|ASUS P9X79 WS LGA2011 Workstation Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Tuesday, 17 January 2012|
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P9X79 WS Detailed Features
Past the last PCI-E slot, ASUS equips the P9X79 WS with a SPDIF out connector, an internal FireWire (IEEE 1394) connector, the Turbo Power Unit (TPU) on/off switch, the jumper to clear CMOS, a serial port connector, and the Trusted Platform Module connector.
Continuing along the edge of the board, a PWM fan header (there are six fan connectors, all of the four-pin PWM variety, and under the control of ASUS' Fan Expert utility); Power and Reset buttons, two standard USB headers, a four-pin USB connector, and the front panel header. The four-pin USB connector, normally seen on the outside of a system, looks odd here. What's it for? ASUS calls this "Quick Gate", and if you're running a $4,000 CAD/CAM program that requires a USB dongle to function, you'll probably feel better if it's locked inside the case rather than dangling from a USB port on the back of the computer. Just above the blue USB headers you can see the bottom of the 2-digit POST code display, which can inform you of dozens of different conditions. As on almost any other motherboard, the POST code display and all these connectors will be covered if you use a graphics card in the last slot. Granted this would only occur in the case of four-card systems, but that's what ASUS is specifically promoting this board for. The four-pin USB connector may prevent a long double slot graphics card from seating fully-- it just touches the end of a reference design Radeon HD6850.
Near the main ATX power connector are the internal USB 3.0 header, the EPU on/off switch, another fan header, the MemOK! button (which will set the memory back to its SPD settings), and the EZ-PLUG which supplies extra power to the PCI-E slots. ASUS recommends connecting the EZ-PLUG if you're using three or more graphics cards, but its location at the opposite corner of the board from the PCI-E slots is odd.
No legacy PCI slots here: the P9X79 WS is PCI-E 16x all the way. With 40 lanes from the Sandy Bridge Extreme CPUs, there's no need for an NVIDIA PLX chip as on previous WS-series motherboards. If you have two GPUs, each blue slot will provide the full 16 lanes, plus a nice buffer space between the cards for cooling. For a triple card setup, using both blue slots and the first black slot will provide 16x8x8, while a quad card setup will use both blue and both black slots in an 8x8x8x8 configuration. The two white slots provide four lanes (x4) each. Curiously, the information on PCI-E lane allocation and which slots to use for two, three, and four-card systems is nowhere to be found in the P9X79 WS manual; I got it off the specifications page on ASUS' web site.
This black plastic module between two of the slots will glow an angry, pulsing red if you've enabled the "AI Tweaker" overclocking interface in the UEFI BIOS. If you haven't, it will glow blue (normal mode) or green (power saving mode). It's an interesting feature, but will be obscured even in a two-GPU system, and if you're not running at least two graphics cards, you've no business buying this motherboard.
You're going to want to make sure you have some airflow over the power circuitry heat sinks. Normally, air from the CPU cooler would blow over the circuitry near the rear of the case, but this motherboard moves a lot of that circuitry up front.
OK, let's start running some actual tests.