EVGA X58 SLI

Features


There aren't too many bells and whistles on the EVGA X58 SLI from a hardware feature viewpoint, and considering the market for this board we think that's a good design choice. The almost universal Realtek RTL-8111C PCIe Gigabit Ethernet controllers are utilized in tandem; the Realtek ALC-889 is on board for HD audio; and JMicron’s JMB362/363 chipsets get the nod for eSATA, IDE, and additional SATA port duties. TI is selected for IEEE 1394a support and the Intel ICH10R is utilized for primary storage purposes. We have never been real big fans of either Realtek audio or JMicron IDE, but considering the dearth of competition in the onboard peripheral market, you make do with the provided choices.

The BIOS is designed to get the most out of the board when overclocking. At first glance, some of the available options like the number of memory timings seem sparse compared to the ASUS and Gigabyte offerings. However, EVGA does a very good job of setting sub-timings to optimal points so far in our testing. We still prefer the ability to set additional memory timings and skew levels ourselves, but we can certainly live with the decisions made by the BIOS, although those at the bleeding edge of benchmarking would probably prefer the additional control level in either the ASUS or Gigabyte products. We just received BIOS IX58SZ17 that features additional memory settings and fine tuning options. We will update our comments and results once we have finished testing.

In a nod to the users who like to cool their systems via cascade or LN2, EVGA provides two different modes to properly set the board at POST for sub-zero temperatures. Those who love or need voltages to improve clock speeds will not have any problems with the choices provided by EVGA. DRAM voltages sky rocket up to 3.075V and VCore goes to a nice silicon melting 2.3000V. VDroop control can be enabled or disabled. In fact, the board has a tendency to slightly overvolt with VDroop control disabled.

Also, you can fine tune the frequency level on the digital PWMs. We normally left it at 800KHz to help reduce temperatures in the CPU area but switched to 1067KHz when overclocking our i920 past 4GHz. We were able to get an additional 80MHz out of our CPU on air by switching from 800 to 1067 once we passed 4GHz. EVGA also provides a setting called a dummy overclock; quite simply, enable this setting and the board will set itself to run a 20x160 overclock on the i920. We found the settings to be perfectly stable during benchmark testing, though obviously that's a far cry from what manual overclockering can achieve.

EVGA also supports a stock 1333MHz memory speed on the i920/i940 processors along with opening up QPI link speeds from a standard 4.800 GT/s up to 6.400 GT/s, which is standard on the i965 Extreme processor. We were disappointed with the lack of OC profiles in the initial BIOS, but the latest BIOS allows a total of eight profiles to be saved.

Finally, the board fully supports 12GB of DDR3 memory. We have not had any real problems running 12GB of our Patriot or G.Skill DDR3-1600 kits at 1600 with 8-8-8-24 1T timings, although we needed about 1.70V for absolute stability. Dropping the command rate to 2T allows 1.65V operation with the current BIOS.

One last item of note is that the three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots will operate in x16/x16 mode for 2x SLI/CF if the third x16 slot is empty. If you decide to place a PCIe RAID, network, audio, or TV tuner card in the third x16 slot, then a 2x SLI/CF configuration will operate in x16/x8 mode. We did not notice any performance differences between the two modes with our HD 4870 or GTX 260 cards. 3x SLI/CF configurations will run in x16/x8/x8 mode. You can also use the first and third x16 slots for graphics if you need to open up a PCI slot but the board will run in x16/x8 mode. Although the owner’s manual states the three x16 slots are for graphics cards only, we had no problems running our ASUS Xonar D2X or Highpoint Rocket RAID cards in x16 slots two or three.

The Board

Gallery: EVGA X58 SLI

The primary design goal from EVGA was to allow 3x SLI/CF operation without needing a special case design to make room for the bottom video card. Put simply, this board will allow tri-card installations in most ATX cases but at the expense of rendering the additional PCIe and PCI slots physically unusable.

Keep that in mind when trying to figure out why EVGA located the lone x1 PCIe slot next to the first x16 slot. EVGA might as well have left it off the board (the same holds true for the other boards) and saved some money. We assume just about any owner willing to pay $299.99 for the board, at least $300 for a CPU, and $250 or so for 6GB of DDR3 will not be running a single slot GPU. In fact, unless you are going all out to set up up a folding machine or something similar, any GPU choice under an HD 4870 or GTX 260 is just a waste on this setup. Fortunately, the other PCIe x16 slots double for peripheral duty so those are available if needed.

The northbridge heatsink is fairly large and actively cooled. We could not hear the fan over our HD 4870 card, so noise should not be a problem. We were able to comfortably fit our large air coolers on the board without too much trouble once the PWM heatsink was moved slightly. The PWM heatsink looks nice, has an impressive EVGA logo stamped on the top fin, and is generally a pain in the you-know-what to work with when installing the 8-pin ATX power connector, large CPU heatsinks, or during case installation. It does a nice job of keeping the digital PWMs cool, but we just think something in a low rise design would have been better suited.

Some will wonder about the positioning of the 8-pin EPS12V power connector since it is a tight fit for most cables and the CPU fan header is right next to it just to make matters more interesting during installation. The position was chosen to provide the quickest and most stable power path to the CPU. We understand the reasoning and support EVGA’s decision, but a different PWM cooling solution would have made life easier.

Other than the above, the layout is very good and works well for us in a variety of cases. The board does come with power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons. In fact, two clear CMOS buttons are provided, one on the bottom edge of the board and the other on the IO panel. A handy LED debug display is available and six of the nine SATA ports are provided in a right angle setup.

The Application


Gallery: EVGA X58 SLI

The ability of a board manufacturer to provide unique hardware or software features helps to differentiate products based on the same hardware. EVGA is hard at work in fully developing their Windows based on-the-fly overclocking utility. The application is known as the EVGA E-LEET Tuning Utility. We tested with version 1.02.08 that features profiles that can be saved and then applied quickly with a simple hot-key combination.

The E-LEET tuning utility was created with the CPUID software development kit, so users of CPU-Z will feel right at home. In fact, the utility will create a CVF file that can be submitted for validation to the CPU-Z database. There are six tabs with CPU, Memory, Monitoring, and Option being informational in nature. The Overclocking and Voltages tabs are where the action is with this program. The Voltages tab allows all of the major voltages to be changed on-the-fly and the Overclocking tab lets you adjust Bclk (QPI) , PCIe bus speed, and Turbo mode. Turbo mode selections cannot go higher than what the processor allows.

We found the utility to be handy in squeezing out that last Bclk step and to help ensure voltages are properly set at each overclocking step. The changes are not saved to the BIOS or a BIOS profile (hint, hint) and at this time the user will need to power down their system when exiting Windows to properly clear/reset the clock generator. We would like to see the ability to change the CPU multiplier and memory settings in future updates. Otherwise, the utility is very helpful but not a knockout, need-to-buy-the-board type of tool yet.

Index Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5
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  • CEO Ballmer - Sunday, December 07, 2008 - link

    Intell is on the ball!

    http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com">http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com
    Reply
  • Elvis2 - Sunday, December 07, 2008 - link

    i'm tired of being a free beta tester for these "top" tier manufacturers (remembering my E7205 days). If I'm going to spend $300.+ on a motherboard, I expect it to work AS ADVERTISED. I used to upgrade every year but for the past couple, I've been hesitant to do so. I don't want to fork over my hard earned cash (particularly in this economy)for a new rig only to spend hours on the phone with some tech support guy that dosen't know half of what I do ( let's start on page ten ok?)and wait weeks for a bios that corrects the problem. My Opty rig has been incredibly stable while producing a 50% o/c (thanks eVGA)but is getting long in the tooth. I run SLI and have been waiting on an Intel chipset that supports it. I'm going back to intel and the i7 920...maybe. I'm going to wait a couple of months tho. Bleeding edge, spending that kind of coin, and the hassle of working out the bugs, after fifteen years it's not worth it to me.
    Sorry for the rant. Jmh $.02.
    btw, great article.
    Reply
  • fausto412 - Sunday, December 07, 2008 - link

    There isn't one board manufacturer thatdoesn't have a bunch of people complaining in the forums all over the internet. Anand's opening explains why.

    I hate upgrading bios expecting better stability or performance and getting more problems or no fixes.

    Gary, i think it is time to have some kinda of database that covers all boards and their known issues going back 2 years or to the 3 series boards. if the flag ship board has a problem then by extension lower end boards have that problem. if they didn't care to make their product the best then that is their problem. GIVE THEM BAD REVIEWS so that they get on the ball.
    I never knew Anandtech went back and forward with the board makers as if you're beta testers.

    We need to do something to make things better
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, December 08, 2008 - link

    I'd argue that it is entirely possible for the flagship product to have problems that lower-end products do not. Expensive X58 is the only option for now for i7 processors, but look back at LGA775. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some stability compromises were made on X38/X48 boards in pursuit of higher SuperPI numbers, while those same compromises are probably not present in the mainstream P35/P45 boards of the same age. Motherboards are one area where I can see going with a mid-level (~$90-130 for LGA775) product might give a better result for the majority of users than jumping to the high end would. Reply
  • borneoo - Sunday, December 07, 2008 - link

    Beside the GHz, and MB/s would be good to have a chart/list, which shows the problems of the parts, and aggregated charts to show problems belongs to the same company, ... or SEARCHABLE DATABASE about errors related to products / companies and solutions Reply
  • JonnyDough - Sunday, December 07, 2008 - link

    "Our plan is to cycle through each manufacturer so we are not singling out any one supplier but we are going to be brutally honest in our assessments in these particular focus reviews." (the quote button never works for me in Firefox. Plz fix)

    Awesome. At least someone is. I think a "two strikes before we post" policy is fair.
    Reply
  • DandAG - Sunday, December 07, 2008 - link

    After reading the first page of this article “Intel X58 Motherboard Roundup - What does $300 Get You?”, I started reading all the blogs. At first I agreed 100% with Anand’s comments, and wanted to jump on the band wagon like everyone else, but then I read some of the response. Realistically, review sites can’t use the boards under test with ALL the different software/hardware configurations consumers will, and they cannot postpone a review until all the BIOS and operating bugs are fixed…they would be releasing a review a year (or more) after the next generation hardware has already hit the market. People don’t visit these review sites to see how good a DDR2 system is compared to a DDR system, they come to these sites to read about the future, to get the “inside scoop” as to what the manufacturers are thinking up next, and to see the new features of hardware out there today because they are thinking of upgrading right now. To read about overclocking and performance comparisons is really just a bonus for the overwhelming majority. Most people just jump to the conclusion page to see if the reviewer recommends the product or not. We’ve all done it.

    Review sites need the merchandise to review and the funds to stay afloat, so upsetting certain manufacturers is not in their best interest. They can get away with critiques, questions, “less than expected” reviews, and some (very little) criticisms, but if they were to only give bad reviews every time, manufacturers would stop sending them products to review. And if you think that is a good thing, “they’ll just purchase the final release like the rest of us and provide a balanced review”, think again. If a review site did that, 1) it would have to advertise like crazy to maintain its purchasing ability, 2) not be able to provide future analysis, 3) and not provide the consumer anything more than what “free” chat rooms/manufacturer message boards give you.

    I agree there needs to be an industry-wide change; a change in R&D, change in QC, and a change in review process and reporting, BUT the real change has to come from the consumer. We the purchasers of their merchandise have to take a stand, bite the antiquated hardware bullet, and wait to buy until all the bugs are fixed (at least to a reasonable state). As long as we continue to want to be “the first” or “the fastest”, manufacturers will continue to scramble to be first on the market with crap that can or cannot be fixed later on.

    Don’t jump down the throats of review sites like AnandTech; instead tell them what YOU want to read about. Give these sites constructive criticism, and suggestions to better themselves like Christoph, Gary, Anand, and all the other reviewers here give the manufacturers. The old “if you don’t have anything better to say, then don’t say anything at all” thing.

    Personally, I would love to have AnandTech continue to review the next best thing before it hits the market just to see what the manufacturers are planning and whether or not the reviewer thinks upgrading will be worth it, BUT I also want them to then purchase that same item over-the-counter for a “final look” review, and then tell it like it is. Of course that can’t be done with all items initially reviewed (too time consuming), but the items that bloggers have shown the most interest in.
    Reply
  • Steve Z - Sunday, December 07, 2008 - link

    First, kudos for reqiring reliability. I've now bought the ASUS board. I won't overclock because I know what gate stress does to CMOS electronics (I slowly destroyed a chip I was testing at an elevated voltage. 18 hours is not enough time to run a $300 CPU). I use my computer to get work done and view overclockability as an indication of robustness in the board's engineering. If it's not - I need to know this. Thank you Gary and Anand - beleive me, $100 extra is a small price to pay for a motherboard that will not waste days of my time trying to get it to work.

    Second, a notice to those of you who are going to buy the ASUS board. They put the "Crash Free BIOS utility" and the driver installation utility on the same CD. Since installing all the drivers takes 3 restarts, imagine my surprise when installing the ethernet drivers did several surprise BIOS flashes (I didn't even know what was happening at first and I reset the system a few times during the process. To ASUS's credit, the board recovered).

    If I pay $300+ dollars for a board, I expect them to pay the extra 5 cents and include a second CD. When you go through your three restarts, make sure you remove the disk every time then put it back in once the OS starts up. Shame on you ASUS for the oversight.

    That said, everything is working well now. I hope I didn't buy a product from the company who thought it was only OK for 3 GB to run reliably as I'm running 6 GB now and will go up at some time in the future since I run math sims.

    cheers,
    --Steve Z.
    Reply
  • RagingDragon - Sunday, December 07, 2008 - link

    Reading the sections on each board, I think the ASUS was the only board which fully worked, out of the box, with 12GB of RAM. This strongly implies they were *not* the 3GB company.

    It's hinted the Gigabyte had some undescribed issues with 12GB and older BIOS's, and it's stated that the EVGA also had undescribed issues with 12GB (no indication whether those issues were at stock speeds or when overclocking). The MSI still has issues overclocking 12GB or RAM - nothing said about whether it worked at stock speed out of the box.
    Reply
  • LeeKay - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    I bought the GA-EX58-Extreme as I posted in the forums the quality of the board is the best I have seen but support wise and bios wise this board sucks worse than any board I have had. For a motherboard to have issues when I use 12GB is beyond me. I want to use this pc for everything from online banking thru gaming for the wife my son and me and to do video editing. Right now I can just run Need for speed undercover at any resonable clock speed without it crashing. Thats as of F4j. And I still can not let my board go to sleep with S3 enabled nor can I expect my Data drives running on the hardware raid controller to recover in S3 mode nore can I run my pc with any of the energy saving options in the bios. Oh and I cannot run my memory at 12gb and at 1600Mhz just noway in hell it will be stable. I have to run it at 1333mhz. I cant run SLI and have my X-FI PCI sound card in either PCI slot and have the pc boot into windows. It just blue screens with the latest Bios. (I am running 2 280GTX with single slot active cooling).

    The good note is to run at 4.13ghz I am running 1.425v without loadline correction. its stable and with the above taken into account far better tha the past issues.
    Reply

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