Sapphire and ECS X79 Motherboard ReviewBluePanda -
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Testing the ECS X79R-AX Black Deluxe and Sapphire Pure Black X79N will involve running them through OCC's test suite of benchmarks, which includes both synthetic benchmarks and real-world applications, to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also consist of both synthetic benchmarks and actual gameplay, in which we can see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The system will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition, in addition to the latest drivers for each board and the latest AMD Catalyst drivers for the XFX HD 7970. To ensure as few variables as possible, all hardware will be tested at their stock speeds, timings, voltages, and latencies – unless otherwise stated. Turbo Boost is disabled to make a fair comparison without skewing results.
Testing Setup: Intel Core i7 Socket 2011
- Processors: Intel Core i7 3960X
- CPU Cooling: Corsair Hydro Series H100
- Motherboard: ECS X79R-AX Black Deluxe, Sapphire Pure Black X79N
- Memory: Mushkin 993997 Redline PC317000 9-11-10-28 16GB
- Video Card: XFX HD 7970 Black Edition
- Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
- Hard Drive: Corsair Force 3 GT 240GB
- Optical Drive: Lite-On Blu-Ray
- Case: Corsair Obsidian 650D
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- ECS X79R-AX Black Deluxe 103Mhz x 45 4635Mhz
- Sapphire Pure Black X79N 101Mhz x 45 4543Mhz
Overclocking each of these boards required similar tactics and revolved around proven means to overclock the SB-E Core i7 3960X. After looking at the lack of a heat sink over half of the VRM package I was leery of pushing too hard on the ECS X79R-AX. But push it did and offered up a higher overclock than the Sapphire Pure Black X79N by over 100MHz. The ECS BIOS allows the user to adjust the voltages in positive or negative increments instead of a fixed value for the CPU. By adjusting the vcore up and enabling LLC I was able to push the Core i7 3960X to 4653MHz using 1.46v. If working in the BIOS is a little daunting than ECS' eOC tool is another way to boost the performance of the system. BClock and voltage adjustments are available but not multiplier adjustments. It is a light weight utility and will allow for fine tuning the settings needed for stability at the chosen overclock.
Sapphire's Pure Black series boards have been surprising overclockers in the past but this board seemed to offer some resistance to the maximum capable speeds of the 3960X. Only able to reach just over a 100MHz bclock, the board yielded an overclock of 4543MHz; still a 1GHz plus overclock over the rated speed of the Core i7 3960X. Turning on LLC and adjusting the vcore again to 1.46v delivered the overclock. Sapphire's TriXX utility is familiar to many with the coverage it sees on the myriad of Sapphire video card reviews on the web. What most people do not know is that it is available for its motherboard suite as well. Much like the ECS eOC utility, Sapphire's TriXX utility offers bclock and voltage tuning. Each board is going to deliver performance once overclocked that fits in a small envelope with the differences only measurable in benchmarks but not actual use. With a 100MHz differential between the ECS and Sapphire boards maximum overclocks the choice based on performance is a toss up.
Each CPU and motherboard has been tested for stability at the clock speeds listed when in an overclocked state. These clock speeds will be used to run the test suite and will show the performance increase over the stock settings in the overclocked scoring.
Scientific & Data:
- PCMark 7
- HD Tune 5.0
- AIDA64 2.20
- Sandra 2011
- USB 3.0
- 3DMark 11
- DiRT 3