|ASUS P9X79 WS LGA2011 Workstation Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Tuesday, 17 January 2012|
Page 16 of 17
X79 Express Motherboard Final Thoughts
A few months have passed since Intel's introduction of the X79 Express chipset, the LGA2011 socket, and the new Sandy Bridge Extreme processors. The new platform brings performance and features (like extra PCI-E lanes) that appeal to the enthusiast, but X79 motherboards are much more expensive than their Z68/LGA1155 cousins. At $380, the ASUS P9X79 WS motherboard is almost double the price of the top-rated ASUS P8Z68-V Pro LGA1155 motherboard. This is why system builders will want to carefully consider which X79 Express motherboard they choose for their next rig.
The ASUS P9X79 WS is, as the name implies, aimed at professional users: those who really use four GPUs' worth of rendering prowess or need to set up a Tesla-based desktop supercomputer. The P9X79 WS motherboard eschews consumer and enthusiast features such as Bluetooth, remote overclocking, THX-certified audio, powered eSATA ports, and the like, and instead adds dual gigabit Ethernet ports, PS/2 keyboard and mouse connections, FireWire, and unique features like Quick Gate.
But the defining feature of this board, and the one ASUS touts the most heavily, is its ability to hold four dual-slot graphics cards. And that's where this board's one real weakness comes in: since it's the same 12" width as any other ATX motherboard, even a single slot card in the last PCI-E slot will cover the POST code display, all the headers, the power and reset buttons, and probably the Quick Gate USB connector. The Quick Gate connector and ASUS' "Q Connector" quick connect device for the front panel header may interfere with long graphics cards; even the reference design Radeon HD6850 I used, not a particularly long card, just touched the Quick Gate connector when I put it in the last slot.
You could reasonably point out that this is a consequence of the ATX/CEB form factor, and that no board could be designed within these constraints to do better. This would be true, but why couldn't ASUS have made the board 13" wide and eliminated the problem? Granted, that would make the board a non-standard form factor, but it's not as if ASUS hasn't done that before: their Rampage series of motherboards, at 12"x10.6" to 10.7", is a non-standard form factor; other vendors such as EVGA also have non-standard form factor motherboards. You'll need an 8-slot case, at a minimum, to use this board with four GPUs anyway and most such cases could easily handle the extra inch of width. However, I must admit that even motherboards that are 13" wide and support four GPUs, such as EVGA's X79 Classified, put the extra space between the first card slot at the CPU, rather than between the last card slot and the end of the motherboard.
All that said, this is still an excellent motherboard with features the professional user will appreciate. Gamers and enthusiasts, however, will be happier with one of ASUS' other X79 offerings.