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Going to the Extremes - Intel X58 Motherboards Roundup

Going to the Extremes - Intel X58 Motherboards Roundup



The Extremes

The Extremes

Those who are familiar with Intel's recent chipsets would know that the chip giant has kept to a certain naming convention when it comes to these products. Namely, the 'X' in X38, X48 and now the X58 all represent the highest end chipsets for its processors. These are enthusiast class chipsets, designed right from the start with features like multi-GPU support and a higher front side bus (FSB) than the norm. The latest incarnation, the X58 was in fact introduced together with Intel's newest architecture, codenamed Nehalem and designed to work together with the just released Core i7 processors.

As befits a new architecture, what you'll find on the new X58 chipset is quite a departure from the previous X48. Physically, it's now using a new socket, LGA 1366 to fit the larger Core i7 processors, which has almost twice the number of contact points as the LGA 775 versions. Multi-GPU support has been enhanced, with NVIDIA joining the fray by allowing SLI support on these Intel motherboards, adding to the native CrossFireX support. In short, this chipset is truly for the enthusiast who likes to keep all their options open (and who may change between ATI and NVIDIA more often than most people buying a graphics card).

The most important change in the X58 however has to be the shift of the memory controller from the motherboard to the Core i7 CPU and this is a triple channel controller too. Hence, the old FSB is gone. What you'll find are quite a few inter-dependent clocks and multipliers not unlike that on the AMD platform. One familiar name would be the ICH10R Southbridge that's also found on the Intel P45 chipset, giving X58 motherboards a minimum of six SATA 3.0Gbps ports. For more details about the chipset, you can check our Core i7 article in the related links below.

For now, our focus is on the top motherboards conjured up by the major vendors to appeal to the enthusiasts. And from what we have seen, the big three featured here, ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI have certainly outdone themselves. Unsurprisingly, two of the three boards here have used 'Extreme' in their names (for once, that's not a marketing exaggeration). The only vendor to break that trend, MSI, came up with a new 'Eclipse' name for its top X58 board, so there's no doubting the importance of these high-end enthusiast boards in the eyes of the vendors, even if they are unlikely to sell as many as their mainstream boards. After all, street cred is at stake here.

That all three motherboards here have the standard features of an Intel X58 chipset with the ICH10R Southbridge is a given. To differentiate themselves however, there are differences in the storage, audio, expansion slot options and of course the layout. Each vendor also has its own long list of proprietary technologies and utilities that enhance the performance, power efficiency or user experience. Most of these features should be familiar to enthusiasts and we have listed them below:-

The X58 Contenders
  ASUS Rampage 2 Extreme MSI Eclipse SLI Gigabyte EX58-EXTREME
CPU Support Intel Core i7 using LGA 1366 package
Chipset Intel X58 + ICH10R
QPI Up to 6.4GT/s
Memory
  • 6 x DDR3-1800 (O.C)
  • 12GB Maximum
  • 6 x DDR3-1600
  • 24GB Maximum
  • 6 x DDR3-2100 (O.C)
  • 24GB Maximum
Storage
  • 6 x SATA 3.0Gbps (ICH10R)
  • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 configurations
  • JMicron JMB363 PATA and SATA controller
  • 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33 for up to 2 PATA devices
    • 1 x eSATA port
    • 1 x SATA 3.0Gbps
  • 6 x SATA 3.0Gbps (ICH10R)
  • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10 configurations
  • JMicron JMB363 PATA and SATA controller
  • 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33 for up to 2 PATA devices
  • JMicron JMB322
    • 2 x eSATA ports
    • 4 x SATA 3.0Gbps
  • 6 x SATA 3.0Gbps (ICH10R)
  • Support AHCI controller with SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10
  • Gigabyte SATA2 chip (JMicron JMB363)
  • 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66/33 for up to 2 PATA devices
  • 2 x JMB322 chips (Smart Backup)
    • 4 x SATA 3.0Gbps
Audio
  • SupremeFX X-Fi audio card
  • ADI AD2000B HD Audio CODEC
  • 1 x S/PDIF output header
  • Coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs at rear
  • Creative X-Fi Xtreme audio card
  • Creative CA0110 Digital audio controller
  • Optical S/PDIF output
  • Realtek ALC889A CODEC
  • HD Audio
  • Optical S/PDIF
  • Coaxial S/PDIF
Networking 2 x Marvell Yukon 88E8056 PCIe Gigabit LAN w/ Teaming support 2 x Realtek 8111C Gigabit LAN 2 x Realtek 8111D Gigabit LAN w/ Teaming support
IEEE 1394
  • VIA VT6308P
  • 2 x 1394a (1 header, 1 rear)
  • VIA VT6308P
  • 2 x 1394a (1 header, 1 rear)
  • T.I TSB43AB23 chip
  • 3 x 1394a (1 rear, 2 headers)
Rear I/O
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • 1 x eSATA port
  • 2 x RJ45 (LAN) ports
  • 6 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x FireWire port
  • Clear CMOS switch
  • 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • 1 x FireWire port
  • 2 x eSATA ports
  • 8 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 2 x RJ45 (LAN) ports
  • Clear CMOS switch
  • 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • Optical S/PDIF
  • Coaxial S/PDIF
  • 8 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 2 x RJ45 (LAN) ports
  • 1 x FireWire port
  • Clear CMOS switch
  • 6 x audio jacks
Internal Connectors
  • 3 x USB headers (6 ports)
  • 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  • 1 x IDE connector
  • 7 x SATA connectors
  • 1 x 1394a connector
  • 8 x fan connectors
  • 8 x ProbeIt connectors
  • 1 x LCD Poster connector
  • 1 x ROG light connector
  • 2 x USB headers (4 ports)
  • 1 x IDE connector
  • 10 x SATA connectors
  • 5 x fan connectors
  • 1 x 1394a connector
  • 1 x serial port connector
  • 1 x TPM module header
  • 1 x D-LED2 panel header
  • 1 x S/PDIF out connector
  • 2 x USB headers (4 ports)
  • 1 x IDE connector
  • 10 x SATA connectors
  • 5 x fan connectors
  • 2 x 1394a connectors
  • 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  • 1 x S/PDIF in header
  • 1 x S/PDIF out header
Expansion Slots
  • 3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x16, x8, x8) or dual x16 speed
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
  • 1 x PCI 2.2
  • 3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x16, x8, x8) or dual x16 speed
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
  • 2 x PCI 2.2
  • 3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x16, x8, x8) or dual x16 speed
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
  • 2 x PCI 2.2
Special Features
  • Q-Fan Plus
  • ROG BIOS Wallpaper
  • ASUS EPU-6 Engine
  • ASUS Q-Connector
  • ASUS Fan Xpert
  • ASUS EZ Flash 2
  • ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
  • ASUS MyLogo3
  • DrMOS
  • GreenPower Genie
  • MSI Dual Core Center
  • MSI Live Update 3
  • @BIOS
  • Q-Flash
  • Virtual Dual BIOS
  • Xpress Install
  • Xpress Recovery2
  • EasyTune
  • Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced
  • Time Repair
  • Q-Share
Form Factor ATX (30.5 x 24.5cm)