ASUS P6X58-E WS ReviewRHKCommander959 - September 6, 2011
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When looking to purchase a new motherboard consumers must ask themselves a few basic questions. It is good to know how many graphics cards you want or need as this will determine the required number of PCI Express x16 slots. Choosing a platform is important if the board will be in a new system. Currently, as a general rule of thumb, Intel is leading performance while AMD is going for affordability. How many SATA ports needed is another thing to keep in mind, six is usually stock, give or take two, but some high-end boards have up to ten! Some will need a motherboard with the intent of running a server. For this task there are workstation class motherboards such as the ASUS P6X58-E WS motherboard. The x58 chipset was designed for workstation usage and can use either i7 or Xeon CPUs. This motherboard has 16+2 phases, dual Intel 82574L Gigabit LAN ports, 2x SATA 3.0, USB 3.0 supporting newer devices, 3x full x16 PCI Express 2.0 slots, and room for 24GB of DDR3 memory! The board also supports a PCI Express x4 SAS card from ASUS based on the Marvell 88SE6440 chipset and called the SASsaby (like the antelope), but good luck finding one. In any case this board should do great for gaming or server-related duties.
The packaging for the ASUS P6X58-E WS is modest and clean. As this is a workstation board, it doesn't try to look hip and happening as the enthusiast/gamer motherboards do. The front outlines the primary specifications: i7 and 3-way SLI/CrossFireX support, 2x Intel Gigabit LAN ports, and 2x SATA 3.0 ports. The bottom left corner shows four icons indicating proper uses for this board: gaming, productivity, internet, and server. Flipping the box around we get a glimpse at the motherboard with details laid out. Three of the PCI Express x16 length slots operate at full x16 speed while two run at x8. There is also an x1 slot at the bottom. The board uses a NVIDIA NF200 chip to provide these lanes. People may be curious as to why the slots are all full length but it is for compatibility, any length device can be ran in any length slot as long as there is room. But if they aren't the same length then there is possibly a waste of bandwidth at either the device or slot. Thus x16 length slots are ideal. Technically speaking it is easy to modify a smaller-than-x16 slot by clipping the back off to fit a larger card, many Folding@Home high-output users do this at home to fit more graphics cards in. But a full length slot provides more structural support (and bandwidth) than an x1! The board comes paired with dual server-class Intel 82574L Gigabit LAN compatible with Windows, Linux, CenOS, and Ubuntu. The LAN chipset also has VMware certification for virtual technology support. Two USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 ports provide some future proofing. The board supports up to eight channels of high definition audio. For diagnostics, a small card was included that plugs in and provides power and reset buttons as well as a standard two LED HEX outputs.
The front is a flap that opens to provide more information. There are twelve features that are explained on the flap. First is the 16+2 phase power: 16 for vCore and 2 for QPI/memory. The components used are quality, low RDS MOSFETs, ferrite core chokes, and Japanese polymer capacitors. USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 are both supported with two slots each for next generation support. The board comes with some handy software support: TurboV allows overclocking from within the operating system with almost full control as you would find in the BIOS! AI Suite II bundles all of the featured utilities into one program for control over overclocking, energy management, fan speed control, and voltage and sensor readings. EPU is a real-time power saving engine that can be enabled through an onboard switch or by AI Suite II. The engine is designed for energy optimization by moderating power consumption and fan control. The board supports PCIe 2.0 which provides double the speed and bandwidth over the prior generation. Combining this with an NVIDIA NF200 chipset, the motherboard is able to provide three full x16 slots for 3-way SLI and CrossFireX. The board provides diagnostic support through a plug-in card that provides diagnostic HEX LEDs as well as by lighting an LED next to the component with issues. The card also has power and reset buttons for convenience. Lastly, a SAS upgrade kit is offered by ASUS for direct compatibility with this motherboard. The SASsaby M and 1064E are to be drop-in cards although availability looks nonexistent as of this article. All of these features combined with a Xeon and some NVIDA Tesla/Quadro or AMD Fire cards would make a solid entry server.
Removing the cover and opening the box we find the accessories on top. Removing these and the cardboard cover reveals the motherboard entombed in an antistatic bag. The first glimpse of the motherboard shows that it looks very similar to the ASUS P6T/P6T6/P5E64/ETC motherboards. After organizing everything it is easy to see what came with the motherboard. A user guide and driver/software disk with case badge provide support for installation. Next are the hardware components compromised of a 3-way SLI board, 1 long CrossFireX dongle, the diagnostic module, and two ASUS Q-Connectors for the front panel connections. Lastly there are six SATA cables with five having one 90° end.
With everything unpacked it is time to move on to looking at the motherboard!