Intel X58 Roundup: Six $300+ Platforms Compared

Gigabyte GA-EX58-Extreme

Features and Layout

Gigabyte’s take on extreme overclocking motherboards is inclusive of other high-end markets, as its GA-EX58-Extreme includes oversized cooling, ostensible support for 3-way SLI, and support for up to six DDR3 memory modules. That pits it squarely against Asus’ Rampage II Extreme, but with less “bling” to thrill the case-mod crowd.

Although 3-way SLI is theoretically supported, for many builders it might not be practicable. Like its blinged-out competitor, the EX58-Extreme’s lowest PCIe 2.0 slot forces double-slot cards one space beyond the bottom slot of a standard ATX case. However, cases with eight to 10 slots do exist, so Gigabyte includes a 3-way SLI bridge.

As the first motherboard in today’s comparison to support up to seven expansion cards, the EX58-Extreme’s top PCIe (x1) slot is limited to extremely short cards (less than 3.25”) due to positioning of its northbridge water block. Installing the optional bolt-on radiator further encroaches on card space in its second (x4) slot.

We would normally consider an open-ended PCIe x4 slot a great feature since it allows x8 RAID cards to be installed, but a hold-down pin on the northbridge cooler gets in the way. Thus, the GA-EX58-Extreme’s limitations are nearly identical to that of the previously-mentioned Asus Rampage II Extreme.

Gigabyte trumps Asus in drive support, with 10 SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports at the front edge. An Ultra ATA header at the bottom is less convenient, but few builders would choose such outdated technology. The additional SATA ports don’t come without drawbacks either, since each pair is connected through a hub to a single 3.0 Gb/s pathway. Furthermore, both hubs plus the Ultra ATA connection are connected to a single PCIe x1 based controller, so that a total of six drives must share a single 250 MB/s link to the chipset.

The floppy header, which is an even more outdated interface and is still required for some Windows XP installations, is nearly useless beneath the lowest PCIe 2.0 slot.

Gigabyte departs from most of its rivals in onboard power and reset button placement by putting these near the top of its EX58-Extreme, where they can be more easily reached in many fully configured systems. On the other hand, the case of a fully configured system has its own power and reset buttons.

Gigabyte GA-EX58 Extreme (Revision 1.0)
Northbridge

Intel X58 Express

Southbridge

Intel ICH10R

Voltage Regulation

Twelve Phases

BIOS

F4 (12/22/2008)

133.3 MHz Base Clock

133.0 (-0.25%)

Clock Generator

ICS 9LPRS914EKLF

Connectors and Interfaces

Onboard

3 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (Two with Shared Pathways)

1 x PCIe x1

2 x PCI

2 x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector).

2 x IEEE-1394 FireWire

1 x Floppy

1 x Ultra ATA (2 drives)

10 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s

2 x Fan 4-pin (CPU, System)

4 x Fan 3-pins (Chassis, Power)

1 x Front Panel Audio connector

1 x CD Audio In

1 x S/P-DIF In

1 x S/P-DIF Out

1 x Power Switch

1 x Reset Switch

1 x LED POST Code display

I/O Panel

2 x PS2 (keyboard, mouse)

2 x Digital Audio Out (optical, coaxial)

1 x IEEE-1394 FireWire

1 x CLR_CMOS button

8 x USB 2.0

2 x RJ45 Ethernet

6 x Analog Audio Jack (8 ch. out + line, mic in)

Mass Storage Controllers

Intel ICH10R

6 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s (RAID 0, 1, 5, 10)

Gigabyte SATA2 (JMB363) PCIe

1 x Ultra ATA-133 (2-drives)

2 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s Interface

2 x JMB322 on SATA

2 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s to 4x SATA 3.0 Gb/s

Network

2 x Realtek RTL8111D PCIe

Dual Gigabit LAN with Teaming

Audio

Realtek ALC889A HD Codec

Eight-Channel (7.1 Surround) Output

Dolby Home Theater Compatible

IEEE 1394 FireWire

TI TSB43AB23 PCI

3x FireWire 400 (2x Internal, 1x I/O Panel)


Gigabyte hides its PCIe SATA controller under the southbridge sink, but leaves two Realtek RTL8111D PCIe-to-Gigabit-Ethernet controllers out in the open.

A TSB43AB23 FireWire controller uses a legacy PCI interface, while the ALC889A HD audio codec sits on the ICH10R’s digital audio interface.

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  • avatar_raq
    Nice review..For so long we waited for such comparison.
    1
  • FelixM
    Please: add FSX to the test!
    1
  • avatar_raq
    1. Why adding crossfire bridges when each and every ATI graphics card is shipped with one? When did mobos come with them anyway?
    2. Are the slots of DFI mobo made of UV reactive material? They look so to me
    3. One might think wider bios OC options take into consideration future CPUs but new CPUs usually require bios update, and then the manufacturer may improve the new bios. That said each mobo reviewed here has enough OC potential in its BIOS, question is: which one will endure extreme OC 24/7 for a long period? This is the one thing that can only tested retrospectively. Personally I had 2 cheap ASUS mobos (P35)and they both overclocked well and worked flawlessly.
    4. I see ASUS and Gigabyte mobos take the lead in most of the tests. ASUS has the lead in most games and better customer service in my country and GB having a water block for the NB.
    1
  • avatar_raq
    It would have been nice to mention the net prices of these motherboards to compare their value.
    Quick search on newegg gave the following (not counting the MIRs):
    ASUS ~400 USD (ooph!!)
    GB ~330
    DFI not found !
    EVGA ~270
    Foxconn not found !
    MSI ~350
    After putting everything into consideration I would go for the Gigabyte model if I have net shopping. Nevertheless from a value point of veiw the EVGA one wins since it's the cheapest of the "4" models whose price is found at newegg and the performance defecit is so small. This card do not even fit into the title of the article, it's not $300+ at the time being (perhaps it was so when they started preparing for this article).
    0
  • avatar_raq
    Update:
    DFI ~300 USD
    XFX ~290 USD (not included in the article)
    Foxconn: Still I can't find the blood rage on newegg.
    0
  • mi1ez
    Why are these companies giving the option of taking the PCIe freq to 200MHz?!
    0
  • LePhuronn
    Asus Rampage II Extreme: £321.99
    DFI Lan Party UT X58-T3EH8: £293.24
    EVGA X58 3X SLI: £241.49 (I think)
    Foxconn Bloodrage: £280.59
    Gigabyte EX58 Extreme: £264.49

    Prices from overclockers.co.uk

    Incidentally, isn't the Gigabyte EX58 Extreme the only board here that can handle 24GB of RAM? All other boards are capped at 12GB aren't they?

    Also, I'd suggest to Tom's to review this subject again - they've already mentioned mainstream board reviews, but personally I'd like to see the Asus P6T6 WS Revolution reviewed - always had good experiences with the Asus workstation boards so I'm very interested in this new one.
    0
  • Anonymous
    I think a determening factor could be less in the boards overclockability, and perhaps more in it's functions and price.

    Like, if I'm going to install WinXP or a 32 bit version of vista, having 3 ramslots is more then sufficient (3GB).
    If I want a server, install a 64 bit os, 6 slots (12-24GB) is rather a must.
    I probably won't use a server to play games, though some people might.

    Also pricepoint is a good factor to determine which board could be a snatch.

    Quality of capacitors and boardmaterial, as well as longetivity of hardware play a role in making one board win over another.

    There's no winner when a certain board manufacturer has increased performance for lower power, but when their boards die within their first year of use due to the use of bad components!
    0
  • zebzz
    I think unless your a gaming freak with lots of money or as ProDigit80 has stated that you want to use them for servers, then the current socket 775 and AM2 processors / and DDR2 memory are cheaper and provide the performance about 99.5% people need. Again its all down to specialised needs.
    0
  • Anonymous
    Nice
    0
  • swharth
    It's a pretty cool board. The only complaint I had was that the slots for the Dual GTX280 cards were to close together. Not a lot of room for air circulation. I had to replace mine, and now using a DX58SO. Also a nice board, but missing the "WOW" factor.
    0