Prelude to a New Year-

There are numerous changes occurring around the lab in how we review product. Put simply, a return to the basics is the mantra for the motherboard team in 2009. We discussed some of these changes in our first X58 roundup. In fact, our first retail experience reviews will be published next week. As we discovered during the new review process, testing every single hardware or software feature on a board with several dozen top selling components in various combination's has proven to be a bit time consuming. But we think the efforts are worth it and will expand this type of testing as we progress through 2009. More on the details in a week or so.

In the meantime, we will also provide quarterly updates on some of the products we review during the year to see if the manufacturer has addressed any potential problems, improved performance/stability/compatibility, and customer service aspects related to the product. Our goal here is to provide an ownership experience summary and to see which suppliers just talk the talk or those willing to walk the walk when it comes to product support.

We sometimes forget one of the most important aspects when it comes to purchasing a product is customer service, technical support, and warranty procedures when that shiny new trinket arrives in the lab. Well, no more, and expect us to call out a few suppliers in the coming weeks when it comes to overall support of a product. I know of one that already has me mad as hell from a consumer viewpoint, but that is a discussion for another day.

EVGA X58 SLI - Return to Greatness

This is our third and final look at the EVGA X58 SLI motherboard. Put simply, in the first set of X58 boards that we received, this was the one board that intrigued us most. After a history of releasing motherboards based on NVIDIA chipsets only, this was their first Intel offering. Not only that, but a fairly new team was assembled to design and manufacture this board.

The board was raw when it first arrived in our labs but we recognized its potential right away. Unfortunately, it took some time before EVGA could address numerous problems with the BIOS and the new E-Leet software utility. We are happy to report that this board is in great shape now, although we still have a couple of problems with it. Problems that should be ironed out in the upcoming ultra-enthusiast based X58 Classified product.

Raja and I feel like we could disassemble and reassemble this board in our sleep after spending a thousand plus hours between the two of us testing it. The board feels like a fine pair of broken-in shoes to us now. We feel comfortable and self assured that this product will do what's asked of it and do it well. This is not say it is perfect, we still have a couple of annoying problems with it that keep it from receiving our highest honor.

Speaking of those problems, the first one is the S3 resume bug that occurs when the board is clocked with a high BCLK setting. While EVGA has worked on improving the resume features when the board is overclocked, it does not always work right. We have found with the latest BIOS that the board typically resumes from S3 state when the BCLK is kept below 166 or so, not always, but generally nine out of ten times in our testing. Anything higher and it is a crapshoot if the board will resume properly. This is a hardware limitation based on the Clock Generator utilized by EVGA.

Our second problem is that the BIOS recovery system does not always work when trying to recover from a failed overclock. This is frustrating at times but fortunately EVGA includes a couple of clear CMOS buttons if the board hard locks. Lastly, a more accurate report of real voltages; especially VTT/Uncore. Reading VTT voltage with a DMM from the measurement pad adjacent to the DIMM slots reveals a significant level of offset between the DMM and the values reported in the BIOS or E-Leet application.

If you stick to the formula of adding the BIOS set mv scale to a base value of 1.10V, it will get you closer to actual load voltages reported at the measuring pad (although the droop/offset will increase as you apply more voltage). We thought it important to highlight this as the Nehalem architecture is sensitive to the delta between VDIMM and VTT voltage, remember VTT must be kept within 0.5V of VDIMM. We also noticed thinner traces on the VTT line that can increase droop under load.

On average, our two boards had actual VTT readings about 0.10V under what was set in the BIOS. Also, VDimm tended to droop about 0.025V under load. Once we understood this, it was easy to get this board to clock as well as or better than the other X58 boards. In regards to the memory ratio problems we had in our roundup, those have been fixed and this board now offers BIOS features and memory performance comparable to the other X58 enthusiast level boards. With those gripes out of the way, the EVGA X58 SLI is pretty much as good as it gets for a first generation board built to support a new CPU architecture.

Award Time-

All that said, we are honored to present our Silver Editors Choice award to EVGA for the X58 SLI motherboard. We actually considered the Bronze award due to a few lingering problems discussed earlier. However, after some serious debates on the merits of our award level, it was an easy decision due to the fact that EVGA has some of the best technical support and customer service in the business.  The quality of components, stability, compatibility, performance, software features, and overall value of the EVGA X58 SLI is simply outstanding.  While these attributes are very important, ultimately we believe customer support now and in the future should be a major factor when purchasing a product.  In this regard, you just will not find anyone better than EVGA.

Overall, the progress EVGA has made since our original review is incredible.  While one could argue the board was released in a beta state, you would be right on that point, it takes a certain amount of determination and dedication to address the number of problems this board faced.  We feel like at this time that EVGA has addressed those problems to the best of their ability considering the hardware components utilized.  We still expect some fine tuning for memory performance and additional tweaks for S3 recovery, but the board is about as solid as it will get at this point.  As it stands, the EVGA X58 SLI is a great board for the enthusiast and one we highly recommend now.



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  • ggathagan - Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - link

    I'm somewhat torn on this.
    We are the ones that clamor for the bleeding edge of technology.

    If Intel/NVIDIA/AMD announces a new chipset and ABC Motherboards doesn't have a motherboard on the shelves that same day, we bitch and moan about it.
    Given the ridiculously short R&D cycles available to motherboard makers, and the ridiculously short life cycle for a given chipset, all the manufacturers know that they have a very small window of opportunity to sell a given product before they are passed by.

    I agree that it's not right that the buying public serve as beta testers for a product however, if a company is aggressive in rectifying problems found on their products and if they are equally aggressive in getting properly working boards in the hands of the early adopters who have problems, then I'm less inclined to trash the company.

    There also has to be some thought given to whether or not a given problem resides in the motherboard or in the chipset used.
    As I recall, a lot of the issues with the 680i motherboards were shown to be a problem with the chipset, not the motherboard.

    Lastly, unless one is referring to the physical layout on a motherboard, I fail to see where the appearance of a motherboard has anything to do with quality of that board.
    Reply
  • Intrepi - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    Well, how about some input on their warranty and lack of support issues which is non existent for anyone other than the original purchaser ? I just read an ad in Craigslist listing an EVGA 285 graphics card for sale. If anyone would pay 350 bucks for something that they couldn't get repaired or servicing for, they'd have to be missing on a few cylinders. Anyone buying EVGA products would do well to consider the fact that XFX has double the warranty and it is extended to 2nd buyers on their used products. Question to EVGA, how do I get your junk fixed or repaired because no matter what the reviews say, there is a problem here that should be avoided by consumers, if you don't buy, maybe they'll get to realize why as ALL manufacturer's of boards and graphic cards have adapted the screw everyone except the original purchser. If you don't mind this, then buy an EVGA product but please don't bother listing it anywhere for sale as everyone else can do without the NO WARRANTY - NO REPAIR
    and NO SUPPORT that comes with the EVGA products.
    Reply
  • rludwic - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 - link

    As I've only been a true enthusiast for the past 5 years or so maybe my reply to the EVGA NO WARRANTY-NO REPAIR may not mean much but I feel I have to throw my 2 cents in here. My previous build before the X58 platform, consisted of an Asus P5N32-SLI Deluxe and a dual core 930 with two XFX 7600gt's. The board was a true piece of junk, customer support was nill, numerous bios problems and a true "gloves off" ordeal to get the board RMA'd. Asus made it to the bottom of my list and I would have preferred to have a Dell than that piece of junk. The XFX cards both fell apart in my hands from overheating issues. When one of them started to make strange noises I decided to pull it and see what the problem was. I found the plastic fan assembly had cracked from heat so I decided to pull # 2 and the entire fan assembly fell off the card in pieces. That's when I started my research on the core I7's and the x58 platform. I was in on that build by the middle of January and the chips came out in November. There were very few choices of m/b's then and to me it looked like the EVGA board was the best option. Since I was buying an EVGA board I decided to try their cards also. The build was a dream. I'm still using the GTX 260's I bought for that build and they are both running smoothly with a mild overclock on them. At the time I was running 12 gigs of ram and I noticed in CPU-Z one of the sticks was not reading 2048MB's. I spent hours with a very friendly and helpful tech trying to resolve the issue once we found all sticks were good and I felt one of the memory slots had to be bad, and without hesitation that board was RMA'd 2 days. The new board gave me the same issue so I returned the CPU to Microcenter thinking the IMC was bad. Turned out the problem was with CPU-Z. Having been treated so well by EVGA tech support, when the D0's came out I bought their Classified ans two GTX 275's.I could never push the C0 over 3.8GHz so I bough another case, power supply and monitor and all those original parts are still running fine in my wife's "new rig" while my "new rig" has been chugging along problem free @ 4210MHz 24/7 for the past 8 months. After doing "battle" with Asus and then being treated like I mattered to EVGA I'd be hard pressed to go somewhere else now. Their tech support and customer service is top notch. That, and both my builds have had no issues, if I wasn't in the market for the next gen Nvidia cards, I'd have no problem buying that 285 off Craigslist sans warranty! Reply
  • sonci - Saturday, January 17, 2009 - link

    Since someone mentioned their forums, just to say that they are full of fanboys who attack you immediately if you complain about something..

    Really, is there any made in label on the board?
    Reply
  • Average Joe - Friday, January 16, 2009 - link

    I also would like to see a review of this board. Physically, it looks good. I have always assumed AsRock was complete junk but perhaps I will be pleasently surprised. Reading the reviews of the new X58 boards so far the big names out there haven't exactly been praised for thier flawless execution. Just taking a glance at new egg, I noticed EVGA has the best rating for X58 boards. AsRock doesn't have thiers out yet. I did noticed AsRock doesn't seem to have any "5 egg" Intel boards whatsoever. (Well, there's a couple with 5 or less reviews.) Reply
  • Mr Roboto - Friday, January 16, 2009 - link

    I had numerous issues with my nForce 680i SLI board. It would run great for 6-8 months then start to act up. Long story short I went through 4 RMA's. They would send refurbished boards that would die after a few months. I understand they can't just throw out the majority of mobo's they have sent back as faulty. They repair them and send them back out as replacements.

    Finally after the 3rd RMA I was livid. I demanded a new board and they obliged. On the first RMA I paid the $30 overnight cross RMA. To EVGA's credit they never asked any questions or tried to deny me the RMA. They also sent all subsequent mobo's overnight at no extra cost or try to send them by UPS ground to save money. Although some aspects of their tech support could use some work (tech to tech intercommunication) they are one of the few hardware companies that have an actual US based tech and support service.

    Although the 680i left a bad taste in my mouth (working fine since the new replacement) EVGA have proved to me that they will go beyond what other companies would do to resolve the problem even if it means taking a loss or reduced profit on a product and to me that's what it's all about, making sure the customer if left feeling satisfied.
    Reply
  • Average Joe - Friday, January 16, 2009 - link

    This board is decent looking. Everybody buys their parts from the same bin so maybe that can't specify the color of all their parts and once upon a time stuff was color coded so you could tell what a slot was for.

    But these guys managed to get a relatively subdued looking board that still looks speedy. I give EVGA credit for that. Still, I wish that for 400 bucks or so the expansion slots and the memory slots were the same color scheme.

    At least its not as bad as MSI's boards... those guys must be color blind.

    Reply
  • docomo661 - Friday, January 16, 2009 - link

    Have you guys come to or come near a conclusion as to what might be the maximum temperature and voltage for the Core i7 920? That information is not provided on the Intel web page =( Reply
  • cesthree - Friday, January 16, 2009 - link

    I'd sooner eat glass than deal with EVGA again. Sure you can get a response and useless advice for the horrible Nvidia mobos, but again it's all support for BETA products.

    Their "support" may be enthusiastic, however it would suit enthusiasts much better if products were released in a RTM form rather than BETA.

    How about testing a product as extensively (or MORE) as Anandtech has done, fix the bugs, THEN release to market?

    Would an "active" support forum be necessary to the extent that it is over at EVGA? I'll wait for a product, if the manufacturer will fine tune it before filling up the shelves.

    Otherwise expect a support forum that will be full of the same problems over and over, for what? The appearance that you have "great" support when you should have put more effort into FINISHING the project before rushing to release it.

    DFI always waits to release, you won't see HALF the threads started for support on their mobos at DFI Club Forums.

    Sure you have to wait for DFI, but talk about a product that shines, DFI does that over and over.

    Where is the LP UT X58-T3eH8 review at Anand? Remember the good old days when you had reviews for the P35-T2RS with info from freecableguy that would just blow away other reviews??

    Those weren't multiple reviews of "fixing bugs" for EVGA's BETA crap, that was TESTING that yielded awesome information for people who might not have the means to really get inside a board and tweak it the way you guys do.

    THANK YOU for reviews like those, bring them back. You shouldn't have given EVGA a silver, or bronze, but rather a WOODEN medal. Much more suitable material for the caliber of their rushed products.
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Friday, January 16, 2009 - link

    Hi,

    Gary is working on the DFI X58 review. With regards to big reviews like the DFI P35 board, the Core i7 platform is a whole lot easier to overclock, it's about setting 4-5 gross voltages and the CPU pretty much determines the fate of the rest.
    Triple channel memory means that speeds over 1600MHz don't really result in much of a real world gain. In fact, CAS or memory timing related gains are fairly miniscule in everyday tasks too, even more so than on the FSB architecture. So much so, that even Oskar decided to leave most of the secondary timings out of his current X58 board and just stick with the main major secondary’s, unless he was struck by overwhelming demand. That tells you something in itself. Plus, we have no present access to anything similar to tRD; it's all pretty much automated.
    Also, there are no GTL reference voltages or ultra sensitive CPU side ref voltages to adjust for the time being. On the memory side there's DIMM DQ and DATA refs and it could be argued those are of similar ilk (but are a whole lot more ineffective to what we needed to do with GTL’s on FSB and Quad core CPU’s. Most of the time you leave the DIMM ref’ at their nominal 0.50x percentage).
    I'm sure there will be some guides along the way if they're needed, but at present it seems to be a game of simple rules. The first is realizing that there is quite a variance in the CPU’s alone from batch to batch. I have purchased two retail 920’s over the past few weeks as a user and they are worlds apart when it comes to IMC scaling.

    Regards
    Raja
    Reply

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