|ASUS P9X79 WS LGA2011 Workstation Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Tuesday, 17 January 2012|
Page 2 of 17
Closer Look: ASUS P9X79 WS Motherboard
The "30% graphics boost with 4-way SLI" ASUS touts on the box is in comparison to a 3-way SLI (or, presumably, 3-way CrossFireX) system. In reality, of course, you'll rarely see perfect scaling in performance when adding more graphics cards, especially when going from three to four.
The P9X79 WS accessories bundle includes several SATA cables, a Molex->SATA power adapter, external backplates for USB and FireWire as well as a DB9-P connector for the serial port, a manual and driver CD, and last but certainly not least SLI connectors for two, three, and four-GPU setups.
The design and board layout are fairly standard for an X79 board. There's the large CPU socket bracketed by four DIMM slots on either side, the X79 chipset under a heat sink, and the admittedly unusual six PCI-E x16 slots. But something about this motherboard still looks slightly odd...what could it be?
The size! The ASUS P9X79 WS motherboard is a "CEB" form factor motherboard. This means instead of the ATX standard size of 12" by 9.6", the motherboard is 12" by 10.5"...almost an inch longer, front to back. While smaller than the E-ATX dimensions of 12" by 13" or even the various XL-ATX permutations, you'll want to be sure your case can handle the extra length. Below I show the P9X79 WS motherboard on the left and an ATX-standard P8Z68 motherboard on the right.
The I/O panel has standard PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, which have all but vanished from enthusiast motherboards. Working towards the right, we see four USB 2.0 ports (the white, bottom port is also used by ASUS "USB BIOS Flashback" feature, which allows you to update the motherboard BIOS directly from a USB key, even if the existing BIOS is damaged), a "Back to BIOS" flashback button to start that process, the optical audio port, two Intel-powered gigabit Ethernet ports, a FireWire 400 port, four more USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports, and finally a standard analog audio panel.
One difference between the P9X79 WS motherboard and ASUS' other X79 Express-based motherboards is the layout of the power circuitry. The WS motherboard moves some of the power circuitry to the front of the board, positioned between the DIMM sockets and the ATX power connector, while other ASUS X79 motherboards have this circuitry in the back, between the DIMM sockets and the I/O panel. As they have in most of their new motherboards recently, ASUS provides two CPU fan headers, visible to the lower right of the CPU socket in this image.
ASUS uses their digital 8+2 phase power design for the CPU and a 2+2 phase power design for the memory. Unlike the more consumer-oriented ASUS motherboards, the power circuitry heat sinks are workmanlike finned radiators, rather than fancy anodized aluminum castings. I suspect these heat sinks perform better, too.
Let's take a closer look at this board in the next section.