Asus P6X58D-E review
The original Core i7 processors, which use the LGA 1366 socket, are a no-compromise design for all-out performance. Confusingly, late last year Intel released a new range of Core i7s for the LGA 1156 socket, but these just weren’t as quick. Asus's release of the new P6X58D-E motherboard shows that there's still a lot of enthusiasm for the original chips, particularly amongst those who want to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of their PC.
One problem we had with the original chips was the high cost of motherboards based on the compatible X58 chipset. The P6X58D-E may not sound cheap at £150, but it’s actually a bargain by X58 standards. Especially considering that Asus hasn't cut any serious corners in its design or specification, as well as including some of the latest features you'd expect in a board at this price.
As well as the X58's own ICH10R southbridge (which supports six SATA2 ports), Asus has added a SATA3 controller with two ports. We're yet to be convinced of the necessity of this new high-speed interface, but it could come into its own with the next generation of solid state drives (SSDs) – which those building the most powerful PCs might consider fitting.
There's also a pair of USB3 ports for high-speed file transfers to and from portable disks. Other ports includes four standard USB ports, FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, 7.1 analogue surround sound output and coaxial and optical SPDIFs. It's a reasonable collection, though a few more USB ports wouldn't go amiss.
As with all X58 boards, there are six memory slots supporting triple-channel memory. You can fit up to 24GB of RAM, with support for speeds up to PC3-16000. Other slots include one PCI-Express x1 and two PCI. More noteworthy are the three PCI-Express x16 slots, with support for multiple graphics cards under both SLI and CrossFire. Up to three Nvidia cards can be fitted, or two CrossFire cards. Cleverly, the three slots can run at speeds of x16/x8/x8 for three cards, or at x16/x16/x1 for two card setups. If you do fit two dual-slot cards, you will lose access to both PCI slots. The addition of a third dual-slot card will also require a larger than normal case, with eight expansions slots, as the bottom card will hang below the edge of the board – one example is Antec's Nine Hundred Two case (£82 inc VAT from Scan)
The P6X58D-E didn't stand out in our benchmarks, which we run using our reference Intel Core i7-920 processor. Stock speed performance isn't the big issue with X58 boards, however, as the majority of owners will instead be looking at overclocking. We've recently seen this board in a PC system pushed to 3.8GHz with no problems, and Asus have certainly provided the tools for such undertakings. The BIOS is awash with adjustments for clock speeds and voltages; there's also a range of Windows tools for further tweaking performance – though we doubt any serious overclocker would give them a second glance.
If you're thinking of building an incredibly powerful PC, then an overclocked Core i7-930 processor (£214 inc VAT from Aria) is a sound choice. The P6X58D-E isn't the most exciting-looking motherboard to pair with such a processor, but if you aren't swayed by flashy boxes, names and heat sink designs (all standard on Asus's own Rampage series of boards) then the P6X58D-E does the job, without the frills, and at a very reasonable price.
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