Those looking to develop the ultimate performance system will of course turn to Intel's new LGA2011 platform, which recently debuted with the Sandy Bridge-E processors. This sophisticated architecture takes the original Sandy Bridge design and pumps it with steroids while a few new things are added. In addition, the platform is expected to support enthusiast-level Ivy Bridge processors slated for release in late 2012, adding to the longevity of the platform.
The flagship CPU of the current series, known as the Core i7-3960X, has a massive 15 MB L3 cache and six cores clocked at 3.3 GHz. As we found in our review last November, the i7-3960X is 20-30% faster than the Core i7-2600K, despite being over three times as expensive at $ 999. As insane as the price tag may be, there are those willing to pull the batter out to buy the world's most powerful desktop processor.
There is also a slightly slower and much cheaper option. The Core i7-3930K is already selling for $ 599, and a third alternative, the Core i7-3820, is set to be released in the coming months. However, if you're looking for a hexa-core processor with an L3 cache, the Core i7-3930K will be the cheapest option for a while.
So if you're already spending ~ $ 600 on a processor alone, make sure your motherboard is equally impressive. Today we're testing five high-end X79 motherboards from Asus, Asrock, ECS, Intel, and MSI.
When we tested the LGA2011 platform for the first time, we were shocked by the lack of functionality in the X79 chipset. The X79 is no different from the cheaper Z68, as users still get six SATA ports, only two of which are 6 Gbps capable. USB 3.0 support is nowhere to be found, but you get the same 14 USB 2.0 ports as the Z68.
If you compare the features of the X79 to the older X58 / ICH10R chipset combo, you will find that very little has changed after 3 years. Essentially, you get two additional USB ports, two additional PCIe x1 lanes, and a pair of SATA 6Gb / s port upgrades.
Hence, more than ever, we expect motherboard manufacturers to deliver the goods, as the LGA2011 platform will only be appealing to the most discerning PC enthusiasts and gamers who build heavily packed machines – you know, the ones that are around $ 300 Pay for a motherboard with a very expensive processor.
Unfortunately, gigabytes are missing from our summary. We have the G1 Assassin 2 on hand, but honestly we don't think the board is suitable for our summary. This particular board has a very poor feature set and a hefty price tag. While we would have loved to wait for Gigabyte to deliver us a board like the UD5, they couldn't. Apparently, Gigabyte's headquarters are very close to samples at the moment, the economy must be. Even so, all of the remaining key players were able to deliver the boards we requested.