X79's Last Hurrah Before Ivy Bridge
The editors of Tom's Hardware do our best to cover the broadest selection of hardware that finds its way into your PC, but some components fall through the cracks whenever the steady march of technology pushes us to move on to the next new thing. Such was the case for a few X79 Express-based motherboards priced over $380.
Reader John Case wrote in a few weeks after our premium X79 motherboard comparison to tell us that one of the products we missed wouldn't support any of his high-end memory at its rated frequency, no matter how much time he spent trying to optimize timings and voltage levels. After several successful RMAs, he was ready to ship us his board for testing. That’s when the manufacturer stepped in to provide a full refund.
We contacted that manufacturer (along with one of its closest competitors) to see how two of today’s top-rated enthusiast-oriented boards would compare to each other in terms of overclocking ease, stability, and features.
|X79 Motherboard Features|
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Asus Rampage IV Extreme||EVGA X79 FTW 151-SE-E777-KR|
|Chipset||Intel X79 Express||Intel X79 Express|
|Voltage Regulator||Eleven Phases||14 Phases|
|BIOS||1202 (03/22/2012)||035 (03/08/2012)|
|100.0 MHz BCLK||100.1 MHz (+0.10%)||100.0 MHz (+0.00%)|
|PCIe 3.0 x16||4 (x16/x8/16/x0 or x16/x8/x8x8)||5 (x16/x0/x4/x16/x0 or x8/x8/x4/x8/x8)|
|PCIe 2.0 x16||None||None|
|USB 2.0||2 (4 ports)||3 (6 ports)|
|USB 3.0||2 (4 ports)||1 (2 ports)|
|IEEE-1394||None||1x Firewire 800|
|SATA 6.0 Gb/s||4||2|
|SATA 3.0 Gb/s||4||4|
|S/PDIF I/O||Output Only||Both|
|I/O Panel Connectors|
|eSATA||2 (1 Powered)||2|
|Digital Audio Out||Optical||Optical|
|Digital Audio In||None||None|
|Other Devices||Bluetooth Transceiver, ROG Connect||Bluetooth Transceiver, EVBot Header|
|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|
|Chipset RAID Modes||0, 1, 5, 10||0, 1, 5, 10|
|Add-In SATA||2 x ASM1061 PCIe2 x SATA 6Gb/s2 x eSATA 6Gb/s||88SE6121 PCIe2 x eSATA 6Gb/s|
|USB 3.0||3 x ASM1042 PCIe||2 x ASM1042 PCIe 2 x VL810 Hub|
|IEEE-1394||None||XIO2213B PCIe1 x FireWire 800|
|Primary LAN||WG82579V PHY||88E8059 PCIe|
|Secondary LAN||None||88E8059 PCIe|
|HD Audio Codec||ALC898||ALC898|
|DDL/DTS Connect||Not Specified||Not Specified|
Asus and EVGA committed to this article with their Rampage IV Extreme and X79 Classified. We were a little surprised when EVGA instead sent its X79 FTW, but noted that this still fell within the $380+ ultra-premium market that was so scantly covered by only one board in our previous round-up.
Where is the MSI Big Bang Xpower II? That's known to be a great board for overclocking as well.
Just knowing the ASUS and EVGA from past history (LGA 1366) which may or may not play any role here, ASUS tends to (lets call it adjust) the CPU vCore and VTT/VCCSA higher than advertised vs EVGA which probably explains* the problems with both the high frequency RAM and CPU OC's.
The disturbing thing to 'me' was the regulator voltages. I know the EVGA uses 12+2 vs ASUS's 8+3+(2+2) PWM and it's all digital controlled on ASUS, (*)but IDK if the EVGA is digitally controlled which might explain the inefficiency and OC.
The EVGA has always been a very 'manual' MOBO, so in that regard I'm not surprised you had to dive into the BIOS. I have no doubts if you raised the EVGA's voltages vs a cloned ASUS optimized OC set that you'd have no problems obtaining the SAME 4.8GHz OC. Both boards offer voltage check points and I'd be very interesting how they compared.
Just the other day I updated my ASUS BIOS and right-off I noticed an increased vCore increase by +0.01v~+0.015v and as part of the documented (improvements) was 'Improved Stability' ; yeah sure if you raise the vCore or VTT/VCCSA, phase, etc profiles... Now I have to redo my validations.
The most important testing here, to me, is the Baseline Comparison which tells me EVGA has some work to do ASAP, and hopefully a BIOS update can close the gaps. Further, personally I won't buy or recommend any X79 MOBO unless it offers an 8xDIMM option. In the forum it's been very clear which X79's I recommend since day one, and the ASUS R4E has always been on top on my list if you can afford it! ;)