Sandy Bridge-E And X79: The Best Intel Has To Offer
Value seekers are definitely appreciating the fact that Intel launched its most advanced desktop CPU technology in the mainstream space first. Meanwhile, enthusiasts with more exacting platform needs can breathe a sigh of relief now that X79 Express supports the same architecture at the high-end. If you haven't yet read about it, check out Intel Core i7-3960X Review: Sandy Bridge-E And X79 Express.
Perhaps we should replace the word “high” with “extreme,” however, since the cheapest LGA 2011-based CPU currently sells for about $600 bucks. It only stands, then, that exorbitant CPU prices would give way to expensive platforms. Fortunately, the connectivity enabled by Sandy Bridge-E and X79 Express is also more expansive than anything ever seen before from Intel.
A CPU-based quad-channel memory controller and 40 CPU-based third-gen PCIe lanes with built-in four-way SLI/CrossFireX support make X79 platforms stand above their Z68 siblings in the desktop segment, and we believe that anyone with the money for either a $600 or $1000 processor will also have the cash to spend on the best possible platform to support it. And yet, our announcement that the first X79 motherboard round-up would focus on flagship models to match Intel's introduction was met with a collective “What?!” by most manufacturers.
How could we expect the best products so soon after launch? With a little more time, a lot of vendors expected they could deliver a true masterpiece. But we were just as baffled by their responses, since most companies we talked to earlier in the year started X79-based motherboard development efforts last spring.
Most companies let us know that their flagship models were not finished, and that claim stood even after we announced a one-week grace period for late submissions. Imagine our surprise when several of those supposedly unfinished motherboards landed on Newegg before their manufacturers were willing to let them compete! What we ended up with was an interesting collection of premium (albeit non-flagship) models with high-end feature sets that help justify decidedly enthusiast-oriented prices.
|X79 Express Motherboard Features|
|ASRock X79 Extreme9||Asus P9X79 Deluxe||Asus P9X79 WS||Gigabyte G1.Assassin2||Gigabyte X79-UD5|
|Chipset||Intel X79 Express||Intel X79 Express||Intel X79 Express||Intel X79 Express||Intel X79 Express|
|Voltage Regulator||16 Phases||20 Phases||10 Phases||Nine Phases||14 Phases|
|BIOS||P1.40 (11/17/2011)||0802 (11/15/2011)||0603 (11/14/2011)||F4 (11/02/2011)||F3 (11/01/2011)|
|100.0 MHz BCLK||100.0 MHz (+0.00%)||100.1 (+0.10%)||100.0 MHz (+0.00%)||100.0 MHz (+0.00%)||100.0 MHz (+0.00%)|
|PCIe 3.0 x16||5 (x16/x0/x16/x0/x8 or x8/x8/x8/x8/x8)||4 (x16/x8/x0/x16 or x16/x8/x8/x8)||6 (x16/x0/x4/x16/x4/x0 or x8/x8/x4/x8/x4/x8)||3 (x16/x8/x16)||3 (x16/x8/x16)|
|PCIe 2.0 x16||None||None||None||None||None|
|USB 2.0||2 (4-ports)||4 (8-ports)||2 (4-ports) +1 (1-port)||3 (6-ports)||3 (6-ports)|
|USB 3.0||2 (4-ports)||1 (2-ports)||1 (2-ports)||1 (2-ports)||1 (2-ports)|
|SATA 6.0 Gb/s||6||4||4||4||6|
|SATA 3.0 Gb/s||4||4||4||4||4|
|FP-Audio||1 (On Riser)||1||1||1||1|
|S/PDIF I/O||Output Only||Output Only||Output Only||Output Only||Output Only|
|I/O Panel Connectors|
|USB 2.0||6||4||8||8 (2 shared w/eSATA)||8 (1 shared w/eSATA)|
|Network||1 (+1 On Riser)||2||2||1||1|
|eSATA||2||2||None||2 (USB-Powered)||2 (USB-Powered)|
|Digital Audio Out||Optical/Coaxial Riser||Optical||Optical||Optical||Optical|
|Digital Audio In||None||None||None||None||None|
|Analog Audio||4 (On Riser)||6||6||5||5|
|Other Devices||None||Bluetooth/Wifi Module USB BIOS Flashback||USB BIOS Flashback||Bluetooth/Wifi Card Dual BIOS Switch O/C Button||Bluetooth/Wifi Card Dual BIOS Switch O/C Button|
|Mass Storage Controllers|
|Chipset SATA||2 x SATA 6Gb/s 4 x SATA 3Gb/s||2 x SATA 6Gb/s 4 x SATA 3Gb/s||2 x SATA 6Gb/s 4 x SATA 3Gb/s||2 x SATA 6Gb/s 4 x SATA 3Gb/s||2 x SATA 6Gb/s 4 x SATA 3Gb/s|
|Chipset RAID Modes||0, 1, 5, 10||0, 1, 5, 10||0, 1, 5, 10||0, 1, 5, 10||0, 1, 5, 10|
|Add-In SATA||88SE9220 PCIe2 x SATA 6Gb/s 3 x 88SE9172 PCIe4 x SATA 6Gb/s 2 x eSATA 6Gb/s||88SE9128 PCIe 2 x SATA 6Gb/sASM1061 PCIe2 x eSATA 6Gb/s||88SE9128 PCIe 2 x SATA 6Gb/s||2 x 88SE9172 PCIe2 x SATA 6Gb/s 2 x eSATA 6Gb/s||3 x 88SE9172 PCIe4 x SATA 6Gb/s 2 x eSATA 6Gb/s|
|USB 3.0||2 x TUSB7340 PCIe||3 x ASM1042 PCIe 1 x VL810 4-Port Hub||2 x ASM1042 PCIe||2 x FL1009-2Q0 PCIe||2 x FL1009-2Q0 PCIe|
|IEEE-1394||VT6315N PCIe 2 x 400 Mb/s||None||VT6315N PCIe 2 x 400 Mb/s||None||VT6308P PCI 2 x 400 Mb/s|
|Primary LAN||BCM57781 PCIe||WG82579V PHY||WG82579V PHY||Killer E2100 PCIe||WG82579V PHY|
|Secondary LAN||BCM57781 PCIe||RTL8111E PCIe||WG82574L PCIe||None||None|
|HD Audio Codec||Core3D PCIe DSP||ALC898||ALC898||X-Fi CA20K2 PCIe||ALC898|
|DDL/DTS Connect||Not Specified||DTS Connect||DTS Connect||DDL||Not Specified|
|3-Years Limited (all brands)|