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Intel Core i7 - Nehalem Arrives and FSB Departs

By: Cameron Johnson | Intel CPUs in CPUs, Chipsets & SoCs | Posted: Nov 2, 2008 4:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 94%Manufacturer: Intel

The Test Board


Intel Core i7 Processor


While Intel supplied us with the DX58SO reference board, we decided to be somewhat different in our approach. Rather than a reference board, we decided to go with a retail offering. Thanks to GIGABYTE we received the EX58-UD5 motherboard, designed around Intel's X58 chipset. While this isn't a review of the board itself, rather just a board supporting the X58 chipset, we will still have a bit of a look at the design.


First off, the EX58-UD5 is part of the new Ultra Durable 3 range from GIGABYTE, which means it shares the same 2oz copper running through the PCB in order to keep it cool. The size is still a full ATX 30x24cm design and it's still only 6 layers. When it comes to placements, GIGABYTE has it all covered. The 24-pin ATX power connector is located behind the six DDR3 memory slots. As you can see, there are three green and three pink slots. Since the board supports triple channel memory, there are two banks of three, totalling six. This means you can have up to a max of 12GB of DDR3 memory modules. The 4/8 pin power connector is located behind the PS/2 tower ports and yes, if you have only a 24/4-pin PSU, you can run the Core i7 without any problems. It will support this, providing the PSU can deliver up to 500 watts.


Intel Core i7 Processor


Along the right hand edge, GIGABYTE has placed 10 SATA ports; six yellow and four purple. The yellow SATA ports are run off the ICH10R Southbridge while the purple ones are run by two Silicon Image chips with two Jmicron controllers. The Silicon Image chips are bridged to allow all four drives on the purple ports to be set in one large RAID array, or as one array for the host and the other as backup; a very intelligent design without compromising speed.


Intel Core i7 Processor


As part of the Ultra Durable 3 range, the board supports GIGABYTE's DES Advanced system to help conserve power. The DES Advanced controls a virtual 12 phase voltage system with the ability to shut down the board to just one phase (a total of two with one of each phases working) as well as a 2 phase regulation system for the memory and QPI, since they're not integrated to the CPU. A word of warning from Intel is if you plan to use high performance DDR3 modules, you're going to have to look for ones that use less than 1.65v. If you use memory modules above 1.65v you can burn out the integrated memory controller and the QPI controller on the CPU, as they are on the same core chip, or Integrated Northbridge as we know it.


The board uses Japanese solid state capacitors, Ferrite chokes and driver lowESR mosfets. The CPU area is a little cramped as it's surrounded by a heat-pipe assembly that cools not only the Mosfets, but also the X58 and ICH10R chips. Some of the fins are routed to the rear I/O to allow excess heat to be vented through the rear I/O slot.


Intel Core i7 Processor


On the subject of the rear I/O, the design looks exactly the same as the EP45-Extreme motherboard which allows for venting excess heat through the rear I/O, as mentioned above. There are no eSATA ports as GIGABYTE likes to include PCI cover slots that have the eSATA ports in them; a better way, in theory. The inclusion of a rear I/O clear CMOS button is nice, which allows failed overclocks to be wiped from the BIOS without having to open the case and remove the battery or short any jumper pins.


Intel Core i7 Processor


Lastly, we have the expansion slots on the board. GIGABYTE has a huge array of PCIe slots on this board; you will find a total of three PCIe x16 slots; two blue and one orange. The two blue slots are full speed 16 lane slots designed for 9800GX2 or HD Radeon X2 series cards if you want to run quad GPU mode. If you want to go with 3-way SLI mode, you simply put a graphics card in the orange x16 slot and eight lanes from the bottom blue slot are taken and diverted to the orange slot, giving a 16/8/8 arrangement.


Above the first blue PCIe x16 slot is a universal x4 slot; it has no back on it, allowing x4 or x8 cards to be used. You can't put an extra VGA card in due to it being too close to the Northbridge heatsink assembly and running afoul on the heat-pipe, but it does allow you to run x4 or x8 SAS and SATA controllers. The universal slot is run off the Southbridge's four spare lanes. Lastly, there is a x1 slot. However, if you decide to use the x4 slot, the x1 is disabled.


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