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X48 Motherboard Comparison: Meet the new boss

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February 25, 2008 11:00:53 AM

Long ago, Intel promised a higher-speed version of its X38 Express for added stability when using FSB-1600 processors. Manufacturer uptake has been a little slow, but we're finally prepared to examine the benefits of X48 Express.

http://www.tomshardware.com/2008/02/25/x48_motherboard_comparison/
February 25, 2008 12:22:27 PM

I've been waiting for this article for nearly two months. I'm putting together a new PC to replace a four year old Athlon64 machine. I figured I might as well wait for X48 motherboards and 45nm quads to base my system on. After reading this review I am definitely going with the ASUS board. I was hesitant to use four sticks of DDR3-1600, but now that someone else has taken the guess work out I feel much more confident. The cost is going to be steep, but I like my systems to last at least three years.
February 25, 2008 12:56:42 PM

sign me up for that $20 board!!! dang!!! :) 

"So what do motherboards featuring the super-upscale X48 Express chipset cost? Nobody knows with certainty, since they haven't been distributed yet. We expect the price premium to drop to around $20 once availability becomes consistent,,,,"
February 25, 2008 1:10:08 PM

warezme said:
sign me up for that $20 board!!! dang!!! :) 

"So what do motherboards featuring the super-upscale X48 Express chipset cost? Nobody knows with certainty, since they haven't been distributed yet. We expect the price premium to drop to around $20 once availability becomes consistent,,,,"


I think the author was saying the X48 boards will be about $20 more expensive than comparable X38 boards once the supply of X48 boards ramps up.
a b V Motherboard
February 25, 2008 1:25:11 PM

hotbbq said:
I think the author was saying the X48 boards will be about $20 more expensive than comparable X38 boards once the supply of X48 boards ramps up.


Yeh, that's kind of what "price premium" means. I wouldn't be surprised to see the first boards come out around $80 more expensive than identical X38's, and take around 2 months to get to the $20 overcharge.
February 25, 2008 2:06:11 PM

I had been looking forward to the X48 series motherboards, thinking that there were specific improvements over the X38s. From what I understood in this article, the only "improvement" is a 1600 FSB rating, nothing else. Since a great number of X38s already have the ability for a 1600 FSB, then the question arises; Why? Is this nothing more than a change the number designation so the company can charge more money?

Unless something specific can be found to justify a X48 over a X38, I'll content myself with a X38 at its lessor cost.
a b V Motherboard
February 25, 2008 2:48:18 PM

Howdy Sailor!

For a historical perspective on the X48 vs X38 debate, look back to articles concerning the old i850 and i850E, where the only difference then was that one was validated for FSB-533 and the other was only validated for FSB-400.
February 25, 2008 3:09:22 PM

Hi there Crashman. Good to see you.

Yeah, I remember a few of the "new and improved" pieces of hardware from years back, especially since I got burned by a couple of them before waking up to what was going on. I suppose for the person who is either upgrading from an old system or otherwise buying a 775 board for the first time, a X48 may make sense. But for someone who already has a P35 or X38 that can run a 1600 FSB, it doesn't, at least in my opinion. Unless, I suppose, a person wanted to go from DDR2 to DDR3 ram, but that doesn't make much sense at this point in time. Maybe in 6 months or a year, DDR3 with make sense, but not at the moment. Again, such is my opinion.
February 25, 2008 3:50:54 PM

Well im upgrading an old, old system. (P4 Northwood) - yea you heard me. So I guess for me X48 is the way to go. The only thing im debating is if im going go to with DDR2 or DDR3. Although i want SLI I dont plan on buying a hot 7xxi board just for that reason. Im currently thinking of buying (when available) the Asus Rampage because of the x48/DDR2. Still not sure though. Anyway props on this review. Peace.
February 25, 2008 4:17:02 PM

Why did they not use quad core cpus during the test with the X48 motherboard batch? Now those of us looking for a Q9450/X48 combo don't know what kind of max FSB overclock we are able to get.
February 25, 2008 4:45:19 PM

mesh1 said:
The only thing im debating is if im going go to with DDR2 or DDR2.


I'm guessing that you mean DDR2 or DDR3. For the time being, DDR2 can run nearly as fast as the best available DDR3 and DDR2 is about a fifth the price. That may, and probably will, change during the next 6 months. A year from now and the price difference may be neglible while DDR3 performance will be greater yet. Two years from now and DDR2 ram will start disappearing and start getting expensive, just as DDR ram is now.

If you have no money problems, then a DDR3 board would be best. Otherwise, get the DDR2 board. Another thing to think about is that having lots of ram if you use Vista 64 helps it run faster. Four gig is showing itself to be a minimum for speed, and even 8 gig is proving worthwhile. You can pick up 8 gig of DDR2 ram right now for about $200, and that's very cheap. Tom's had an article about this on Feb 15. Of course, the amount of ram needed depends on how exactly you use the computer. But, for the present price, 8 gig isn't very expensive at all and may be necessary in a few years.

As to your updating an old rig, you fit squarely into what I refered to as someone who was buying their first 775 board. For you it makes some sense. You get the very latest tech for only a slight premium, about $20 dollars extra according to the article.
February 25, 2008 8:13:54 PM

ZipZoomFly has the ASUS board list at $399. Naturally this is only an estimate as they don't actually have the board.

Also on the matter of price, Anandtech's review of the ASUS board had this to say:

"With an estimated retail price of around $299, there is a lot of value in the purchase of the P5E3 Premium for those looking at a high-end motherboard to use in the coming years."
February 25, 2008 11:56:45 PM

What did they used to test the onboard sound? It is an independent program or a part of Windows Vista?
a b V Motherboard
February 26, 2008 12:40:05 AM

Those are Rightmark Audio Analyser charts, it should have been listed in the benchmark settings.
February 26, 2008 6:58:20 AM

Well that was kind of a *yawn*. Hopefully P45 will be more interesting. From what I've read it should be.

-mcg
February 26, 2008 8:33:18 AM

All of this makes me think that the x38 chipset boards will probably go down in price. Also makes me think that some of the Nvidia chipset boards will drop a little too.

Would it still be worth getting an X38 knowing that the X48 is just around the corner?
February 28, 2008 4:43:07 AM

I considered replacing my 965P-DQ6 with a X38-DQ6 this week. I checked my supplier and he has none in stock, but can back order one for $229AUD. Keep in mind we're system builders, so these prices are wholesale.

I figured this had to be a typo since my 965P was $350 and I know everyone else around here is still advertising them for around $330 to $390. It was no typo. Gigabyte is clearning stock for the X48, which will basically be the same motherboard with a much higher price tag.

I decided not to get the X38, since my 965P is performing well, as is the wife's P35-DQ6. But now I'm questioning my decision again. I'll never be able to match this price for a DQ6 of any chipset. It would be great to have a backup board in case either of ours fails. Hmmmm.

Anyway I'm glad the article came out before the X38s are completely gone so that I have the option to even consider buying a X38 at this price. :) 
February 28, 2008 4:48:58 AM

BTW, will retail customers be able to enjoy this price break? Probably not. Our customers would get a cheaper system, but we don't sell components individually. I doubt retailers will pass on this savings either. :s
February 28, 2008 11:53:10 AM

Perhaps I'm simply insane but reading this article feels like a departure from reality...

1st Anyone who plays shooter games under XP and enjoys EAX 2.0 thru their onbaord needs to know Vista will take away your EAX! That's right, no more environmental effect from UT or any other game! Vista DOES NOT MAKE THE NEED FOR AN ADD ON SOUND CARD LESS FOR A GAMER/ENTHUSIAST!!! The author is dead wrong.

2nd Unless you have money to burn or want bragging rights, why would you pay over $300 bucks for a motherboard that requires memory which costs you 4x the price? If your future proofing you've ether been dooped or are not an enthusiast. Future proof, pfft what's that in the computer world? Every enthusiast I know turns over a MB/CPU in about a year.

I really think Tom's commentary these days stink. They need to simply assemble, run canned benchmarks, and post because the comments are way off base.

For those looking to build a kick'en machine...
Look at a solid P35 motherboard. - $130
E6750 - $180
Artic Cooling CPU cooler - $28
4Gigs DDR2-1000 - $110
8800GT - $200
XGamer - $80 (currently has 30 MIR!)
Vista 64 - $190

That rig is nearly 100% guaranteed to OC to 3.45 with 100% stability. Hands down price / performance this setup is unmatched. With the money saved buying a P35MB & DDR2 in 12 months you can upgrade again! So you'll be what, 5% slower ATM, in 12months you'll be 30% faster and be able to upgrade your current AMD home media PC with the wad of cash you saved! :) 
a b V Motherboard
February 28, 2008 12:33:36 PM

PeterHighlander said:
Perhaps I'm simply insane but reading this article feels like a departure from reality...


Nah, you're just insane. The article states that most people don't gain anything in paying more for an X48. It also states that the primary reason people have bought sound cards, to get extra frames per second, is no longer an issue in Vista since the O.S. has taken away the hardware assistance. You haven't argued against either point, so it looks like the article one "on key".
February 28, 2008 12:58:38 PM

Crashman said:
Nah, you're just insane. The article states that most people don't gain anything in paying more for an X48. It also states that the primary reason people have bought sound cards, to get extra frames per second, is no longer an issue in Vista since the O.S. has taken away the hardware assistance. You haven't argued against either point, so it looks like the article one "on key".


haha.. fair enough, but I you'll be joining me in the asylum. The article states and I quote;

"Windows Vista might have done away with much of the hardware assistance that once made discrete soundcards the only choice for gamers"

This statement is EXACTLY WRONG. Vista did do away with hardware assistance, true, the reason you buy discrete hardware now is to get the EAX type positional support through OpenAL!!! It's not about fps, it's about hearing a rocket launcher go off BEHIND YOU and turning the right direction.

Anonymous
February 28, 2008 1:21:53 PM

X48 waste of money imo
February 28, 2008 2:37:07 PM

Great article for the most part. I kind of expected the results, but it was nice to see exhaustive tests done to prove the results. The conclusion of this article was rather nice given the level of specific detail addressed to each board.

Something interesting to point out; apparently MSI still has not fixed their problem w/4 dimms. I suggested the P6N Diamond to my friend, and he found that it did not play nice w/4 Dimms. We then found out that this was a common problem among MSI boards. As per this article... looks like the problem still persists. Highest FSB on 2 dimms, but fail on 4 dimms...

Just something to keep in mind.
February 29, 2008 4:17:00 PM

how long will lga 775 last?
March 4, 2008 11:50:12 AM

I'd like to see these boards tested out with 4GB of ram run at 4x1 and 4x2. I've seen many posts on x38 boards that say people have a really hard time getting those boards stable with 4GB. I'm wondering if the x48's are any better.
a b V Motherboard
March 4, 2008 12:05:04 PM

That would be 4x1 and 2x2. It's all about the second set of memory slots.
March 4, 2008 1:57:56 PM

Drake718 said:
I'd like to see these boards tested out with 4GB of ram run at 4x1 and 4x2. I've seen many posts on x38 boards that say people have a really hard time getting those boards stable with 4GB. I'm wondering if the x48's are any better.


When two memory slots are used with the X38 MCH the default command rate is one.
When four memory slots are used with the X38 MCH the default command rate is two.

When users have four memory slots used and set the command rate to one the motherboard will not boot up.

This occurs with DDR3 memory because the X38 MCH has a psudeo cache that stores the memory addresses of frequently accessed memory locations. If all four memory slots are used the MCH requires more time to ensure errors do not occur. Thus the command rate is set to two automatically for system stablity.

I doubt this will change for the X48 MCH.

When Nehalem is released the memory controller will be integrated into the cpu and that will resolve the issue of setting the memory command rate.

March 5, 2008 9:49:47 PM

So if I read this right... If I want 4GB of RAM I should buy a pair of 2GB DIMM's.

I'm thinking the GA-X48-DQ6 with 4 GB of 1066 MHz (PC-8500) and a Q9450 with a modest overclock from it's 333 FSB.

Of couse with 32-bit XP I'll only be able to use about 3.5 GB for now. If MicroSloth ever get's around to fixing it's 64-bit OS's I'll gladly switch. I doubt that will happen till MicroSoft stops putting out 32-bit OS's. Here's hoping the Vista replacement is 64-bit only.
March 10, 2008 12:31:42 AM

zpyrd said:

This occurs with DDR3 memory because the X38 MCH has a psudeo cache that stores the memory addresses of frequently accessed memory locations. If all four memory slots are used the MCH requires more time to ensure errors do not occur. Thus the command rate is set to two automatically for system stablity.



Does this 4 module mishap happen with DDR2 as well or is it DDR3 specific? Their DDR2 GIGAByte board bit the dust before the test so there wasn't anything to look at.
March 18, 2008 2:10:17 AM

Hmmm. ZipZoomFly had the GA-X48-DQ6 listed on thier website (out of stock of course) for a few days. Now it's gone. It's about the only thing for my build I don't have (or have ordered) yet.

Coolermaster Cosmos 1000 case
Coolermaster 850 PSU
MSI 8800 GT 512 w/quad heat pipes
G. Skill 2x2 PC-8500 DDR2 5-5-5-15 timings
WD Caviar SE16 750GB WD7500AAKS Drive
Intel Q9450 CPU (Could ship tomorrow, I hope)

Now if I could only order the GA-X48-DQ6.

Plan to take the Q9450 up to 3.2 (400 FSB) or 3.6 (450 FSB) to start with. Staying on air. I figure the PC-8500 RAM shoud be able keep up well.
!