One word explains how Intel’s oldest Core i7 chipset has been able to dominate the high-end desktop market for an impressive two years: more. More PCI Express (PCIe) 2.0 pathways feed more high-bandwidth expansion cards. More memory channels on the socket increase bandwidth to more physical CPU cores, while new models, like the Core i7-980X and Xeon X5600-series chips, are introduced.
Yet because the concept of more always translates to cost, manufacturers are constantly looking to pack more features into these already-more-expensive motherboards.
Our most recent “more” article for X58 motherboards examined boards with USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gb/s controllers, two items that take advantage of the X58’s four left over PCIe 2.0 pathways. Intel solutions aren’t completely comparable, since Intel's LGA 1156 platform only has 16 lanes to begin with. It might surprise you then that the latest trend in more doesn't have anything to do with additional connectivity at all.
Top LGA 1366 motherboards now feature two eight-pin ATX12V/EPS12V power connectors to enable enhanced power delivery under the rigors of extreme overclocking. Builders whose overclocking needs are less intensive will still find that a single connector works, while those running at stock speeds will even find a four-pin connector adequate. Today we consider the totality of features, performance, and stability of the three latest examples of flagship-class X58-based platforms.