|Intel DX79SI LGA2011 Desktop Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Sunday, 13 November 2011|
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X79 Express Motherboard Final Thoughts
With the release of the Sandy Bridge Extreme LGA2011 CPUs and their supporting X79 Express chipset, Intel once again vaults into the performance lead, and the Intel DX79SI X79 Express motherboard shows how Intel thinks things should be done. Enthusiasts can rejoice: the X79 Express jettisons most of the limitations of the previous P67/Z68 chipsets: you now have all the overclocking mechanisms you could wish for, and don't have to worry about spending die space or power on a weak integrated GPU you may never use. The dearth of PCI-E lanes that afflicted the LGA 1156/1155 platform has been addressed with a massive 48 lanes (40 from the Sandy Bridge Extreme and 8 from the X79 Express chipset), ensuring that you'll never have to worry about how adding a second video card might torpedo your SATA 6G or USB 3.0 performance again.
There are still some things missing from X79 Express, though: Intel's Smart Response Technology SSD caching is gone, although we'll see third party solutions to this lack in other X79 motherboards. And while quad-channel memory is nice, at least for memory bandwidth benchmark scores, I think more SATA 6G ports, along with some integrated USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, would probably have made more real-world impact.
The Intel DX79SI Extreme Series motherboard is a competent effort from the world's largest CPU vendor, and it contains enough enthusiast features (POST code display, Start and Reset buttons, status LEDs, PWM fan headers, BIOS recovery, etc.) to indicate that Intel's at least trying to justify its "Extreme" moniker, although I have to say that the impression I got from the DX79SI is that it's just that: trying, perhaps without a lot of understanding as to what enthusiasts really want. For example, the POST code display is a nice addition to any enthusiast motherboard, but putting a card in either of the last two slots will block it. Bright red fan headers are a good idea, but why only four, especially since one must be dedicated to the CPU fan? Intel's removed Smart Response Technology from the X79 chipset, eliminating the cool SSD caching this feature provided, and while vendors like ASUS have responded with their own solutions, all the DX79SI offers is a lonely blank space on the motherboard that might someday house another two SATA ports.
The textual UEFI BIOS is functional, although it's not particularly easy to navigate and frankly looks primitive next to the more elaborate mouse-driven graphical BIOS' of its competition. That said, the one genuinely innovative feature of the BIOS is the DX79SI Overclocking Assistant, which can give you a real running start on the complexities of overclocking a Sandy Bridge Extreme chip. The beta BIOS prevented me from evaluating this feature (the board would lock up when I tried), but when Intel releases a stable BIOS, I think this has the potential to do a much better job of automatic overclocking than existing schemes from other vendors.