Round one of the high-priced enthusiast end of X58 went to EVGA last year, who set the pace with their Classified line of motherboards. While not perfect in every regard, the E759 and E760 broke and set more overclocking records than any other product, elevating the Classified series to must have status in the eyes of overclocking and gaming enthusiasts.

In light of this success, it was clear that ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI would have to go back to the drawing board and come up with new designs to captivate the audience. The launch of Intel’s i7-980X Gulftown together with the availability of SATA 6G and USB 3 controllers from Marvell and NEC provided the excuse for a revamp and here we are a couple of months down the road with everyone vying to capitalize on sales thanks to the longevity of the X58 platform. That’s where we pick up today, we’ve got the very best ASUS, Gigabyte, EVGA and MSI have to offer and have lined up a compare taking a look at basic functionality, overclocking and overall stability.

Meet the contenders:

 

Now grab a fresh pair of pants before you take a look at the asking prices:

Motherboard Chipsets SATA 6G USB 3 Price
ASUS Rampage III Extreme X58 Yes Yes $379
EVGA X58 4 way Classified X58, 2 x NF200 No No $429
Gigabyte X58A-UD9 X58, 2 x NF200 Yes Yes $699
MSI Big Bang-XPower X58 Yes Yes $299

Eek! $700 for a single socket motherboard? That’s waaay over the top. While we acknowledge there is a market for high-end products, we can’t think of a good reason for why a motherboard designed around a heavily integrated architecture should be priced this high. There nothing radical on or about the UD9 that justifies such expenditure ; like most of the other boards on test here today, the base design is very much de-facto for the platform and identical to lower priced motherboards( apart from the addition of two nVidia NF200 chips to provide four way SLI capabilities).  

In general, all these boards do over their $200~$250 counterparts is offer a more robust VRM for heavy overclocking, in some cases a better layout and lastly a more overclocking centric BIOS.  As such, these motherboards are worth looking at by those of us that have very specific overclocking needs beyond conventional cooling, or by those that have a mind-set that pays scant regard to cost versus performance ratios.  So yes, this is a minority audience article, but we’ll be getting back to our roots straight after – don’t despair!

ASUS Rampage III Extreme
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  • strikeback03 - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    So that people don't go spending their money on them? IMO a review that says "This isn't worthwhile" is more useful than one that says something is. And this is probably a valid question for those still buying X58. Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Saturday, July 17, 2010 - link

    good point. Better to have a review that says youre nuts to buy this than say wow this is a great board go get it now then in 4 months a new socket comes out and youre pissed off. I emailed intel and begged them to stop changing their sockets so soon ... I wont get a reply. Reply
  • Juddog - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    They don't show a picture of the setup, but I'm wondering why they didn't mention some of the extra abilities of the MSI board, such as the two 8 pin power inputs, the dip switches for voltage limiters, etc..

    I have the board myself and didn't notice the memory issues listed in the article, so I'm just wondering if they could go into more detail about testing methodologies in this regard.
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    Hi,

    All of these boards have two power plugs - they are of no consequence unless you are pulling well over spec via the EPS 12V, which rules out the air/water cooling stuff. For the cascade cooled benchmarking we used our 1200w Turbo Cool which has two EPS 12V plugs - made no difference to any board for overclocking margin.

    As for the memory testing detail leading to the discovery of high VTT etc: All memory sub-timings were tried both at vendor defaults (apart from the very loose B2B CAS delay MSI default to - spacing back to back reads by 13~14 clocks, which is terrible for performance) and also matched to a looser set at which all other boards passed the stress testing. RTL parameters were adjusted from base to see if it helped the MSI board. Unfortuantely, nothing worked, and that's on two boards. The issues have been reported back to MSI and they are aware. If you head over to XS forums and HWbot you will see others reporting similar issues – we are not alone.

    Ragards
    Raja
    Reply
  • Juddog - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    Good response, thank you. :)

    Question - did it make a big difference on the MSI board using the black memory slots versus the blues?
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    You cannot use the blue slots without populating the black - IMC limitation.

    Regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • Juddog - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    Is it ok for me to link the thread at HWBOT?
    http://hwbot.org/forum/showthread.php?t=7155

    Like you said, it appears that only some have this issue where others do not, very strange indeed. Some people in that thread mention your exact same issue, one of the replies states they replaced the motherboard for another and the new one didn't have the issue, very strange. Thanks again for the good work.
    Reply
  • dia - Saturday, July 17, 2010 - link

    Juddog. You must be a re-seller, how can anyone that has the board not know about X58 and memory slot use? Reply
  • zero2dash - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    The only board I'd consider spending this type of megabucks on would be the (EVGA Classified) SR-2 and that would be just because I've really gotten into Folding@home over the last year.

    If I didn't already put together 2 X58/i7 systems, I'd get an SR-2 today.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    I can't see why I'd dump my Gigabyte EP-45 UD3P, 8GB of RAM, and Q9650 clocked at 3.6GHz for all of this when Sandy Bridge is just around the corner, which won't even use Socket 1156 or 1366.

    My rig performs somewhere between an i5-750 and an i7-920. I still can't believe how insane Socket 1366 boards are compared to previous-generation equipment.
    Reply

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