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X58 Based Motherboards for Your New Core i7: Gigabyte and MSI

written by: •edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 5/22/2011

We continue our look at motherboards with the X58 chipset for use with the swanky new Intel Core i7.

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    Some features common to the motherboards we are looking at, such as SLI licensing and the LGA 1336 socket used for Core i7 CPUs, were discussed in the previous article. We also explained why we are only reporting on boards for which we have seen street prices and looked at the ASUS P6T Deluxe. We continue our discussion of X58 based motherboards from Gigabyte and MSI, before the next article wraps up the motherboard section of the series with a look at Intel’s own offering and deciding which is best for what applications.

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    Gigabyte EX58-UD5

    Gigabyte UD5 USD: 310 EUD: 254 CND: 416 AUD: 525

    Like ASUS, Gigabyte will offer a high-end and an enthusiast-level board; but Gigabyte’s appear set to hit the shelves together (the value leader DS4 has yet to show up in store). The Gigabyte Extreme and UD5 both have similar connection potential to the ASUS board, offering: 16/16 or 16/8/8 PCIe 2.0 with Crossfire or SLI; dual gigabit LAN; coax and optical S/PDIF; and 8-channel audio. There are 12 USBs (to the ASUS’ 14) and 3 Firewire ports (ASUS includes 2). The biggest difference to the hook-ups would be that Gigabyte lacks the workstation-oriented SAS ports but ups the SATA 3G count to a generous 10. Power is 12+2 phase to ASUS’ 16+2, but the extra four phases’ impact may be largely confined to the buyer’s psyche.

    The Gigabyte boards also feature a rear panel button to clear the CMOS, perfect if your Nehalem overclocking efforts leave your system refusing to boot. They also include an array of LEDs and a small, two-digit, display, to help diagnose POST failures. Nice, but it pales in comparison to the OC palm thingy ASUS is offering.

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    Gigagbyte EX-58 Extreme

    Giggbyte Liquid USD: 360 EUD: 300 CND: 417 AUD: 563

    The big difference between the UD5 and Extreme boards from Gigabyte is in northbridge cooling. The Extreme northbridge cooler is ready to be hooked up to you rig’s liquid cooling system. Air cooling fans can swap out the liquid block for the included, massive, heat sink assembly shown in the second picture. Note that it requires using the bracket behind the PCIe x1 slot.

    Gigabyte Heat Pipe 

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    MSI Eclipse

    MSI Eclipse  EUD: 305 AUD: 610

    Picture from Anandtech.

    It has been a while since MSI made headlines in the enthusiast space, but the Eclipse is an unabashed attempt to get back into the ring. MSI’s Eclipse will be the middle of their X58 range. Along with the value leader X58 Platinum, Eclipse will launch with the Core i7s, and be joined by an as yet unnamed flagship down the road.

    The Eclipse has as comparable connectivity as the ASUS and Gigabyte motherboards: the same 16/16 or 16/8/8 PCIe 2.0 with SLI or Crossfire setup; dual gigabit LAN;12 USB ports; 2 Firewire ports; 8-channel audio; and optical S/PDIF. Like Gigabyte’s boards, there are no SAS ports and 10 internal SATA 3G connection; but MSI adds another 2 eSATA outlets at the rear. Like the performance market (i.e. step below enthusiast) Gigabyte UD5 and ASUS P6T, the Eclipse is heat-pipe cooled. Though having 12+2 and 18+2 phase power systems like Gigabyte and ASUS, respectively, may be getting into marketing driven overkill, the 6+2 phase, the Dr. Mos branded system MSI is using does seem a little left in the dust.

    The Eclipse makes a good show of overclocking goodies, including a CMOS reset like the Gigabyte offerings. MSI also throws in a little OLED screen, called VLED, that can report frequencies and temperatures, though that little ASUS gadget is still the winner here. The most distinct feature from MSI is the GreenPower Genie.

    All new motherboards talk about power saving technology, in fact they all talk about it so much that one is comparing marketing material more than the underlying technology. The GreenPower Genie is a little plastic thing that goes between the 24-pin power plug from the PSU and the equivalent connector on the motherboard. Along with the GreenPower software, you can monitor and adjust your power settings and usage. It must be doing right, as the Eclipse uses relatively little power.

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    MSI X58 Platinum

    EUD:230 AUD: 515

    MSI’s Platinum has the same overclocking goodies (CMOS reset button, VLED, and GreenPower) as the Eclipse. The major differences are only two PCIe x16 slots and regular instead of Hi-C capacitors. Pictures also reveal less cooling. 8 instead of 10 internal SATA ports and 1 instead of 2 eSATA ports. There is also a bit less cooling.

    That’s 6 motherboards down and 1 to go. We wrap up our look at X58 motherboards in the next article before we start getting into Core i7 performance