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Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Platforms Compared

Finally Ready For Prime Time?

Few motherboard vendors were fully prepared for Intel’s Core i7 launch last November, but is it really hard to figure out why? Intel's Nehalem architecture introduced triple-channel memory and an on-die memory controller, so we’re certain that many engineers spent sleepless nights trying to figure out what effects this would have on BIOS configuration and how to optimize pathways for the new QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) CPU-to-northbridge link.

Manufacturers had to deal with big changes, yet Intel’s use of a pre-existing southbridge lends a similar look to the block diagram. Yet, the X58 chipset isn’t simply an X48 with the memory controller removed. In addition to a change from the front side bus (FSB) to QPI, Intel added four more PCI Express (PCIe) 2.0 lanes. Intel left the decision about what to do with those added lanes up to motherboard manufacturers, and most simply chose to ignore them.

We gave motherboard manufacturers 100 days from the Core i7 CPU launch to sort out any remaining problems before we began testing for today’s comparison of high-end platforms. In the months to come, we'll also take a look at mid-range boards in the $200-$300 range and offerings that fall in under $200. But for now, we're sticking to premium parts. Are all of these pricey motherboards finally ready for prime time?

  • 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