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Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Platforms Compared

Gigabyte GA-EX58-Extreme

Features and Layout

Gigabyte’s take on extreme overclocking motherboards is inclusive of other high-end markets, as its GA-EX58-Extreme includes oversized cooling, ostensible support for 3-way SLI, and support for up to six DDR3 memory modules. That pits it squarely against Asus’ Rampage II Extreme, but with less “bling” to thrill the case-mod crowd.

Although 3-way SLI is theoretically supported, for many builders it might not be practicable. Like its blinged-out competitor, the EX58-Extreme’s lowest PCIe 2.0 slot forces double-slot cards one space beyond the bottom slot of a standard ATX case. However, cases with eight to 10 slots do exist, so Gigabyte includes a 3-way SLI bridge.

As the first motherboard in today’s comparison to support up to seven expansion cards, the EX58-Extreme’s top PCIe (x1) slot is limited to extremely short cards (less than 3.25”) due to positioning of its northbridge water block. Installing the optional bolt-on radiator further encroaches on card space in its second (x4) slot.

We would normally consider an open-ended PCIe x4 slot a great feature since it allows x8 RAID cards to be installed, but a hold-down pin on the northbridge cooler gets in the way. Thus, the GA-EX58-Extreme’s limitations are nearly identical to that of the previously-mentioned Asus Rampage II Extreme.

Gigabyte trumps Asus in drive support, with 10 SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports at the front edge. An Ultra ATA header at the bottom is less convenient, but few builders would choose such outdated technology. The additional SATA ports don’t come without drawbacks either, since each pair is connected through a hub to a single 3.0 Gb/s pathway. Furthermore, both hubs plus the Ultra ATA connection are connected to a single PCIe x1 based controller, so that a total of six drives must share a single 250 MB/s link to the chipset.

The floppy header, which is an even more outdated interface and is still required for some Windows XP installations, is nearly useless beneath the lowest PCIe 2.0 slot.

Gigabyte departs from most of its rivals in onboard power and reset button placement by putting these near the top of its EX58-Extreme, where they can be more easily reached in many fully configured systems. On the other hand, the case of a fully configured system has its own power and reset buttons.

Gigabyte GA-EX58 Extreme (Revision 1.0)
NorthbridgeIntel X58 Express
SouthbridgeIntel ICH10R
Voltage RegulationTwelve Phases
BIOSF4 (12/22/2008)
133.3 MHz Base Clock133.0 (-0.25%)
Clock GeneratorICS 9LPRS914EKLF
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (Two with Shared Pathways)
1 x PCIe x1
2 x PCI
2 x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)
2 x IEEE-1394 FireWire
1 x Floppy
1 x Ultra ATA (2 drives)
10 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s
2 x Fan 4-pin (CPU, System)
4 x Fan 3-pins (Chassis, Power)
1 x Front Panel Audio connector
1 x CD Audio In
1 x S/P-DIF In
1 x S/P-DIF Out
1 x Power Switch
1 x Reset Switch
1 x LED POST Code display
I/O Panel2 x PS2 (keyboard, mouse)
2 x Digital Audio Out (optical, coaxial)
1 x IEEE-1394 FireWire
1 x CLR_CMOS button
8 x USB 2.0
2 x RJ45 Ethernet
6 x Analog Audio Jack (8 ch. out + line, mic in)
Mass Storage Controllers
Intel ICH10R6 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s (RAID 0, 1, 5, 10)
Gigabyte SATA2 (JMB363) PCIe1 x Ultra ATA-133 (2-drives)
2 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s Interface
2 x JMB322 on SATA2 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s to 4x SATA 3.0 Gb/s
Network
2 x Realtek RTL8111D PCIeDual Gigabit LAN with Teaming
Audio
Realtek ALC889A HD CodecEight-Channel (7.1 Surround) Output
Dolby Home Theater Compatible
IEEE 1394 FireWire
TI TSB43AB23 PCI3x FireWire 400 (2x Internal, 1x I/O Panel)

Gigabyte hides its PCIe SATA controller under the southbridge sink, but leaves two Realtek RTL8111D PCIe-to-Gigabit-Ethernet controllers out in the open.

Image 1 of 2

Image 2 of 2

A TSB43AB23 FireWire controller uses a legacy PCI interface, while the ALC889A HD audio codec sits on the ICH10R’s digital audio interface.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • arkadi
    Some times it really hard to stay objective, but you did it, grate article.
    I would consider few other aspects as well, like service and RMA statistics.
    In some countries you wont have official representation of a vendor, and in case of RMA you can end up with different MB model, usually not for the best.
    From my experience i recommend for most of you to get more common boards.
    Reply
  • wdmso
    "Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Platforms Compared " this title will lead
    some less informed readers that they can get the cpu memory and MB for 300.00.
    It should read "Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Motherboards Compared"
    the title is misleading
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    I can't afford an i7 system, but when I see beautiful motherboards like that dfi and the foxconn board, I wish I could! That foxconn board almost makes me feel like looking at a beautifully built soltek board with uniform colors and good looks. Looks ain't everything, but looks do matter. I love my gigabyte board because it works great, but I would love it even more if it came 'styled' like the dfi green or the foxconn red board ....
    Reply
  • When you review the less-expensive X58 boards, I'd appreciate it if you would evaluate them in terms of which is the likely to be the most stable, most reliable, and most problem-free non-overclocked board. Thanks.
    Reply
  • phantom93
    Lol nice article, lol i love the soldering job on the port-80 diagnostics digits for the DFI lan party board.
    Reply
  • inversed
    It seems odd to have skipped mentioning the Gigabyte EX58's driver-less RAID capability. I was able to get Windows XP to boot off of a mirrored RAID without needing the floppy and the initial setup went very quickly. One unfortunate aspect of this mobo, however is that it cannot output digital audio and analog audio at the same time. So no switching between surround sound and headphones without changing settings in the audio control software.
    Reply
  • jeffunit
    Though the core i7 is a crazy fast processor, it doesn't offer ECC support. That is why I just bought an amd phenom II 940. Perhaps 'gamers' don't care about ECC but only how many graphics cards they can stuff in the mb. On the other hand, IBM estimated 1 error per gig per week. So at 4gb, that is less than 2 days between errors. Perhaps that isn't noticeable with microsoft operation systems, but I keep my machines up for weeks or months at a time...

    My cheap asus mb not only supports ECC, but ECC scrubbing, chipkill, and more. Who cares how fast a computer is, when it crashes often?
    Reply
  • jeffunit
    Though the core i7 is a crazy fast processor, it doesn't offer ECC support. That is why I just bought an amd phenom II 940. Perhaps 'gamers' don't care about ECC but only how many graphics cards they can stuff in the mb. On the other hand, IBM estimated 1 error per gig per week. So at 4gb, that is less than 2 days between errors. Perhaps that isn't noticeable with microsoft operation systems, but I keep my machines up for weeks or months at a time...

    My cheap asus mb not only supports ECC, but ECC scrubbing, chipkill, and more. Who cares how fast a computer is, when it crashes often?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    wdmso"Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Platforms Compared " this title will lead some less informed readers that they can get the cpu memory and MB for 300.00.It should read "Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Motherboards Compared"the title is misleading
    You're right: I belive the word "Platform" was substituted by another editor to make the title shorter, so it would fit better in the headline bar. I might have chosen "Mobos" myself when encountered with such an issue, but they don't like using slang in titles.

    temporary87654When you review the less-expensive X58 boards, I'd appreciate it if you would evaluate them in terms of which is the likely to be the most stable, most reliable, and most problem-free non-overclocked board. Thanks.
    Good suggestions, but the problem is that all these boards were stable and built for reliability when overclocked. Using lower speeds increases stability and reliability, and you just cannot exceed "100% Stability". All the boards also used high-quality electrical components, which means a reliability test would require years to reveal any differences.

    inversedIt seems odd to have skipped mentioning the Gigabyte EX58's driver-less RAID capability. I was able to get Windows XP to boot off of a mirrored RAID without needing the floppy and the initial setup went very quickly. One unfortunate aspect of this mobo, however is that it cannot output digital audio and analog audio at the same time. So no switching between surround sound and headphones without changing settings in the audio control software.
    We'll have to see what we can do about getting the author some digital speakers or a digital receiver headset to test for such issues in the future. That particular issue hadn't come up prior to testing.
    Reply
  • ryanaxiom
    What about the Gigabyte UD5? I guess it doesn't fall in the 300+ category at $288 from Newegg, but stil...

    It has all the benefits of the EX-58-Extreme minus the gigantic NB cooler, but also allows use of an x8 RAID card in the open ended slot (I have one installed) and if you get straight risers/wearout protectors you can install a x1 sound card in the top slot! The best of all worlds!!!

    The only small complaint I have is that sometimes I have to try to boot twice since the AHCI bios doesn't always want to load after post.
    Reply