10/19/2010 | 11:58 AM
If you are fond of anniversaries and jubilees, we can give you one reason to be merry about. The LGA1366 platform turns two years old this fall! This is not a round date and is not supposed to entail some special festivities, yet the event that happened about two years ago was quite momentous. We were quite naturally excited about the new platform and tested a lot of LGA1366 mainboards from different brands but later switched to LGA1156 products. There have been some developments since then, though. First of all, there have appeared new BIOSes with corrected bugs and new features, and mainboards themselves, despite the same names, have changed and come in new revisions. New products have been released as well. For example, we recently published a review of the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD9 mainboard which proved to be extraordinary in many respects.
In our today's review we will cover yet another LGA1366 mainboard from a famous brand. It is ASUS P6X58D-E. This mainboard is based on the Intel X58 Express chipset and complements its functionality with USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gbps.
The ASUS P6X58D-E comes in a robust cardboard box. Its external cover has a flip-down face panel. The text on the box will tell you some information about ASUS mainboards in general as well as about this model in particular.
Besides the mainboard, there are also the following accessories:
ASUS mainboards have always been thought-through and immaculately manufactured products and the ASUS P6X58D-E carries that tradition on.
Its six memory slots allow using up to 24 gigabytes of DDR3 SDRAM in triple-channel mode. The mainboard supports all modern LGA1366 processors including the six-core varieties and powers them through a 16-phase voltage regulator. There are also two more phases for the CPU-integrated memory controller. The chipset and voltage regulator components are equipped with heatsinks as they dissipate quite a lot of heat. The heatsinks are joined together with a heat pipe and fastened securely with screws. There is a small fifth heatsink on the reverse side of the PCB. The mainboard features high-quality components like low RDS (on) MOSFETs, ferrite-core chokes with low hysteresis loss, and polymer capacitors.
The P6X58D-E supports 3-way SLI and Quad-GPU CrossFireX technologies, offering three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots which can work as x16/x8/x8 or x16/x16/x1. Besides the six Serial ATA 3 Gbps ports provided by the Intel ICH10R South Bridge, the mainboard is equipped with a Marvell 88SE9128 controller that supports an additional two SATA 6 Gbps ports. There are a couple of buttons on the PCB: a highlighted Power button and a MemOK! button (you can press it to load failsafe memory settings when booting your system).
The following can be found at the mainboard's back panel:
And here is a flowchart of the ASUS P6X58D-E:
You can refer to the manufacturer’s website for the full list of this mainboard’s features and technologies. We’ve put together the key ones in the following table:
The main BIOS screen allows setting up the current date, time and interface language. You can also configure the operation of connected disks and view some basic system information. Take note that the mainboard's model name is now displayed in the title of each BIOS screen. The BIOS version number can be seen in the top right corner.
Most of performance tweaking options can be found in the Ai Tweaker section. By default, all of them are set by the mainboard automatically. If you choose the D.O.C.P. mode for the Ai Overclock Tuner parameter, the mainboard will change the base clock rate and the CPU frequency multiplier in such a way as to raise the memory frequency to the specified level. In the X.M.P. mode the mainboard will use the values written into the memory modules' SPD, if applicable.
We've got all the options for changing frequencies, multipliers and voltages here, so you can set your system up for optimal performance. You can also specify your memory timings (there are so many of them that they populate an individual BIOS page).
The Advanced section provides you with options for controlling the chipset, onboard controllers and interfaces.
We are mostly interested in the CPU Configuration subsection as it contains a lot of important CPU-related parameters.
Some of the options reside in a separate page called Intel PPM Configuration. This is not quite right because users are likely to neglect it whereas the Intel C-State Tech option is turned off by default. This means the CPU will not switch into deep power-saving modes when idle. Besides, it will not be able to increase its frequency multiplier by x2 under low single-threaded load. That is, the Intel Turbo Boost technology will be limited in its scope: it will only be able to increase the CPU multiplier by x1 irrespective of the CPU's load and power consumption.
Next we enter the Power section and make sure the EuP Ready parameter is available. It allows to lower the power consumption of the mainboard when the latter is turned off but not disconnected from the mains.
The Hardware Monitor page is for checking out the key voltages, temperatures and fan speeds.
You can choose the speed mode for the three fans connected to the mainboard's Chassis Fan connectors from three options: Standard, Silent and Turbo. For the CPU fan you can also manually specify the relation between speed and temperature.
In the Boot section you can specify the priority of boot devices and some other boot-related parameters. The Tools section provides a few tools we are already familiar with by other ASUS mainboards:
All performance tests were run on the following test platform:
We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7600) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version 188.8.131.525, ATI Catalyst 10.7 graphics card driver.
If you do not know how to overclock LGA1366 processors and what problems there can be with that, you can refer to the following reviews:
We didn’t have much trouble refreshing our knowledge of how to overclock an LGA1366 platform, but we first want to say a few words about the processor we used. It was an Intel Core i7-930. As a general rule, junior CPU models in a series are considered the most optimal choice for overclocking. The junior Core i7 model is Intel Core i7-920 but it exists in two versions: with the old C0 and with the new D0 stepping. The Intel Core i7-930 is available with the new stepping only, so there can’t be any confusion, which is the reason why we preferred it for our tests. The CPU lowers its frequency and voltage when idle.
When under load and with the Intel Turbo Boost technology turned on, the CPU lifts its clock rate up to 2.93 GHz. On many mainboards, including the P6X58D-E, Turbo Boost is set up in such a way that the CPU frequency multiplier doesn’t ever drop to its default value. In other words, we can use the Turbo Boost option to simply increase the multiplier by x1.
If the CPU load is low (when only one of the four CPU cores is in use while its power consumption and temperature remain within reasonable limits), the Intel Turbo Boost technology increases the CPU frequency multiplier by x2 rather than by x1. The Everest utility doesn’t notice that but you can use the TMonitor tool instead.
We can remind you that Intel Turbo Boost will only work fully if you enable the Intel C-State Tech option in the mainboard’s BIOS and leave the C State package limit setting at its default (or explicitly set it at C6). Otherwise, the voltage will be lowered less in idle mode while the CPU frequency multiplier will only be increased by x1 irrespective of load.
However, Intel Turbo Boost is only appropriate for the mainboard’s default operation mode. If you overclock it, the increased multiplier may make your system unstable. The simplest, but not the best, option is to disable that technology in the BIOS. On the other hand, Turbo Boost increases the CPU frequency multiplier, so you can overclock to a lower (i.e. more stable) base clock rate. Besides, it increases the CPU voltage dynamically under load. Coupled with the technology that counteracts a CPU voltage drop under load, it means we can increase the CPU voltage less without compromising stability. For Turbo Boost to increase the CPU multiplier by x1 only, we can set the C State package limit setting at C1.
Overclocking through increasing the base clock rate raises the rest of related frequencies besides the CPU one, but mainboards generally work well at increased frequencies of the CPU-integrated North Bridge and QPI bus. You will only have to correct the memory frequency and timings as necessary.
For example, to overclock our processor to 3.9 GHz we didn’t have to increase any voltages at all. We just relied on the automatic voltage increase (thanks to Turbo Boost) and on the technology that counteracted a CPU voltage drop under load.
All of the CPU’s power-saving technologies work in idle mode, lowering both the multiplier and voltage.
Intel doesn’t have a 3.9GHz Core i7 processor and we don't know if they will ever offer one. So, our overclocking experiment is quite successful. We were only let down by our Kingston KHX12800D3LLK3/6GX memory. From our roundup called Triple-Channel DDR3-1600 Kits for LGA1366 Systems, we knew that it couldn’t overclock much above its rated frequency of 1600 MHz. Now we also made sure that memory kit did not allow lowering the timings much at low frequencies. We wanted to set 6-6-6-18 but had to be content with 7-7-7-20. The memory voltage could be left at 1.5 volts, yet we were somewhat disappointed anyway.
As usual, we are going to compare the mainboards speeds in two different modes: in nominal mode and during CPU and memory overclocking. The first mode is interesting because it shows how well the mainboards work with their default settings. It is a known fact that most users do not fine-tune their systems, they simply choose the optimal BIOS settings and do nothing else. That is why we run a round of tests almost without interfering in any way with the default mainboard settings. In this case, however, we did enable “Intel Turbo Boost”. We will also perform the same exact tests in overclocked mode in order to determine the performance gain resulting from overclocking our processor to 3.9 GHz.
We started using the recently released Cinebench 11.5 program version. All tests were run five times and the average result of the five runs was taken for the performance charts.
We have been using Fritz Chess Benchmark utility for a long time already and it proved very illustrative. It generated repeated results, the performance in it is scales perfectly depending on the number of involved computational threads.
A small video in x264 HD Benchmark 3.0 is encoded in two passes and then the entire process is repeated four times. The average results of the second pass are displayed on the following diagram:
In the archiving test a 1 GB file is compressed using LZMA2 algorithms, while other compression settings remain at defaults.
Like in the data compression test, the faster 16 million of Pi digits are calculated, the better. This is the only benchmark where the number of processor cores doesn’t really matter, because it creates single-threaded load.
There are good and bad things about complex performance tests. However, 3D Mark Vantage has become extremely popular. The diagram below shows the results after three test runs:
Since we do not overclock graphics in our mainboard reviews, the next diagram shows only CPU test from the 3D Mark Vantage suite.
We use FC2 Benchmark Tool to go over Ranch Small map ten times in 1280x1024 resolution with medium and high image quality settings in DirectX 10.
Resident Evil 5 game also has a built-in performance test. Its peculiarity is that it can really take advantage of multi-core processor architecture. The tests were run in DirectX 10 in 1280x1024 resolution with medium image quality settings. The average of five test runs was taken for further analysis:
Different applications react differently to a higher CPU frequency. The graphics card influences performance in 3DMark Vantage and Far Cry 2 greatly, and as we didn’t overclock our graphics card, the higher CPU clock rate didn’t improve the overall performance much in those tests. In the other tests, however, we can observe a performance boost up to 30% and more! Thus, we made our system faster by a third without much effort.
We measure the speed of the USB 3.0 interface using CrystalDiskMark 3.0 and an external Buffalo DriveStation HD-HX1.0TU3 drive. The diagram below shows the results of all mainboards with USB 3.0 we have tested so far and we can see them all split up into two groups. One group delivers higher USB 3.0 performance. These are the Socket AM3 models which USB 3.0 controller is connected to a PCI Express 2.0 bus and the LGA1156 mainboards with Intel chipsets where the USB 3.0 controller is connected via a PLX bridge. The Intel-based mainboards without that bridge connect the controller to a first-generation PCI Express bus which limits their USB 3.0 bandwidth. The results are sorted by read speed but we can see the same thing at writing. The ASRock H55 Extreme3 is the only exception, but it implements USB 3.0 with a Fresco Logic FL1000G controller rather than with a NEC D720200F1 chip as in the rest of the mainboards, which must be the reason for the difference.
The ASUS P6X58D-E doesn’t need any extra bridges or other tricks to implement USB 3.0. The flagship chipset Intel X58 Express has free second-generation PCI Express lanes whose bandwidth is high enough for the USB 3.0 controller to deliver its best performance.
We performed our power consumption measurements using an Extech Power Analyzer 380803. This device is connected before the PSU and measures the power draw of the entire system (without the monitor), including the power loss that occurs in the PSU itself. In the idle mode we start the system up and wait until it stops accessing the hard disk. Then we use LinX to load the Intel Core i7-930 CPU. For a more illustrative picture there are graphs that show how the computer’s power consumption grows up depending on the number of active execution threads in LinX (both at the default and overclocked system settings). We performed the test in four modes: idle mode, single-thread load, four-thread and eight-thread load.
Of course, the system consumes more power when overclocked, but the considerably increased performance makes up for that.
Now let’s see what good words we can find about the ASUS P6X58D-E. First off, its packaging is robust and informative. The accessories are richer than what you get with many other mainboards, but without any extras. The PCB design is clever and practical. The mainboard has all the features typical of the flagship Intel X58 Express chipset and supports Nvidia 3-way SLI and ATI Quad-GPU CrossFireX. A few additional onboard controllers endow it with such popular interfaces as IEEE 1394, USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gbps. The lack of legacy interfaces (COM, LPT and IDE) is hardly a drawback today. You just have to keep this fact in mind if you are upgrading your old PC.
The BIOS options offer all the settings you need to overclock and fine-tune your computer. There are but minor problems with the mainboard's BIOS, actually. For example, the power-saving technologies and Intel Turbo Boost settings reside in a separate BIOS page and may be neglected by the user. Besides, like every other ASUS mainboard, the P6X58D-E does not report the default CPU voltage. It can only be but roughly estimated basing on the monitoring data. This did not prevent us from overclocking our Core i7 processor to a clock rate of 3.9 GHz which is higher than any default frequency in the Core i7 series.
Thus, the ASUS P6X58D-E is one of the few up-to-date LGA1366 mainboards available from ASUS. Besides it, the same functionality including USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gbps is only provided by the Rampage III mainboards from the Republic of Gamers series and by the ASUS P6X58D Premium. Comparing the latter to the P6X58D-E, they have similar PCBs, but the P6X58D Premium is equipped with two LAN controllers, has more heat pipes in its cooling system, and is equipped with an integrated SSD with Express Gate. It also comes with richer accessories and has a Reset button besides the Power one. These are the key differences we can spot by reading through their specs and looking at their photos. Cutting it short, the P6X58D-E offers comparable functionality but costs much less.