X58 To The Max: Three New Flagship LGA 1366 Motherboards


Today’s tested motherboards offer some of the best features we’ve seen, which should come as no surprise, since many of those features have only recently been introduced. Yet, features aren’t the primary motivation behind the design of these parts.

Instead, we find dual-CPU power connectors on each board that are designed to provide the higher amperage extreme overclockers need to reach CPU limits at extreme voltage levels. Liquid nitrogen is only typical at the competition levels these motherboards were designed to tolerate.

While performance and air-cooled overclock results were a dead-heat for all three boards, MSI’s Big Bang-XPower led in efficiency. If extreme overclockers aren’t impressed by that feat of engineering, then they probably won’t be too impressed by the fact that the board isn’t able to effectively support high-performance SLI or CrossFire configurations in excess of two cards. Though it has six x16-length expansion cards, going even to three cards drops all three slots to x8 mode.

Gigabyte’s X58A-UD9 might be a better choice for overclocking competitions where 3D performance is important, as its seven x16-length slots support up to four-way CrossFireX and SLI configurations at 16 lanes per card. However, buyers do pay for those extra PCIe 2.0 lanes, as the X58A-UD9 costs over twice as much as MSI’s Big Bang-XPower and nearly twice as much as Asus’ Rampage III Extreme. Buyers who want to use this in a PC continue paying for those extra PCIe pathways, as the extended size of the X58A-UD9 requires a 10-slot case to hold four high-end graphics cards.

Four perfectly placed and split slots put Asus’ Rampage III Extreme right in the middle of the PCIe-vs.-price battle. Two-way solutions get the full 16 lanes per card, while the eight-pathway handicap in three- and four-way graphics configurations still beats MSI’s strange eight-four-eight configuration by a wide margin. This board is also designed for overclockers, and that’s where it shines.

The idea of keeping around an extra PC, even a notebook, to access the Rampage III Extreme’s overclocking features at a low level might sound cumbersome, but it works so well that many competitive tuners will likely be drawn to this solution for its convenience. Anyone who still finds the idea a little far fetched might instead be happy with the board’s smart phone interface, something most people carry with them all the time anyway. Builders who already own an OC Station module are also welcome to use it with the Rampage III Extreme, though the fact that it’s not included with this product detracts from the added value of its interface.

The Rampage III Extreme doesn’t have the PCIe multiplication of Gigabyte’s X58A-UD9, but it at least supports four graphics cards at lower cost. Gamers will be happy to see that it fits into a standard case, while overclockers will be thrilled with its added features. That combination makes the Rampage III Extreme a winner in our opinion.

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  • one-shot
    No EVGA SR-2? :(

    Ok, Hold on. Three Flagship LGA 1366 Boards and no overclocked power consumption results? These boards are obviously made for overclocking and those results would be very interesting to see.
  • Tamz_msc
    A good 250$ X58 board is enough for most people.
  • Lmeow
    Anonymous said:
    No EVGA SR-2? :(

    The EVGA Classified SR-2 is based on the Intel 5520 chipset and uses Xeons, so it's not an X58 board technically speaking which is why it doesn't qualify. ;)

    If I could spend that much on a motherboard I'd have chosen the Rampage III Extreme, not only does it have good features it also has the best colour scheme. ^^

    Does anyone know why I try to submit a comment it doesn't show up, and I have to use the forums instead to post a comment instead?
  • lashabane
    I want more.
  • sudeshc
    I am totally impressed by ASUS they always come up with best solution in every category, but the price is a killer for me :(
  • rottingsheep
    IMO, the only interesting part about motherboard reviews is the overclocking and power consumption portion.
  • avatar_raq
    Nice article..I have only catch: Of all the mobos tested, Quad SLI is not possible on the ASUS R3E, courtesy of nVIDIA's drivers
  • dragonfang18
    Whats the point when Intel will come out with new processors with different sockets next year?
  • Crashman
    avatar_raqNice article..I have only catch: Of all the mobos tested, Quad SLI is not possible on the ASUS R3E, courtesy of nVIDIA's drivershttp://www.guru3d.com/news/quad-sl [...] -possible/

    Awesome, thanks. Manufacturers don't actually discuss this stuff.
    dragonfang18Whats the point when Intel will come out with new processors with different sockets next year?
    That's what people like you were saying months before LGA 1156 was released. We see which direction that went.
  • dragonfang18
    That's what people like you were saying months before LGA 1156 was released. We see which direction that went.

    Yeah... they are changing 1366 to some socket R... Well... At least I can look forward to these motherboards going down in price by next year when they go to Socket R's for performance than 1366's. I guess ill be happy with 1366's. Hopefully they go down by at least $100.
  • lenoxlv
    2 FPS difference in games. They should have shown what would be the difference if the boards would be OCed.
  • digitalrazoe
    What irritates me is the fact that you have a 6+ PCIe 16 board ( with the exception of the ASUS ) and you still cant get full 16 all the way through with out either a bunch of glue chips or "lopping it off" at the legs - 16x/8x ok .. but 16/8/4 ? c'mon .. can someone develop a chipset that will give the USER the option of lopping off legs reassigning resources where needed ? Granted for TRUE quad SLI 72 lanes is desirable (48 is ok in a 16/8/16/8 fashion .. ) but enough is enough .. Intel, nVida, AMD make a chipset that when we plug in .. we get what we want how we want it .. it would mean return customers and money in your pocket and a smile on a system builders face .. (96 lane board should do it ... )
  • falchard
    I think MSI won here not ASUS. More features on less power with cooler temperatures at a negligible performance hit of half a percent that can be attributed to the error with Vantage.

    I don't like any of the motherboards PCI-e layouts. Its a top range board but only assumes to run 2 cards well. Then confuses the user by placing a bunch of half/quarter speed PCI-e slots. X8 on x16 lane is fine, but x4 is not.
  • Emperus
    MSI is the winner in this clearly though i personally would end up getting the R3E.. I've always felt two video cards as the max needed in the real world (never mind the synthetics and folding@home) so on that account, both the MSI and the Asus boards scope a homerun whereas the Gigabyte model may just end up as the company's trojan horse to showcase their engineering strengths at overclock events.. I feel the EVGA 4X SLI classified should've been included in the showdown.. The absence of USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps should not be the criteria to leave out such a lovely board (oh! May be the price and absence of crossfire support disqualify it)..
  • mrhoshos96
    why get a x58a ud9 and you can get the evga sr2 for less
  • anamaniac
    mrhoshos96why get a x58a ud9 and you can get the evga sr2 for less

    While the SR2 is nice, I have no need for dual socket. As nice as it would be.

    The only thing the UD9 is missing is three more DIMMs (9 total). I know some server boards have 9 DIMMs per CPU, why not any enthusiast boards?

    I want the UD9, put 12GB RAM in it, two 5870's, a nice sound card and a nice NIC (when going extreme, may as well go the full way right?).
    Too bad I quit my job and can't afford it now. :/

    Can we ever expect 7/8 way SLI/CF drivers? I, for one, would love to use 7 single slot 5770's.
  • Hupiscratch
    I'd rather wait for PCI-E 3.0
  • voicu83
    what's the use of testing ultra expensive motherboards without the best processor it could fit on it and with a 4 or more array of the most powerfull video cards on earth? this review is like reading the features on the mb's box ... nothing exceptional
  • scook9
    An EVGA board should have been included (and they DO support crossfire)

    Also, no mention was made of the superior Intel Ethernet adapter in the R3E vs the crappy realtek ones in the other boards
  • squallypie
    gosh, why are there no amd chipset mobos :-(! i really want something that compares the chipsets atleast