X48 Motherboard Comparison, Part 2

Onboard Devices

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NorthbridgeIntel X48 Express MCH
SouthbridgeIntel ICH9R
Voltage RegulatorSix Phases
333.3 MHz (FSB1333)332.9 MHz (-0.13%)
Clock GeneratorICS 9LPRS926EGLF
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard2x PCIe x16 (Modes : Two x16 : One x4/x1)
2x PCIe x1
2x PCI
3x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)
1x Floppy
1x Ultra ATA (2 drives)
6x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s
1x Front Panel Audio
1x CD-Audio In
1x IrDA
1x Fan 4 pins (CPU)
1x Fan 3 pins (Chassis)
IO panel2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse )
1x Serial Port
2x Digital Audio Out (S/P-DIF Coaxial, Optical)
1x Digital Audio In (S/P-DIF Coaxial)
6x USB 2.0
1x External SATA
2x RJ-45 Network
5x Analog Audio (7.1 or 5.1 ch. out, 2 or 4 ch. in)
Mass Storage Controllers
Intel ICH9R6x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0,1,5,10)
JMicron JMB361 PCI-E1x Ultra ATA-133 (2-drives)
1x External SATA 3.0Gb/s
Intel 82566DC (GLCI) PHYGigabit LAN Connection
Realtek RTL8111B PCI-EGigabit LAN Connection
Realtek ALC888S HD Audio Codec7.1 + 2 channel Multi-Streaming Output

What’s missing from the onboard device list ? High-end buyers have come to expect IEEE-1394 FireWire controllers, yet most don’t have any devices to connect to these. Designed for high-bandwidth peripherals, the most frequently found devices that still use these connectors are Sony video cameras. If you ever need one of these ports you’ll regret not having it, but most users never require them.

x48 motherboard comparison

With FireWire not included, ECS instead provides a legacy serial port to fill the empty space on its port panel. We’d have preferred a second External SATA port (eSATA) instead, but ECS chose to use JMicron’s single-SATA plus Ultra ATA model JMB361 controller, rather than the more frequently picked JMB363.

x48 motherboard comparison

One nice added feature of the X48T-A is its digital audio input, which we’ve not seen on many boards recently. The digital output is provided with both coaxial and optical connectors.

Five analog audio jacks support 5.1 surround plus microphone and line inputs, but 7.1 surround can be configured by disabling one of the inputs. This isn’t a significant loss, since the average user will employ the front panel header for their microphone.

x48 motherboard comparison

Rated at a 97db signal-to-noise ratio, the ALC888S provides a total of 10 analog output channels. Users can output 7.1 surround signals to speakers while listening to a separate stream through their headphones.

x48 motherboard comparison

ECS uses Intel’s high-end 82566DC GLCY PHY to access the ICH9R integrated gigabit networking capability, which is usually a smart move to conserve PCI-Express lanes. It appears, however, that the X48T-A actually has extra lanes left over.

x48 motherboard comparison

The second Gigabit Ethernet port is provided by Realtek’s RTL8111B PCI-Express controller chip. Between this controller, the Ultra ATA/eSATA controller and the two x1 slots ; only four of the ICH9R’s six available PCI-Express lanes are used.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • nihility
    I thought the major concern with overclocking was doing it with 4 GB or 8 GB of memory installed and with quad cores.
    Buying an overly expensive high end motherboard but installing a 65 nm dual core processor and just 2 GB of RAM seems a very odd combination to me.
  • @ni

    Not so odd if you want to get the base foundation set up and then wait for lower prices on higher performance parts later on down the road.
    A quad core (3.0 GHz x 4) chip is coming down the pike by years end and DDR3 prices are on the slide. Building an E8400 / 2 GB base machine is exactly what I did to finally migrate from my 5 year old P4 Extreme Edition / Intel 875 based rig.

    That's the beauty of the X48 platform; longevity.
  • The ECS offering has supposedly been out for around a month, but I can't find it for sale ANYWHERE!! can't even find a price. I used to turn my nose up at ECS products. Our company used Asus boards exclusively thinking they were a higher quality product. Evey one of our Asus boards failed within 4 years. This may be because the Chinese have studied the American business model... Make a product that is designed to either fail or need parts within a calculated period of time. ECS are much cheaper, and so far seem more stable than the Maximus Formula board we purchased recently. The Asus BIOS is for people who like to toy with settings. Unfortunately their BIOS has become complicated beyond their programmers ability too write stable code.
  • Glad to see that gigabyte's board was so much more energy efficient than Asus', or any other board for that matter... especially while overclocking
  • Fedor
    Arcolyte - lol. Did you fall asleep and dream up another page of the review which had power consumption whilst overclocking? :p

    For the record I'm using my first Gigabyte board (X38-DQ6) and overall I'm pretty happy with it, but having said that I haven't used Asus in at least 5 years. With these comparisons it often comes down to features since performance is pretty near (although the low memory speeds achieved by the Gigabyte surprised me!).
  • " Intel covers all of its CPU VRM MOSFET?s with sinks. Our apologies for the alphabet soup that made up the last comment. " -> You could've gone with " Central Processing Unit Voltage Regulator Module Metal?Oxide?Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistor's " , so it's ok =)
  • frodbonzi
    I wonder how the Asus' Rampage Formula stacks up here? It supports DDR2 or DDR3 and is part of the RoG line... X48 as well...
  • xanxaz
    asrock rocks....lol...although i'll keep my gigabyte... as i dont know where to say this, it's better say it here... your main page is eating my cpu cycles... between 25% up to 50% cpu utilization while viewing your site? please cut down in animated ads... running a c2d at 3.6 and still lags while surfing... dah... it's just your site... os is it me? i think it's the ad on the top right corner that is causing that...
  • wozeus
    I see that Newegg has ECS X48T-A for under $200. Looks like it's a great deal...going to get one.