|Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 25 February 2010|
Page 16 of 17
Tylersburg Refresh Final Thoughts
Back when Benchmark Reviews launched the Intel Core i7 CPU & X58-Express platform in November 2008, having a team of two or more graphics cards seemed plausible for a few elite gamers. Extremely low retail prices on DDR3 system memory helped ease the new standard into mainstream acceptance when it would return in the P55-Express platform. However, it's because of Intel's X-before-P launch schedule that new technologies such as SuperSpeed USB-3.0 and third-generation SATA 6Gb/s were delivered on the mainstream P55 and overlooked the aging X58-Express "Tylersburg" enthusiast chipset. Without fail, the manufacturers have created their very own Tylersburg-refresh options ahead of the Intel X68-Express platform.
If X58 is good for anything, it's the 32-link lanes it provides PCI-Express 2.0 graphics. For single-unit video cards this is a non-issue, since sixteen lanes are more than enough and both the P55 or X58-Express platforms offer this. It's the multi-card setups that will see the most benefit from X58, primarily Triple-SLI and CrossFireX 'Tri-Fire' sets with three video cards. Additionally, the new NEC SuperSpeed USB3 and Marvell SATA6G controllers won't cause any performance penalty for borrowing much-needed PCI-Express link lanes on the X58 platform like they would on P55. But even still, X58-Express cannot offer what P55 has introduced: optimal memory management. Benchmark Reviews has further documented the differences in our P55 vs X58 article.
With DRAM being sold at the lowest prices we've seen in many years, the introduction of a motherboard willing to harness large amounts of DDR3 may be a blessing in disguise. Even though enthusiasts have yet to fall in love with 64-bit versions of the Windows Operating System, there has been renewed interest since the launch of Windows 7. Supporting up to 24GB or system memory on a desktop motherboard is unheard of, and it's all thanks to triple-channel support on X58. The downside, however, is that transaction times are far worse than if the memory controller was integrated into the processor such as on Intel's 'Lynnfield' Core-i5/i7 LGA1156 processors.
As the Intel P55 chipset has now demonstrated, the future is in PCH-based designs, and 32- (or 22nm) technology has paved the way for Moore's law to continue as predicted. A true Tylersburg refresh (X68) may deliver all of the hardware features we desire for modern computing, but this isn't Field of Dreams, and if you build it they won't come. Computer hardware needs more than speed and power; it needs purpose.
New and upcoming DirectX-11 software notwithstanding, video games have generally required the same graphical power as they needed over the past few years. Newer server and virtualization technology continues to refine efficiency and uses fewer CPU cycles. So essentially software is barely moving forward while hardware is making leaps and bounds. Which raises the question: to what end?
Software just hasn't been keeping up its end of the deal, and most people still use 32-bit technology (introduced back in Windows 95). it's sad but true. Games like Crysis helped give reason for advancing graphics technology, just like virtualization technology and Terminal Services helped push processor power. But the apex of software demands hasn't really changed in several years, and having massive amounts of system memory are only helpful if there's an application that requires it.
I used to overclock my Pentium 4 (and later Pentium D and Core 2) processor to get a few extra frames out of Battlefield 2 and earn more work units per day with Folding@Home. But now I have a graphics card that performs 600x better at folding proteins than my CPU ever did, and I have a Core-i7 processor that can encode my self-authored DVD's in a fraction of the time it used to take. We haven't hit the wall, but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting very close.
If software doesn't come around soon, perhaps in the shape of widespread adoption towards 64-bit computing using Microsoft Windows 7, we'll soon share the same dilemma facing the automobile industry: high-horsepower engines with break-neck torque driving down roads with a 65-MPH speed limit. I personally feel that this has been the case ever since Intel launched the Core 2 processor, which is why we're now sharing the other auto-industry dilemma: power efficiency.