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Cody Cardarelli

May 06, 2011

Intel DX58SO2

At A Glance

WILLIS

Tri-SLI at an affordable price and the safe Intel name.

BRUCE WILLIS

No included documentation; utilities must be downloaded.

Can Intel’s board divisionshake its ho-hum history?

Using the words “Intel motherboard” and “enthusiast” in the same sentence is like the old oxymoron “military intelligence.” It just doesn’t ring true.

Intel’s reputation might finally be on the mend with its new DX58SO2, or “Smackover 2,” which makes huge leaps over its predecessor, the DX58SO.

First up: the SATA ports. The original DX58SO had SATA ports that pointed straight up. That’s an epic fail if you plan to run multiple GPUs. The DX58SO2 fixes that by placing all eight ports at right angles. Perhaps the biggest problem with the original Smackover was its paltry four slots for memory instead of the customary six slots that all the other enthusiast boards had at the time. We’re happy to report that this new version sports the requisite six.

The DX58SO2 even lets you overclock using surface-mounted buttons.

But that’s not all of the improvements. SLI, CrossFireX, and even tri-SLI are now supported out of the box. Furthermore, the original board required several wacky power connectors for multi-GPU configurations, and the overall placement of everything was strange. The Smackover 2 has none of that. The only thing to complain about is the placement of the x16 PCI-E slots. If you run two GPUs (most commonly in the form of dual videocards), you block access to the sole PCI slot. That’s a non-issue for most of us in this post-PCI world.

Additional enthusiast features include a full complement of surface-mounted switches for power, reset, and tweaking the base clock. Intel also tosses in a POST LED, which displays numbers that correspond to the individual steps of the boot process; a handy guide details what the cryptic numbers mean.

The X58 “Tylersburg” chipset is ancient at this point, so Intel beefs it up to current specs by adding an NEC USB 3.0 controller and a Marvell SATA 6Gb/s chip. One thing Intel missed, however, was support for the new USB 3.0 header.

A board’s quality doesn’t revolve entirely around how components are laid out, however: We also consider the bundled utilities and the polish each maker puts into its product. Intel mostly gets it right. The company’s XTU tuning utility has matured nicely and its Desktop Utilities for monitoring the system work well. We also found the company’s bureaucratically named Integrator Assistant useful; it sounds like an accounting inventory utility but can be used to update the BIOS or tweak it from within the OS.

In performance, the board is no slouch. As we’ve been saying for some time, performance within the same chipset family rarely varies. Oddly, the Smackover 2 ran faster in PC Mark Vantage and a few of our memory benchmarks. Elsewhere, it was dead even with the last four X58 boards we’ve tested.

So, again, performance is not an issue. It’s about features and the warm, safe embrace of Intel. In this department, the board is on par with typical enthusiast boards out there in the same price range.

$250, www.intel.com

Benchmarks

Intel DX58SO2
Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3Asus Sabertooth X58
PCMark Vantage 64-bit Overall
9,9028,9038,827
Everest Ultimate MEM Read (MB/s) 16,01114,66814,310
Everest Ultimate MEM Write (MB/s) 14,79712,07811,962             
Everest Ultimate MEM Copy (MB/s) 16,35116,90416,727
Everest Ultimate MEM Latency (ns) 56.760.260.4
SiSoft Sandra RAM Bandwidth (GB/s) 23.322.722.7
3DMark Vantage Overall
15,37115,37115,498
3DMark Vantage GPU
14,57314,59014,708
3DMark Vantage CPU 18,54218,31018,473
Valve Particle Test (fps)
144149148
Resident Evil 5 low-res (fps)
126.2125.3128
HAWX low-res (fps)
175170175
HD Tune Pro Sustained Read (MB/s)
107104100
HD Tune Pro Burst (MB/s)
170189177

Tests were conducted using an Intel 2.8GHz Core i7-930, 6GB of Corsair DD3/1333, an AMD Radeon HD 5850, a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.

Benchmarks

Gigabyte X58-UD7Asus Rampage III Extreme
PCMark Vantage 64-bit Overall
8,9938,940
Everest Ultimate MEM Read (MB/s) 14,61814,628
Everest Ultimate MEM Write (MB/s) 12,07612,194
Everest Ultimate MEM Copy (MB/s) 16,47017,062
Everest Ultimate MEM Latency (ns) 59.860.5
SiSoft Sandra RAM Bandwidth (GB/s) 22.823
3DMark Vantage Overall
15,54915,443
3DMark Vantage GPU
14,64314,640
3DMark Vantage CPU 18,61818,483
Valve Particle Test (fps)
149149
Resident Evil 5 low-res (fps)
130.1126.7
HAWX low-res (fps)
175174
HD Tune Pro Sustained Read (MB/s)99102
HD Tune Pro Burst (MB/s)137172

Tests were conducted using an Intel 2.8GHz Core i7-930, 6GB of Corsair DD3/1333, an AMD Radeon HD 5850, a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.

THE VERDICT

Intel DX58SO2

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