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X58 To The Max: Three New Flagship LGA 1366 Motherboards

All three boards in today’s competition offer voltage levels in excess of what most users actually need, but competitors who use liquid nitrogen cooling will be happy to see these ultra-high limits.

BIOS Frequency and Voltage settings (for overclocking)
 Asus Rampage III ExtremeGigabyte X58A-UD9MSI Big Bang XPower
CPU Base Clock100-500 MHz (1 MHz)100-600 MHz (1MHz)100-600 MHz (1 MHz)
CPU MultiplierYesYesYes
DRAM Data RatesBCLK x6-x18 (x2)BCLK x6-x18 (x2)BCLK x6-x16 (x2)
PCIe Clock100-200 MHz (1 MHz)90-150 MHz (1 MHz)100-190 MHz (1 MHz)
CPU Vcore0.85-2.30 V (6.25 mV)0.50-1.90 V (6.25 mV)0.90-2.30 V (6.25 mV)
Uncore Voltage1.20-2.50 (6.25 mV)1.075-2.015 V (20 mV)1.20-1.83 V (6.25 mV)
IOH Voltage1.11-2.20 V (13.25 mV)1.00-2.00V (20 mV)0.80-1.70 V (10 mV)
ICH Voltage1.11-2.00 V (13.25 mV)0.92-2.38 V (20 mV)1.10-2.00 V (10 mV)
DRAM Voltage1.21-2.50 V (13.25 mV)1.30-2.60 V (20 mV)1.20-2.50 V (1 mV)
CAS Latency3-11 Cycles5-15 Cycles4-15 Cycles
tRCD3-15 Cycles1-15 Cycles3-15 Cycles
tRP3-15 Cycles1-15 Cycles3-15 Cycles
tRAS3-31 Cycles1-31 Cycles9-31 Cycles

Our air-cooled configuration and first-generation Core i7 processor limit us to a far more practical 1.45 V, a configuration we’ve maintained through several product generations to make comparisons of overclocking capabilities possible between articles.

This is the closest we’ve seen any three boards come to overclocking parity, indicating the true limit of our CPU at our chosen voltage. The actual difference is less than the 21 MHz we’d get from increasing the base clock by 1 MHz, so all three boards are tied within the “margin of error” for each board’s clock generator.

Base-clock capability is also essentially tied for all three boards, with Gigabyte’s 220 MHz setting coming in at an actual 219.8 MHz.

Memory is where things get a little trickier. MSI appears to lead in the average of three- and six-module speeds, but it’s hard to know exactly where it would have ended up had its 7x memory multiplier actually worked. That’s right, MSI’s memory overclock started at the DDR3-1600 setting rather than the DDR3-1866 setting used by its competitors, requiring a higher base clock to reach its memory overclocking limit.

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