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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  • Sunsmasher - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    Your comments are extremely well thought out and relevant.
    The idea that $300(!) motherboards don't work reliably upon release
    is beyond ridiculous.
    I think your plan to write an as-is review initially in a great idea.
    This will give early buyers a true heads-up on what they're getting.
    And then later, you can perform your invaluable beta feedback service to the manufacturers and your readers.
    Hopefully, this policy will cause improvements on the QC end.
    Thanks again for being so on top of it!
    Reply
  • Zak - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    I still had working PII and PIII mobos that I trashed this year, not because they were bad but because these platforms were outdated. These mobos still worked 100% after what 7-8 years??? Each mobo I bough within the last 3-4 years never lasted more than 2 years without some major malfunction (some controller dying, memory slots failing, etc). The boards are getting more expensive and less reliable. There is an obsession with overclocking without any effort to offer perfect stability. Most users want a good balance of speed and stability, and as we all know one isn't any good without the other. Besides, overclocking yields minimal real life gains, unless you do something really extreme, and how many people do extreme overclocking??? Mobo makers should focus on stability and features first. Eh...We live in beta culture:(

    Z.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    What does AT get for being a quasi outsourced QA branch of these mobo manufacturers? To me it looks like you're being taken advantage of - its great that you work with them to get stuff fixed, but is there any compensation for the time invested other than the good feeling? Reply
  • Syntience - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    Some of us have non-parallelizable applications (in our case, a certain kind of AI research) that require vast amounts of memory but don't require that much in the way of processing power. We buy the motherboards with the highest number of memory slots and fill those up with the largest memory modules we can reasonably afford. At the moment (late 2008) that means 4GB DDR2 modules. Boards like SuperMicro H8QMi-2+ have 32 DIMM sockets on the motherboard which means our current sweet spot is 128GB.

    We expect motherboards to operate in these fully loaded configurations, and so far we've been quite lucky. But we'd appreciate manufacturers and reviewers consistently testing boards in whatever max memory capacity the manufacturer is advertising.

    Incidentally, we'd like to see motherboard manufacturers produce systems with DIMM sockets on daughter boards that could be stacked to some depth for even more memory, or even return to backplane/bus based designs with multiple separate memory boards. I don't know whether this is economically feasible to do with current memory interface chip sets. It clearly is possible, since these kinds of systems are available in the turnkey server market.

    - Monica
    Reply
  • LTG - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    What you guys are doing is outstanding and exactly the right thing.

    What's the saying, sunshine is the best disinfectant?

    That's what manufacturers need - as much light as possible shown on their quality and stability issues.

    Let the best companies reap the rewards just as the top automakers do with their reliability measures.

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

    The reason manufacturers have thrown reliability, stability, and maintainability (i.e., Quality) out the window is because of the way the review sites review their products. Back in the day, places like PC Magazine would do yearly articles that talked about which manufacturer produced, essentially, the highest quality products. Try to find something like that today. If a board doesn't have glowing fins, can't overclock to a bajillion GHz, use a terabyte of RAM, run 27 video cards in tandem, have every doodad imaginable stuck onto it, roar like a jet-engine because of the cooling requirements, and require a KW-level power supply, the review sites don't even cover it (I'm using an Intel DP45SG right now -- I double-dog dare you to find a review of it anywhere (I mean, it's only a fairly new board from the pre-eminent computer company on the planet)). Plus, every review automatically focuses on the over-clocking aspects of the boards. Overclocking is a fine thing to mention ONCE THE BASIC QUALITY OF THE BOARD AND THE COMPANY BEHIND IT HAS BEEN DETERMINED.

    For instance, this DP45SG. I bought it for two reasons: 1) it (supposedly) does exactly what I need it to do, and 2) Intel (supposedly) provides good support and reliable boards. There are no reviews out there because it's not an "enthusiast" board from an "enthusiast" company. So, I had to buy it blind. After setting it up, I found that (this is from my Newegg review):

    "Under Vista Ultimate (x64), drives connected to the eSATA port on the back do not get recognized as external or removable after the machine has entered and exited sleep mode. Without having slept, there's no problem. I confirmed this with 3 separate drives in 2 external enclosures.
    - The Dolby Control Center software doesn't exist in a 64-bit version. I searched Intel's site and the web in general and found nothing. Intel doesn't even know when there will be a 64-bit version.
    - The Intel Desktop Control Center software isn't available for the current BIOS. According to the web site: "The current BIOS release for Intel Desktop Board DP45SG does not support the Intel Desktop Control Center. A new version of the Intel Desktop Control Center will be posted here when a compatible BIOS becomes available."
    - The Intel Integrator Assistant software isn't available for 64-bit versions of either Vista or XP."

    The first three of those bullets are some of the core things I needed. They're advertised for the board, but there are no reviews. So, no one knows about it.

    Then, take a look at support. Intel just released a new BIOS for the board (0102). You can take a look at ABXZone in the Intel DP45SG (Skyburg) thread starting on page 38 for comments on this. In a nutshell, Intel released a BIOS that sets processor speeds and voltages wrong and killed SpeedStep if you just LOOKED at the processor settings. Granted, talking to their technical support was somewhat refreshing compared to other companies. But, finally, I (and others) reverted back to the previous BIOS.

    The horrifying thing is that this has nowhere to go but down. None of the sites cover this kind of information. So, basic quality just continues to ebb while the companies put more and more focus on the trivial bells and whistles that the "enthusiast" sites focus on.

    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, December 08, 2008 - link

    I'd guess the most basic answer is that they don't have enough man-hours available to do complete testing on every motherboard available. As far as I can tell, motherboard testing is done by Gary, with some help from Anand and possibly Raja. Guessing by the name of your board, it is a P45-based design. Looking at just ASUS site, they list 12 P45 boards, and based on previous ASUS experience there are probably more which just do not show up properly in the list. How long would it take one or two people to only check basic operation of the 12 listed boards? There are at least two relevant OSes to test under, Vista 32 and 64 bit. Do they test XP as well? Both 32 and 64 bit? How about any forms of Linux, again with both 32 and 64 bit? A previous commenter complained about a certain Logitech keyboard not working, just how many different peripherals should they keep around? And multiply this by however many boards all the other manufacturers have out, and get thm done in time to be relevant before the next chipset revision comes out? For free?

    As a result I imagine they pick only boards which stand out or they guess will bring the most traffic to the site. This ends up being the overclocking-friendly boards, some uATX boards, and some HTPC friendly boards it seems.
    Reply
  • ATWindsor - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    Very nice that you focus on stability and things actually working, to many sites give our "recommended"-stmaps in an uncritical fashion even when boards work poorly. This makes the site even more excellent, Goog work! Reply
  • poohbear - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    why are u guys accomodating the mobo manufacturers?!?!?! i understand you're one of the bigger review sites, but seriously if the product doesnt work just say that in your review, dont even bother contacting their engineers for help cause they should've taken care of that before it was even released. I dont read your reviews to see who i have to call or where i have to look to get a certain feature on the mobo to work. I know i sure as hell won't be able to call Evga's engineer and ask for help when my $300 mobo doesnt work. Gimme a break. I just want to know if it works out of the box.

    I'm glad to hear u guys are now going buy a mobo off the shelf to review the same product we all get, but didnt u do that all along?!!? its pretty disturbing to think u have always been reviewing cherry picked products. i'll have to read your reviews with a grain of salt UNLESS you specifically state where you got the product from. Didnt it ever occur to you that the products the manufacturer sends to u might have been unfairly optimized??


    Reply
  • thorgal73 - Saturday, December 06, 2008 - link

    ... motherboard makers that don't care about finishing their products before they come to the market, that is.

    A simple example is DFI, but lately even the tier 1 manufacturers are guilty of it. I personally pulled al lot of my hair out while reviewing the DFI X48-T3RS over at Madshrimps.be. I've spent 2 months on that one, before I had anything decent to write about, and even now the review feels incomplete.

    Did any of you notice that there never was a DFI X48-T3RS review here at Anand ? There was a preview with the Corsair 2133 memory, but the promised review never made it. Now you understand why...

    I can only side with Anand here that something needs to be done urgently. I myself am as sick and tired than any other reviewer to spend ages on a review, while having my boss at my back asking "what's taking so long" ;-) I agree with the opinion that unfinished boards do not deserve publication, problem is, no boards that we (reviewers) get in our hands are finished, as they're mostly rev. 1.0 (or worse) with very early biosses.

    Only solution is waiting with the risk that other sites will beat you to the review, and your own review will barely surface on the web any more....
    Reply

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