Intel Extreme motherboard DX58SO
299 USD - 249 EUR
So then, not only did Intel release a really impressive processor series today, to support it, they also had to build a new infrastructure for it. This review is going to cover the basics of Intel's X58 mainboard chipset. The key features of course bringing support to QPI, triple-channel memory and Socket 1366 thus Core i7 processors. Before we start I need to say, this is in fact a reference review with supplied memory, cooler etc. We have another X58 review for you guys where we use multiple multi-GPU graphics cards, snazzy OCZ memory, 3rd party X58 mainboards, new cooling etc .. you know true Guru3D style. But this is the reference X58 Intel board, the first of many X58 reviews to come.
Though you have learned this chipset to be named X58, some of you might recognize the "Tylersburg" as well which was the developers codename.
This new chipset will use the same ICH10(R) "South bridge chipset" as the Intel P45 (Eaglelake) chipsets, but the X58 chipset overall obviously will be drastically different.
- The X58 Express will use the new LGA1366 socket (also known as Socket B).
- No more memory controller
- Intel QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) the interconnect between the Core i7 processor and the X58 Express.
There's another feature about the X58 chipset that will appeal the enthusiast crowds like myself as well. This will be the first (besides Skulltrail) non NVIDIA chipset based mainboard which supports SLI and Crossfire making THE choice of weaponry for future high-end upgrades as you are no longer limited towards an NVIDIA supporting SLI chipset of for that matter a Crossfire bound infrastructure.
But to get SLI support activated, the mainbord series has to be submitted (by manufacturer) and certified by NVIDIA, after which they'll open up support through their drivers. To get multi-card graphics cards support Intel obviously had to include support for at least two x16 PCI Express 2.0 slots with the option for four x8 slots to support quad-graphics cards (CrossfireX).
All in all, plenty of stuff to talk about. Over the next pages we'll take a brief look at the chipset architecture, then a photo shoot and then obviously a test or two to get these geek juices flowing.
Though the architecture and eco-system as a whole is near perfect, the actual problems we ran into have to do a lot with the DX58SO PCB design. First off, the lack of IDE device support. Of course we need to move forwards but there are just too many people out there with at least one HDD/optical IDE device.
Also we feel strongly that we should have seen a PS2 keyboard connector on the mainboard, even if only as failsafe. Sometimes an USB keyboard is not recognized, how do you access your BIOS then ? Hey it happens man.
Also we really would have liked to see a second Ethernet connector on this mainboard. These remain minor wishes or preferences though. Inconvenient is the position of the 8-pin 12V processor voltage header, it's really embarrassingly placed. Then with Core i7 you'll go for triple channel DDR3 right. With such an investment, me personally I would have liked to at least have the option to drop another 3 DDR3 modules into the system in a later stage this six DIMM slots for two triple channel memory arrays. This is not possible on the Intel DX58SO, there are 4 DIMM slots which raises another question. Why four? You will only use three or maybe six. Up-to this point these are all forgivable choices though.
The one thing that doesn't fare well with me is the location of the SATA connectors. We explained that motherboards like these are designed for the enthusiast end-user. They for sure have high-end graphics cards, and these are lengthy. As such they'll stretch over the mainboard using all ATX specified motherboard length. The SATA connectors if utilized, will block at the very least
the lower card slot preventing you from inserting for example a second Radeon HD 4870 X2 or GeForce GTX 260/280. It can be solved if you pick up a set of SATA cables with 90 degree angle connector bend, but that SATA header location just doesn't make any sense to me.
Gaming on X58 then. It's a wonderful experience really. But fact is that even a GeForce GTX 280 does not need this much horsepower to reap it's benefits and show what it can do. A decent system with a Core 2 Duo processor at 3.0 GHz will give you roughly the same amount of performance as this Core i7 did,except in the situations where you get CPU bound of course (lower resolution). The reality is that enthusiast consumers have high-end gear, thus typically work and game in a resolution above 1600x1200. And that's where your GPU is a bottleneck, and the CPU hardy has an effect. That role can obviously change with faster graphics cards released in the future, but right now it's the reality.
This is why it's so hard to show you the raw performance a processor and mainboard like this has outside the scope of synthetic tests. Only in multi-GPU situations would we be able to show you a difference. And that's what we are going to look at and thus test in a dedicated article for you guys. We build the ultimate gaming rig with proper cooling, OCZ memory, quality brand X58 mainboard and then test multiple Multi-GPU solutions. Again please have a look at the Multi-GPU article.
Now then, if you don't plan that second graphics adapter and the rest of my remarks is cool with you, hey then looking at it from the other side of the scope we must also mention that this to date is the fastest system we have ever laid our eyes and hands on. The combination of X58 and Core i7 is undeniably an experience with a golden thread. The performance even with early mainboards and processors like this is absolutely jaw breaking nice. As an eco system it works really well. Power consumption is within very acceptable levels, the performance amazing and the looks are just stunning. Next to that, even with stock cooling you'll easily get more performance out of your system by overclocking it. And fact is, it's quite an easy job to achieve as well. See, that's the other side of the scope.
Also bare in mind that this reference Intel DX58SO motherboard (at this time) does not carry SLI certification and as such would not support NVIDIA SLI. ASUS, EVGA, MSI, Gigabyte, and DFI currently have mainboards that passed this certification.
One last thing you'll have to take into consideration is the price. The X58 based Intel Extreme DX58SO will be launched at a 250+ USD/EUR sales price. And that's a lot of money. In all honesty we have to say, our feelings towards the Intel X58SO are a bit of mixed bag, even if it is a reference mainboard, we'll even advise you to at the very least carefully look at other X58 board partners. The DX58SO is feature rich yet lacks some pretty noteworthy features, that and the aforementioned location of some of the connectors/headers bring a brilliantly fast and speedy motherboard down a little. But yeah, it offers dazzling processor performance, fantastic triple DDR3 memory bandwidth and surely performance wise.
This is just a really fast system, and for only that reason alone you'll adore it the minute you've purchased it.
* update February 2009 -
NVIDAI opened up SLI compatibility for this motherboard. Flash the latest BIOS, get the latest GeForce drivers installed and SLI will be possible for you.