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EVGA X58 SLI LGA 1366 Motherboard Review

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3oh6

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EVGA X58 SLI LGA 1366 Motherboard Review</center>



Price: $359+ CND Price Comparison
TechWiki Info:
EVGA X58 SLI LGA 1366
Manufacturer Product Page: EVGA Corporation
Manufacturer's Part Number: 132-BL-E758-A1
Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty (with registration)



Tick-tock, which cycle we are on? We have no clue, but we do know that another stroke from the arm of the Intel clock has proliferated throughout the universe. The new Intel Core i7 processors have dropped and are doing what they do best: overpowering the competition. Our resident news hound Mac recently introduced us to the new "Nehalem" processors also known as Intel Core i7 in his Intel Core i7 Processor Review. We have also looked at one of the hottest boards out of the i7 gate in the Rampage Extreme II here at HWC. Well today, we continue down the i7 road with another highly anticipated X58 based motherboard; the EVGA X58 SLI.

Hot off the heels of their recently successful nForce 790i SLI FTW Digital, the announcement that EVGA - an industry leader in customer service - would be jumping the NVIDIA ship and offering an Intel X58 motherboard; sent the enthusiast forums into a frenzy. It makes perfect sense since NVIDIA has licensed SLI for use on the Intel X58 chipset, but we were still all so thrilled to hear the good news as nothing was certain on the EVGA motherboard future up to that point. As mentioned, EVGA isn't just another company that sells computer hardware. Their legion of followers, fans, and customers will attest to EVGA being one of those companies that actually takes care of its customers. Based in the Los Angeles area of California, EVGA is off the beaten silicon valley path and able to really concentrate on the task at hand...satisfying customers.

Their presence in enthusiast forums is strong, and their "24/7 Tech Support" sets them apart from other hardware manufacturers. In addition to this, the EVGA home forum is a bustling activity of EVGA staffers helping customers out, but more importantly, EVGA customers helping each other out. The community EVGA has built with their customers is rivaled by none and I have even found myself caught up in the spirit of helping out other EVGA users. This mentality seems to be contagious amongst EVGA users and it all originates from the EVGA support, service, and amenities offered by EVGA.com. As much as we could go on all day about EVGA service, we are not here to only talk about EVGA though, we have a motherboard to look at as well.

The X58 SLI still bleeds green blood and is advertised as an SLI ready motherboard but is quite capable of running ATI CrossFireX as well. The X58 SLI offers three PCI-E 16X slots for the craziest of video card setups, six DDR3 DIMM slots capable of handling up to 12GB of RAM, a total of nine onboard SATA II ports, 8 Channel High Definition audio, and a host of features that cater to the enthusiast. In typical EVGA fashion, this board has everything anyone could ask for...well, that is what we are going to attempt to find out right now.
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3oh6

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Specifications & Features

Specifications

<p style="text-align: justify;">We will start off with a look at what the Intel X58 chipset offers. This chipset is not only new to us, but as mentioned, it is the first time EVGA has produced an Intel chipset based motherboard. Here is the official diagram from Intel outlining what the X58/ICH10R chipset combination can offer.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/specs-1.png" alt="ASUS Rampage Extreme Specifications"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">There are a lot of similarities to the previous generation Intel chipset combinations, such as X48/ICH9R. In fact, the bottom portion of the chipset attached to the ICH10R is almost identical to the ICH9R south bridge. The major changes occur up top, at the north bridge. The biggest and most obvious difference between the X58 and chipsets of past is the fact that the memory controller is no longer a part of the chipset and therefore the north bridge is no longer consider the MCH or Memory Controller Hub. The north bridge is now the IOH or Input Output Hub and the memory is directly linked to the CPU where the memory controller is housed on the die of the CPU. This is the significance of the Nehalem architecture known as Core i7. What this means is that the north bridges sole responsibility, aside from linking the south bridge to the system, is to provide access to the available PCI-E 2.0 lanes. There are a total of 36 PCI-E 2.0 lanes with multiple possible configurations as outlined above. Below is a chart of the EVGA X58 SLI specifications outlining exactly what EVGA took advantage of from the Intel chipset diagram above.</p><center><table border="0" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="697"><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Performance</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> Based on Intel X58/ICH10R chipset<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> Supports Intel Core i7 Processors<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 133 Mhz QPI</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Memory</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 6 x 240-pin DIMM sockets<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> Triple Channel DDR3<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> Maximum of 12GB of DDR3 1066/1333 MHz</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Expansion Slot</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 1 x PCIe x16<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 1 x PCIe x8/x16<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 1 x PCIe x8<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 1 x PCIe x1<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 2 x PCI<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 2 x 32-bit PCI, support for PCI 2.1</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Storage I/O</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 1 x UltraDMA133<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 9 x Serial ATA 300MB/sec with support for RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 0+1, RAID5, JBOD<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 1 x Floppy disk drive connector</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Integrated Peripherals</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 8 Channel High Definition<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 2 x 10/100/1000</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Multi I/O</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 1 x PS2 Keyboard<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 1 x Serial Ports<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> 12 x USB2.0 ports (4 external + 8 internal headers)<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> Audio connector (Line-in, Line-out, MIC)<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> FireWire 1394A (1 external, 1 header)</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Form Factor</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> ATX Form Factor<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> Length: 12.0in - 304.8mm<br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/sp-1.png" align="absmiddle"> Width: 9.6in - 243.6mm</td></tr></table></center>

Features

<p style="text-align: justify;">Here now is a brief look at a few of the more prominent and unique features of the EVGA X58 SLI motherboard. EVGA has really gone above and beyond to cater to the average overclocker and experienced professional benchmarker with this motherboard.</p><table align="center" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="662px"><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Intel® Core i7 Support</b></center><br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/feat-1.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The Intel X58 chipset is designed for one thing and one thing only, the best performance Intel has ever seen. With four physical cores in addition to four more virtual cores thanks to the return of Hyper-Threading, the Intel Core i7 is a multi-threading monster and clock-per-clock; the fastest desktop processor available right now.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Up To 3-Way SLI® Support</b></center><br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/feat-2.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />For the first time ever, NVIDIA has teamed up with Intel to allow SLI® graphics performance on an Intel chipset. The X58 SLI name provides that insight itself. This combination provides the ultimate flexibility of the Intel X58 chipset with support for 2-way and 3-way SLI®.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Solid Capacitors</b></center><br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/feat-3.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />"Offers a longer lifespan, better stability when at high frequencies, can operate at higher temperatures, and no longer runs the risk of exploding." EVGA touts solid electrolytic capacitors as a feature but on high-end motherboards, it is almost standard. As for the lack of a risk of exploding...tell that to the guys that have blown solid caps and almost been blinded by the projectile.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Onboard Power / Reset Buttons</b></center><br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/feat-4.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Just one of many features that EVGA has integrated into the X58 SLI are the onboard power and reset buttons. This motherboard is chalk full of small items such as this that only an enthusiast would find useful and it attests to the commitment that EVGA has made to the enthusiast in the community.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>EVGA E-LEET</b></center><br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/feat-5.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />EVGA has provided all X58 users with a software utility that now only provides feedback on system settings but allows for easy control over voltages, overclocking on the fly, and overclocking validation. This all encompassing utility takes on the visuals of standard utilities in the overclocking world and will be right at home with your overclocking screenshots. We will focus on EVGA's E-LEET in its own section shortly.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>EVGA EZ Voltages</b></center><br><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/feat-6.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />Just as EVGA E-LEET makes monitoring and adjusting voltages easy from within Windows, EVGA EZ Voltages allows for simple voltage monitoring using an external multi-meter for the power users. No longer will you have to probe the inner channels of the motherboard when monitoring actual voltages, EVGA has provided a simple panel at the top of the motherboard with lands to read vCORE, vTT, ICH, and vDIMM voltages. A nice touch that we will definitely be utilizing in our testing.</td></tr></table><p style="text-align: justify;">The EVGA E-LEET utility, EZ Voltage read points, and onboard power/reset buttons are just a few of the features that really solidify EVGA as a company looking to not only provide an excellent motherboard for the average user, but also provide the high-end overclocker and benchmarker with the tools required to compete at an elite, pardon the pun, level.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Package & Accessories

Package & Accessories


<p style="text-align: justify;">A departure from the EVGA 790i line of motherboards that were based around the NVIDIA color scheme, the X58 SLI package takes on more of an EVGA flavour.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The EVGA X58 SLI package, front and back, is about what one would expect from EVGA where they could come up with their own design; independent of the NVIDIA chipset. EVGA has always been a top provider of quality design in their packages from the protective foam of their video cards to the stickers on their video card heat sinks. EVGA has a quality design team versed in esthetically pleasing designs that fit the era they are released in, the X58 SLI package is no exception. The front is all but void of information aside from a few case badge notifications while the back plays home to the majority of the information about the product inside.

There are a couple other items worth noting on the package. In the bottom right corner on the back, a notification of EVGAs 24/7 support is displayed. EVGA is one of the few manufacturers that offer 24/7 technical support via phone. Sometimes when you are having computer issues, phone is the only option you have. The last item on the exterior I want to point out is the sealing sticker on the flaps of the package. They aren't 100% tamper proof, but sure are a lot more security to most motherboard packages these days ensuring you are getting a 'new' motherboard...not an 'almost new' piece of hardware.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">All the accessories are neatly packaged in the plastic clam shell enclosure that keeps the motherboard secure for transport. On the right we have all of the accessories that come with the retail package spread out to look at. This is a list of the contents:</p>
  • 1 x IDE Cable
  • 6 x SATA Cables
  • 3 x 4-Pin Molex Connector > Dual 5-Pin SATA Connector
  • 4 x USB 2.0 PCI Expansion Bracket
  • Single 6-Pin Firewire PCI Expansion Bracket
  • 2 Way SLI Bridge
  • 3 Way SLI Bridge
  • Manual & Software CD + Installation Guide
  • Rear I/O Panel
<p style="text-align: justify;">The accessory package that comes with the EVGA X58 SLI is not that ambitious, but at the same time, is lacking nothing necessary. Since there is no floppy connector with the X58 SLI, perhaps EVGA could replace the traditional floppy cable with a small thumb drive of sorts. It would be something that can play the role of a floppy drive and is also something useful that users would appreciate. With all the discussion of BIOS flashing going on in the EVGA forums, a thumb drive to accompany my recently posted guide for flashing the BIOS via the thumb drive in the forums might really help some users out with that task. Without a doubt though, the primary items in this accessory package are the SLI bridges.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">With the Intel X58 chipset finally opening the doors to both ATI and NVIDIA for multi GPU support, the inclusion of SLI bridges is a requirement for motherboard manufacturers. CrossFire bridges are normally found in the GPU package and not the motherboard so they are absent from this package. This may change going forward if future Intel chipsets allow for SLI support, but for now, SLI bridges are still part of the motherboard package. For this review, we will be requiring the services of both of these connectors...although the hard 3-way SLI bridge can be used in a dual card setup as well. The last photo is a great shot of just how secure the motherboard is inside the clam shell. The custom molding holds the motherboard extremely tight and doesn't allow for any movement during transport. Nothing should be able to damage this package on its way to you, not even UPS.</p>
 
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3oh6

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A Closer Look at the EVGA X58 SLI

A Closer Look at the EVGA X58 SLI


<center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/layout-1.jpg" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">With three PCI-E 2.0 16X slots, six DDR3 memory slots, and a larger CPU socket, these X58 based motherboards are starting to really push the limits of the standard ATX form factor. EVGA has done a remarkable job in providing a lot of features and keeping the layout relatively clean but it is not free of some debatable faults. The spacing on the three PCI-E 16X slots won't allow use of the PCI or PCI-E 1X slots when using three double spaced video cards. The CPU socket is also extremely tight looking because of the tall north bridge and PWM heat sinks. The DIMM slots are nicely gapped from the CPU socket though and all of the appropriate connectors are exactly where they need to be for easy cable management. Let's zoom in and take a look at some of the high traffic areas of the EVGA X58 SLI motherboard.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Well, here it is, home base. The LGA 1366 socket is a new one and the first change in the Intel socket in a long while. LGA 775 served us well but it is time to move on, with that comes some interesting developments. First off, The LGA 1366 socket is a bloody monster. CPU socket layouts were already tight with LGA 775 but this larger socket squeezes even more space from the motherboard and companion components. We won't discuss space any more than that right now as the Hardware Installation section will get into some heat sink installation discussion shortly. EVGA has gone with an analog 8-phase power design that is capable of handling up to 430W continuous load. Another inventive feature of the CPU PWM is the fact that the frequency can be adjusted in three steps depending on the user’s need, from power saving to extreme stability at high load.

Cooling of the CPU PWM is done by a rather large heat pipe heat sink, but the best part is that it is not attached to the north bridge and south bridge heat sink assembly. This means that water cooling the motherboard will not require changes to the PWM heat sink which will be a welcome sight to the water cooling crowd. Another drawback on the change to a new socket is the fact that current LGA 775 heat sinks and water blocks will need new hold downs in order to be compatible. The good news is that there are some companies that have already started this transition, again, more on this in the Hardware Installation section.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As mentioned, the addition of two more DIMM slots to enable triple channel memory has really put a squeeze on motherboard real estate, the market for a plot of land is really booming these days, unlike the real world; except in Saskatchewan. EVGA has managed to maintain the standard 9.6" ATX form factor width and still has a nice gap between the DIMM slots and the CPU socket area. We can also see that EVGA has gone with a three phase analog PWM utilizing low RDS MOSFETs driving the power. Two fan headers and the 24-pin ATX power connector are also located here along the back side edge of the motherboard. The most interesting aspect of the DIMM slots we found was that the memory slots maintained the NVIDIA green despite the lack of an NVIDIA chipset on board. Perhaps EVGA would have been better served with grey or even blue DIMM slots to match the PCI-E slots, giving the motherboard a more cohesive look. I guess NVIDIA roots run deep in EVGA due to their GPU partnership.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">What we like to call "I/O corner" on the EVGA X58 SLI is fairly typical to what we have seen on motherboards to date. We are presented with front panel headers, a total of eight SATA II ports, a single IDE connector, two USB onboard headers, our diagnostic LED display as well as a couple fan headers. We also have our BIOS chip and CMOS battery down here. Hopefully the CMOS battery doesn't need to be removed during overclocking, but if it does, the battery is very accessible. The key though are the six 90 degree SATA connectors. There will be no issue with SATA cables when using large video cards. The red SATA ports are run by the JMicron 363 controller with the six other black SATA connectors powered by the Intel ICH10R south bridge.

Further down the bottom edge of the motherboard we find not only power and reset buttons, but a clear CMOS button as well. These buttons here are another sign that EVGA is catering to the extreme overclocker and benchmarker as these buttons are useless for a motherboard that is mounted in a case. The placement of these buttons on the PCB is strictly for those that run their systems in an open bench setup. Another item found down here that seems almost out of place is an onboard speaker. Onboard speakers have become almost extinct in recent years but EVGA has and apparently will continue to place them on the PCB. We think it is nice having a speaker onboard still but the option to disable it through a jumper or something would be a nice addition.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The heart of this beast is in the three PCI-E 2.0 16X slots seen here. There has been a lot of confusion over the electrical makeup of these physical 16X slots. When running two cards, the top two 16X slots will run in a 16X/16X configuration. When running TRI-SLI, however, they operate in a 16X/8X/8X configuration. With PCI-E 2.0 bandwidth though, the drop to 8X of the bottom two slots really shouldn't limit the performance of the bottom cards. Current GPU solutions are reported not to have the ability to saturate that type of bandwidth so a loss in performance should be negligible if any at all. This means in order to run 16X/16X though, we will need to use the top two slots which will hinder cooling a good bit. Again, this might be all for not and equate to no performance loss but testing in our SLI Benchmark session will provide a conclusive answer on this...if of course the motherboard allows us to run two cards in either the top two slots or slot one and slot three.

As mentioned earlier in this section, running three double spaced cards such as GTX 280 or 260's will result in all other expansion slots being unusable. It will be interesting to see if we can run two cards in any of the three slots in order to provide flexibility in other expansion slot use for two card SLI configurations. The last item on the agenda before we get into the task of installing hardware, is a quick look at the cooling solution provided by EVGA on the X58 SLI.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As we can see in the photos above, the north bridge is cooled by a similar heat sink to that of the 790i FTW Digital PWM motherboard that EVGA released not too long ago. The north bridge is then connected to the passive south bridge to provide cooling to the ICH10R chipset. The most exciting aspect of the entire cooling setup for this reviewer is the fact that the north bridge and south bridge cooling is completely separate from the PWM cooling. This makes it easy as pie to change the north bridge and south bridge cooling solutions or the PWM heat sink for that matter.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The north bridge heat sink works in the same fashion as the EVGA 790i FTW Digital PWM motherboard pulling the air through the heat sink and then blowing the air out the side of the fan through the opening seen above. This then moves the warm air to the rear of the case where we would like it. The only downside is that this will also pull the hot air from the CPU socket over the heat sink which won't help to keep north bridge temperatures down. With the stock Intel heat sink, this will definitely be something to look for. With larger stand up CPU coolers, the heat will likely be raised above the north bridge heat sink and this solution should work quite well.

EVGA has gone to great lengths to make sure adequate cooling is provided to the PWM but might have gone a little too big with their solution. Upon initial inspection, the PWM heat sink is among the beefiest we have seen on a CPU PWM before and immediately sets off alarm bells as to the heat output of the PWM on this motherboard. It is quite difficult to judge what temperatures are going to be like on this motherboard with such drastic changes to the chipset but our Heat & Acoustical Testing section will answer all the questions we have on the subject. The installation section will determine if the PWM heat sink is going to play havoc with larger CPU coolers.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Mush to our dismay, EVGA has jumped on the bandwagon for the movement against legacy PS/2 mouse ports and gone with an additional two USB ports instead. We have managed to find a solid little PS/2 > USB converter though that works with our KVM so it really isn't a big deal. The rest of the rear I/O panel is quite straight forward. We have a total of 8 USB 2.0 ports, the dual gigabit network connections, and the 8 channel audio tower as well as coax and optical outputs. Rounding the rear I/O panel off are six pin 1394a firewire and eSATA ports. If we look hard we can also see another little red button and just like the one seen earlier, it is a CMOS clear button. This may seem rather insignificant but allows for CMOS clearing without having to even open your case, and for those that have to use it, it is a blessing. The backside of the motherboard is rather non-descript but we can see the chipset and PWM heat sinks are mounted with screws, not just plastic push-pins. This is one feature I like to see that has been carried over from the EVGA 790i solutions.

Overall, the layout is strong with a few minor issues that we pointed out. The real test of a layout though comes when installing hardware, especially large hardware components. We have managed to put together a premium hardware package for a premium platform and motherboard, so let's see how it all fits together...if it does at all.</p>
 
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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


<p style="text-align: justify;">The primary concern and discussion in forums regarding the EVGA X58 SLI thus far has been about CPU cooling, in particular, whether or not the Thermalright Ultra-120 (TRUE) will fit and if so; which orientations. With that being the hot topic, we will start there.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Starting without the fan shroud installed, the TRUE fits nicely in a north/south orientation. The wing span of the TRUE doesn't interfere with the PWM heat sink of the X58 SLI, which is a comforting reality. Unfortunately on the other side of the heat sink, the first memory slot becomes unusable with the TRUE in this orientation and oversized modules. The green slots are the first three slots that should be used on the X58 SLI so with only three modules, this won't be a problem, but if you are looking to populate all six DIMM slots, you will need to count this orientation out if using over sized modules like the Corsair Dominators. Looking at the third photo above, however, we can see that standard height modules have no problem snuggling underneath the wings of the TRUE in the first slot. So if you are looking for six modules and a TRUE facing north/south with the EVGA X58 SLI, you simply have to stick to standard height modules and you will be set. Let's now see how the fan fits in this orientation.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">From the angle of the first photo, life looks rosy for the TRUE and its new fan holder in this orientation, but upon further inspection, life isn't perfect. It is close to fitting without so much as a whimper but the fan casing does have to come down and put pressure on the PWM heat sink cooling fins as the second photo shows. Whether you would call this an issue is up to you. We don't find this a huge issue and blame this more on a bloated fan holder than the motherboard. At the same time, there is contact and it does take a pinch of effort to get the fan to cover 100% of the TRUE face. The north bridge heat sink on the other hand is perfectly designed to accommodate this monster of a CPU cooler.

Turning the fan around to the other side of the motherboard, we can see that initial inspection might show no clearance issues. This is again not 100% the case as the fan holder is interfered with the 'antennae' from the heat pipe on the PWM heat sink. This again is minor enough for us not to call it a problem, but it does hinder the ability to lower the fan/shroud any lower than it is on the heat sink face. It is now time to see how an east/west orientation looks.</p><center>
install-7.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As we can see in the first photo, the fan situated over the PWM heat sink allows it to come down much further than either setup in the north/south orientation. This setup would be ideal for those with a rear exhaust fan above the I/O rear panel as the warm air from the CPU and PWM area would be removed out of the case. Taking a look from behind we see plenty of room on the NB heat sink side, but something that may be an issue on the right side towards the top of the motherboard. The TRUE hangs over the edge, and in some cases, that means it would have to be lodged about 2cm into the power supply or through the top of the case. This is definitely something you will have to watch for if looking at this combination. Also, in this orientation, with the fan on the side of the TRUE toward the DIMM slots, we would again lose access to the front slot with above average height modules, exactly like the north/south orientation. Now that we have put the question to bed about whether or not this motherboard can house this CPU cooler, let's have a look at the rest of the installation items we wanted to look at.</p><center>
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install-11.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">One concern a lot of folks are having with this motherboard is the location of the 8-pin EPS connection for CPU power shown in the first photo above. Although it is not an ideal location, we had no problem inserting or removing the connector. A little care not to get caught on the PWM heat sink fins is all that is required. Moving on to the fitting of video cards we can see that there is plenty of room between the bottom of the memory DIMM slots and the back of the top PCI-E 16X slot. In addition to the space there, our 90 degree SATA connectors are more than accessible with one or even two behemoth video cards occupying the top two slots.</p><center>
install-13.jpg
install-14.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Not only do we have plenty of space between the memory slots and the back of the upper most video card, the north bridge has plenty of room to breathe as well. With dual slot cards in a split formation, we can see that there is a useable PCI slot as well as the middle PCI-E 16X slot in case a need for a PCI-E peripheral was present. Keep in mind that we will be testing for whether or not this configuration would be detrimental to performance, and even if it is, having two cards in the top two PCI-E 16X slots still leaves the lower PCI slot available as well. So really, unless you are running triple video cards, an accessible PCI-E and PCI slot are there for use. The last photo in the group above outlines the tight but comfortable fit of the video card in relation to the bottom edge of the board. Recent forum chatter has resulted in the conclusion that there are a number of cases that will not work with some motherboards in TRI-SLI formation due to the last PCI-E 16X slot being at the very bottom of the motherboard and the bottom video card cooler hanging over the bottom edge of the motherboard. This is most definitely not the case with the EVGA X58 SLI.</p><center>
install-16.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">There really are no words for this configuration, these last two photos are strictly computer hardware pornography, simple as that. I can't think of a more beautiful sight than three GPUs jammed together covering half a motherboard. Well, three GPUs wrapped in insulation and paper towels at -100C covering half a motherboard would trump these images but as far as stock setups go, it doesn't get any better than above.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Messages
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Location
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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


<center>
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</center>
<p style="text-align: justify;">An initial scan of the BIOS provides a very promising look at a compact yet feature filled framework for this motherboard. The layout is very nicely done in this BIOS and EVGA has managed to pack everything we would expect from a premium motherboard in a nice neat little package. Let's take a look and see what we have to work with.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The EVGA X58 SLI uses a Phoenix AwardBIOS and comes equipped with the standard layout. The BIOS is broken up into seven familiar separate sections with headings that are pretty self explanatory. Starting at the top left and working our way down, the Standard CMOS Features section is just that, basic information about the hard drive channels in use as well as the date & time. Advanced BIOS Features gives us access to drive boot order, and a couple other options. So far, these sections of the AwardBIOS are standard in their options. Let's move on to the Integrated Peripherals section.</p><center>
bios-4.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">This is home to all hardware devices offered onboard of the EVGA X58 SLI. EVGA has broken this section down into four sub-headings, Legacy Devices which simply allows us to enable or disable the onboard serial header. Onboard PATA/SATA Devices provides us the ability to set the operation modes for all of the SATA and IDE channels on the motherboard. We are provided the liberty of individual control over both the JMicron 362 and 363 controllers. As we can see from the inset image above, we can run the 362/363 controllers either as IDE, RAID, AHCI, or multiple combinations of the three. Moving on to the Onboard Devices section we find our usual suspects here allowing us to disable devices as we please.

There is, however, a single option that caught us by a bit of a surprise. At the bottom of the Onboard Device list is the P80 Show CPU Temp option. This will actually display the BIOS CPU temp on the diagnostic display after POST has finished. Now it is not a core reading of temperature, but appears to be similar to what a temp diode on the IHS would provide for a reading. It is quite a handy feature being able to look over at the display and get an idea of how hot the processor is, even if it isn't as accurate as a core reading, it is always the same offset from the core readings. The last screenshot of this group is the USB Device Setting showing the different options we have for USB thumb drives giving us the option for floppy disk or hard drive modes.</p><center>
bios-8.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The Power Management Setup and PnP/PCI Configurations sections are pretty self explanatory and usually hold little interest to readers so we will let the images do the talking and will move on to the next set of screen shots.</p><center>
bios-10.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The last couple of sections we are going to look at before heading over to overclock central are the PC Health Status and SmartFan Function sections. EVGA doesn't skimp on information provided by the BIOS which means Everest Ultimate in Windows will be able to display quite a bit of information for us. Having a plethora of voltage readouts, temperature sensors, and fan speed read outs is something we take for granted recently; but when they are lacking it leaves a big black hole when trying to monitor things within Windows. This won't be the case with the EVGA X58 SLI. The BIOS boys over at EVGA have also been kind enough to provide full SmartFan control from within the BIOS for three different fan headers on the motherboard. This gives us the option to control fan speeds through temperatures without the need of software. This is again, a nice feature that is almost expected on a premium motherboard, but shouldn't be dismissed. Now for the most important part of the BIOS, overclocking controls.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The Frequency/Voltage Control is a one stop shop for all of our system and overclocking settings. At the very top we find a couple unique features including Dummy O.C and Extreme Cooling. The Dummy O.C option is self explanatory offering us a single option to enable a basic overclock of the system, while the Extreme Cooling option is a bit more obscure. There are three options for Extreme Cooling, Disabled, -50C, and -80C. These options apparently disable some internal temperature features on the i7 processor to allow for easier operation at these temperatures.

The Frequency/Voltage Control section is then broken down into three different sections including Memory Feature, Voltage Control, and CPU Feature. The second image above gives us a look at the Memory Feature section which houses not only an abundance of memory timing options, but the various memory ratios available as well. Early BIOS releases had limited memory ratios but EVGA has since included access to all memory ratios available on the X58 chipset and i7 CPUs. In addition to the complete assortment of memory timings, EVGA has provided users the ability to fine tune all necessary voltages in the Voltage Control section.

The labels for each voltage are descriptive enough that experienced overclockers will know immediately what they are working with...assuming you are familiar with i7 overclocking that is. The one unique feature of the Voltage Control section is the PWM Frequency option at the bottom. We actually have the option to increase the PWM switching frequency from 800 KHz, to 933KHz, or 1066KHz. Setting a lower switching frequency saves power and heat, while higher switching frequency relinquishes some of those savings in favor of more stable power delivery to the CPU. It is recommend to use the higher frequencies when clocking i7 CPUs up around 4GHz or higher. As far as we know, this is the only motherboard with this feature available on it. Let's now go over the chart of available voltage options for each component offered by the EVGA X58 SLI BIOS:
<center><table border="0" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="735px"><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"> </td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"><b>Minimum</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"><b>Maximum</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"><b>Increment</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="335"><b>Notes</b></td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">vCORE</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.00000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.30000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.00625v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">A welcoming small increment throughout the range</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">CPU VTT</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+775mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+025mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Starting voltage is 1.100v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">CPU PLL</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.300v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.575v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.025v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard is 1.800v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">DIMM Voltage</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.700v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">3.075v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.025v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard is 1.500v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">DIMM DQ VREF</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">-640mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">+630mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">010mv</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">vDIMM voltage offset</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">QPI PLL vCORE</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.100v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.875v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.025v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard is 1.100v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">IOH vCORE</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.100v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.875v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.025v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard is 1.100v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">IOH/ICH I/O Voltage</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">1.500v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">2.275v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">0.025v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec">Standard is 1.500v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">ICH vCORE</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.050v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.825v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.025v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard is 1.050v</td></tr></table></center></p><center><p style="text-align: justify;">And yes, we think a few of the voltage options are obscenely high too. This is never a bad thing though, with the commitment by EVGA to cater to extreme overclockers with adjustable PWM frequency and Extreme Cooling options, it is nice to see they didn't go half way and force those pushing hardware to volt mod the boards. The EVGA X58 SLI definitely has all the voltage options anyone should need, and we mean ANYONE, including the all so important - and much discussed - vDROOP control. A little bit later on we will see how close BIOS selected voltages relate to actual voltages supplied in the Voltage Regulation section.</p>
bios-15.jpg
bios-16.jpg
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The last couple images we have above are of the CPU Features screen where we can adjust the various CPU features including the Turbo Mode Function, and Hyper-Threading options of i7 CPUs in addition to the QPI link settings. The last image returns us to the Frequency/Voltage Control section showing the Save Profile options. We have a number of profiles we can save, but no way to rename or label them. It would have been nice to put a label on saved profiles, but at least the profile for the entire BIOS is saved, and not just the frequency/voltage options. Too often the profile saving feature of motherboards seems to only store a few options so it is nice to see EVGA's profile storage save every single option in the BIOS.

Overall there isn't a whole lot to complain about with the X58 SLI BIOS. EVGA has put together a very well constructed and easy to manipulate BIOS with all the options right where they should be. The ability to label profiles and manually punch in voltages would be nice little touches but we won't hold it against EVGA and is getting pretty picky in our needs/wants. One thing we will mention is that the keen BIOS observers will note a lack of options to disable the current and/or wattage limits that the i7 processorors have built into them. This is because EVGA has coded the BIOS to automatically set those limits to the highest they have registers for. So all you low temperature overclockers, you don't have to worry about hitting the limits on this board, despite the lack of BIOS options for it.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Included Software: EVGA E-LEET Exposed

Included Software: EVGA E-LEET Exposed


<p style="text-align: justify;">Now that we have the motherboard up and running, the next step is getting the drivers and software installed. EVGA has of course included a drivers CD, and this is what we will examine now.</p><center>
software-1.jpg
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Like the package, the software is very slick maintaining the same design philosophy. There are four internet links to four different sections of the EVGA web site along the top and then our menu of options down the right hand side. There are a number of options for us to choose from including the ability to create a RAID floppy disk for Windows XP installation on a RAID array and a direct link to some classy X58 SLI wallpapers utilizing the same design as the software interface. The first option is the Install Motherboard Drivers so let's start there.</p><center>
software-2.jpg
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The driver options for us to install include the chipset, audio, lan, and JMicron storage controller drivers. EVGA has also provided access to NVIDIA display drivers that are accessible from the main menu. The other option of interest on the main menu is the installation of E-LEET. At this point, we will focus our attention on EVGA's brand new software monitoring and Windows overclocking software that is designed around the CPU-Z software backend. This makes E-LEET not only quite useful, but very familiar to a lot of users in the enthusiast circles who have been CPU-Z veterans for years.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Installing E-LEET take but a couple minutes with no interaction from the user. There is no information to input and the install wizard has us up and running within a minute or two.</p><center>
eleet-1.png
eleet-2.png
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As mentioned, E-LEET is identical in its layout to CPU-Z and as we can see from the first couple images above, shows the exact same information as CPU-Z for the CPU and Memory tabs; but that is where the similarities end. While the two pieces of software share the same form, E-LEET surpasses CPU-Z in function immediately after the first two tabs. The third tab shown above is the monitoring tab. We have three sections, Voltages, Temperatures, and Fans. Any hardware reporting that is available in the BIOS is available on this tab within Windows. The readings appear to be very accurate and deciphering the information simply requires the ability to read.

Motherboard monitoring software provided by the manufacturer traditionally is very elaborate and un-necessarily fancy. EVGA has completely ditched the custom software that you can barely understand for an industry standard. This won't win them any points for originality, but the function of the software for enthusiasts is unbeatable. This is another minor indication that EVGA has really focused this board to the enthusiast and has listened to what we want. There is no better software to team up with than CPU-Z in our opinions, and EVGA has done an excellent job in implementing the idea.</p><center>
eleet-4.png
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">These next two sections, Overclocking and Voltages are the heart of the new E-LEET software, your grandma's CPU-Z doesn't have these options. In the Overclocking section we can see that we have access to not only the QPI and PCI-E frequencies, but also the ability to adjust the CPU multiplier being used by the Turbo function. With the unlocked multiplier of the 965 we are using, this inherently gives us access to changing the multiplier of all cores within Windows to whatever we choose. All we have to do is Enable Turbo Mode in the BIOS and adjust as we please. With locked multiplier CPUs like the 920/940 of course, Turbo mode will only adjust the multiplier of a single core up two and of all cores up one. The CPU multiplier limit is currently 30X, QPI at 266MHz, and PCI-E at 198MHz with the latest version of E-LEET. There are also two check boxes on this page allowing us to turn on/off Turbo Mode as well as Brink O/C. This feature tells the software to automatically save a validation file whenever a QPI change is made through E-LEET. In essence, this is for the absolutely edge of stability overclockers looking for the absolutely highest frequency and saves the user of having to manually go save a validation file which can take many precious seconds when running that fine line of "running system" and "frozen system".

The Voltage tab is just that, where we can adjust voltages. The initial BIOS settings are listed when we first access the Voltage tab and as we can see, are represented by their actual values; except for vCORE. The vCORE is listed as +0.00000v and our options to adjust it are by +0.00625v. This is due to vCORE being set to AUTO in the BIOS. If we set a vCORE value in the BIOS, then that will show up here as the value like the rest of the voltage options.</p><center>
eleet-6.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The last tab in E-LEET is the Options tab. This section provides information about E-LEET and its CPUID heritage as well as a link to the E-LEET web site on EVGA.com. The E-LEET web site has all the latest information regarding E-LEET and a FAQ section explaining some of its features. The validation section at the top of the tab allows us to save a validation file to submit to the CPU-Z database, just like CPU-Z does. Again, with Brink O/C enabled, this is done automatically. The Profiles section allows us to save overclock settings and define them to an ALT+# keystroke shortcut. This is quite handy for not only 24/7 users who may want to set specific clocks for various daily uses like gaming, or power saving, but also benchmarkers as it will allow on-the-fly adjustments of system settings for benchmarks like 3DMark Vantage or 3DMark 06. Allowing us to maximize the graphics tests then slow the system down to where it is stable for CPU tests. The EVGA user Shamino has outlined this process in the EVGA forums here.The last section in the Options tab simply allows us to tell E-LEET to stop polling the system for the monitoring numbers. This will allow us to keep E-LEET open without using up any precious CPU cycles during benching..</p><center>
eleet-7.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Overall E-LEET has been very impressive considering it is a manufacturer supplied overclocking and monitoring software. Changing base clock frequencies does have some quirks to it when jumping from high base clocks to low and vice-versa, but for the most part, the software is very predictable. What we really liked most was the interface and the fact that EVGA decided to utilize the CPU-Z developer option CPUID has offered. Anyone involved in overclocking is likely familiar with CPU-Z and that familiarity carries over nice to E-LEET. We definitely give EVGA two thumbs up for E-LEET and hope they continue to advance and develop the software.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Test Setup & Methodologies

Test Setup & Methodologies


<center><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="735px"><tr><td align="left">
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</td><td align="left">
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</td><td align="right">
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</td><td align="right">
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</td></tr></table>
<table border="0" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="735px"><tr><td colspan="4"><b>Test Platform:</b></td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Motherboard:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">EVGA X58 SLI<br>Intel 9.1.0.1007</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Processor:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Intel Core i7 965 Extreme Edition</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Processor Cooling:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme-1366<br>120mm AD1212MS-A73GL 2050RPM/80.5CFM</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>North Bridge Cooling:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Stock</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>South Bridge Cooling:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Stock</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>PWM Cooling:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Stock</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Memory:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Corsair Dominator 3x2GB PC3-12800 8-8-8 (TR3X6G1600C8D)</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Power Supply:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Ultra X-Pro 750W</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Video Card:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">BFG GTX 280 OCX / BFG GTX 280 OC<br>GeForce Release 180.48 WHQL</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Additional Fans:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">120mm AD1212MS-A73GL 2050RPM/80.5CFM</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Hard Drives:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Seagate 7200.9 80GB SATAII 8MB cache</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>OS:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Windows Vista SP1 (with all updates)</td></tr></table></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The first notable absence from the list of hardware above is the lack of a 3x1GB kit of memory for testing overclocks. This will have to be missed with this review as all we have in the house right now is the 3x2GB PC3-12800 Dominator kit from Corsair. The next hardware line that needs explaining is the use of video cards. The initial benchmarks will be with a single BFG GTX 280 OCX, but the 16X vs 8X SLI comparison section will include the GTX 280 OCX as well as a GTX 280 OC.</p>

Stability Overclocking Methodology


<p style="text-align: justify;">The goal of our overclocking section is not to show you a CPU-Z screen shot or validation of the motherboard highly overclocked and exclaim that the motherboard is "amazing". Our goal for the overclocking section is to show what the average user, with the right knowledge, may be able to get out of the motherboard for everyday use. This is also known as 24/7 stability in the overclocking forums.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/setup-5.jpg" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Obviously we won't be able to test everything for a literal 24/7 overclock because of time restraints with a review, but we have put together a virtual recipe that should equate to 24/7 overclocks. The following is a run-down of what all of the listed overclocks in the next section will have passed in order to be listed, screen shots are of course provided:</p><p style="text-align: justify;">As we said, our overclocks posted in the Stability Overclocking Section are stable, without question. If you are looking for less than stable overclocks and a little bit more exciting numbers, we have you covered as well in our Sub-Zero Overclocking & Benching section near the end of the review.</p>

Benchmark Methodology


<p style="text-align: justify;">Since the EVGA X58 SLI doesn't support XMP profiles, we are going to have to do a tiny amount of manual setting adjustment for the <b>stock</b> results instead of a straight plug and play like we would have for an XMP capable setup.<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/method-1.png" alt="Just a sample graph outlining where the results will be coming from in the up-coming benchmarks" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0px 4px 7px"> All of the processor settings will be left at default excluding the Turbo function of the i7 965 processor. The processor will be locked in at 3.2GHz with the QPI set to the default 6.4 GT/s. The only settings that will be adjusted are the memory ones changing the frequency to 800MHz or DDR3-1600 and the rated 8-8-8-24-2T timings.

For the <b>red</b> results in the benchmarks, we will be running our Overall Stability Overclocking result that we will look at in the next section. These results will depict the fastest we could stability get this set of components to run after finding maximums of the various hardware components. The video card used for all results will be the pre-overclocked BFG GTX 280 OCX running at its default clocks of 602/2214/1296. Keep in mind that these are overclocked values from the reference GTX 280 specifications when looking at the 3D results. Here is how the rest of the test setup will be derived as far as operating system and software goes:
  1. Windows Vista x64 w/SP1 is installed using a full format
  2. Intel Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed followed by a defragment and a reboot
  3. At time of benchmarks the latest drivers were downloaded from their official web sites as the latest drivers, most notable, NVIDIA GeForce Release 180.48 WHQL
  4. Programs and games are then installed followed by another defragment
  5. Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates followed by a defragment
  6. Benchmarks are each ran three times after a clean reboot for every iteration of the benchmark unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged
</p>
 
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3oh6

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Stability & Overclocking Results

Stability & Overclocking Results


<p style="text-align: justify;">A new chipset, new processors, on-die memory controllers, and new architecture equates to an entire new way in which everything functions. This means that overclocking the i7 isn't quite going to be like the Intel processors of old. The FSB is gone and replaced with a new Base Clock (BCLK) which every other frequency runs off of through multipliers. Initial thoughts were that with the FSB gone, the overclocking capabilities would be unlimited and unlocked multipliers would be a thing of the past...not quite. You see, Intel has still managed to handi-cap their lower end processors by imposing an inherent limitation on BCLKs.

The lowest QPI Bus multiplier is 18X, which runs the QPI Bus at around 4GHz with a BCLK of 220. This is about the limit that any QPI Bus is going to be able to handle at this point in time, thus limiting BCLK to 220 or lower and in essence, leaving us overclockers in the exact same situation. Processor overclocks are going to be limited by the BCLK instead of the FSB. Lower end model CPUs like the i7 920 and i7 940 with their locked 20X and 22X multipliers are going to be limited theoretically to clocks of 4400MHz, and 4840MHz...if we can even clock to 220 BCLK. Of course there are Turbo modes which increase the multiplier in certain circumstances but this is small consolation for higher end cooling when an i7 920 can all but be maxed out with a well designed water cooling loop. The i7 940 isn't as bad but with the price being such a jump, the i7 965 is the better choice.

The biggest factor with our overclocking section in a motherboard review is the fact that the memory controller is now on the CPU die. So with no more FSB and no memory controller, testing a motherboards overclocking is almost a test in futility. Now, more than ever, good BCLCKs and memory clocks will rely on the CPU used as opposed the days of old where a motherboard played the critical role in memory and FSB clocks. With that said, the motherboard is still going to play a minor role in memory clocking and processor clocking, it just won't be as dramatic a role like the Intel chipsets of past. So let's get started with seeing how high we can push this Corsair Dominator 3x2GB kit of memory at CL8.</p>

3x2GB Maximum Memory Stability Testing

Click for full size...
<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/ocing-1.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/small/ocing-1.png" alt="Maximum Memory Stability Testing" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The introduction of the on-die memory controller and triple channel memory, opened the door to all kinds of possibilities on the Intel chipset. Higher bandwidth through increase throughput from adding a third memory channel, and lower latencies due to the on-die memory controller are the two biggest benefits. There is also this idea that memory needs to be limited to 1.65v otherwise damage to the memory controller will incur. This information has yet to be proven with retail CO/C1 stepping CPUs. On B1/B2 Engineering Samples, it was very much in play. Even though we don't take much caution in the 1.65v limitation for vDIMM, we still couldn't push much more than that into these modules without them failing to boot.

We are not sure quite yet whether this is a motherboard related issue or the memory simply does not like voltages above 1.65v vDIMM, but any time we set 1.7v vDIMM or higher in the BIOS, we were greeted with a lovely series of beeps equating to memory. Even still, this DDR3-1600 kit of memory had no problem running up the clocks at even 1.65v, its rated voltage. We managed a healthy 910MHz or equivalent to DDR3-1820 overclock at 8-8-8 timings. For six gigabytes of memory running at a measly 1.65v, we couldn't be more pleased. Just look at the ridiculous bandwidth in Everest in the screenshot. There will be more from this setup in the coming benchmarks. Let's now move on to our max BCLK/QPI overclocking.</p>

Base Clock/QPI Stability Overclocking

Click for full size...<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/ocing-2.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/small/ocing-2.png" alt="Maximum BCLK/QPI Overclocking" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The next item up on the list of overclocks in the BCLK/QPI clock. The reason the QPI is mentioned is because it is actually what is limiting the BCLK. In our limited testing thus far, we have found that the processor is what seems to limit this overclock and in the screenshot we can see that an i7 920 ES has been used. This is because it was able to reach 5MHz higher BCLK than our i7 965 processor was for completely stability. We can bench a slightly higher BCLK but full stability was limited to 205MHz. As we mentioned earlier, a 220BCLK is not ever guaranteed with any setup and some people will be able to clock higher, but a 200 BCLK has quickly become the standard around the forums since the i7's release. This combination has no problem clocking at 205 BLCK for an effective 3684MHz QPI clock.

The beauty of this overclock is the fact that all motherboard voltages with the exception of CPU VTT, were left at their lowest settings. Voltage adjustments did not help this setup from clocking higher and getting to this point really was quite easy. EVGA is so confident that their X58 SLI motherboard will have no problem clocking to a 200BLCK that one of their technical support representatives has posted a 'roadmap' of sorts on how to get to 200BLCK for this motherboard. That can be found here in the EVGA support forums. It is a good starting point but we found that some of the voltages were much higher than they needed to be and actually caused instability until we decreased them, so you will want to find your own sweet spot with this setup.</p>

Overall Stability Overclocking

Click for full size...<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/ocing-3.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/small/ocing-3.png" alt="Maximum Overall Stability Overclocking" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">We have now pulled everything together and come up with our highest stable overclock with this setup keeping our previous found limitations in mind. The most important aspect of any system overclock is the processor speed and we have managed to get this 965 up to a solid 3892MHz with the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme providing the cooling. This is by no means the best we have seen on air but it also isn't the worst. This processor was chosen not for its air clocking capabilities so we never really expected 4GHz - or higher - stable out of this setup. We have a nice combination of our memory at 900MHz with a nice 1.600v and the processor only reaching the high 60's or low 70's under 100% load.

For the final overclock we have increased a couple of the motherboard voltages as shown in E-LEET but the only real important voltage adjustment is CPU VTT as that is the one voltage that plays a key role in system stability. Getting a 200BCLK out of this setup sure is easy, getting a lot more out of it wasn't easy. There definitely was a hard wall at 205 with our i7 920 CPU and an equally tough wall at 200BCLK with our retail i7 965. Overall this setup is very quick and lightning fast. We will now be using this overclock in our benchmarks to compare stock settings to what the system performs like when overclocked.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Memory Benchmarks

Memory Benchmarks



Everest Ultimate v4.50<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Everest Ultimate is the most useful tool for any and all bench markers or overclockers. With the ability to read most voltage, temperature, and fan sensors on almost every motherboard available, Everest provides the ability to customize the outputs in a number of forms for display on your desktop. In addition to this, the memory benchmarking provides a useful tool of measuring the changes to your memory sub-system when tweaking to measure the differences.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/mem_bench-1.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">We start today's benchmarks with memory bandwidth and the perennial all-star in memory benchmarks is Everest Ultimate's included memory benchmark. Unfortunately, that crown seems to be loosely attached to the head of Everest with this i7 setup. Reports of inconsistent Everest bandwidth results with i7 are 100% confirmed. During benchmarking we were able to get the Read results to vary as much as 1000 MB/s. This is rather significant when looking at bandwidth of the same settings. In the results above, we were sure to take three of the lower results and didn't include any of the random 'high' results in the calculations. With that said, we also have a bit of an anomaly in the Copy results. As we can see, the stock settings outpace the overclocked settings which just shouldn't happen. Perhaps it is Everest causing the odd result, or, we are looking at some sort of change in latencies similar to that of strap changes or internal north bridge timings of past Intel chipsets. Needless to say, Everest has left more questions that it has answered and at some point we hope to get to the bottom of those questions some day, but for today, we will leave well enough alone and consider these results as a 'guideline' more than anything else.</p>

<center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/mem_bench-2.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Unlike the bandwidth numbers, the latency results were 100% repeatable and 100% impressive coming from even highly clocked dual channel DDR3 setups based on X48 or 790i chipsets. This new on-die i7 memory controller is already showing its strength in bandwidth and latency results, it will be interesting to see how this equates to real world performance considering our two setups really aren't light years apart as far as the memory sub-system is concerned...according to Everest Ultimate anyway.</p>

SiSoft Sandra 2009.SP2<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>SiSoft Sandra is a popular and well used benchmark in the industry but not really a friend of serious benchmarkers. The results SiSoft Sandra produces have been suspect at times basing the numbers it comes up with on system specs and not actual testing. The latest version of Sandra seems to be one of the few programs that appear to calculate memory bandwidth consistently so we decided to include it in today’s benchmarks. Like we have always said with SiSoft Sandra though, take these results for what they are and nothing more.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/mem_bench-3.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Since we really don't much about what these results represent or how SiSoft Sandra is getting these results, we will leave any conclusions that may come from these numbers to interpretation by the readers. We can say that results seemed to be quite consistent throughout testing and the results seemed to scale how we would expect. Unfortunately, that is part of the problem with SiSoft Sandra memory bandwidth numbers, they always scale exactly how they should.</p>

ScienceMark v2<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>ScienceMark is an almost ancient benchmark utility at this point in time and hasn't seen an update in a long time. It is, however, still a favorite for accurately calculating bandwidth on even the newest chipsets.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/mem_bench-4.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">As odd as it may sound, the oldest and out of date memory bandwidth measurement tool we use here at HWC was the most consistent in benchmarking this new chipset. The bandwidth results provide similar numbers to what was expected and scaled appropriately, even with results we aren't looking at here today. You may say that we said the same thing about Sandra and that is what made those results a little too consistent, but the difference is that ScienceMark actually measures bandwidth and comes up with a result in MB/s. Sandra comes up with its numbers in an unknown method and produces results in GB/s...which we can only assume is some theoretical bandwidth number that the memory is capable of, because this setup certainly isn't pushing 30GB/s of bandwidth.

Needless to say, this section is a bit of a mess so let's leave well enough alone and move on to some more benchmarks that rely on complete system performance for results.</p>
 
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