The cornerstone of our overclocking efforts is EVGA's X79 Dark motherboard. Simply named, this Intel X79 chipset based board has all the right features in all the right places. The board has a five full-length x16 PCIe slots and one x4 slot, all of which can be arranged in 1x16, 2x16 , 3x8 or 4x8 configurations with the X4 slot still available. With six fan headers, support for quad-channel memory up to 2400MHz and beyond, solid state caps, dual 8-pin CPU power, on-board power, reset and clear CMOS buttons and even a triple BIOS switch for three separate profiles, the X79 Dark is a full-featured enthusiast's overclocking hot rod.
EVGA X79 Dark - Intel X79 Chipset Motherboard - An Overclocking Powerhouse
The EVGA X79 Dark also sports 4-Way SLI capability, six SATA 6G ports, four SATA 3G, six USB 3.0, ten USB 2.0 ports, two Intel Gigabit NICs and a 12 layer PCB. Also, if you look closely, the X79 Dark has onboard Bluetooth situated on the top of one of its USB IO blocks. As you can see, connector placement is excellent as well, with right angle USB and various power connectors right at the edge of the PCB, for easy, clean cable management. One word of caution is that this is an EATX board that is an inch wider overall, so be sure to plan for that if you have tighter case mechanicals to work with. The board is really sharp though with blacked-out accents trimmed in red. The X79 Dark also has a nice GUI UEFI
BIOS. On that note, we'll dig into the BIOS a bit later but we went through a couple revisions in this review and EVGA is still getting things tacked down a bit it seems.
For our power requirements, EVGA also sent over their new SuperNOVA 1000 G2 power supply. The 1000 G2 is, you guessed it, rated for 1000 Watts continuous total power and is 80 PLUS Gold certified with up to 90% efficiency under load. It also comes with a 10 year warranty and has a fully modular design.
Built with a heavy gauge aluminum frame, the SuperNOVA 1000 G2 is based on a Super Flower Leadex design with an extremely quiet dual ball bearing fan. The modular cables are reasonably long as well, especially the PCIe power cables, though the ATX power cable could be longer maybe. The SN 1000 G2 is built like a tank and had zero issues maintaining solid voltage regulation and ripple control under load, when we were pushing envelope on our CPU. We expect to stress it a bit more in the months ahead with multi-GPU setups as well but don't expect it to have any issues there. In fact, the SuperNOVA 1000 G2 will likely serve as a test bench PSU for many months or years to come possibly here.
Next, we have a couple of offerings from Corsair to complete the build, with their Vengeance Pro Series 32GB quad-channel kit and H90 self-contained liquid cooler.
Corsair's 32GB version of this kit is currently hard to find in a 2666MHz rated flavor, though 2133 and 16GB kits are fairly plentiful. In fact, Corsair currently lists
only up to 2400MHz (CAS 10) kits on their site at this time. That said, Corsair rates these bad boys for 2666MHz at 11,13,13,35 timings. We ran them at the 2400MHz CAS10 settings for purposes of our high speed overclocked testing. Regardless, the high speed bin here affords maximum flexibility when overclocking. We also found the modules played well with a couple of other test systems that are currently in house, so compatibility shouldn't be an issue, so long as you tweak timings accordingly, depending on clock speed.
And finally we have our all-important cooling solution, which came by way of Corsair's H90 liquid cooler. The H90 based on a larger fan and radiator design with a 140mm footprint to provide a bit more capacity and headroom under load, versus traditional single fan/radiator self-contained setups.
The H90 uses an Asetek pump and bracket and with motherboard control of its pump and fan speed via a 3-pin (CPU block) and 4-pin (fan) connectors. This setup worked well for us and in our case, we set the unit up for maximum power settings on both pin headers. Incidentally, Corsair recommends setting up the H90 with its fan as an intake on the back of your case, though our setup was on an open air bench, so it didn't matter for our purposes.
The nice thing about EVGA's X79 Dark motherboard is that there is a fair amount of open real estate around the CPU socket, which also allows memory heat spreaders and voltage regulator heatsinks to get plenty of air flow, in addition to easier navigation with the CPU water block and tubing. Another thing to note is the right angle ATX power connector orientation on the board. I personally really like it as I find it allows for passback of the cable to the back side of the motherboard tray, in cases that support that sort of setup. Some users might find this to be a major pain though, depending on your preference.
Though it was totally unplanned, as you can see, we have a decidedly well-coordinated black and red theme going on here with EVGA and Corsair components in our setup. As you might surmise, however, good looks only equate to beauty and not necessarily brawn. So let's fire it up.