Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R and ASUS P6X58D-E review
Author: Luka Rakamaric
Date: 11 Aug 2010
Intel’s socket 1366 platform was the first to appear and support the new iX CPUs. It has been on the market for some time, and at first it was very expensive. The memory alone, and you needed a triple channel configuration, was pretty expensive at the time of the launch. However, over time, DDR3 has gained much more market share, so its prices are not that far from the DDR2 modules. This has prompted manufacturers to release a new generation of motherboards that incorporate USB 3.0 and SATA 6 GB/s, and in this new lineup, the budget versions were also refreshed. Although these boards are pretty far on features when compared to the likes of X58A-UD9, P6T7 SuperComputer or Rampage III Extreme with their multi GPU, twin EPS powered multiphase power regulators and so on, they are roughly the same if you are an i7-920, single or dual GPU user.
Since both of these boards are aiming for the same market niche, we will start with what’s similar. They are both based on Intel’s X58 Express chipset, the only one available for the i7-900 series CPUs. The Southbridge is the ICH10R, also the only one coupled with the X58 on today’s boards, so no advantage for anyone here. The ICH10R brings you 6 SATA 3 GB/s connectors, so both manufacturers included dedicate chips to support 6 GB/s. But more on that later. Audio is in both cases handled by Realtek’s ALC889 codec, with 8 channel support and optical and coaxial outputs on the back panel. The Southbridge also supports 10 USB 2.0 ports, with some of them available as headers for chassis connectors. USB 3.0, with two connectors on both boards, is available on the back panel.
Now let’s look at what’s different.
Gigabyte’s board offers us some more storage options. Aside from the SATA 6 GB/s, which is also present on the ASUS board, Gigabyte included its own SATA2 chip that supports one IDE connector and 2 additional SATA devices at 3 GB/s speed. It also has a floppy drive connector based on the iTE IT8720 chip. Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 supports FireWire on the Gigabyte board, while ASUS opted for the VIA VT6308P chip that supports two connectors, one less than the X58A-UD3R.
Since X58 systems are the platform of choice for multi GPU configurations, we have to mention that both offer the same amount of PCI-e lanes, however they are arranged in different slot configuration. Physically, ASUS offers us x16, x1, x16, x16, but of course, without the NF200 chips, electrically it is a little bit different, as the configurations for the physical x16 slots are either x16/x16/x1 or x16/x8/x8. Gigabyte, on the other hand, has 2 PCI-e x1 slots, and four physical x16., with various configurations, from x16/x0/x16/x0 to x8/x8/x8/x8. However, you can’t go for the quad card setup effectively, because the slots are too close together. ASUS also put their PLX chip that supports the USB 3.0 and the new SATA controllers. While it’s much more important on the P55 platform that has far fewer PCI-E lanes, maintaining the PCI-e 2.0 lanes free for graphics is a very nice feature.
Both boards have a single gigabit LAN port, powered by Realtek’s RLT8111D and Marvell 88E8056 for Gigabyte and ASUS respectively. Gigabyte uses a reduced cooling design from its more expensive models, with only one heatpipe connecting the elements around the CPU socket. The southbridge is left on its own. With a good ventilated chassis, the heat production of the SB is easily channeled away. ASUS uses the exactly same design, so there’s no clear winner here.
Because i7-900 series CPUs support triple channel memory configurations, the board comes with 6 DIMM slots with color coding for the channels. To achieve best results, three modules must populate the same color slots. If you use six modules, the maximum amount of memory is 24 GB, which is quite enough for even the most demanding workstation uses. ASUS sticked with AMI BIOS on a 16 Mb Flash ROM, while Gigabyte opted for the classic Award BIOS. They both support BIOS protection, with DualBIOS and CrashFree BIOS 3.
Gigabyte’s BIOS has the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker submenu, which is used to oveclock the board or the CPU. It is very well known from other Gigabyte’s boards, and offers nice control over the frequencies, voltages and timings needed to properly set up your system. ASUS decided to used the AMI tabbed BIOS, which is not the one we prefer, but the functionality is all the same. The AI Tweaker is the equivalent of Gigabyte’s MIT, with all the overclocking options available. All of the options are available from the main menu, while with MIT you had to enter a few submenus. All of the standard options in both BIOSes are encountered on all modern motherboards, so there’s no need to enter into the details of those.