When X58 was first announced there were rumours about its graphics card support. Would it get SLI approval from NVIDIA and would it still support Crossfire? - Originally NVIDIA specified that X58 would need to use an nForce 200 PCIe bridge chip to run SLI, but a lot of pressure was put on NVIDIA from all of the motherboard companies and SLI support was granted to X58 through a native setup allowing two or three cards. However, Intel's 3-way SLI still requires a 16/8/8 setup; not the fastest out there, but still good enough. NVIDIA still recommended its nForce 200 chipset for best performance SLI.
Essentially what the nForce 200 chip does is allow the board to turn one PCI Express x16 lane into two x16 lanes by prioritising data packets along the PCIe bus and sending them down one x16 lane; this in turn gives the graphics cards direct communication to each other on the nForce 200 chip.
To this end ASUS has finally produced its first X58 board paired with the nForce 200 chip. This has given ASUS the ability to provide the board three PCI Express x16 slots as well as three extra x16 slots in a variety of modes, which we will explain later.
This board is available now from Newegg at a price tag of 369.99 USD which puts it up there at the high-end along with the OC Palm and other boards. However, how many boards are able to support six graphics cards?
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
First up, as always, the package. ASUS has gone with the traditional blue box design that denotes its mainstream Intel boards. Since Intel's colour of choice is blue, ASUS has followed suit. The box is of standard size for ATX boards; no oversized box here, which means we won't get as much inside the package as we did with the OC Palm or Rampage II Extreme boards. However, knowing ASUS we will get enough to keep us going.
On the back of the box ASUS has put a full colour photo with box-outs explaining the features of the board along with a full spec list on the side, which is an identical replica to the spec sheet found on the P6T6 WS Revolution page on the ASUS website. Kudos on the extra info here ASUS.
ASUS hasn't gone overboard with the reference material; there is a single user manual, however, it's almost as thick as a Steven King novel with all the info on board setup, specs, features, BIOS setup and software explanations for the included software on the DVD, which also details use of the EPU-6 power saving system that the board has built in to reduce overall system power usage when idle, as well as when under light to moderate loads.
When we said we didn't expect a whole lot in the way of accessories, we didn't quite expect to see this much in the box. First off, there are six SATA data cables along with a Molex to SATA power converter as well as a single IDE cable supporting two drives and two SAS to SATA converters with built in Molex power plugs.
The board doesn't come with any onboard power or reset switches as standard; however, for the enthusiast who will get this board for overclocking and the six PCIe x16 slots, ASUS incorporated a daughter card that plugs into a header on the bottom of the board which gives it a power on/off switch, reset button and a POST code reader.
It's now time to get onto the board itself. ASUS uses the same sized ATX PCB that the OC Palm was built on; the boards layout is somewhat different, however, a very good design.
The 24-pin ATX power connector is located behind the six DDR3 memory slots that make up the triple channel arrangement. These slots are coloured blue and black, three of each. The 4/8 pin AUX power connector is located above the heatpipe assembly, behind the PS2/USB combo port.
On the lower right hand side of the board we have a total of eight SATA ports; six are blue and two are black. The blue ports are actually SATA ports controlled by the ICH10R Southbridge supporting the usual RAID functions as well as AHCI. The two black ports are actually SAS compliant running off the Marvel PCIe 2-port SAS controller and these ports can take SAS or SATA drives since SAS is backwards compliant with the SATA protocol. Located under the heatsink in the picture with the "Workstation" marking on the top hides the ICH10R, nForce 200 chip and the Marvell PCIe SAS controller.
The P6T6 WS Revolution is powered by the same 16 phase voltage regulation system that the Rampage II Extreme and P6T Deluxe OC Palm uses. Like these two boards, EPU-6 is also included on this board to reduce the amount of active phases that the board uses during certain activity states. The Mosfets are cooled by a heatpipe assembly that also cools the X58 IOH, ICH10R Southbridge, nForce 200 PCIe repeater and Marvell SAS controller.
The rear I/O ports resemble that of any standard ASUS board. ASUS has gone the way of trying to remove legacy ports and only a single PS/2 port is included which can be used for either a keyboard or mouse, but not both. The same Jmicron based PCIe x1 chip that gives the board its IDE also controllers the two eSATA ports on the rear I/O shield, giving it a 300MB/s external storage system for fast access to data. The audio system is handled by the Azalia HD audio codec.
Now we come down to the complex setup of the board, namely the expansion systems. This is where we start to see some interesting setups. There are a total of six PCIe x16 slots; three blue, two black and one white.
If you want to run Tri-SLI at full speed (x16) you can populate the blue slots with graphics cards capable of 3-way SLI. The first and second blue slots are run through the nForce 200 chipset which is tied to one of the two PCIe x16 lanes that the IOH supports. The last blue slot runs direct to the X58 hub.
The next scenario is if you want to run four graphics cards or more; the black slots steal lanes from the other second x16 slot and convert them into x8 slots. This leaves you with a 16x8x8x8 setup with the blue and black slots. The white x16 slot is tied to the ICH10R's last four PCIe lanes.
BIOS and Overclocking
The BIOS now and this is where ASUS always puts a lot of work into their boards. Unlike the ROG series of boards, the P6T6 WS Revolution board uses the standard AI Tweaker menu for its overclocking The board's BIOS is run through the Award 6 tab BIOS as we like to call it; familiar if you use Intel Desktop boards or any of ASUS' other boards on the market.
ASUS doesn't put all of its overclocking and tweaking under the AI Tweaker menu. Under the Advanced Chipset tab you can find a few extra menus, namely the CPU Features setup.
Under the CPU configuration menu you can change the CPU multiplier depending on what CPU you have. If you are using a Core i7 series you can adjust it from its default value or the value that the Speedstep enables to help bus overclocking. If you have the Extreme series you can lower or raise the multiplier at will as well as disable the overpower protection.
The AI Tweaker menu holds all of the bus adjustments, divider and ratios as well as voltages to help tweak the board. While not as extensive as the ROG boards, it does have a fairly good range of settings.
The ASUS P6T6 WS Revolution board is extremely tweakable for a Workstation board. While we didn't have as much time as we would like, we did managed to hit 175MHz to allow us to get a 3.8GHz clock speed; not bad at all.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Memory Performance
Processor: Intel Core 17 965 @ 3.2GHz (24x 133MHz)
Memory: 3x 2GB DDR3-1600 Corsair Dominator (Supplied by Corsair)
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M 80GB SSD (Supplied by Intel)
Graphics Card: GIGABYTE 9800GX2 1GB (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Cooling: Stock Intel cooling
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista X64 SP1
Drivers: Intel INF 184.108.40.2068, Forceware 180.24
It's now time for testing and overclocking, our favourite part of the process. Today's candidates are the Rampage II Extreme, P6T OC Palm and the P6T6 WS Revolution, an all ASUS affair.
EVEREST Ultimate Edition
Version and / or Patch Used: 2006
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Buy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
First off the bat is EVEREST. At stock speeds we see all three boards near identical. At overclocking settings we see that the P6T6 is able to keep up with the other two boards quite happily.
Benchmarks - Sisoft Sandra
Version and / or Patch Used: 2009
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.co.uk
Product Homepage: http://sisoftware.jaggedonline.com/index.php?location=home&a=TTA&lang=en
Buy It Here
SiSoft Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
Sandra shows us very similar results to EVEREST, meaning the memory is tweaked to perfection.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage//
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
Under synthetic system benchmarks we see that the P6T6 is just a little behind the slightly higher clocked OC Palm and Rampage II Extreme boards.
Benchmarks - SYSmark 2007 Preview
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/products/sysmark2007preview/>
SYSmark 2007 Preview is the latest version of the premier performance metric that measures and compares PC performance based on real world applications.
SYSmark 2007 Preview extends the SYSmark family, which has been widely accepted by IT Managers, PC OEMs, press and analysts worldwide to support Windows Vista.
SYSmark 2007 Preview allows users to directly compare platforms based on Windows Vista to those based on Windows XP Professional and Home.
The new release also incorporates numerous new features and enhancements such as an improved GUI allowing streamlined start-up and run along with a heads-up-display (HUD) and automated error reporting.
SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications.
In our real world applications we see that all three boards tie at stock and are just about dead even at OC as well.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com
Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/
Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
Moving into encoding tasks, the P6T6 does a great job to be less than a minute behind the other two boards.
Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Under synthetic gaming we see that there is little difference between all three boards. Even at overclocked speeds we see great results from the P6T6.
Benchmarks - Crysis
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.
Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.
Crysis gives us a look at the real world and here we see that the P6T6 is a very capable board.
Power Usage and Heat Tests
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD-ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
With all three boards supporting the same power saving technologies and voltage circuits we see that the three boards tie it up.
As a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboards, this being the Northbridge, Southbridge (if it contains one) as well as the Mosfets around the CPU. The results are recorded at idle and load during the power consumption tests.
The P6T6 uses a slightly different heatpipe to the other two boards so it's slightly hotter running, but only by a few degrees.
ASUS' line of boards just keeps getting better and better. Who would have thought that overclocking would make its way into the Workstation environment? - While you won't see too many desktops in offices running extreme CPU speeds just for the fun of it, ASUS has dual purposes for this board, especially for those wanting max performance out of their graphics with 3-way SLI.
The ASUS P6T6 WS Revolution board has just about everything you're going to need, including high speed Server class storage through SAS as well as support for up to six PCIe x16 graphics cards. At 369.99 USD from Newegg, this board has some good value attached.
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