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PCI Express

ASUS P6T Deluxe X58 Motherboard for Core i7 ProcessorsASUS offers another option for enthusiasts with an eye on the new Core i7 processors, the ASUS P6T Deluxe OC Palm Edition motherboard. It is marketed as a fully loaded 1366 motherboard that offers unique features not found on other competing boards.  Features include a small 2.5" LCD display that provides overclocking options, three PCI express slots, and support for NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU technology. The high-end motherboard has a lot of competition, though, including the Intel DX58SO, MSI Eclipse, Foxconn Renaissance, and EVGA’s X58 SLI motherboard, as well as ASUS’ own Rampage II Extreme X58 motherboard. Enthusiasts will be interested to know how the fares when compared in terms of features, performance, and price.

The first distinct difference is the 2.5 inch LCD monitor. This is an exclusive device that can be plugged into the motherboard through any available USB port. It displays overclocking options and vital system information such as CPU temperature, fan speeds, etc. The user can easily monitor system performance, and take action should a problem arise (e.g. temperature rising to unstable/unacceptable levels). A Yahoo! Widget can also be used to access the data.

The ASUS P6T has three PCI Express 2.0 slots. The first two slots will run at x16 speed. If the second slot is set to x8 speed, the third slot can also run at x8 speed. This gives the user more flexibility for the hardware that can be used. Obviously, if you only need to use two slots (e.g. installing two graphics cards), both will run at x16 speed. In addition, a x4 speed PCI slot and two regular PCI slots are provided.

ASUS P6T Deluxe OC Palm Edition Motherboard

Another key feature of the ASUS P6T motherboard is the inclusion of SLI support.  This is a strategic business move on the part of ASUS, since NVIDIA charges a royalty fee per motherboard sold to manufacturers that offer support for SLI.  It is not supported by all manufacturers for this reason.

Memory wise, the board offers six physical slots, separated into two different colors. To achieve maximum efficiency, only three or six memory modules should be installed. If only 3 modules are installed, the same color slots should be used. In total, you can install up to 12GB of memory on the ASUS board.

Overall, the ASUS P6T compares very favorably to other options in many ways.  While it doesn’t offer the four PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots or fourteen USB 2.0 ports of the Foxconn Renaissance motherboard, the ASUS P6T is an excellent option due to the extras assuming it includes all the functionality you require.

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MSI X58 Eclipse MotherboardThe MSI X58 Eclipse motherboard is the next up for Intel’s Core i7 (Nehalem) processors.  As with all LGA1366 X58 motherboards, it fully supports up to 24GB of triple channel, DDR3 RAM.  The motherboard also boasts APS (Active Phase Switching), Drive Booster, and D-LED 2 (which displays debug messages during boot and system status messages during operation).

As we noted in the MSI P45 Diamond motherboard review, MSI has discontinued use of the circu-pipe heatsink in favor of a more traditional cooling solution.  The layout of the MSI X58 Eclipse motherboard is quite impressive, with all slots and ports being easily accessible.

The Eclipse includes MSI’s DrMOS QPI and chipset, IC 6-phase power system for the QPI, chipset, and memory, as well as a generous array of Japanese-made, solid aluminum capped capacitors, shielded chokes, and ten Hi-C capacitors for the CPU region (six for the CPU, two for the northbridge, and two for the QuickPath memory controller).  The GreenPower Genie is also implemented to offer more efficient power usage and a reduction of acoustic noise.  Flexible temperature sensors are in place to measure heat anywhere in the system.

As with the P45 Diamond, audio is offered in the form of a PCIe x1 based Creative X-FI controller (removable card) that supports EAX 5.0, 8-channel output, and 100dB SNR with a 24-bit / 96KHz range.

The MSI PCI/PCI Express slot placement is excellent.  Three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, two PCIe x1 slots, and two PCI slots are available.  Crossfire and SLI are both supported.

Extensive storage options are provided, including ten SATA (Intel ICH10R and JMicron JMB322) and two eSATA (JMicron JMB363) ports.

Power, reset, and DLED2 on/off switches are provided, as well as a dip-switch for adjusting base clock speeds between 133, 166, and 200 MHz during POST. The board also offers a few LED status indicators for QPI phase status, standby mode, etc.

Eight of the twelve total USB 2.0 ports are exposed through the I/O panel, and it also provides access to an IEEE 1394a port, two RJ-45 (Realtek 8111C) PCIe Gigabit ports, two eSATA ports, PS/2 keyboard/mouse ports, and a clear CMOS button.

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If you’re looking for a P45 motherboard, the MSI P45 Diamond is an excellent choice.  The Intel chipset (Eagle Lake) based motherboard is laced with incredible features, and is compatible with most LGA775 processors, like the Intel Core 2 Quad, Core 2 Extreme, Core 2 Duo, Pentium Celeron Dual Core, and Celeron. The image below showcases the boxing:

MSI P45 Diamond Motherboard Box

General Features Included

The physical dimensions of the product are 9.6 x 12 inch, and it is designed to exhibit compatibility with most current LGA775 processors. Here is the list of other general features one can expect from the motherboard.

  • Dual-core and quad-core support
  • The product is endowed with an 8-pin ATX12V connector, along with a 24-pin main power connector and 4-pin ATX12V connector
  • The motherboard supports dual-channel DDR3 RAM technology (up to 8GB)
  • Up to 2000FSB
  • Two PCI-e 2.0 x16 slots
  • Most importantly, the onboard audio device is a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio

Advanced Features Available

MSI has always made an effort to offer innovation and advanced features in their products, including motherboards. The latest product P45 Diamond motherboard is no exception.

  • The motherboard boasts “Green Power” for the highest level of efficiency compared to rival products
  • The Northbridge features an advanced, 2-phase power design
  • Hi-CAP, the conductive polymerized capacitors, are also implemented in the design
  • A high definition, surround sound audio system is provided that offers 7.1 channels of audio output
  • Networking support is provided via Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, and a Realtek RTL8111C network adapter
  • The BIOS enables ACPI 2.0 as well as DMI support

Circu-Pipe cooling has always been the trademark of MSI motherboards, however MSI has implemented a new liquid 2in/2out NB waterblock for enhanced cooling with this latest release.

Intel’s ICH10R Southbridge offers as many as 12 USB 2.0 ports and 6 SATA 3.0 ports. Also, server-class DrMOS is provided for impressive power efficiency, low temperatures, and enhanced stability with extreme overclocking. The design is able to maintain a working temperature that is as much as 16 degrees C lower than Mosfet-based options.

XpressCool technology is included in the design to offer zero noise and effective heat dissipation. RapidBoost is another new feature that is designed to help in achieving the highest overclock possible.

The packaging includes a large number of cables, including six SATA cables, three SATA power cables, an eSATA converter kit, and IDE and FDD cables. A backup CD and user manual are also provided.

The MSI P45 Diamond sells for about $275 through most sources.

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Foxconn X58 Renaissance MotherboardContinuing with the recent announcements of X58 motherboards, Foxconn’s X58 Renaissance offering will boast truly remarkable features.  Like all X58 motherboards, it supports triple-channel DDR3 memory, Intel Bloomfield LGA1366 (Core i7) processors, ATI CrossFire X multi-GPU technology, ICH10-R southbridge, etc.  However, what makes this motherboard stand out is the unprecedented four PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, fourteen USB 2.0 ports, and impressive overclocking capabilities.  Otherwise, the motherboard supports up to 24GB of DDR3-1333/1066/800 memory via the six DIMMs, 7.1 channel HDA audio with Dolby Digital Live and DTS connect support, and a 6-phase power circuit for the CPU.  This will be one to watch for, especially if you use multiple RAID cards that require x8 or x16 PCI Express slots, in addition to one or more video cards.  So far, this is the only X58 motherboard offering four PCI Express x16 slots.

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EVGA X58 SLI FTW MotherboardThis week marks the introduction of several of the most anticipated motherboards for the upcoming Intel Core i7.  Today, EVGA has provided information on their new X58 SLI FTW motherboard.

The motherboard is, of course, based on the Intel(R) X58 Express chipset for the Intel(R) Core(TM) i7 processors. The EVGA X58 SLI FTW motherboard features 6 DIMM slots for triple-channel DDR3 RAM, 2-way and 3-way SLI support, enhanced VDroop control, and the EVGA E-LEET Tuning Utility for easy, yet powerful overclocking.  The motherboard will be released next month alongside Intel’s next generation platform

EVGA X58 SLI FTW Motherboard Specifications:

  • Supports Intel(R) Core(TM) i7 Processors
  • Intel(R) X58 Express Chipset with the ICH10R
  • 6 DIMM Triple-channel DDR3 Memory Slots
  • 2-way and 3-way SLI as well as CrossFireX
  • EVGA Enhanced VDroop Control
  • EVGA E-LEET Overclocking Utility
  • 10 SATA II 3.0GB/s Ports and 1 e-SATA
  • 100% Solid State Capacitors

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As we all eagerly await the release of Intel’s Core i7 (Nehalem) processors, news is beginning to surface regarding the X58 motherboards.  Thus far, the best performing motherboard seems to be the ASUS Rampage II Extreme, with is, of course, specifically designed for the Intel i7 processors.

The new ASUS Rampage II Extreme will be packed with impressive features, including six DDR3 DIMM slots for tri-channel memory bandwidth (performance is said to be better using the blue slots), on-the-fly overclocking through Windows, two PCI Express x1 slots, three x16 PCIe 2.0 slots (dual x16 or x16/x8/x8), SLI and CrossFire support, 12 USB ports/headers, and much more.  Overclocking with the X58 motherboards will venture away from the comfort zone of the Core and Core 2 processors into a process similar to that used with AMD processors.

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