It looks like the year 2011 may be known as the year of unsuccessful processor launches. Everything started back in January when Intel launched their LGA 1155 processors. The actual Sandy Bridge CPU, in fact, turned out pretty good, but the chipsets for them contained a very frustrating bug. As a result, we had to wait for the new fixed chipset modifications until spring, which had significantly slowed down the spreading of the promising processors. It is quite possible that the next LGA 1155 processor generation known as Ivy Bridge has been postponed for an entire quarter and is due to be announced in the coming spring and not January as usual.
After that we were impatiently waiting for the AMD Bulldozer scheduled to be launched in summer, but AMD kept delaying them over and over and they arrived only in mid fall. It was pretty clear from numerous delays and information leaks that we shouldn’t expect these processors to knock our socks off, but we still hoped for the best. The disappointment was quite predictable and therefore not very dramatic, but it is still sad that Bulldozer processors ended up being so hot and slow. The new microarchitecture is designed to allow frequency increase, so more competitive models might be coming out in the future, but the overall associations are not the best ones at this point. What comes to mind in reference to Bulldozer is the very old launch of the Intel Pentium IV processors, when they were hoping to fix things by raising the clock speeds. The first processors on Willamette core were also slower than their predecessors, after that they came out with a much more successful Northwood core, and things seemed to be very promising, but they ended up with a flame-breathing Prescott, and at that point decided to give up NetBurst microarchitecture altogether. Back in those days AMD processors were at least just as good, and in many aspects even better than Intel’s. We hope that the company remembers all that and will not make the same mistakes their competitor made back then.
Closer to the end of the year Intel was planning to triumph their new LGA 2011 processors. Even the ancient LGA 1366 CPUs are still among the leaders in applications creating heavy-duty well-paralleled load. The new Sandy Bridge-E were expected to raise the performance bar to unattainable heights. But who could have thought that the launch would turn out so unremarkable and the new processors will be ironically nicknamed “Bulldozer 2”? Of course, we didn’t see any nonsense like pseudo-eight-core processors being slower than their true six-core predecessors and the new processors did prove to be faster than the older LGA 1366. However, we did expect much more from the new architecture that has already proven worthy in the LGA 1155 processors and from the quad-channel memory controller than 10% speed increase, which is noticeably smoothed over by a significant increase in power consumption. The Intel X79 Express chipset also turned out more or a disappointment, because despite initial plans it wasn’t any richer in functionality than the LGA 1155 chipsets.
It looks like Intel is simply unable to maintain the pace, which they set for themselves. Their current new models launch strategy is described as “Tick-Tock”. The idea behind it is that they first develop new processor microarchitecture, and then transfer it to new production process, and after than another new microarchitecture comes out. However, this strategy seems to start failing. The new Ivy Bridge processors won’t be just a copy of the old Sandy Bridge manufactured with 22 nm process. The microarchitectural changes should be so drastic, that they now refer to them as “Tick+”. If we use the same analogue, then today’s LGA 2011 processors are more of a “Tock-“. Maybe it is time to revise the “Tick-Tock” strategy and stop blindly following the notorious Moore’s Law? Maybe it makes more sense to flexibly react to the changing situation rather than strictly follow the preset rules?
I obviously can’t speak for all the users, but in my opinion, it would make much more sense to slow down this race, but to make more meaningful changes with every new step. For example, I currently have a good previous-generation quad-core LGA 1156 processor. Its functionality if more than enough for my needs that is why I don’t see any serious reasons why I should upgrade to LGA 1155. The advantages of the new processors are obvious and undeniable, but they are not significant enough to justify a complete platform change, because even the functionality of the current model I use is more than sufficient. I am sure that he owners of LGA 1366 processors find themselves in a similar situation. A 10% performance boost provided by the new LGA 2011 CPUs can be easily achieved during overclocking, so there is no real good reason for the upgrade. However, if you are putting together a brand new system, it is a different story: it doesn’t make sense to go with the obsolete processors. Also, if your existing LGA 1366 processor has already been overclocked to the maximum, but its performance is still insufficient.
In fact, we are going to approach the new platform from this particular standpoint. Namely, from the prospective of a user who puts together a new system. And we are going to pay special attention to overclocking functionality and potential. We are going to begin with Asus P9X79 Deluxe mainboard and I am sure this choice doesn’t surprise you. Unlike processor makers, Asus is obviously on the rise this year, at least in the mainboard segment. The Asus mainboards usually significantly expand the base functionality of the chipset they are based on due to additional onboard controllers, proprietary technologies and utilities. They have successfully completed the transition to UEFI BIOS, increasing its functionality with the new features and parameters without losing any of options or convenience of use. Of course, we can’t say that it is true for all Asus mainboards, because they are designed for different processors, are based on different chipsets and each model is very unique. However, in general terms, Asus mainboards are currently the leaders of the mainboard market. As for the specific details, we are going to discuss them in our today’s review of the new Asus P9X79 Deluxe mainboard. We will talk about its PCB design, technical specifications, EFI BIOS functionality, new programs and utilities, overclocking potential, performance and power consumption. However, first let’s take a closer look at the board the way it arrives to the user.