eVGA X58 3X SLI Review
Reviewed by: Zertz
Reviewed on: March 8, 2009
With Intel moving to a brand new platform comes a whole bunch of new motherboards, but this time they are all built around the same chipset. Due to licensing and most likely other undisclosed reasons, nVidia has not yet produced a chipset to pair with the new i7 processors. Therefore, it might sound like choice should be rather limited when it comes to chipsets, although manufacturers have managed to come up with a wide array of more or less different products. However, companies like eVGA, XFX and BFG are close nVidia partners and they're now left with nothing but video cards. That has led XFX and eVGA to go ahead and jump ship so we have new players in the ATI and Intel arenas, respectively. Obviously the engineers over at eVGA already have experience in designing boards as they have done so for a long time anywhere between entry level and top end enthusiast markets. Since performance between various X58 boards is pretty close, it can be hard for a brand to distinguish itself and even harder for a first timer.
So on the test bench sits eVGA's first motherboard equipped with an Intel chipset, while still keeping relatively tight links with nVidia. The board is marketed around its ability to handle Tri-SLI configuration and the whole color theme is interestingly similar to what we saw on 790i boards. It comes with the usual features found on its fellow X58 competitors - support for triple channel DDR3, 10 SATA ports, FireWire, dual Gigabit LAN and more. Of course, it can also run CrossFireX since it is royalty-free and doesn't require an extra chip or anything. Without any further ado, let's see what eVGA has to offer.
First impressions are all that matters and eVGA did pretty good in this department. The box comes shrink wrapped in a black and silver theme which is definitely attractive. With the X58 name taking the whole width of the box, it's pretty easy to figure out at first sight what the board consists of. Right under that is the other main feature - 3X SLI. At the bottom are the usual Intel logos stating the board supports both vanilla and extreme i7 processors. Finally, it is really nice to finally see those last two logos lined up together - Intel X58 chipset and nVidia SLI technology. The back of the box highlights most of the important features, accessories and warranty information.
Inside the box are all the accessories lying loosely in no particular order. The motherboard itself is safely and tightly held into a plastic shell, common with higher end motherboards. A good thing considering the price tag, you wouldn't want it to arrive damaged due to shipping. The shell folds wide open to reveal eVGA's X58 true colors, which actually look pretty good and you just can't deny the similarities with eVGA's nVidia boards.
Let's take a closer look at eVGA's X58 motherboard bundle.
The eVGA X58 3X SLI definitely does not have the most impressive bundle, although it should still please the vast majority of buyers. The manual is very thorough and it might seem weird, but it's made of high quality and thick paper. Although it won't teach overclocking, it covers installation well along with a sufficient description of components requiring user interaction. As you can see below, cables and other parts are simply packaged in plastic bags while the SLI bridges are stored and kept safe in bubble wrap. Finally, the supplied disc contains various drivers as well as eVGA specific software.
Bundling a poster has become a trend and eVGA is no exception to this new rule. One side displays all the information you need on the various connectors found on the board along with the power and reset buttons. In the top right corner is a picture with all the I/O ports found on the back, which are all clearly labelled. Lastly, the bottom right picture illustrates where you should connect your memory depending on your configuration. Of course, they also recommend not to run memory over 1.65V as specified by Intel. The other side explains how to install the motherboard and all the components associated to it.
The backplate isn't as boring as it usually is - the front side clearly labels every port and the backside brings something potentially useful. It actually has a layer of some sort of foam which should help at least a bit with noise absorption since it will dampen vibrations. However, it makes the motherboard harder to install because you have to push it relatively to align screw holes since you have to make up for the thickness of the foam. eVGA also supplies a flexible SLI bridge as well as a triple SLI. That's what this board is all about after all.
If you like black cables then you will be well served by eVGA's X58 3X SLI. It also comes with three Molex to SATA power adaptors which actually split in two. It not a huge thing, but it can certainly come in handy and minimizes cable clutter coming from those adaptors. You can power 6 SATA drives with three Molex, so eVGA went ahead and bundled six SATA cabled, none of which are angled. It also comes with the undying and loyal PATA cable, although this one is rounded, making it look half decent. Lastly, there is also three expansion brackets which will provide you another four USB ports, a second FireWire port and a serial port - because you never when it could come in handy.
Enough with the accessories - let's move on to the motherboard.
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.
Once you have finished installing your favourite operating system, a couple more things must be installed to ensure you get the most out of eVGA X58 motherboard. The included disc contains all the drivers you need to get going quickly. Once you get the disc in, a small window will launch giving you eight choices. At the top are the motherboard drivers, which is also the first thing that should be installed. It will lead to another menu with four other installers. First one is the chipset driver, capital to make the board function and perform properly. Next up are for the onboard audio, LAN and JMicron controllers. Back on the main menu, there is eVGA's own E-LEET application, Intel RAID drivers and nVidia SLI video drivers. Next up are the eVGA wallpapers, which are found on the disc, even though the title suggests otherwise, and look awesome. Finally, you can install Adobe Reader if you wish to consult eVGA's electronic manual instead of the paper version.
After you have finished installing E-LEET, eVGA's exclusive overclocking utility for Windows, launching it reveals a strangely familiar window. The first tab, minus their logo at the bottom, is identical to the widely used and exceedingly useful CPU-Z. While some companies try to give their applications fancier interfaces, eVGA went with something we all know that is very simple to use and displays all you can wish for. Basically, the first and second tabs, CPU and memory respectively, are identical to what you're used to. After those, things get alot more interesting and show the real power of eVGA software. The third tab, Monitoring, displays all of the main voltages, although software readings are known to be off the real values, it gives a pretty good idea. The middle half of the same tab shows processor temperature, which is way off, as well as the voltage regulators and system. The bottom section displays fan speed providing the information is available. It shows the northbridge fan spinning incredibly fast, but it really is quiet, I couldn't hear it over any other fan.
At the fourth tab, eVGA's E-LEET becomes even more interesting. It let's you overclock directly from Windows and, even though it isn't a ground breaking feature, it does it well. Those of you who are familiar with SetFSB will immediately recognize the similarities. It clearly displays all the relevant clock speeds, except PCI which doesn't really matter since it's locked anyway, including the processor, QPI, memory and PCI-Express. The QPI slider goes up to 330 MHz so there's more than enough room to play with. Same with the PCI-E slider, it can be moved up to nearly 200 MHz, twice as fast as stock speed. On locked multiplier processors such as the 920 and 940, "Turbo Mode Control" doesn't actually give you any control, but owners of the Extreme Edition 965 will be able to move the multiplier up to 30. The two check boxes at the bottom can enable or disable the i7's Turbo Mode and enabling "Brink O/C" will make E-LEET automatically save a validation file when the QPI link is modified. It's a very appreciated addition when you're shooting for the highest possible clock and by the time you would generate one yourself, the dreaded blue screen would've popped.
The fifth tab, Voltages, is pretty self explanatory and very appreciated as well. The majority of the voltages found in the BIOS, beside memory voltage offsets, are present so it's possible to easy tweak voltages within Windows. The same values are available, so you better double check before clicking the "Apply Selection" button since eVGA let's you set insanely high values.
The sixth and final tab, Options, can save a validation file into "cvf" format, just like CPU-Z, which can then be uploaded to the validation web site. Just like you can set profiles in the BIOS to save overclocked settings, E-LEET can do the same. Once you have saved one, you can go back to it by simply clicking the drop down menu, choosing the profile you want and it will load it for you. Lastly, and not so surprisingly, CPUID's logo is found at the bottom in the About panel, so eVGA bought their software development kit and built even more features around it.
Let's take a look at the BIOS now.
The eVGA X58 3X SLI motherboard uses a BIOS from Phoenix Award. The latest BIOS revision currently available and used for this review is SZ1N. Flashing the latest BIOS can alleviate many problems, especially with newer, less mature products. The BIOS is where the installed hardware is set up at the lowest level. The processor, system memory, attached drives as well as on board components can be configured. Let's dig into this BIOS to see just what eVGA has made available for the enthusiast.
This is the usual welcome screen that ships with Phoenix BIOS. It gives access to a bunch of useful menus and the option to load default settings, set a password and exit with or without saving.
Standard CMOS Features:
This option lets you set the time and date. You can also see the amount of installed system memory.
Advanced Bios Features:
This is the place to change the order of boot devices.
This section lets you enable and disable various on board devices, including the serial port, PATA and SATA ports, LAN, FireWire and USB. SATA ports of both the ICH10R and JMicron controllers can be set to run in IDE, AHCI or RAID mode.
Power Management Setup:
As the title suggests, here is where you can adjust settings related to power management.
This menu has various low level settings that are better kept at Auto, except the "Init Display First" that can be set to PCI-Express instead.
PC Health Status:
In this section, you can view temperatures and voltages of a whole lot of stuff. Processor, memory, VTT and IOH all have their voltage and temperatures listed. The three main power supply rails are also listed, 3.3, 5 and 12V. At the bottom, fan speeds are displayed and, back at the top, the SmartFan menu gives you some control over them.
Now that I've covered the boring part, let's see what going on in the "Frequency/Voltage Control" sub-menu.
Let's now take a look at the most interesting part of the BIOS, the "Frequency/Voltage Control" sub-menu. This is where the overclocker will want to spend most of his time to get the most out of this eVGA motherboard.
Starting at the top, "Dummy O.C." can be enabled for those who are not keen to fiddle with frequency and voltage settings but still want to get a taste of overclocking. The second option is for the people at the exact opposite, "Extreme Cooling" can be disabled or set to mode 1, for temperatures below 0 Celsius but above -50C or 2 for temperatures below -50C. "CPU Clock Ratio" and "CPU Host Frequency" are self explanatory, they let you choose the processor's multiplier, between 12 and 20, and base clock speed, between 133 MHz and a totally overkill 500.
Before delving into the three sub-menus right above, let's finish the main menu. Those familiar with socket 775 motherboards will be at home with the "MCH Strap" setting. Just as with Core 2, this option changes the northbridge's internal timings. "CPU Uncore Frequency", like its name implies, represents what's inside the processor, but isn't the core itself or level 1 and 2 cache. This means level 3 cache and the memory controller. Stock speed is 2.13 GHz, but fortunately it can clock much higher than that, although 8 GHz might be a bit much. Spread Spectrum should be left disabled unless you're having trouble with EMI, electromagnetic interferences, which you most likely aren't. The PCI-Express clock can be increased as well, it can sometimes help with overclocking video cards, but setting it too high will compromise stability. At the bottom of the page are the handy save and load profile which allow you to save up to eight different configurations.
This is the place to be for tweaking memory. While "Memory Control Setting" can be left disabled and let the motherboard take care of everything, it's much more fun to enable it. First thing you want to set is the memory frequency. The number being shown here is based on a 133 MHz base clock, so eVGA also displays the actual divider so you can do the math yourself. Plenty of ratios can be selected, starting from 2:6, 800 MHz, up to 2:30, 4000 MHz. Then, there are a plethora of timings and sub-timings to be adjusted. Most of us will probably just tweak the first six, but eVGA has made a ton of timings available for tweaking if you're seeking for every last bit of performance.
This is the tricky part. First of all, VDroop Control. This can be set at "With VDroop", which doesn't compensate for load current draw so core voltage will drop when the processor is under load. The other choice, "Without VDroop" will calibrate the power regulators so voltage remains the same while the system is either idle or loaded. Next up is VCore, extreme overclockers will be happy to know it can be set up to 2.3V and normal people will appreciate the 62.5mV increments. CPU VTT has a default value of 1.1V on the eVGA board and can be increased in 10mV steps, this is the integrated memory controller's voltage so it has a huge role when overclocking memory or running high base clocks. Third in line is CPU PPL, which is the main clock generator, this one can be left at the default 1.8V as increasing it doesn't provide any benefits.
DIMM Voltage is quite obvious and can adjusted in 25mV increments and up to 3.075V for those who aren't faint of heart, or maybe just crazy. I couldn't find much use for "DIMM DQ Vref" and, thus, ended up leaving at 0mV all the time. Right under is QPI PLL VCore which is quite a bit more important. This is the main voltage used to unlock higher base clock frequency, 1.4V was required to hit 200 MHz, although it can vary between boards and processors.
Next up is the IOH VCore, this one needs to be increased in order to reach high base clocks, mine took 1.45V past 210 MHz. The next two, IOH/ICH I/O Voltage and ICH VCore didn't lead to any improvements in frequency past their stock settings. Lastly, PWM Frequency can be set to either 800, 933 or 1066 KHz and is said to help in reaching high clocks, but I couldn't notice much of difference. The main thing it does is make the voltage regulators hotter than they already are.
This is the place to disable Intel's power saving technology, SpeedStep, as well as Turbo Mode and a few others. You can also disable HyperThreading and only leave a single core enabled which can help achieve very high overclocks. Lastly, QPI can be set in either fast or slow mode, the latter sometimes enabling higher clocks.
That's it for eVGA's BIOS. Let's move on to what you've been waiting for - overclocking.
Based on Intel X58/ICH10R chipset
Supports Intel Core i7 Processors
133 Mhz QPI Memory
6 x 240-pin DIMM sockets
Triple Channel DDR3
Maximum of 12GB of DDR3 1600MHz+ (SZ1A BIOS) Expansion Slot
1 x PCIe x16, 1 x PCIe x8/x16, 1 x PCIe x8, 1 x PCIe x1, 2 x PCI
2 x 32-bit PCI, support for PCI 2.1
1 x UltraDMA133
9 x Serial ATA 300MB/sec with support for RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 0+1, RAID5, JBOD
1 x Floppy disk drive connector
8 Channel High Definition
2 x 10/100/1000
1 x PS2 Keyboard
1 x Serial Ports
12 x USB2.0 ports (4 external + 8 internal headers)
Audio connector (Line-in, Line-out, MIC)
FireWire 1394A (1 external, 1 header)
ATX Form Factor
Length: 12.0in - 304.8mm
Width: 9.6in - 243.6mm
- EVGA VDroop Control: Stabilizes voltages and ensures maximum stability when overclocking
- EVGA E-LEET tuning utility: Quick access to overclocking controls without going into the BIOS
- EVGA EZ Voltage: Gives hardcore overclockers quick access to reading voltage levels
- Onboard Debug LED to view current CPU temperature.
- PCI Express® 2.0 / 1.1 Support: A standard plug and play interface providing easy-to-use connectivity for USB devices.
- USB 2.0 Support: Allows 500MB a lane or up to 8 GB/s at 16x speeds - allows for full support for new PCI-E 2.0 graphics cards.
- Serial ATA - II: Also known as SATA2, features a 3.0 Gbit/s transfer speed, faster than Standard Serial ATA.
- Solid Capacitors: Offers a longer lifespan, better stability when at high frequencies, can operate at higher temperatures, and no longer runs the risk of exploding.
- Active Heatsink:Consists of a fan and metal heatsink.
- 8 - Phase Power Design: For excellent power-stability, an 8 – Phase Power Design is used.
- On-Board Clear CMOS Button: An onboard clear CMOS button which allows you to easily clear your BIOS without moving a jumper.
- On-Board Power Button with Integrated Power Light: An onboard power button for easily powering on or off your system. Also shows a power indication light.
- On-Board Reset Button with Integrated HDD Activity Light: An onboard reset button for easily rebooting your system as well as gives current status of your HDD via an activity light.
- On-Board Diagnostics LED Readout: Helpful for when diagnosing a problem is needed.
- 2-Way SLI® Support: Feel free to turn up the eye candy and experience the performance of 2 Graphics Cards running together.
- 3-Way SLI® Support: Experience the amazing performance that only 3 Graphics Cards can deliver, a visual experience that will take you to the next level.
- Windows 2000™ Support
- Windows XP™ Support
- Windows Vista™ Support
- DDR3 Support: Full support for the latest in DDR technologies.
- Triple-Channel Support: Supports Triple-Channel memory configurations for extreme amounts of system memory bandwidth.
- Dual-Channel Support: Supports Dual-Channel memory configurations for increased amounts of system memory bandwidth.
- Intel® X58/ICH10R Chipset: This chipset supports Triple-Channel DDR3 system memory configurations as well as Intel® Core i7 (Socket 1366) support and NVIDIA® 2-Way and 3-Way SLI® support.
- Intel® Core i7 Support: With an integrated memory controller, Intel® Core i7 (Socket 1366) processors feature amazing performance for however you use your computer.
All information courtesy of eVGA @ http://www.evga.com/products/moreinfo.asp?pn=132-BL-E758-A1&pwindow=specs&family=Motherboard%20Family
To see just what kind of performance the eVGA X58 3X SLI is capable of I will take it through the OverclockersClub benchmarking suite. It includes synthetic and gaming benchmarks to show how it performs. I will compare eVGA's X58 against previously tested motherboards based on the same chipset. All of the stock testing is run with the factory default settings in the BIOS, save for manually setting the memory clock speeds, voltage and processor voltage. Turbo mode has been disabled on the X58 boards to eliminate any variables due to changing clock speeds during single and multi threaded benchmarks. SMT was enabled during testing as well. To overclock the eVGA X58 3X SLI, I will push the limits and try to show results that should be easily duplicated based on the capabilities of your CPU and system memory.
Testing Setup i7:
- Processor: Intel Core I7 920 150x20
- Motherboard: MSI X58 Platinum
- Memory: Mushkin 3x2GB DDR3 1200 MHz 7-7-7-20 1.65v
- Video Card: nVidia GTX260 Core 216
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800watt Modular Power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Opticals: LG DVD-RW
- O/S: Windows Vista x64 Ultimate Edition SP1
- Processor: Intel Core i7 920 206x18 1.40 volts
- System Memory: Mushkin 3x 2GB 9-9-9-24 1648 MHz 1.65 volts
The i7 runs at 2.66GHz and only need around 1.10V to work at this frequency, a pretty impressive feat. Getting it up to 3GHz was simple enough, all it took was to bump the base clock from 133 to 150MHz. Then, things started to get a bit complicated and required quite a bit of tweaking. Since I am using a processor with a locked multiplier I started by decreasing it in order to find the highest stable base clock. The highest I could hit with full stability is 215 MHz, which required the QPI voltage to be set at 1.55V. The eVGA board had trouble dealing with failed overclocks, it would usually not even get to the BIOS and I had to clear the CMOS every time. The fact that the board takes at least 10 seconds from power on to POST is quite annoying as well, especially when you are overclocking.
Now that I knew how high the board could clock and already knowing the limits of the RAM, I set off to find out how high the eVGA X58 could drive the i7 920. Properly tweaking voltages was an absolute requirement to make the overclock stable. After having worked on it for a while, I finally settled for a 206 MHz BCLK with the processor's multiplier set at 18 which translates into 3.711 GHz. The memory ran at 1648 MHz 9-9-9-24 at 1.65V. With voltages above stock settings, it's important to make sure the voltage regulators have adequate airflow, otherwise the passive heatsink will let them heat up to 100 Celsius. Of course, you will also need proper cooling on the processor since i7's tend to get toasty.
For those of you who are wondering why I chose to go for a lower multiplier and a higher base clock instead of using the stock multiplier and lower BCLK, I have a simple explanation. Even though I could squeeze out another 50 MHz out of the processor using 19 and 20 multipliers, memory was forced to run about 100 MHz slower due to dividers so it just wasn't worth it. Running a higher BCLK also made the QPI link faster, which helps a bit with performance. Finally, even though I settled for a measly 3.7 GHz, it's possible to reach over 4 GHz, but the i7 920 required far too high voltages to make it a realistic overclock that you would run every day.
- Scientific & Data:
- SpecviewPerf 10
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Far Cry 2
- Crysis Warhead
- Call of Duty World At War
- Dead Space
- Fallout 3
- Left 4 Dead
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
The first part of our testing regimen will be the system specific benchmarks.
Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:
- Resolution: 2750x2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory use: 512MB
The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.
Lower is Better
WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.
Performance in Apophysis and all across the ZIP and RAR tests is very tight between the X58 boards. eVGA's overclocking headroom easily gives it the lead over the other competitors.
Specview 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance. Since the E8400 is a Dual core CPU results will only be shown in the 2 thread test.
Higher is Better
Higher is Better
Higher is Better
PcMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.
The eVGA board doesn't seem to appreciate the SpecView testing and constantly scores slightly below it's fellow X58 motherboards. However, it makes a solid show in PCMark Vantage and is only barely beaten by MSI's Eclipse by 30 points or so. The overclocked results don't show huge improvements, but they're enough to take the number 1 spot.
Sisoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key areas of the motherboards.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
Thanks to the integrated memory controller, the performance gap between every board is very small; they're all equally fast. SiSoftware's Sandra enjoys the extra processing power and bandwidth made available through overclocking giving the eVGA board a solid lead.
Sciencemark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.
Higher is Better!
Cinebench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.
Higher is Better
HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
Once again, X58 boards perform so close together you can't really declare a winner.
Far Cry 2:
"Far Cry 2 has been on the horizon for a while now and is finally here. Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation first person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. This quick preview is meant as a first look and performance evaluation, so let's take a look at the game."
- Direct X 10
- Game settings to very high
- Vsync off
The performance differentials are less than a single FPS across all four resolutions. Again, there is no clear winner here.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the Island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.
- 2x Anti-Aliasing
Across all tested resolutions, all four X58 based boards run at nearly identical frame rates showing that there is no performance to be gained with one board over another.
BioShock is one of the creepier games out in the wild, chronicling the building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong, with its inhabitants driven mad by the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now, Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory, with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left, while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies." It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.
- All settings to maximum
- V-Sync off
Bioshock gives eVGA's X58 a slight advantage at all four resolutions, but not nearly enough to notice a difference while gaming.
Activision's Call Of Duty World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought CoD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a high resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30 inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare the performance of these video cards.
- All in game settings to maximum
- FPS measured via Fraps
The small lead eVGA took in Bioshock is lost right here in Call of Duty, although it doesn't lose by much.
In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse as starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru. In one frame a Necromorph is visible right before an attack from behind.
- All in game settings to maximum
All four boards trade wins here in Dead Space, without any of them standing out more than another.
Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.
- 4x Anti-Aliasing
- 15x Anisotropic Filtering
- All other in-game settings to maximum
eVGA's X58 board is constantly behind by a couple FPS until 2560x1600 where it manages to claim the lead over its competitors.
Left For Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!
- 16x AF
- All other in game settings to maximum
Once more, every X58 motherboard perform to similarly it's impossible to name a winner.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
The eVGA 3X SLI trails behind at the first two resolutions, but the gap closes once they hit 1920x1200 and 3DMark06 shows marginal difference between boards from there and up.
Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.
- All default settings in each preset level
- Entry 1024x768
- Performance 1280x1024
- High 1680x1050
- Extreme 1920x1200
3DMark Vantage shows all the boards performing roughly the same, except at the Performance preset where eVGA X58 trails behind the MSI Eclipse and Asus P6T by nearly 1000 points.
It seems like eVGA wasn't too affected by nVidia's abandonment of chipset design for Intel's latest processors. Their X58 3X SLI is exactly what we have come to expect from an eVGA product. It works perfectly out of the box, comes with a decent bundle, looks great and, more importantly, it overclocks well. Performance is right on par with what we have seen from other X58 boards as of yet. The board's colour scheme looks pretty good and the black PCB is a no-brainer. The layout is also very well done, mostly everything is exactly where it should be. I do say mostly, because the 8 pin auxiliary power connector is in a rather awkward position, right between the regulator's heatsink and the rear I/O connectors. That makes it hard to reach once the board is installed into a case, but at least it's usually a one time thing so I can live with it. The one SATA port above the top PCI-Express is kind of in a odd position as well, but with eight other easily accessible ports it's not much of a problem. Spacing between the PCI-Express is exactly like it should be, three dual slot cards will fit perfectly. There is one relatively major problem around the processor's socket. The heatsink for the power regulators is quite high and interferes with large heatsinks such as Noctua's and Thermalright's flagship coolers. The Noctua heatsink did fit, but it was tight.
On the software side, eVGA offers a neat little application, E-LEET. It was developed around the capabilities of CPUID's CPU-Z and expanded to give it more functionality, a whole lot more actually. Information you'd expect to extract out of CPU-Z is still there presented in a simple yet efficient way. eVGA's implementation adds temperature and voltage monitoring, overclocking and also allows manipulating voltages. Their software tool is almost as complete as the BIOS and, since it runs under Windows, it let's you get every last megahertz out of your system. For those who prefer the good old BIOS, you will be well served. It offers all want in terms of overclocking, the menus are well built and the settings that aren't obvious come with a short but helpful description. Extreme users will be satisfied by the generous voltages offered and tweakers will appreciate the small increments between each step.
eVGA is a big player when it comes to overclocking and this motherboard is no exception. The X58 3X SLI clocked up to a stable 215 MHz base clock which is a pretty impressive feat. However, overclocking to those levels requires time and proper tweaking. Voltage is critical to overclocking i7, too little or even too much won't be stable, it's all about finding the right combination. The board isn't without annoyances though. Time between power on and POST was inexplicably long, between 10 and 15 seconds before getting the "beep" indicating a successful boot. Now if that didn't happen, the board would just sit there and wait for the user to do something. No automatic restart unfortunately and it usually required the CMOS to be cleared.
Of course, overclocking isn't everything and eVGA's X58 3X SLI did provide performance on par with other high end motherboards at stock settings. Available for under $300 with a little research, the eVGA X58 3X SLI comes with a complete feature set as well as a lifetime warranty to back it up. Those with deeper pockets might want to hold on for eVGA's upcoming Classified board, but if this one fits your budget and you're shopping for a new i7 system, this board should definitely be on your list.
- User friendly BIOS
- CrossfireX & Tri-SLI
- Onboard power, reset & clear CMOS buttons
- Recovery of failed overclocks
- Power up to POST delay