA cables, a rounded IDE cable, rear firewire bracket, rear USB bracket and even a rear 9-pin serial bracket.  EVGA has also included the necessary triple-SLI bridge as well as a regular SLI bridge.  As previously mentioned, they have skimped on the Crossfire bridges even though the board can support CrossfireX just as easily as SLI.  The big thing is that EVGA doesn't market AMD/ATI cards so they are bragging about the cards they support.

 SATA Cables
SATA Cables
 Rear Brackets
Rear Brackets

 

First Look at the Board:

Even though X58 motherboards have been out for a while, this is the first X58 board that I've got to spend some quality time with.  This is EVGA's first X58 board so hopefully they've done enough research to get things right and there isn't any major issues with the layout.

Board Top
Board Top
Board Bottom
Board Bottom

 

Like every other X58 board I've seen, it comes with six DDR3 slots that can handle up to 12GB of DDR3 memory running in Triple-Channel mode.  There are a total of three PCIe 16x slots on board that can run at 16/8/8 in triple SLI mode or 16/16/8 in dual SLI mode.  The crazy thing is that there is a total of 9 channels of SATA on-board thanks to some J-Micron controllers in addition to the Intel support SATA.  Also on-board are power and resent buttons that include power and HDD activity LEDs.  This makes the board perfect as a test-bench as you don't need to jump the power and reset switches in order to operate the board.  Also on-board is a CMOS reset button.  There is also a CMOS reset button located on the rear I/O.


The main 24-pin power connector is located along the right side of the motherboard - out of the way for the most part.  This helps for cable management - especially on cases with bottom-mounted PSUs.  The cooling solution is pretty decent on this board as there southbridge and northbridge chipsets are connected by a low-profile heatpipe.  The main cooling takes place on the northbridge with a tall actively cooled heatsink.  The fan is not too loud but it is audible over other system fans including the CoolIT Domino we used for testing.  There are five available fan headers on this board and this give flexibility for cooling solutions and many systems will be able to plug in all of the fans and control them through SMARTFan options in the BIOS.

The SATA connectors are all located at the bottom corner of the board and remain out of the way for long graphics cards thanks to the 90° angle of the main SATA block.  At the very bottom edge of the board are two more SATA connectors that run off the J-Micron controller.  There is also an E-SATA connector on the rear I/O as well as one more SATA connector located just above the top PCIe slot.  USB and Firewire headers are located in pretty obvious places, and they shouldn't interfere with large graphics cards - although you'll want to connect these cables before you drop in three GTX 285 cards.

On the next page we'll take a closer look at the board before we take a look at the specs and features.


Closer Look:

As mentioned on the previous page, the cooling solution is pretty well done and while some X58 motherboards use entirely passive cooling, EVGA has opted for active cooling on this board.  The main reason for this is that it will likely be used for overclocking and cooler chipsets obviously equal more stable systems.  Not only are the chipsets cooled; the voltage regulators are cooled with a heatpipe and a stack of fins as well.  The only issue I have with this "tower of cool" is the close proximity to the 8-pin power connector.  If you have a stiff cable that is router over this heatsink, it is quite likely that it will put enough pressure on this to cause it to lose contact with the VRMs.

Cooling Profile
Cooling Profile

 

The rear I/O of the EVGA X58 is pretty interesting.  It is almost legacy-free as EVGA has dropped the PS/2 mouse connector.  They have however, included a PS/2 keyboard connector.  Immediately below the first set of USB connectors is the CMOS reset button.  Moving on down we find the Digital Audio Out options: optical and Coaxial SPIDF.  Next up we've got another set of USB ports followed by a firewire and eSATA connector.  Continuing our journey down the rear I/O we've got two matching USB/Ethernet blocks that bring our rear USB up to a total of eight.  Below these are the standard 7.1 Audio connectors that we see on many motherboards.

 

Rear IO
Rear IO

 

As we move on to the socket area, there really isn't too much to say.  The socket area is clear of major obstructions and we had no issues mounting a large heatsink on the board.  The cut-away design of the northbridge cooler allows for large heatinks to be installed without issues.  You'll also notice the 8-phase power regulation on this board - down 2-phases from the EVGA Classified X58 board, but still adequate for most situations.

CPU Socket
CPU Socket

 

The EVGA X58 3x SLI motherboard has three PCIe 16x slots spaced apart far enough that you'll be able to install three of your favorite GTX 260 or GTX 285 cards without any issues.  Of course if you do this, you'll block the other PCIe slot and both standard PCI slots, but I guess you'll be happy with 400+ FPS in Mirror's Edge with PhysX enabled.  Thankfully the SATA connectors remain out of the way of the tail-end of the graphics cards due to the main block being mounted at a 90° angle and pointing toward the back of the board/front of the case.  This is a great idea on any motherboard and I'm pretty happy about that for sure.

 PCIe Slots
PCIe Slots
SATA Ports
SATA Ports

 

The last couple of things worth mentioning before we jump into the specs and features of this board are the 6 DDR3 slots.  For triple-channel memory action, the modules are spaced with an empty slot separating the three sticks of memory, but if you do decide to drop in another kit and populate all six slots, you'll be happy to know that there is a wee bit of breathing room between the modules.  I've seen other boards that have the RAM sandwiched together, but EVGA allows a little room for airflow. 

 RAM Slots
RAM Slots
Power & Reset
Power & Reset

 

Possibly one of the handiest features about the board on a test-bench is the power and reset buttons on-board as well as the diagnostic LED display.  Both of these features make the board much handier to setup and use without being installed in a case.  The LED allows you to quickly determine the reason for your failed overclock.  Most of the time mine was DDR3 dividers as the BIOS I used all through testing didn't have XMP memory support.

On the next page we'll take a look at the chipset features as well as the motherboard specifications before we jump into testing.


Intel X58 Chipset Features:

X58 ChipsetThe heart of the EVGA X58 3X SLI motherboard is of course the X58 chipset and the Intel Core i7 CPU.  We recently reviewed the Core i7 920 CPU and focused on that end of the spectrum and today we are completing the task with the motherboard.  Below are some features and specifications of this new chipset from Intel.

Desktop PC platforms based on the Intel® X58 Express Chipset, combined with the Intel® Core™ i7 processor family, drive breakthrough performance and state-of-the-art technology to performance and mainstream platforms.

The Intel X58 Express Chipset supports the latest 45nm Intel Core i7 processor family at 6.4 GT/s and 4.8 GT/s speeds via the Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (Intel® QPI). Additionally, this chipset delivers dual x16 or quad x8 PCI Express* 2.0 graphics card support, and support for Intel® High Performance Solid State Drives on ICH10 and ICH10R consumer SKUs.

X58 Diagram

Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (Intel® QPI) at 6.4 and 4.8 GT/s Intel’s latest system interconnect design increases bandwidth and lowers latency. Supports the Intel® Core™ i7-965 processor Extreme Edition, Intel® Core™ i7-940 processors and Intel® Core™ i7-920 processors.
PCI Express 2.0 interface PCI Express 2.0 delivers up to 16GB/s bandwidth per port, double that of PCIe* 1.0. It provides leading-edge graphics performance and flexibility with support for dual x16 up to quad x8 graphic card configurations or any combinations in between.
Intel® High Definition Audio Integrated audio support enables premium digital sound and delivers advanced features such as multiple audio streams and jack re-tasking.
Intel® Matrix Storage technology With additional hard drives added, provides quicker access to digital photo, video and data files with RAID 0, 5, and 10, and greater data protection against a hard disk drive failure with RAID 1, 5, and 10. Support for external SATA (eSATA) enables the full SATA interface speed outside the chassis, up to 3 Gb/s.
Intel® Rapid Recover technology Intel's latest data protection technology provides a recovery point that can be used to quickly recover a system should a hard drive fail or if there is massive data corruption. The clone can also be mounted as a read-only volume to allow a user to recover individual files.
Intel® Turbo Memory Intel's innovative NAND cache designed to improve the responsiveness of applications, application load times, and system boot performance. Intel® Turbo Memory, paired with the Intel® X58 Express Chipset, also allows the user to easily control the applications or data in the cache using the new Intel® Turbo Memory Dashboard interface, boosting performance further.
Serial ATA (SATA) 3 Gb/s High-speed storage interface supports faster transfer rate for improved data access up to six SATA ports.
eSATA SATA interface designed for use with external SATA devices. It provides a link for 3 Gb/s data speeds to eliminate bottlenecks found with current external storage solutions.
SATA port disable Enables individual SATA ports to be enabled or disabled as needed. This feature provides added protection of data by preventing malicious removal or insertion of data through SATA ports. Especially targeted for eSATA ports.
USB port disable Enables individual USB ports to be enabled or disabled as needed. This feature provides added protection of data by preventing malicious removal or insertion of data through USB ports.

 

 

EVGA X58 3X SLI Features & Specs:

NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
Dramatically scales performance by allowing two graphics cards to be run in parallel. Only available on select PCI-Express models.

USB 2.0 Support
A standard plug and play interface providing easy-to-use connectivity for USB devices.

PCI Express® 2.0 / 1.1 Support
Allows 500MB a lane or up to 8 GB/s at 16x speeds - allows for full support for new PCI-E 2.0 graphics cards.

Serial ATA - II
Also known as SATA2, features a 3.0 Gbit/s transfer speed, faster than Standard Serial ATA.

Solid Capacitors
Offers a longer lifespan, better stability when at high frequencies, can operate at higher temperatures, and no longer runs the risk of exploding.

Active Heatsink
Consists of a fan and metal heatsink.

8 - Phase Power Design
For excellent power-stability, an 8 – Phase Power Design is used.

On-Boad Clear CMOS Button
An onboard clear CMOS button which allows you to easily clear your BIOS without moving a jumper.

On-Board Power Button with Integrated Power Light
An onboard power button for easily powering on or off your system. Also shows a power indication light.

On-Board Reset Button with Integrated HDD Activity Light
An onboard reset button for easily rebooting your system as well as gives current status of your HDD via an activity light.

On-Board Diagnostics LED Readout
Helpful for when diagnosing a problem is needed.

2-Way SLI® Support
Feel free to turn up the eye candy and experience the performance of 2 Graphics Cards running together.

3-Way SLI® Support
Experience the amazing performance that only 3 Graphics Cards can deliver, a visual experience that will take you to the next level.

Windows 2000™ Support

Windows XP™ Support

Windows Vista™ Support


DDR3 Support
Full support for the latest in DDR technologies.

Triple-Channel Support
Supports Triple-Channel memory configurations for extreme amounts of system memory bandwidth.

Dual-Channel Support
Supports Dual-Channel memory configurations for increased amounts of system memory bandwidth.

Intel® X58/ICH10R Chipset
This chipset supports Triple-Channel DDR3 system memory configurations as well as Intel® Core i7 (Socket 1366) support and NVIDIA® 2-Way and 3-Way SLI® support.

Intel® Core i7 Support
With an integrated memory controller, Intel® Core i7 (Socket 1366) processors feature amazing performance for however you use your computer.

 

 


Performance:

  • Based on Intel X58/ICH10R chipset
  • Supports Intel Core i7 Processors
  • 133 Mhz QPI Memory
  • 6 x 240-pin DIMM sockets
  • Triple Channel DDR3
  • Maximum of 12GB of DDR3 1600MHz+ (SZ1A BIOS) Expansion Slot
  • 1 x PCIe x16, 1 x PCIe x8/x16, 1 x PCIe x8, 1 x PCIe x1, 2 x PCI
  • 2 x 32-bit PCI, support for PCI 2.1

Storage I/O:

  • 1 x UltraDMA133
  • 9 x Serial ATA 300MB/sec with support for RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 0+1, RAID5, JBOD
  • x Floppy disk drive connector

Integrated Peripherals:

  • 8 Channel High Definition
  • 2 x 10/100/1000

Multi I/O:

  • 1 x PS2 Keyboard
  • 1 x Serial Ports
  • 12 x USB2.0 ports (4 external + 8 internal headers)
  • Audio connector (Line-in, Line-out, MIC)
  • FireWire 1394A (1 external, 1 header)

Form Factor:

  • ATX Form Factor
  • Length: 12.0in - 304.8mm
  • Width: 9.6in - 243.6mm


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.


Test System Specs:

Because we compared the Core i7 920 against the Phenom II 940 BE from AMD we have a couple of different test systems to go through.  Obviously, the motherboard and RAM will make a difference in performance as well, but this is a platform-to-platform comparison so there will be major differences between the two setups.  We did keep the graphics hardware the same though which is very important to keep in mind when considering the performance of our gaming tests.


Intel Core i7
CPU
Motherboard
EVGA X58 SLI
Memory
Graphics
2x Radeon HD 4850 Crossfire
Cooling
Hard Drives
2x Seagate 200GB HDD RAID 0
Operating System
Windows Vista Ultimate x64 w/SP1
ATI Drivers
9.1 Drivers

 

Subsystem Tests - HDD:

We start off the subsystem testing with some HDD tests.  For the HDTach test below we used a RAID 0 stripe on a pair of older 200GB HDDs.  It's unfortunate that we didn't have any better drives on hand, although you can see the performance is still very good.

HDTach
HDTach

 

 

Subsystem Tests - Audio:

EVGA uses the ALC889 codec that is technically capable of 108dB signal-to-noise ratio. As you can see with all of the results below although the sound quality is labeled as "HD", you can see that the quality is not "high quality".  Even though it is capable of 192kHz audio, it doesn't do it that well.  The truth is that most people won't hear the difference when plugged into a $50 pair of speakers or $15 headphones, but for those of you that care about audio quality on the integrated audio, RightMark Audio Analyzer results are below.  We tested a few different bit and sampling rates and have posted the chart below for your viewing pleasure.

RMAA

Subsystem Tests - Network:

One area that we have started testing is network performance.  It is easy for a company to claim great networking features as many users never test them out and are puzzled when they can only transfer files at a mere 250Mbit/sec on their 1000Mbit/sec NIC.  We use iPerf for testing network performance and on this board we tested out both wired and wireless performance.


iPerf

In iPerf, we ran single threaded tests as well as a multi-threaded network test that used five streams at the same time.  Multi-threaded performance always looks better and shows how the network system will hold up when accessed from multiple machines at the same time.  Single thread performance shows client-to-client file sharing performance.

On the next page we'll cover some synthetic benchmarks relating to system performance and memory before we jump into real world tests and gaming.


Synthetic Performance:

To start things off we'll take a look at PCMark Vantage numbers.  This entire system is identical to the one we built for the Core i7 920 review as previously mentioned and is a whole lot better in some areas that any of the Phenom and Phenom II stuff from AMD.  We are comparing the numbers below with a Phenom 9950 Black Edition processor.  The Core i7 is a couple of generations later and really light-years ahead in terms of technology and architecture so you really can't compare the numbers directly.  The Phenom system uses DDR2 while the Intel system uses DDR3.  These numbers are merely for reference.

 PCMark Vantage

 

To gauge memory performance we used Everest Ultimate and SiSoft Sandra.  These numbers are gleaned from the Crucial Ballistix Tracer 6GB Kit review.  If you want to compare your triple-channel DDR3 performance, you can head on over and grab SiSoft Sandra here and compare away.  Please keep in mind that if you are using a dual-channel kit, your performance numbers will look dismal.


Benchmarking - Everest:

Because there is a lot of system tweaking that goes along with clocking up memory to non-standard speeds, we haven't included any "real-world" benchmarks.  In order to get the memory to run at speeds other than 1066MHz, 1333MHz, 1600MHz or 1866MHz the motherboard bus and CPU must be clocked up in order to achieve these speeds.  As we've shown before the CPU plays a huge roll in benchmark performance and so it's not fair to compare WinRAR compression when the CPU is clocked up 400MHz faster.  Of course the "RAM" will look faster, but in reality the CPU is the one doing the work.  For this reason we use two simply synthetic benchmarks to show memory performance.  How it affects performance in the real-world will depend largely on CPU, motherboard and other hardware bottlenecks so we have to be content with synthetic benchmarks to gain our number metric.  First up is Everest.

 Everest

 While it should be no surprise that CL7 performance at 1626MHz is faster than CL8 performance at 1600MHz, the results aren't quite as impressive as we hoped due to the poorer command rate of 2T.  This is effectively twice as long as the 1T command rate at CL8.  Regardless, when the CPU is overclocked a bit and the memory is running at its fastest stable speed of 1808MHz the performance numbers in Everest are pretty impressive.  Latency measures under 28ns and copy speed is well over 20GB/sec.  Even write speed measures an incredible 15037MB/sec.

 SiSoft Bandwidth
SiSoft Bandwidth
SiSoft Latency
SiSoft Latency

 

SiSoft shows that there is little to no difference in performance at CL7 or CL8 when running right around 1600MHz.  One test shows 0.05GB/sec less performance and the other shows 0.04GB/sec better performance.  I think it's safe to say, it's pretty much a draw.  What does take the lead and the cake is the performance over 1808MHz CL8.  We reach over the magical 30GB/sec performance with this memory according to SiSoft.  In terms of latency, we use SiSoft Sandra to measure linear and random latency and while linear latency remains static at 6ns, we do gain a whole 1ns of latency when moving from DDR3-1600 CL8 to DDR3-1808 CL8.  Tighter timings doing seem to help here as the Command Rate of 2T seems to negate performance when running at CL7.

 

Finally we take a look at PMCore - a program that calculates prime numbers.  This program is multi-threaded and we used it to calculate 10,000 prime numbers.  The results below are in minutes:seconds.tenths.  For reference sake we put up a Phenom II system against the Core i7 just for kicks and giggles.

PMCore

On the next page we'll carry on with some real-world application tests before we go gaming with this motherboard.


 

Cinebench and POV-RAY:

It's no secret that 3D Rendering and modeling through programs like 3DStudioMax, Blender and others are very CPU intensive.  Of course with all the stream processors available in today's graphics cards, some of heavy workload is now being offloaded to the GPU, but a good 3D program can bring a system to its knees - especially when rendering lighting effects and very smooth models.  We've put Cinebench 9.6 x64 as well as Cinebench R10 x64 to the test on both the Phenom II and Core i7 systems and threw in POV-Ray for good measure.  All of these programs can be ran on a single core, or multiple cores to speed up the work process.

 Cinebench 9.6
Cinebench 9.6
Cinebench 10
Cinebench 10

 

  POVRay

 

We've seen these performance numbers with the Core i7 review, so we won't spend a lot of time discussing the performance numbers.  Our goal is to lay the groundwork for more X58 motherboard reviews.

Next up we look at a couple of conversion programs - ConvertXDVD from VSO-Software as well as DVDShrink.  Both of these programs support multi-core and were ran at stock speeds only on the Core i7 system.  As you can see, the EVGA X58 setup destroys the AMD systems in ConvertX, but lags in DVDShrink.

ConvertX DVD
ConvertX DVD
DVDShrink
 DVDShrink

 

As we carry on through the benchmarks, we stop in for a bit to look at PhotoShop CS2 and DriverHeaven's PSBench 3.0.  Instead of breaking all the rendering and filtering operations down, we've posted the total score.  Once again this is taken from the Core i7 920 review.

PhotoShop CS2

 

Finally, we take a look at some video encoding through the x.264 and x.264HD benchmarks.  These programs are multi-threaded and take advantage of fast clock speeds, hyperthreading and a fast subsystem.  It's incredible to see this system crank out HD video encoding at an insane 69.8FPS.   That is just under 3x real-time speeds of a 24FPS HD video.

x264

 

As we carry on to the next page, we'll take a look at gaming performance on the X58 EVGA motherboard.


 

Gaming Performance - Crysis:

As we fire up our actual gaming benchmarks, we thought of several ways to do this.  Ultimately we wanted to use real resolutions and real settings to compare these processors.  Granted if we ran everything at 640x480, we'd see a dramatic improvement on multi-core capable games when running the Core i7 920 with Hyper Threading at high speeds.  The reality is that most gamers that have money for a new CPU don't run at 640x480 and we wanted to see what kind of performance increase you can expect to see with real settings in a game.  We kept all of the settings exactly the same throughout the tests and only the essential platform hardware changed between the Phenom II and Core i7 systems - CPU, Mobo, RAM.  All other system settings remained identical.

We played some Crysis with the latest patches installed.   We used the HOC Crysis Benchmark for our tests and ran the game at 1280x768, 1680x1050, and 1920x1200.  We used the CPU portion of the benchmarking program and tested on both Medium and High graphics quality.

Crysis

 

 

Gaming Performance - Far Cry 2:

The original Far Cry games blew us away with its high detailed graphics, incredible field of view as well as amazing water effects.  Far Cry 2 has left me feeling a little disappointed with its overall look as the game has a much grittier look and feel.  That being said, it is still a popular game and it includes a very handy benchmarking tool.  We ran a couple of resolutions with two detail settings to get a feel at how the CPU affects performance in the game.  Please keep in mind that this is again taken from the Core i7 review and is the groundwork for more X58 motherboard reviews in the future.

Far Cry 2

 

Gaming Performance - HL2:EP2, UT3 & More:

As we wrap up game testing, we quickly look at Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Unreal Tournament 3 and the Valve Multi-CPU Particle Benchmark.  The results remain similar with the Core i7 taking the 1st place prize by a sizable margin.

 HL2EP2
HL2EP2
 Particle Bench
Particle Bench
UT3
UT3

 

Final Thoughts:

The EVGA X58 motherboard is a high-end solution for those of you looking to build a nice Core i7 system.  It offers a lot in the way of the bundle - including pretty much everything you need, and probably a few things you don't.  It offers the standard 6 slots for DDR3 but failed to provide XMP support for the first months of its life cycle.  Thankfully EVGA has now offered this with a BIOS update so you can turn up your RAM more easily.  EVGA markets this board as a 3x SLI motherboard and includes standard SLI and triple SLI connectors, but leaves out any reference to CrossfireX.  The chipset supports both so why doesn't EVGA say so?  My guess is that EVGA only sells NVIDIA based graphics cards and doesn't want you to quickly jump to the other ship on your GPU purchasing decisions.

 

In the end, the layout is nicely done, but if you do install three large graphics cards for either SLI or Crossfire, you're going to use up all of the other PCI and PCIe slots.  Normally this isn't that big of a deal, but the audio quality on this board isn't really all that impressive, and it's a shame that you can't plug in a PCIe Audigy X-Fi once you've got your graphics cards installed.

Please keep in mind that this review is laying the groundwork for more X58 motherboard reviews and our extensive references to AMD systems won't carry forward in other Core i7 based reviews.  Readers need something to compare results to, and while we spent a lot of the time comparing apples to watermelon, we had to lay the groundwork.

Pros:

  • Full featured board
  • Good layout
  • 8-phase power regulation for the CPU
  • Excellent overclocking capability
  • Supports Tri-SLI, CrossfireX
  • Active cooling on chipset and good VRM cooling
  • Lots of USB/SATA

 

Cons:

  • Poor audio quality
  • BIOS is very enthusiast oriented - a guide will be needed to get the most from your board.
  • No Crossfire bridges
  • Pretty expensive - $300+

 

BCCRating

 

If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.