|ASUS P9X79 Pro Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles & David Ramsey|
|Sunday, 20 November 2011|
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Closer Look: ASUS P9X79 Pro
The new ASUS X79 Express motherboard series supports the latest Intel Core i7 (Sandy Bridge) Extreme Edition processors, which are the first six-core 32nm desktop processors based on Intel's 2nd-generation Sandy Bridge micro-architecture. These socket LGA2011 CPUs integrate PCI-Express and quad-channel DDR3 memory controllers and large micro-operations cache to improve overall performance and efficiency. In benchmark tests this adds up to significant increases over previous architectures, allowing overclockers and performance hardware enthusiasts to realize the most substantial improvement in their daily real-world computing experience beyond tasks of the average user. Intel's Core i7 3960X and 3930K processors will offer a completely-unlocked product for overclocking enthusiasts, while the soon-to-be-released Core i7-3820 can manipulate the maximum Turbo Boost delivered to one CPU core.
ASUS designs their P9X79-series motherboards for mainstream hardware enthusiasts, while designating their Rampage IV Extreme and TUF Sabertooth X79 motherboards for more advanced overclockers and extreme performance enthusiasts. P9X79 Pro debuts with a familiar black printed circuit board (PCB) and blue hardware components. Benchmark Reviews has tested more than a few motherboards in our time, and ASUS has repeatedly proven itself as the premier name in motherboard technology and hardware stability. While our benchmark tests will prove this claim later in the article, this section concentrates on basic motherboard features and component details.
Unlike past Intel motherboards, the new X79 Express chipset supports quad-channel memory. This means there are now eight DIMM sockets available for non-ECC unbuffered DDR3 memory on the ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard, capable of up to 64GB of system memory (8GM DDR3 modules). 1600 MHz is the fastest standard base frequency supported, but if overclocked settings are configured this motherboard can handle 2400MHz DDR3. Since 32-Bit Windows Operating Systems allow only 4GB maximum memory mapping space (anything more is ignored), having 64GB of available system memory clearly designates this as the ideal 64-bit system platform.
Intel X79 Express motherboards fit only socket LGA2011 desktop processors and no other, which also means that a new mounting bracket is required for older CPU coolers. At the time of this writing many of the most popular heatsink manufacturers were offering free LGA2011 mounting kits for previous customers, so users may not need to purchase a new heatsink. There have also been a few adapter kits that replace the mounting system with an older LGA1366 or LGA1156 retention bracket. Based on how large the new Intel Core-i7 CPU and LGA2011 backplate are, it seems unlikely that these adapters will offer the same levels of support or coverage. Additionally, some heatsinks were designed to take advantage of DIMM sockets on one side of the motherboard. The inclusion of four additional DIMM sockets could mean that large heatsinks will not work with X79 Express motherboards.
The rear input/output panel (I/O panel) is a busy place on the ASUS P9X79 motherboard, with ample wired and wireless support across many standards. Legacy PS/2 ports have been replaced by six Hi-Speed USB 2.0/1.1 ports, with one of the ports (white) also offering USB BIOS Flashback functionality. The USB BIOS Flashback button resides beside this port, and allows for firmware flashing without any video card, processor, memory, or boot drive attached to the system. On the P9X79 Pro motherboard, there are four SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports located nearby (six come on the Deluxe model), and can revert to Hi-Speed USB 2.0 for backwards compatibility. VIA Technologies supplies the SuperSpeed USB controller hub that ties it all together.
ASUS includes a Bluetooth 2.1 module, which comes permanently attached to the motherboard's USB block. ASUS BT GO! enables wireless peer-to-peer communication with Bluetooth-enabled devices to this ASUS P9X79-based system. ASUS includes a host of Bluetooth-related software with this motherboard, which collectively enable data transfers with multimedia devices, smartphones, or other computers. In comparison, the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe model adds a Bluetooth 3.0 + HS module (Bluetooth 2.1 module with Wi-Fi antenna port).
Two powered external SATA (eSATA) 6.0 GB/s ports are available on P9X79 Pro, courtesy ASMedia ASM1061, and colored green for easy identification. Power eSATA ports require a specially designed signal cable to provide 5.0 volts of power to the external SATA device. The Power eSATA signal cable is not included with ASUS X79 motherboards, but many Power eSATA devices will bundle this cable with their kit or one can be purchased separately.
Another area that sets the P9X79 Deluxe motherboard apart from the more-expensive Deluxe model is in the Gigabit Ethernet network adapter. P9X79 Pro comes with one 1000 Mb/s RJ-45 LAN adapter based on the Intel 82579V chip, while the Deluxe model adds another 1000 Mb/s network adapter using a Realtek 8111E Gigabit Ethernet LAN controller. Both NIC's qualify as 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) network appliances.
Audio support for the ASUS P9X79 Pro utilizes the Realtek ALC898 chip, which is capable of eight channel 7.1 High-Definition sound. This particular audio chipset may be integrated onto the motherboard, but with a featured 106 dB Signal-to-Noise ratio and 192khz absolute pitch / 24-bit true BD lossless sound over eight channels it's anything but low end. The coaxial and optical S/PDIF out ports deliver eight digital audio channels to PC audiophiles, also delivering DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC support and Blu-ray Disc audio layer Content Protection. Realtek's ALC898 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.