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X58 Roundup: Seven $200-300 Core i7 Boards

Test Settings

Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7 920 (2.66 GHz, 8.0 MB Cache)
CPU CoolerSwiftech Apogee GTZ Liquid Cooling
RAMKingston KHX16000D3ULT1K3/6GX (6.0 GB) DDR3-2000 at DDR3-1866 CAS 7-8-7-20
GraphicsXFX GeForce GTX 285 XXX Edition 670MHz GPU, GDDR3-2500
Hard DriveWestern Digital WD5000AAKS, 500 GB 7,200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16 MB cache
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCoolermaster RS850-EMBA 850W, ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1
GraphicsNvidia Forceware 181.20 WHQL
ChipsetIntel INF 9.1.0.1007

We left power-savings features and Turbo mode enabled for our Core i7 processor during benchmarks and power tests, since most users can benefit from these in daily use. We then disabled EIST and enhanced C-States during our overclocking tests to assure all motherboards would be stressed equally and continuously.

Kingston won our 6GB DDR3 overclocking shootout with memory that can actually clock farther than the memory controller of our Core i7 processors, making it the perfect choice for testing the overclocking stability of each motherboard. The company even sent a second set so we could test six-module stability in addition to our standard three-module test. For benchmarks, we set six of the seven motherboards to DDR3-1866 CAS 7-8-7-20 where possible: The Biostar TPower X58 would not boot at any DDR3-1866 settings, so we had to choose DDR3-1600 mode instead. Also, the MSI X58 Platinum SLI was unstable at a DDR3-1866 CAS 7 setting, so we had to use 8-8-7-20 timings with this motherboard sample.

Quick set-in time, excellent thermal characteristics, and no-mess/no-waste application make Zalman’s ZM-STG1 the perfect thermal compound for bench testing. The company sent enough for us to equip the entire U.S. hardware team with two bottles per tester.

Swiftech’s Apogee GTZ allows us to maintain low temperatures, even during our Core i7 overclocking tests. An MCP-655b pumps the warm liquid into Swiftech’s 3x120mm radiator.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Call of Duty: World at WarPatch 1.1, FRAPS/saved game High Textures, No AA / No AF, vsync off Ultra Textures, 4x AA / Max AF, vsync off
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA
Far Cry 2DirectX 10, Steam Version, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 8x AA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo Test 1: High Details, No AA / No AF Test 2: Very HighDetails 4x AA / 16x AF
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion: 7.7.0.43 Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min Default format AAC
Lame MP3Version: 3.98 Beta 3 (05-22-2007) Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min wave to MP3
TMPEG 4.5Version: 4.5.1.254 Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes) Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX 6.8.3Encoding mode: Insane Quality Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4 Quarter-pixel search
XviD 1.1.3Display encoding status = off
Mainconcept Reference 1.5.1 Reference H.264 Plugin Pro 1.5.1MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kbp/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Productivity
Autodesk 3ds Max 9Version: 9.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8Version: 8.0.134, Virus base: 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
Winrar 3.80Version 3.70 BETA 8, WinZIP Commandline Version 2.3, Compression = Best, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Winzip 11Version 11.2, Compression = Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player 10.00.00.3646
SiSoftware Sandra XII SP2Version 2008.5.14.24, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • dragonsprayer
    hey guys good info - its 4am i should not be posting with one eye closed to see the screen!
    Warpedsystems has tested a least half of these, my Evga failed out of the box, i would normally let that slide but with all the 680i and 780i issues and failures over the years - beware. So i can not speak of the evga - i will say the 780i FTW is kick butt mobo!

    Asus is asus and 90% or so of my stuff i ship, i switched to the new P6t from the deluxe and have had some issues - i am sitll working on the P6T tonight as i type. Opps- my jr tech set the blk to 180 and over clocked the QPI to max - i think he smoked the mobo ran amd cpu = its first in 5 years if so?

    Some did not make it? no gigabyte? gigabyte is really pushing on asus for number one - really! Ya, all the evga fans are what? I can say how many evga mobos break and fail: pci-e slot fail, pressure around the cpu mounting failure, lock ups - evga lock ups are just accepted as part of life! We all know that evga error code!

    I have to say the gigabyte and the higher end asus deluxe version sure seem a lot more reliable for 4ghz systems - again - we only took 1 evga and it locked up and i said "that is it the last time" - the FTW 780i gives me faith evga will come around on x58.

    what ever you do - do not oc the blk and QPI - poof!

    nice stuff THG!
    Reply
  • Crashman
    dragonsprayerhey guys good info - its 4am i should not be posting with one eye closed to see the screen!Warpedsystems has tested a least half of these, my Evga failed out of the box, i would normally let that slide but with all the 680i and 780i issues and failures over the years - beware. So i can not speak of the evga - i will say the 780i FTW is kick butt mobo!Asus is asus and 90% or so of my stuff i ship, i switched to the new P6t from the deluxe and have had some issues - i am sitll working on the P6T tonight as i type. Opps- my jr tech set the blk to 180 and over clocked the QPI to max - i think he smoked the mobo ran amd cpu = its first in 5 years if so?Some did not make it? no gigabyte? gigabyte is really pushing on asus for number one - really! Ya, all the evga fans are what? I can say how many evga mobos break and fail: pci-e slot fail, pressure around the cpu mounting failure, lock ups - evga lock ups are just accepted as part of life! We all know that evga error code!I have to say the gigabyte and the higher end asus deluxe version sure seem a lot more reliable for 4ghz systems - again - we only took 1 evga and it locked up and i said "that is it the last time" - the FTW 780i gives me faith evga will come around on x58.what ever you do - do not oc the blk and QPI - poof!nice stuff THG!
    One of the companies forgot to send a board and didn't respond in time to the reminder...see the introduction of the article. What makes you think that company wasn't Gigabyte?
    Reply
  • Which ASUS board was actually tested - the plain "P6T" or "P6T SE?" There are subtle differences, like JMB322 in P6T but not in P6T SE. Also, some difference in e.g. back panel IO and advertised overclocking capabilities.
    Judging from the feature list, the board was plain P6T, but all pictures seem to be of P6T SE.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    RipaWhich ASUS board was actually tested - the plain "P6T" or "P6T SE?" There are subtle differences, like JMB322 in P6T but not in P6T SE. Also, some difference in e.g. back panel IO and advertised overclocking capabilities.Judging from the feature list, the board was plain P6T, but all pictures seem to be of P6T SE.
    http://media.bestofmicro.com/7/3/192063/original/asus_p6t_kit.jpg
    Reply
  • wicko
    Sadly, none of the good mobos in this review are sub 300$ in Canada.. what a damn ripoff.
    Reply
  • hardwarekid9756
    Could you expound on "Catastrophic Failure?" I'd be interested to know what all went wrong in the fray. I've been using an ASRock Mobo recently, and noticed it full-out sucked at Overclocking when compared to my MSI board, so I'd like to know what exactly caused the thing to bomb out.
    Reply
  • salavat23
    No Gigabyte.

    Sorry, but you can't make a good review without including one of the top manufacturers of X58 motherboards.
    Reply
  • salavat23
    No Gigabyte.

    Sorry, but you can't make a good review without including one of the top manufacturers of X58 motherboards.
    Reply
  • msdx_bizkit
    Gigabyte EX58-UD3R and MSI X58 Pro are the cheapest X58 motherboards out there at the moment. (~250$ CAD - NCIX) Could you guys give me your input on those two particuliar boards?

    I am not the extreme overclocking kinda guy. In fact, I still am running on default settings on my Core 2 Duo E6750. I don't plan to overclock over 3,2Ghz on my new 920, if I ever do overclock.

    Neither boards support SLI, but I'd be interrested in a dual Radeon 4870 1GB Crossfire config.

    Thanks in advance
    Reply
  • daft
    i was just wondering if the "more on this topic" could be omitted in future articles, i like to skip to the conclusion in the mornings and its annoying to hit more on this topic and get a little window than to go to the conclusion
    Reply