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Intel Core i7 4960X EE CPU / Asus X79-Deluxe Motherboard Review

box-3 box-1 box-2

Asus ships the X79-Deluxe motherboard in a black box which features gold tints and plenty of product information. A flap can be opened to reveal additional information regarding product features and to provide a viewing point for the motherboard (albeit through an anti-static bag).

documentation accessories

A driver CD, user guide and Asus sticker form the supplied documentation material.

Asus provides a strong accessory bundle with the X79-Deluxe which includes a 3-way SLI bridge and a magnetic, dual-band, two-stream WiFi antenna that supports 802.11ac wireless technology, as well as Bluetooth 4.0.

The bundle consists of:

  • 10x latching SATA cables.
  • 1x 2-way flexible SLI bridge.
  • 1x 3-way rigid SLI bridge.
  • 1x dual-band, two-stream magnetic WiFi antenna.
  • 2x Asus Q-connectors.
  • 1x IO shield.

board-1 board-2

With Asus’ refreshed X79-Deluxe motherboard, the company has given it a makeover, bringing its appearance in line with that of the company’s 8 series boards. Feedback on our Facebook page and across the web has proven that the colour scheme is of a hate-it-or-love-it appeal. Personally, I like the smooth gold and dark black appearance, but I know that an equal numbers of readers will dislike it.

Measuring in at 12″ x 9.6″, the Asus X79-Deluxe motherboard conforms to the standard ATX form factor.

board-rear

A metal strip beneath the CPU’s VRM area helps to provide additional heat transferral away from the MOSFETs. The large LGA 2011 backplate is used to natively support many CPU coolers, including the waterblock and pump attachment for our Corsair H100i.

24-pin,-usb-3,-header fan-headers

Adjacent to the 24-pin power connector is an internal USB 3.0 header and a speed-controlled 4-pin fan connection. The USB 3.0 header operates from ASMedia’s ASM1042 chipset and provides a maximum of two ports, natively.

Given that native USB 3.0 support is omitted from the X79 chipset, Asus is forced to use the ASMedia controller which converts a PCI-E 2.0 lane to the pair of Universal Serial Bus 3.0 ports. Due to the fact that a PCI-E 2.0 lane is required, Asus has made the decision to supply one internal USB 3.0 header. The remaining PCI-E lanes are saved for rear USB 3.0 ports and other connections.

Found in close proximity to the right-side DIMM bank is the MemOK button. The toggle can be used to make the motherboard automatically apply memory settings that POST with stability. MemOK is one of Asus’ innovative features that can sometimes be overlooked, but deserves all of the credit it gets, especially from users overclocking their memory.

A cluster of 4-pin fan headers (three, to be precise) is located on the board’s upper-right corner. Two are given CPU duties and feature precise PWM control, while the other header is given chassis fan responsibilities but still provides accurate optimisation.

CPU-area-and-DIMMs CPU-socket

Positioned either side of the sizeable LGA 2011 CPU socket is a bank of four DIMM slots. Each single-latch slot is capable of holding a maximum sized memory stick of 8GB with operational speeds of up to 2800MHz (via overclocking). We will be putting the Asus X79-Deluxe motherboard’s high-speed memory compatibility to the test with a 2800MHz set of ADATA’s XPG V2 RAM, as well as a stick of G.Skill’s 2933MHz TridentX.

The right side bank of DIMM slots features a two phase power delivery system which is identical to the number used for the left side (hidden beneath the left VRM heatsink).

Single-, dual-, triple-, and quad-channel memory configurations are supported by the Asus X79-Deluxe. Asus’ motherboard can be used with up to 64GB of memory when all eight DIMM slots are populated.

CPU-VRM

Due to the fact that Intel’s LGA 2011 processor socket is surrounded by eight DIMM slots which cause space-constraints, many motherboard manufacturers (Asus included) are forced to compress their VRM system into the remaining available area. Asus exploits the constricted space above the LGA 2011 socket to squeeze in a 10-phase power delivery system which feeds the 130W SB-E or IVB-E CPUs.

As well as high-performance electrical components, Asus also implements its Digi+ power control system to ensure that accurate voltage and current levels reach the CPU. The X79-Deluxe has received tweaks for optimised used with IVB-E processors, most notably to the EPU function.

8-pin,-fan-headers,-etc

A single 8-pin CPU power connector is found in its usual location – the motherboard’s top-left area. For users with compact cases, the uppermost MOSFET heatsink may cause interference when using All-in-one liquid CPU coolers positioned in overhead 240mm mounting points.

The VRM heatsink clearance issue is true for most of today’s high-performance motherboards, but with X79’s congested CPU area, the block of metal typically spans to the PCB’s uppermost edge, rather than sit a few centimetres beneath. Asus’ inwards-sloping design for the central VRM heatsink allows interference with wide CPU coolers to be minimised.

PCI-slots

Asus’ X79-Deluxe features six PCI-E expansion slots, two of which are of x1 length, with the other four using a physical x16 size. The two x1 slots are rated for PCI-E 2.0 speed. Each of the four x16-length slots uses a quota of the IVB-E CPU’s 40 PCI-Express 3.0 lanes.

The uppermost, second, and bottom PCI-E x16 slots support SLI, due to their link speed of x8 or above. The third PCI-E x16-length slot (sandwiched between two in the bottom cluster) is provided with an x4 connection at Gen 3 speed.

For dual-card operations, Asus wisely runs the top and bottom PCI-E full-length slots at x16 bandwidth, providing plenty of space for airflow and oversized coolers. When three cards are used, the top slot is given an x16 link speed, with the second and bottom connectors receiving eight lanes each.

Slot spacing on the X79-Deluxe is about as good as it gets for an LGA 2011 board. Additional memory banks force manufacturers to omit the slot in the uppermost position. Typically only the extreme motherboards geared towards hardened overclockers and benchmarkers feature support for 4-way graphics configurations (and seven expansion slots) by means of re-organising the motherboard PCB, or increasing its size to XL-ATX.

Front-panel-headers

Most of the front panel headers are found in their usual locations, with the exception of HD audio which is positioned further to the right than normal. This actually aids cable management, as its typical position on the bottom-left corner of a motherboard is inconvenient when used with many cases.

A two-digit LED, power and reset buttons, and Asus’ DirectKey button are all useful onboard features for overclocking circumstances. Four USB 2.0 headers and TPU and EPU switches are also convenient.

The red clear CMOS button is found further up the board than usual, sitting directly beneath the bottom PCI-E x16 slot. This is an inconvenient location as SLI or CrossFire users’ bottom graphics card will instantly block it. Asus should have placed it along the motherboard’s bottom edge, or at least out of the way of graphics cards.

SATA

Twelve SATA ports are provided on the Asus X79-Deluxe motherboard. On the right half are black-coloured ports operating from the X79 chipset. The furthest pair to the right operates at SATA 6Gb/s speed, while the two pairs to the left support 3Gb/s connections.

ASMedia’s ASM1061 chipset controls the grey-coloured pair of SATA 6Gb/s ports situated furthest to the left of the set. The four grey 6Gb/s ports which feature a sticker on them are provided by Marvell’s 88SE9230 controller which uses a PCI-E 2.0 x2 lane for the required bandwidth increase.

Asus opts for the Marvell ports as they provide SSD caching (also known as Intel Smart Response Technology on other Intel platforms) for up to four drives. The system, known as Asus SSD caching II, permits up to three SSDs to be used with a single HDD, for example.

IO-ports

As previously mentioned, the X79 chipset does not feature any native USB 3.0 ports. Asus implements six of the SuperSpeed connections on the X79-Deluxe motherboard’s rear IO by means of two ASM1042 controllers, and a single ASM1074 hub. Four USB 2.0 ports are provided by the X79 chipset and are perfect for use with speed-irrelevant devices such as peripherals.

The pair of powered eSATA 6Gb/s ports is provided by an ASMedia ASM1061 controller and will therefore feature the same circa-400MB/s throughput performance cap that we are accustomed to seeing the chipset enforce. Audio is provided by Realtek’s high-end ALC1150 chip – the same one that is found on many Z87 motherboards.

Wired network connectivity comes in the form of two gigabit Ethernet ports, one provided by Intel’s 82579V controller, and the other from Realtek’s 8111GR. Asus’ updated Wi-Fi Go! features Bluetooth 4.0 support, as well as dual-band, two-stream 802.11ac wireless connectivity. Wireless speeds of up to 867Mb/s can be obtained from the dual-stream antenna.

A quick test of the wireless connectivity gave us a perfect 300Mb/s connection speed, as outlined by Windows 7, on the 5GHz band (the maximum speed that our 802.11n Tenda N60 router is capable of). We didn’t suffer any drop-outs or signal problems, albeit while testing from a range of no more than four metres.

One notable omission from the rear IO ports is a clear CMOS button. This will inevitably irritate overclockers who are forced to revert back to stock settings due to a failed attempt. And given the X79-Deluxe motherboard’s target audience – a group which is likely to use cases, not test benches – the decision to omit the rear IO clear CMOS button seems very odd.

Motherboard rear ports:

  • 4x USB 2.0.
  • 6x USB 3.0.
  • Realtek LAN (RJ-45) port.
  • Intel LAN (RJ-45) port.
  • USB BIOS Flashback button.
  • 2x powered eSATA 6Gb/s ports.
  • 2x antenna connections for dual-band 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0.
  • Optical S/PDIF output.
  • Audio jacks.

fan-headers-board_

Asus’ distribution of fan headers around the X79-Deluxe is very good. Each of the six fan headers is of the 4-pin variety and features control for speed-adjustment, based on CPU temperatures, via the UEFI BIOS or Asus’ software.

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