It will be three years in November since Intel launched their X58 chipset, a platform dedicated to enthusiasts, overclockers and professional benchmarkers. The platform served its purpose well for a long time and has managed to hold on to the ‘best performance’ crown all this while. The X58 chipset now makes way for Intel’s highly anticipated replacement, the X79 chipset. Why X79 and not X68 or X78 beats us, but it is what it is. Intel has a notorious habit of switching sockets time and again and they haven’t broken that streak this time too. Along with the new chipset, the 2nd Generation Core i7 family of processors will use the new 2011 socket so there’s no chance of any backwards compatibility with existing Z68 chipsets. Now, we can’t go into too much detail about the chipset due to Intel’s NDA but we can talk about Asus’s new line-up based on the X79 chipset.
Asus had a little media preview on the 21st of October where a select few journalists (us included) got a first hand look at their upcoming motherboards. Three flagship boards were showcased, each filling up a different segment and first we’ll be looking at the P9X79 mainstream motherboard which also includes a Pro and Deluxe model.
The first major change is the 3rd generation Dual Intelligent Processors along with a new DIGI+ Power control system. Asus first launched the DIGI+ VRM on the P67 motherboard last year and this time, there’s a separate power controller chip for the memory modules as well. This dual chip design ensures dedicated power control to the CPU and memory for better stability during gaming or overclocking.
The P9X79 mainstream motherboard
The second big addition is Asus’s very own SSD caching technique. Intel’s X79 does not support SRT (Smart Response Technology) at the moment so this way, we can enjoy similar benefits like we do on Z68 motherboards. Through the bundled utility, all you have to do is plug in an SSD and let the software do all the configuration for you. You don’t have to re-install the OS either, which is a good thing. Asus BT GO 3.0 feature makes a return but this time the Bluetooth module has been bumped up to v3.0.
The rear ports of the P9X79
The third and perhaps the most interesting new addition (at least for us reviewers and enthusists) is the new USB BIOS Flashback. Now, it’s not something as mundane as being able to flash the BIOS via USB - that feature has already been with us for a while. This involves a physical button at the rear of the I/O ports that lets you flash the BIOS directly through a pen drive, even if none of the components like the CPU, RAM, etc. are installed! This is really convenient since you don’t have to enter the BIOS anymore in order to update it.
Asus SSD caching at work
Their popular UEFI BIOS is back along with some minor tweaks and changes. The DRAM SPD Info feature currently found on their Z68 boards makes an appearance. This utility lets you check the status of the DRAM modules right from the BIOS itself. The new ‘F3’ shortcut key brings up important BIOS features in a single list allowing you to quickly skip to them. Finally, Asus has incorporated a UASP USB 3.0 controller on the motherboard for better speeds from USB 3.0 devices. USB Attached SCSI Protocol (UASP) is a replacement for Mass Storage Class and Bulk Only Transfers (BOT) protocols that will soon be standard on motherboards. In order for this to work optimally though, one needs a UASP motherboard as well as a UASP-based hard drive, which aren’t commercially available right now. However, existing USB 3.0 drives can get a slight speed boost from this as it uses the full duplex capabilities of USB 3.0 and is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 as well.
Asus has revamped the look of their AI SUITE II software to match the series of the board, so for instance the R.O.G series will have a Red theme while the TUF series has a Blue theme. The onboard audio supports DTS Ultra PC II which offers new functions like ‘Enhance’, ‘Surround Sensation’, etc. Next, let’s have a look at the TUF series motherboard, the SABERTOOTH X79.