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Ultimate X79? Five $320+ LGA 2011 Motherboards, Reviewed

Asus P9X79 WS

Though the WS moniker implies a workstation target market, many of these boards have become preferred solutions for gamers and traditional power users. The P9X79 WS follows that tradition by facilitating six PCIe x16 slots, keeping the Deluxe model's Intel gigabit network PHY, and upgrading its second gigabit Ethernet controller from Realtek to an Intel PCIe model.

Even more traditional are two PS/2 ports and the lack of Asus' Deluxe model’s Bluetooth/Wi-Fi module. The WS also loses four of the Deluxe’s USB 3.0 rear-panel and four of its front-panel USB 2.0 ports favor of traditional FireWire and serial connectors. WS users do get one of those USB 2.0 ports back, however, in the form of an external port mounted internally for use with thumb drives. Did someone say ReadyBoost?

The P9X79 WS keeps the Deluxe version’s USB BIOS Flashback feature, along with its MemOK button and TPU/EPU switches. MemOK automatically underclocks RAM to help get through the boot process with poorly programmed modules, TPU enables Asus’ pre-defined automatic overclock settings, and EPU enables Asus’ power-saving CPU voltage reduction routine.

The P9X79 WS is specifically designed for four-way SLI, switching its blue x16 slots to x8 mode whenever its black x16 slots are filled. The included three-way SLI bridge is spaced for x8-x8-x16 transfers, and the grey slots each use four of the LGA 2011 package’s eight remaining PCIe lanes.

The P9X79 WS moves its front-panel audio connector several inches northward from it expected location, where it rests slightly forward of the rear audio jacks. While that does sound like a break from tradition, this placement makes it far easier to use with Thermaltake’s older cases (which had notoriously short front-panel cables).

Our only layout concern is that an upward-facing latch on the eight-pin CPU power connector could be difficult to reach when this board is installed with its cable wrapped over the top of a motherboard tray.

Two, three, and four-way SLI bridges are included in the P9X79 WS installation kit, along with eight SATA cables and even a serial port breakout plate. The mix of old and new might make this the perfect board for elder geeks, but we’ve yet to see how it performs!

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.