Skip to main content

Ultimate X79? Five $320+ LGA 2011 Motherboards, Reviewed

Test Settings

Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E): 3.60 GHz, 15 MB Cache, LGA 2011, Turbo Boost enabled
CPU CoolerSwiftech Apogee GTX, MCP 655b, Triple Fan Radiator Kit
RAMG.Skill F3-17600CL9Q-16GBXLD 16 GB (4 x 4 GB) DDR3-2200 Benchmarked at 4 x 4 GB DDR3-1600 CAS 9 defaults
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 580: 772 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4008
Hard DriveSamsung 470 Series MZ5PA256HMDR, 256 GB SSD
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerSeasonic X760 SS-760KM: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 285.62
ChipsetIntel INF 9.2.3.1020

A couple years have passed since I thought I needed a liquid cooling kit to overclock processors at safe voltage levels. But reports of high current loads at moderate settings forced me to reconsider my options. Previously mounted into a test station and left to languish over the same period, Swiftech’s Apogee GTX kit was resurrected and repurposed using nothing more than an LGA 1366 top bracket and a set of LGA 2011 mounting screws left-over from other projects.

G.Skills Ripjaws DDR3-2200 allows us to test the overclocking capabilities of each motherboard using one module per channel, and the basic performance of each board at default DDR3-1600 SPD values. The firm sent a second set for our eight-DIMM tests, using the same ICs but different XMP values.

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 580 pushes our CPU limits under games.

Samsung’s MZPA256HMDR 256GB SSD keeps load times and idle power low.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
DiRT 3V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Metro 2033Full Game, Built-In Benchmark, "Frontline" Scene Test Set 1: DX11, High, AAA, 4x AF, No PhysX, No DoF Test Set 2: DX11, Very High, 4x AA, 16x AF, No PhysX, DoF On
StarCraft IIVersion 1.4.1.19776, Tom's Hardware custom map Test Set 1: Medium Details, No AA, 8x AF Test Set 2: Highest Details, 8x AA, 16x AF
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 10.4.1.10 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 2.2.0.5440: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.1 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (464 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.01: THG-Workload (464 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (464 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
  • lradunovic77
    Something is wrong with your ASRock Extreme 9 testing. You article states that you used BIOS 1.40 however first release for this Motherboard was 1.60 and they also recently released 1.70. Bios 1.40 is for ASRock Extreme 4 which i own as well. Again in mean time they updated BIOS for ASRock Extreme 4 to version 1.50 which greatly improves overclocking. I have C1 and i am hitting 4.4Ghz easily. (1.50 BIOS ASRock Extreme 4).

    You might want re check the facts.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    lradunovic77Something is wrong ...You might want re check the facts.Please do verify the facts beginning with the first X79 Extreme9 UEFI screenshot on page 3, showing version P 1.40 . The latest public firmware was downloaded for every motherboard on November 18, which is before ASRock says its P1.60 was even published. And, if you check Newegg, you'll find that Newegg was actually selling the X79 Extreme9 before firmware P1.60 was published.

    How could that happen? ASRock has repeatedly removed previous BIOS versions from its website and labeled the replacement as the initial release.

    This review was published after many hours of collaboration with ASRock, and some of the problems with this specific CPU are further detailed in the overclocking section. ASRock acknowledged the problem exists with a portion of the C1 CPU supply and has begun issuing patched BIOS to fix the multiplier issue, according to ASRock engineer William Yu.
    Reply
  • oxxfatelostxxo
    I have C1 and i am hitting 4.4Ghz easily. (1.50 BIOS ASRock Extreme 4).
    Not to mention that they didnt say they couldnt hit 4.4ghz, they just stated they didnt get that high without going beyond 1.35v

    Kinda wish we got to see a MAX overclock for air before temps got out of control =P
    But then you get various coolers involved... yada yada... but PLEASE anyway
    Reply
  • clonazepam
    This was a fun article to read. I wanted to quote a few bits here and there just to point out I enjoyed the humor in it, but that would have been a lot of quotes. It's subtle, tasteful way to add personality to the piece.

    I had to comment on something. I can't really comment on the hardware as its so enthusiast and SB-E is well beyond my needs. I can't comment too much on the bios because I still barely understand mine, but I am seeing the trend that it might be best to stick with what you know, or risk having to translate the various names/definitions of settings across different products. I'm not that smart nor that patient. I liked the comment on the 6.00...lol... %! I never would have thought. I think that just deciphered half of my bios options, thanks. /wink
    Reply
  • In the comparison table on the ASUS : "6 (x16/x0/x4/x16/x4/x0 or x8/x8/x4/x8/x84/x8)" -- x84 seems somewhat unlikely ;-)
    Reply
  • gmcizzle
    Not surprised both Asus boards came out on top performance wise, on most of these mobo roundups they usually do.
    Reply
  • Steveymoo
    Without trying to sound critical, wouldn't it be prudent to test SLI scaling on these enthusiast boards? 1, 2, and 3 way SLI, extra PCI-E bandwidth is one of the main reason why people even bother splashing out the extra cash on these chipsets. (Aside from the extra epeen++)

    Just sayin'
    Reply
  • Crashman
    shstoneIn the comparison table on the ASUS : "6 (x16/x0/x4/x16/x4/x0 or x8/x8/x4/x8/x84/x8)" -- x84 seems somewhat unlikely ;-)Thanks. Yes, the x4 stays the same. Fixed!SteveymooWithout trying to sound critical, wouldn't it be prudent to test SLI scaling on these enthusiast boards? 1, 2, and 3 way SLI, extra PCI-E bandwidth is one of the main reason why people even bother splashing out the extra cash on these chipsets. (Aside from the extra epeen++)Just sayin'You obviously don't understand the value of those +++'s!
    Reply
  • AstroTC
    AsRock has the better looking MB by far...

    Question does tht little fan on the motherboard get loud? If it does that would be a deal breaker for me
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    the problem with testing mobos is that they all have the same core (in this case the x79) which is what determines the raw speed of the system and busses, so they are all pretty well bunched together with no possibility of seeing any real world difference between boards. The things that differentiate the boards is in their feature sets, and as they are all rather different there is no proper way to test them against one another. Add to that the fact that these are all brand new boards which will see improvements with new UEFI releases, and there is really no way to pick a clear winner.

    On a side note I would love to see how these boards look assembled :)
    Reply