Asus P9X79 Pro review
LGA2011, ATX, Intel X79 Express chipset, supports: 2nd gen Core i7 Extreme Edition / Core i7
The P9X79 Pro is the first motherboard we've seen with Intel's X79 Express chipset and LGA2011 socket, which you'll need to use Intel's new Sandy Bridge Extreme chips.
As you'd expect for an enthusiast board for an enthusiast processor, the P9X79 Pro is both hugely expensive and fully loaded. It has four PCI Express x16 slots and supports both 3-way SLI and Quad-GPU CrossFire X, has four SATA3, four SATA2 and two eSATA ports, as well as four USB3 and six USB2 ports on the rear panel and one USB3 and three USB2 headers for further ports. There are also a huge eight memory slots for up to 64GB of DDR3 memory; Sandy Bridge E processors support quad-channel RAM, and the slots are colour-coded accordingly.
It's a bang-up-to-date board, so you don’t get any legacy ports or headers; there are no PCI slots and just two PCI Express x1 slots, one of which will certainly be blocked by your graphics card. You can always use the PCI Express x16 slots with PCI-E x1 and x4 cards.
Setup is simple, as the P9X79 has power and reset buttons on the board, a numeric LED display for status messages and a CMOS reset switch for when things go wrong. The UEFI BIOS has a graphical user interface so you can set the motherboard up with your mouse, and has plenty of overclocking and voltage adjustments; when testing this board, we had no problems getting a Intel Core i7-3960X processor up to 4.8GHz. You should have few problems with cooling, thanks to twin processor fan headers and four system fan headers scattered around the board.
We first ran our benchmarks with 4GB of RAM in a dual-channel configuration, but fitting another pair of DDR3 modules in quad-channel mode made no difference to any of our tests. The board's other headline feature is its SSD caching which, as on the Sapphire Z68 Pure Platinum board, uses an SSD to store frequently-accessed information. SSD caching setup is easier on this board then on Sapphire's; on the Sapphire Z68 we had to set the controller to RAID mode and reinstall Windows on the main disk, before enabling SSD caching in Intel's Rapid Storage utility, but on Asus's board you just have to plug the SSD and a normal hard disk into the two SATA3 ports with the 'SSD caching' sticker, then run Asus' SSD caching utility to turn on caching - no Windows reinstall is required. As with Sapphire's board, with SSD caching enabled the PC booted far quicker (25s instead of 1m 30s) and could read files at a much faster rate, but write speeds were unaffected.
This is a hugely expensive board, and as it's the first Socket LGA2011 model we've seen we don't have anything to compare it to. However, it's fully loaded, easy to set up and let us perform fairly ambitious stable overclocks, so is a good buy nonetheless.