X58 To The Max: Three New Flagship LGA 1366 Motherboards

Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD9

Gigabyte thinks it has the perfect solution for anyone who can’t be satisfied by ordinary Quad-SLI or four-way CrossFireX graphics configurations. Its X58A-UD9 supports a total of seven single-slot graphics cards or up to four two-slot cards at uncompromised bandwidth.

Buyers still get all the features they’ve come to expect from Gigabyte’s high-end boards, including three additional SATA controllers, dual-gigabit networking, triple IEEE-1394 FireWire ports, and enhanced chipset cooling. One of those drive controllers has two SATA 6Gb/s ports, and Gigabyte also throws in a USB 3.0 controller for two of the board’s I/O panel ports. Gigabyte’s Hybrid Silent-Pipe 2 chipset cooler includes a northbridge sink with an integrated 3/8” tube water block and a bolt-on, slot-mounted heat sink.

Fitting seven expansion slots on an ordinary ATX motherboard wouldn’t have been a problem, but a cooling solution that consumes two slot places extends the X58A-UD9 to a nine-place design. There is no sanctioned standard for extra-long boards in spite of labels various companies have tried to use, while the EATX label (which is commonly misused) applies to boards that are wider but not longer than ATX. The X58A-UD9 easily fits into one of several 10-slot cases that follow Foxconn’s Ultra ATX proposal of 2008. The tenth slot of such cases is perfect for holding a two-slot graphics card in the X58A-UD9’s bottom slot.

As with most of its competitors, putting a two-space graphics card in the bottom slot usually requires smashing the front-panel cables flat, a nuisance that spoils what might otherwise be an excellent front-panel connector layout. That’s often not as big a problem for the right-angle connectors of legacy floppy cables, but anyone who needs this relic of Windows XP’s F6 prompt will still be disappointed to see it located so far away from the front panel bays where these outdated drives fit.

Other points of interest include power and reset buttons near the top of the front edge, a two-digit Port 80 diagnostics display near the bottom of the front edge, and a second eight-pin CPU power connector (covered by a yellow sticker in the above photo) that feeds the X58A-UD9’s 24-phase power regulator.

The X58A-UD9 alternates four true x16 slots with three eight-lane slots, where populating an eight-lane slot forces it to borrow half of the lanes from the slot above it. Four-card configurations get a full 16 lanes per card, while only the seventh card gets full bandwidth when all seven slots are filled. That still accounts for nearly twice as many PCIe lanes compared to what the X58 northbridge offers, which is a technological wonder brought about through the use of two NF200 PCIe bridges.

One often-overlooked feature that Gigabyte wants everyone to remember is that two of its front-panel USB ports support its “3x USB Power” and “USB On/Off” circuit design for charging high-current USB devices, such as the Apple iPad, even from standby power when the system is off.

As the only board in today’s comparison to include the important four-way SLI bridge, the X58A-UD9 still falls a little short in its cable set by having only four SATA cables on a board that supports 10 internal drives. Less-elaborate graphics configurations are possible from the included two- and three-way SLI bridges, while adding the pair of included CrossFire bridges to one that came with a card would make four-way CrossFireX possible.

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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