Let’s be frank: If you’re even thinking about buying into Intel’s deliciously fast LGA2011 platform this early, you are an enthusiast—Enthusiast with a capital-freaking-E, since you can’t even look at LGA2011 without buying a $550 chip.
So if you’re jumping in, you might as well use both feet. Asus’s P9X79 Deluxe certainly fits that bill, delivering cool features and a stout price tag: This X79-based board will set you back a cool $400.
“Deluxe” features on board include digital VRMs, Asus’s trademark UEFI, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with a bundled smartphone app that enables you to remotely overclock and monitor your system. This board also has an all-new feature that lets you use a particular USB port to update its BIOS without a processor installed.
The P9X79 Deluxe offers top-notch performance and all the needed amenities.
The P9X79 is an eight-DIMM-slot board, not one of the weaker four-slot boards that limit your upgrade path. The eight-DIMM design will let you build a 32GB PC for less than $200 in memory cost. Doing that on any four-slot board will set you back more than $1,000. What do you do with 32GB? You set up a RAM drive, of course! We set up a RAM drive on this board using eight 4GB sticks of Corsair Vengeance RAM and saw read speeds of 4GB/s. Take that, SSDs!
But what you get in RAM, you lose in storage. The PCH in the X79 has the circuitry to support many more SAS and SATA 6Gb/s ports, but compatibility concerns caused board makers to “de-feature” it at the last minute. So instead of a board bristling with 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports, we get the standard Z68 layout of two SATA 6Gb/s and four SATA 3Gb/s. Asus tries to beef up the board’s six standard ports (four 3Gb/s and two 6Gb/s) with a Marvell 6Gb/s controller that also does SSD caching. Few of us could afford to install that many HDDs given today’s prices, of course, but that doesn’t render the lack of native support any less of a letdown—this is a $400 motherboard, after all.
We fired up Intel’s new DX79SI mobo to compare its performance to that of the P9X79. While we don’t normally expect to see big performance deltas between boards based on the same chipsets, the Asus board generally produced better benchmark numbers, with one significant exception: Intel’s board delivered much faster SATA 6Gb/s write speeds. We normally use OCZ’s Enyo external drive to test USB 3.0 performance, but the P9X79’s USB controller uses the new and speedier UASP protocol, so we also used an OWC SATA 6Gb/s drive inside a new Asus enclosure. With UASP, we saw USB 3.0 speeds climb to a nice 225MB/s read and 217MB/write. We would have liked to compare this to a USB 3.0 enclosure that doesn’t support UASP, but our generic USB 3.0 enclosures don’t seem to like any SATA 6Gb/s drives.
In the end, The P9X79 Deluxe gives you just about everything an enthusiast would truly want: SLI, tri-SLI, CrossFire X, PCIe 3.0, tons of overclocking features, lots of USB 3.0 ports, and truly fast performance (albeit only in comparison to the limited number of X79 boards we’ve seen so far). Now if only it had more SATA 6Gb/s ports and the price wasn’t so painful.
We tested both boards with a 3.3GHz Core i7-3960X, 16GB of DDR3/1600, a 150GB Western Digital Raptor, a GeForce GTX 580, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional SP1. Performance scores for the SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0 were attained using CrystalDiskMark 3 run against an OCZ Enyo USB 3.0 drive and an OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD.