Final Words

All of our motherboards performed admirably today, some better than others, but in the end any motherboard sporting an X58 will perform the same when it comes to standard performance attributes. Which board is better really comes down to your needs, budget, and for some, product brand loyalty. We are willing to recommend any of our boards at this point in time.

The BIOS releases we utilized are stable now, offer excellent performance, and have addressed the majority of our usability problems. That said, each manufacturer still has tuning work left to accomplish for improved memory and overclocking performance. We might even see some minor improvements in power consumption shortly although our numbers reflect an almost best case scenario right now.

We still have several boards to review, ranging from the $220 MSI Platinum up to the $400 Foxconn Bloodrage with several in-between. Our next review will focus on the "lower" end X58 boards from Intel, Gigabyte, Biostar, and MSI. Our final review will feature the upper end boards from ASUS, Gigabyte, DFI, and Foxconn. In between, we will provide a comprehensive OC guide along with a detailed look at memory performance with several DDR3 tri-channel kits from Corsair, OCZ, Patriot, GSkill, Kingston, Crucial, and Mushkin. Look for these in the coming weeks after we return from our final IGP roundup.

So, let's just dive straight into our board recap. Additional details about each motherboard can be located in the features section.

Awards

We are proud to present the ASUS P6T-Deluxe with our Gold Editors Award. We highly recommend this board for beginners and advanced users alike. The Deluxe is not perfect, no board is, but it was by far the easiest board to use on a daily basis. Regardless of whether we wanted to setup a stable 24/7 folding machine or push the board to its limits trying to reach a new overclock record in the labs, it was a simple process to do either. We especially liked the ASUS BIOS as it is very informative, lists out the min/max and standard settings for the major BIOS options, and makes it possible for new users to quickly get the most out of the board. Yet, it still retains enough options to satisfy most tweakers and always recovered from settings that made us look for the clear CMOS button on the other boards.

When it comes to performance, the word balanced was the first thought in our minds. The P6T Deluxe offers the best video performance of the boards we tested while providing class leading performance in the majority of our application benchmarks. The board also features an array of options including Serial Attached SCSI controller support, SLI and CrossFire, very good on-board audio capabilities, eSATA and Firewire, and enough USB ports to make one forget about needing a hub. Based on the layout, this is the board we would recommend for 2x SLI or CrossFire users, plus you get the bonus of class leading video performance.

We are excited to present our Silver Editors award to Gigabyte for the GA-EX58-UD5. What else can we say, this board is a tweaker's delight and has tremendous performance potential. Based on the progress that Gigabyte has made with the latest F4K BIOS, we feel like this board could ultimately offer the best overclocking experience in the mid-range X58 market. The performance of this board was consistently near the top and ultimately offered the best overall memory performance. While performance is important, ultimately a board needs to offer the right feature set, stability, support, and pricing in a very competitive market.

The GA-EX58-UD5 offers all of this and more to potential X58 buyers. The UD5 offers an abundance of SATA ports, flexible layout, an excellent cooling solution, very good HD audio featuring Dolby Digital Live encoding, and an extensive accessory package along with excellent documentation.

We almost placed this board ahead of the ASUS P6T-Deluxe. There were just a few items that we felt like Gigabyte could improve upon to reach the next level. We wish Gigabyte could match the usability and informational features of the ASUS BIOS, the x16 slots are spaced too close to each other for our liking when using a 2x CrossFire or SLI setup since heat generation could be a problem in cases without proper ventilation, and losing the first DIMM slot when utilizing large CPU heatsink/fan designs means 12GB users are out in the cold. Regardless, the GA-EX58-UD5 is still an excellent board and one we highly recommend.

The Others

The MSI Eclipse X58 is the most expensive board in the roundup at $322 with rebate and offers an extensive set of features and accessories. We loved the layout, color scheme, and overall quality of the board. We like to think of the MSI Eclipse as a Grand Touring Coupe in the automotive world, it offers an excellent blend of features and performance. The board performed equally to the other offerings with a 3GB or 6GB memory load but buckled underneath the pressure when overclocking with 12GB. Based on the progress MSI has made in the past couple of weeks, we expect this problem to be solved shortly.

We are not crazy about the BIOS layout as several of the voltage settings in the BIOS are rather cryptic since MSI utilizes a +/- setting for changes. The base voltage information is not always listed so the user has to have prior knowledge of base settings before making an informed decision when overclocking. MSI tries to make up for this with auto settings that almost allow the user to overclock exclusively by just setting the Bclk rate and letting the board do the rest. However, while this system worked well, it sometimes drove voltages past the rate we could effectively utilize with air cooling.

In the end, we still recommend the MSI Eclipse X58 for users who want a feature rich, stable, and well supported platform but do not plan on tweaking or heavily overclocking the system. This could all change with another BIOS update and we will be the first to let you know if it does.

The EVGA X58 SLI is an excellent motherboard and one that we have throughly enjoyed working with the past few weeks. EVGA's support has been phenomenal and we expect that to continue to end users. This board has award worthy status written all over it, just one snag, memory multipliers. Unlike the other boards in our roundup and in the labs, the EVGA board tops out at a 10x memory multiplier (DDR3-1333) for the i965. Even though 10x is available, the i920/i940 are regulated to the 6x (800) or 8x (1066) multipliers. While we can live with these multipliers when raising Bclk to the 200+ level, we just find it a hindrance that the other multipliers are not available in a board designed for the more extreme users.

Otherwise, the quality of components, layout, and BIOS design are very good. Performance is also very good and in off-line testing it comes extremely close to the Gigabyte board up high. We have seen continual performance improvements and expect this board to do very well in the overclocking market once the memory multiplier problem is solved. If overclocking is not of primary importance, for a lot of us it is not, then the ease of use, stability, support, and features of this board make it a highly desirable product in the $300 range. At the end of the day, this board simply performs well and never makes a fuss about doing it.

Initial Overclocking Results
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  • danger22 - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    you should refuse to publish articles with boards that don't work out of the box. why give them any publicity? Reply
  • belladog - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    Im glad Anandtech is taking a firmer stance with the motherboard makers. I too have seen a degradation in quality over the years.

    I take what review sites say with a grain of salt. People concerned about stabilty should go to the motherboards makers forums(or other user forums) to really see what to expect with a product.

    You dont need to be einstein to realise that manufacturers send hand picked and tweaked products to review sites. Their sales figures depend on a good review, but then the masses who buy the boards/products from the shop see very different results.

    Also its hard to poorly rate a product when reviewers have friendships at the companies or depend on advertising revenue from these same companies.

    Whats the use of high overclocks if you cant get 4 Gigs of ram to work? Or your new PCI-E 2.0 Video card is having "compatibilty" problems with a board advertised to run it? Then they say its your PSU or memory. The PSU maker blames the motherboard, everyone blames each other and us suckers have to go out and buy 2 PSU's, 2 different ram kits and mix and match to get a working system.

    I like to buy high end parts but my experience is its usually not worth it. Most "high end" boards, PSU's , memory are overpriced and provide little or no better experience than a mainstream parts at half the price, except maybe graphics cards where a high priced one will provide a better gaming experience on high settings.

    Even in crossfire/SLI an X38/X48 board running at 16X/16X will perform no better than a mainstream P45 board running at 16X/8X. Even worse in some situations.

    X58 is a little different because its a whole new architecture that looks interesting but really doesnt offer a huge performance gain. We will probably see the socket 1156 boards performing about the same if the past is anything to go by.

    Anyway something needs to change in regards to reviews. Maybe review sites should only test parts obtained from retail channels. Maybe review sites should run a standardised lot of tests before even considering overclocking results. I expect all the advertised features to work correctly as advertised.

    Like i said, the best thing consumers can do is, dont take too much notice of reviews and go to the manufacturers forum or other user forums to see what you're really in for.

    Reply
  • stungun - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    I love the fact you are trying to implement changes in how you review hardware. Personally I do not overclock, dont want to but i do want the newer Intel processor/motherboard combo for 3d rendering and just because it is time to upgrade I should go with the future. Not all your readers want to burn up cpu components some of us just want a good honest working system. Reply
  • shocku - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    That's it?!
    After promising snippets for weeks, the final article is a compilation of what's been said before. That, and more promises future articles will be more in-depth about: RAM… non ES CPUs… the two or three X58 motherboards not covered here…, etc., etc., etc.

    I appreciate all the work that goes on behind the scenes to make reviews. But at some point you gotta tell it like it is. If a BIOS or driver wasn't ready-- tough luck. There's plenty of room for other companies to shine by getting things right the first time. Or, are sites like Anandtech the new beta testers?

    "We still have several boards to review, ranging from the $220 MSI Platinum up to the $400 Foxconn Bloodrage with several in-between. Our next review will focus on the "lower" end X58 boards from Intel, Gigabyte, Biostar, and MSI. Our final review will feature the upper end boards from ASUS, Gigabyte, DFI, and Foxconn. In between, we will provide a comprehensive OC guide along with a detailed look at memory performance with several DDR3 tri-channel kits from Corsair, OCZ, Patriot, GSkill, Kingston, Crucial, and Mushkin."

    Say it isn’t so. Why did I read this article for?

    I'll try going from the bottom up...
    >I thought the Nehalem memory article was out already. There's that much memory performance left to be covered?
    >How can readers make use of "a comprehensive OC guide" that's coming out before "upper end boards"? There's no point if a few bucks more can get you a board that goes as high as your attempts to OC the cheaper one. Might as well pay more and OC more, or pay less if both have the same ceiling.
    >The next review will be about lower end boards like Intel's?! Huh?! The Smackover retails for over $250 USD. Unless they have a cheaper board nobody knows about, and they're ready to sell it now; there's NO SUCH THING as a low end X58 board this year.

    This article's conclusion, as of 12/05/08, seems impartial and has constructive criticism for the board makers. Perhaps this whole series of articles and blogs will look good to someone reading them for the first time 6 months from now. But, right now, the article is just fodder.

    Are readers better off with an expensive board they know thanks to this article, or should they get an even more expensive board that’s been skipped from this review? Heck, maybe the best is a cheaper one whose price puts it in the so-called ‘low end.’
    These boards are not $1-$5 dollar items. So, say it like you mean it.
    KTHX.
    Or... charge manufacturers for all the beta testing you've done and the many 'second' chances they got before you went public. While you're at it, spare us from dealing with ads in your Web site.

    PS: I wrote this before I read any comments. Boy am I not alone!
    Reply
  • sidewinderx2 - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    Err... i'm pretty sure i'm just feeding a troll here... but here goes:

    Do you not understand what quotation marks mean? You know... somewhat sarcastic? they specifically put the word "lower" in quotation marks, so unless you truly have no grasp of the english language, you must be retarded to think that they actually meant those boards are "low end" boards.


    "This article's conclusion, as of 12/05/08, seems impartial and has constructive criticism for the board makers. Perhaps this whole series of articles and blogs will look good to someone reading them for the first time 6 months from now. But, right now, the article is just fodder. "

    So... what you're saying is... "WAAAAH! ANANDTECH DIDN'T TELL ME WHAT I SHOULD BUY! WAAAAH! THEY'RE TOO IMPARTIAL! WAAAH! THEY SHOULD BLINDLY GIVE ADVICE OVER THINGS THEY HAVEN'T TESTED YET! WAAAAAAAAH!"

    Right.
    Reply
  • LtPage1 - Friday, December 05, 2008 - link

    Which companies have better quality control out of the gate is information of EXTREME relevance to the consumer. These boards are close enough together in pricing, features, and performance as makes no difference to me. Which company's board had the least problems when it was shipped to you would absolutely sway my purchase. Also, how quickly they dealt with problems you brought up, and how obsessed they were with overclocking performance results to the exclusion of basic functionality would be a huge factor for me.

    Inform the consumer! Report on hardware? Tell us which companies deserve our money.
    Reply
  • chekk - Friday, December 05, 2008 - link

    Perhaps you should send the mobo manufacturers a bill for your testing. It sounds like Anandtech provided a very valuable service since clearly the manufacturer's quality assurance processes are not up to the task.
    Yes, overclocking is fun, but if I buy a production board, it had better be production ready. Also, whether the board is $300 or $65, that sucker better work.
    I'd actually like to know which manufacturers we're discussing as I'd like to stop supporting them with my dollars until they get a clue.
    Reply
  • Ben - Friday, December 05, 2008 - link

    It's hard not to rant here, but I know that rants often get passed over.

    You guys don't know what a relief it was to read this article. I've been building systems for many years and I have noticed the steady decline in quality.

    My latest build was not only the most money I've ever spent on a computer, but also the worst experience I've ever had with a build. I've since sold it off as pieces, while I contemplate buying a preassembled workstation for the first time in my life.

    The final straw for me was when I complained about a broken feature to a well-known manufacturer and they told me that I "should have known" what to expect from their product by reading their message boards. In other words, we know it says it does A, B, and C on the box, but if you read our message boards before you bought our product, then you would have known that it doesn't do A, B, and C.

    I hope you guys can turn this situation around.
    Reply
  • DBissett - Friday, December 05, 2008 - link

    Anand's essay on this topic is some of the most important writing I've seen here. Unfortunately, the editorial slant of AT reviews, along with many other sites, has set the stage over the years for exactly what the complaint is about. Anand describes it well...the overriding interest, if not outright obsession, with what often amounts to miniscule performance advantages has literally buried the benefits of simple day to day dependability. Now that this situation has reached such extremes that Anand feels compelled to sound off about it, the task is to turn the editorial focus enough to raise dependability to the higher level of concern that it deserves. Some users in the forums point out at times that different settings or product differences make absolutely no difference in real world use. AT reviews should be equally candid and state, perhaps in bold type, when differences in observed speed are insignificant, and then NOT go on to rank order products on these insignificant speed differences. AT reviews should also go on to provide a rating or at least clear observations about the true ease of use, dependability and satisfaction to be expected by users in general or at different levels of experience, including BIOS issues that the manufacturer has not fixed. It sounds like this might be coming. Great! JDPowers ranks cars on something like initial problems/defects found by new buyers and there's no reason why similar polling/experiences shouldn't be provided for users of what are increasingly expensive computer parts. I hope Anand follows up on this issue and really institutes changes to address it. Reply
  • marsrunner - Friday, December 05, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the roundup. Great reading.
    I bought the i7-920, 12GB of G.Skill PC3-1333 RAM and Asus P6T a couple of weeks ago, and have only had one real problem. My new Logitech Illuminated Keyboard causes the mobo to take about 3 minutes to initialize USB devices at POST, and then when it does POST the keyboard won't work at all until Vista takes over. Very irritating. Haven't contacted ASUS, because I'm sure they'd point the finger at Logitech, who would point the finger back at ASUS. Besides, the keyboard does not cause any problems on my other PC.
    I should say that I don't and won't be doing any overclocking, unlike most people around here I imagine, but even so I've noticed a lack of attention to detail in these mobos.
    Reply

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