X79 Motherboard Roundup: ASRock, ASUS, Gigabyte

Introduction and the X79 Chipset

Intel’s X58 chipset made for great platform performance, and even though the chip maker has unleashed many more chipsets since the X58 came out, there hasn’t been a true successor in the high-end of their product line-up (not even the Z68 chipset) until now. The X79 chipset looks to pick up the X58’s poll position, so we decided to bench test a few motherboards from ASRock, ASUS, and Gigabyte to see how Intel's new flagship performs.

The new X79 chipset brings with it a new socket (LGA 2011) and a crop of new Core i7 processors. There are several familiar features with the new processor series and its companion motherboard platform, such as Intel’s Turbo Boost 2.0, Hyper-Threading, and Smart Cache technologies, but there are some new features as well.

The CPU definitely pulls its weight in the X79 platform; it can handle up to 12 threads on 6 cores and supports 40 total PCIe lanes, quad channel memory (which results in 8 DIMM slots on most boards), and native 3- and 4-way graphics.

There is no integrated graphics, however, and Intel still hasn’t included native support for USB 3.0 (though that's coming so we hear with next generation 7-Series chipsets for the midrange) If you were a fan of Intel Smart Response (which allows you to use an SSD as a speedy cache drive), tough luck--it’s nowhere to be found here. However, for overclockers, the X79 platform offers plenty of enticing options, beyond just unlocked CPU multipliers and memory ratios.

The X79 chipset also offers Intel's RST (Rapid Storage Technology) which offers high performance RAID storage functionality, integrated HD audio, an additional 8 PCI-E 2.0 lanes, 14 USB 2.0 ports, 2 SATA 6Gb/s and 4 SATA 3Gb/s ports, and 3Gbps eSATA connectivity.

Let's dive into the specifics of our motherboard contenders, shall we?

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