|ASUS P6X58D-Premium SATA6G Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 18 February 2010|
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Closer Look: ASUS X58D
In this section, Benchmark Reviews inspects those small feature details that set the ASUS P6X58D-Premium apart from all other X58-Express motherboards. While SATA-6G and USB-3 support are the highlight features, improvements to the power management, audio, and network functions also exist.
Like many other X58 motherboards, there are six DIMM slots available for DDR3 memory. The ASUS P6X58D-Premium accepts up to 24GB of DDR3 system memory. If overclocked 2000MHz DDR3 can be used; otherwise 1600/1333/1066MHz Non-ECC Un-buffered triple-channel memory architecture is supported. Support for Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory kits is standard on the X58-Express platform. X58-Express does not retire dual-channel memory mode, so enthusiasts who are already using their favorite DDR3 memory in an older system can upgrade to X58 without purchasing additional memory; the drawback is that dual-channel mode only doubles memory bandwidth while triple-channel mode will (you guessed it) triple the original bandwidth.
24GB of available system memory will really add momentum for 64-bit computing support, but the six DIMM slots might also help optimize current 32-bit systems with smaller 1GB modules. 32-Bit Windows Operating Systems for example, offers a 4GB maximum memory mapping space and anything more is ignored. Since most all PCI-E video cards available today offer at least 512MB of GDDR, it's theoretically impossible for enthusiasts to completely realize 4GB of system memory.
The rear Input/Output panel (I/O panel) receives the first major update: SuperSpeed USB-3.0 support. Color-coded PS/2 ports are available for older keyboard or mouse peripherals, purple for keyboard and green for mouse. Firmware 0603 originally came with the ASUS P6X58D-Premium, and a PS/2 keyboard was needed to enter the BIOS. Although it's difficult to see, a small black button offers the ability to clear CMOS settings and restart with defaults. Colored blue, two SuperSpeed USB-3.0 ports depend on the NEC-D720200F1 controller chip (part number µPD720200). Two more SuperSpeed USB3 ports could have fit directly beside the fist set, but ASUS engineers decided to leave this area empty.
Audio support on the ASUS P6X58D-Premium utilizes the Realtek ALC889 chip, which offers 7.1 High-Definition sound. This audio chipset may be integrated, but with a featured 106 dB Signal to Noise ratio over eight channels it's anything but low-end. The coaxial and optical S/PDIF out ports supply eight channels to PC audiophiles, delivering DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC support and Blu-ray Disc audio layer Content Protection. Realtek's ALC889 chip also supports audio-jack detection, multi-streaming, and front panel jack-retasking. Six analog-out audio jacks are available further down the panel, for backwards compatibility.
The VIA Technologies VT6308 controller powers two IEEE-1394a Firewire ports on the P6X58D-Premium, one at the back and another at the bottom of the motherboard. Four High-Speed USB-2.0 ports are stacked below dual Gigabit Ethernet adapters driven by a set of Marvell 88E8056-NNC1 chips. Both PCIe Gigabit LAN controllers offer the four-year old ASUS AI-NET2 technology, and although not documented on their website or in the manual, I've discovered can diagnose local area network connection issues before entering the Operating System. AI NET2 remotely detects cable connections at system power-on, and faulty connections are reported back up to 100 meters at 1 meter accuracy.
The Intel ICH10R Southbridge chip supports six SATA-3.0Gbps ports (colored blue) capable of RAID-0, 1, 5, and 10. Colored gray, a pair of third-generation SATA 6Gb/s ports are made available on the ASUS P6X58D-Premium by a Marvell 88SE9123-NAA2 controller. For those familiar, this is the second revision of the Marvell SE9123 chip, as the first version had issues with concurrent onboard IDE/PATA instructions. Alternatively, the RAID-capable Marvell 88SE9128 chip is used on Gigabyte motherboards and the performance differences will soon be made clear by our benchmark tests.
Pictured below is the backside of the motherboard PCB showing a PEM-ASP0801 chip, and EPU-ASP0800 power phase ICs covered with solid aluminum heatsink plates. The massive number of power VRM phases are intended to allow overclockers a more stable platform for their tweaking projects.
The ASUS EPU feature provides total system energy efficiency by detecting current PC loadings and intelligently moderating power in real-time by using a 16+2 phase VRM design. The 16+2 phase power design (16-phase to vCore; 2-phase to vDRAM/QPI controller inside CPU) can reach high power efficiency, dispel heat generated by VRM modules effectively by using high quality power components such as low RDS (on) MOSFETs, Ferrite core chokes with lower hysteresis loss, and 100% Japan-made high quality conductive polymer capacitors.
One particular feature the ASUS P6X58D-Premium motherboard offers gamers is a marriage of CrossFireX and Triple-SLI support on the same motherboard. ASUS includes a standard and 3-way SLI bridge connector, but CrossFire bridge connectors will need to be supplied by respective manufacturers.
ASUS offers three PCI-Express 2.0-compliant ports on the P6X58D-Premium: the first slot offers 16x link lanes, the second operates at 16x lanes or switches to 8x whenever the third slot is occupied, which also operates at 8x. In a two-card graphics setup using either ATI CrossFire or NVIDIA SLI configuration, the first two PCI-E 2.0 ports operating at 16-lanes per video card offers the most ideal bandwidth.
While adding a third video card for triple-SLI or CrossFireX won't come close to bandwidth saturation and should not see any measure of reduced performance for most video games, there could be a penalty for using that third PCIe slot when SATA6G (Marvell 9123) and USB-3.0 (NEC D720200F1) are enabled. Intel's X58-Express offers 32 total PCI-E 2.0 link lanes reserved for graphics, and the Intel X58 IOH provides an additional four lanes that can be used for graphics or I/O for a total of 36 PCI-Express lanes. More likely uses of those four lanes will be the DMI link, Marvell, and NEC chips, which will share those lanes or borrow as-needed for normal operation.
Another note of interest is the orientation of SATA ports, which utilize transverse-mount connections to stem cables off to the side of the motherboard for both SATA6G and four adjacent SATA3G ports. This layout works extremely well for all modern video cards, especially the larger GeForce GTX 285 and Radeon HD 4870 X2 video cards which occupy multiple expansion slots.
Please continue on towards the next section, which how Benchmark Reviews will go about testing the top-of-the-line ASUS P6X58D-Premium motherboard.