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Seven $260-$320 X79 Express Motherboards, Reviewed

Intel DX79SI

Not content to be the standard on which its partners improve, Intel’s enthusiast-class offerings meld a few exclusive features and the firm’s legendary stability. The DX79SI goes full-speed into the heart of this market by providing two Intel gigabit Ethernet controllers and eight DIMM slots at a moderate $280 price.

A white “Back to BIOS” button on the rear panel is particularly useful to overclockers, as it forces the system to boot at default values without changing the custom settings of the BIOS menu. Some boards achieve similar functionality automatically after detecting a boot failure, but this manual option avoids the problem of a non-detected boot failure or a hang after booting.

Intel finally got around to using the front-panel USB 3.0 header that early-implementer ASRock credited Intel for designing a long time ago. But we were a little surprised to find legacy features like PCI and FireWire on a board that lacks PS/2 connectivity. We can be certain that the internal USB 3.0 header is located far enough below the bottom PCIe x16 slot that it doesn’t interfere with the installation of most graphics cards.

Overclockers will love the DX79SI’s internal power and reset buttons, along with a Port 80 diagnostics display to supplement a row of device status LEDs along its bottom edge. The front of that lower edges is a little better-endowed than most competing designs in that it supports up to eight front-panel USB 2.0 ports or devices, leaving us to complain only that the front-panel audio port is stuffed a little too far back into the bottom-rear corner.

A more questionable layout consideration is the x16-x16-x8 pathway arrangement for three-way CrossFire or SLI. Many builders would be tempted to use the upper and lower x16 slots in their dual-card configurations to improve cooling between boards. But doing so limits the lower card to x8 mode, while leaving the center x16 slot empty.

Our DX79SI arrived without several accessories, so we checked a few sellers and found that retail customers get a driver CD, four SATA cables, and a Bluetooth/Wi-Fi module. That last item might have been a key point of interest if it had been included with our sample.

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