The Intel Core i7 processors that came in the socket LGA 1366 package ruled the enthusiast and workstation segments for a long time. The final releases were the six-core Core i7-970 and 980X, which presented power users with a great upgrade option. Despite being a generation old, these processors and compatible motherboards based on the Intel X58 chipset are still going strong in the market because they offer incredible value for money. Those who are looking forward to building powerful workstations or desktop PCs for extremely intensive workloads now have an option to go in for the Intel Core i7-3960X, which boasts a whopping 8 cores.
Those on a lower budget can opt for the six-core Core i7-3930k. The new processors pack more punch and are more energy-efficient than the previous generation models. However, they use a new socket design (LGA 2011) and chipset (Intel X79), which calls for new motherboards. Some of the key features of the latest chipset are support for quad-channel memory, 3-way SLI and CrossFireX, and SATA 6 Gb/s. Support for USB 3.0 is still via discrete controllers. Some motherboards boast eight RAM slots that can take up to 128 GB of memory, whereas a few other more affordable models have four slots. All the leading motherboard brands are already out with their latest offerings, albeit in limited numbers.
In this roundup of X79 chipset-based motherboards, we compared 10 models from various brands. We used a battery of synthetic and real world tests to evaluate the performance of each motherboard. The scoresheet details all the benchmark scores, but if you want to read more about the top two boards, scroll down further
Scoresheet (Click to enlarge)
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
No other motherboard comes close to the Rampage IV Extreme when it comes to features. It sports a black and red theme which is typical of the ROG brand. You get support for up to 64 GB of RAM, four SATA 3 Gb/s ports, two SATA 6 Gb/s ports and 12 USB 2.0 ports (four via headers). There are discrete controllers for two additional SATA 6 Gb/s ports and two eSATA ports on the rear panel. Eight USB 3.0 ports (four via headers) are also courtesy discrete controllers. The rear panel also features a Bluetooth adapter, Gigabit Ethernet port, audio jacks and buttons for BIOS reset and ROG connect.
An overclocker's dream!
Asus has gone in with five PCIE x16 slots to provide support for up to 4-way SLI and CrossFireX. The first and third red PCIE slots run at full x16 speed and the other two red slots and the black slot run at x8 speed. 4-way SLI/CrossFireX is supported in x16/x8/x8/x8 mode thanks to 40 PCIE lanes integrated into the processor. As for overclocking, we’ve seen 7-segment debugger and voltage check points before.
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It will be three years in November since Intel launched their X58 chipset,
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