eVGA X58 3X SLI ReviewZertz - March 8, 2009
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The eVGA X58 3X SLI is based on Intel's latest platform, combining the X58 northbridge and the ICH10R southbridge. It is designed to be used with the latest Core i7 socket 1366 processors. eVGA's X58 motherboard features six memory slots that can be handle up to 12 gigabytes of system memory running at speeds up to 1600 MHz, although as you will see later on, the BIOS has room for much more than that. Cooling of the PWM area is done by a relatively tall aluminum heatsink, enough to hinder the installation of large processor heatsinks like the Noctua. The northbridge gets a larger, black heatsink kept cool by a small fan. Finally, it's connected to the southbridge's low profile heatsink using the ever popular heatpipe. They are all tightly held onto the board by bolts, contrary to a lot of other manufacturers who simply use push pins. This type of mounting solution ensures a solid grip onto the components and should help keep them slightly cooler. The colour scheme looks pretty good to me, the combination of black, white and blue is a winner. The on-board connectors are generally well laid out, except the 8 pin auxiliary power. While it's right where it should be, the area between the I/O and the heatsink is tight and makes it hard to access, especially once the board is installed in a case. Other than that, the angled SATA and PATA ports are a nice touch and usually help with cable management. The front panel connectors are all found at the bottom. Once again, this helps keep cables under control.
Heading onto the back, eVGA's X58 offers a generous amount of ports, not uncommon with boards of this level. The loyal PS/2 keyboard connector is still present, which can be useful if the board decides it doesn't want to detect USB keyboards like it sometimes happen while overclocking. However, mice will have to settle for one of the eight USB ports. The ever useful Clear CMOS button also makes an appearance, but once the I/O plate is on, you need something like a pen in order to press it. This way you cannot mistakenly press it, but it's also annoying not to be able to simply hit it with your fingers. Right under it are the audio outputs, both SPDIF and optical shortly follow by FireWire and e-SATA ports. There's also a pair of gigabit LAN ports and the usual six audio connectors.
Just above the expansion slots sits a lonely SATA port, barely accessible, but it's there nonetheless. The board's marketing is based around Tri-SLI, so of course there are three physical PCI-e 16x slots. The top-most slot always works at 16x and while the second one will use all 16 lanes lane in a simple SLI configuration. It will fall back to 8x when a third card is added. Finally, the last slot always works at 8x. In between those is a single PCI-e 1x as well as two PCI slots.
All lined up at the bottom are a bunch of useful headers. Starting on the left side, there is an integrated speaker so no need to dig one up. Continuing toward the right, eVGA added a legacy serial port followed by three a lot more useful buttons - reset, power and a second Clear CMOS. Those last three are really enjoyable, especially when benchmarking outside a case. On the right half are the front panel connectors, consisting of a FireWire, a pair of USB headers and headers to connect your case's buttons and LED's. In the same area are two three pin fan headers as well as debugging LED's which display various codes during the boot sequence. eVGA thought it would be interesting to get more use out of them, so once the system has fully booted, they will display the processor's temperature which I found neat. Finally, a pair of vertical SATA ports lay on the bottom right corner.
Moving up along the right side, in addition to the previous two SATA ports, there are four more, also powered by the ICH10R and two others, thanks to the JMicron controller. It also provides a PATA port since Intel's latest southbridge does not. All those ports, except PATA of course, support AHCI and RAID. Heading up top, the six memory slots are found, capable of handling triple channel. The sticker on them explains where memory sticks should be added depending on the configuration and the recommendation not to supply over 1.65V on them, as usual with i7. Right on the edge is the 24 pin power connector. Notice the absence of the glorious floppy connector - eVGA chose not to add another chip and instead provide more ways to flash the BIOS, which is pretty much all it is used for.
The area directly around the processor is free of obstacles, but the voltage regulator's heatsink will cause clearance issues with large CPU coolers such as Noctua's U12P. It kind of fits, but the fan hits the heatsink and forces it to back off a bit. Fortunately, the large northbridge does not pose any problems, except that it does make installation awkward. As you can see, the 8 pin auxiliary power connector is hard to reach. It would've been appreciated to have it closer to the board's edge. One last thing, the fins on the heatsink are angled so air going through them will be directed toward the back of the case, where a fan is usually found.
Here are some shots of the eVGA X58 3X SLI cooling system. It uses three main heatsinks, one taking care of the power regulators, which isn't linked to the others in any way. The northbridge is equipped with a rather large heatsink and has a small, thin and quiet fan hiding inside in order to help keep things cool. Finally, the southbridge's low profile heatsink sports an array of eVGA's "e" logo and is connected to his northern partner with some heatpipes.
Let's take a look at the software now.