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Intel DX79SI (Intel X79) Motherboard Review

We check out the launch X79 motherboard from Intel and let you know if it's one you should be looking at.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Wed, Dec 7 2011 10:19 PM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 75%Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction and Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 46 IMAGES

With the GTX 560 Ti 448 launch well and truly out of the way, it's time to get back into the mass of X79 boards we've got piled up around us. Today we're looking at the Intel DX79SI, a board that a lot of people may ignore. With a strong name for creating rock solid boards, though, Intel offerings continue to be quite a nice option for people who are looking for something that they want to know is backed by the company that makes the processor they're installing in it.

The DX79SI is actually the board that Intel sent with the CPU; knowing that ASUS was working so hard prior to launch on the Rampage IV Extreme, we knew that it was going to be the board to use as it would give us the best possible performance out of our 3960X.

Today, though, we step back and check out the X79 wielding DX79SI from Intel and see what it's all about. With so many motherboards on offer these days, though, is Intel a brand we want to look at, or would we prefer to go down the path of boards from companies like ASRock, ASUS, GIGABYTE and MSI who offer us a huge range?

The first thing we've got to do before we get into the performance of the DX79SI is check out the package that Intel has going on with the board. Once that's done we'll take a closer look at the board itself before getting into the BIOS. Once we've done that we'll cover the overclocking side of things and then see what's going on with the performance of the DX79SI.

The Package

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Intel has put together quite a large box that opens up and gives us a look at some of the main features while also letting us know what the board itself looks like.

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Inside we've got the I/O back plate, thermal cable, couple of SLI bridges and a mouse pad. The back also mentions the inclusion of a Bluetooth 2.1 / WiFi 802.11G module which we didn't get in our sample and we would of course expect to see the normal Driver CD / Manual in the retail versions of the board.

The Motherboard

Looking at the board, there's nothing too out of the ordinary going on with the whole design. You can see we've got a Black / Blue combination going on with some Intel branding. Moving in a bit closer, we can see exactly what's going on in the expansion slot department.

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We've got a single legacy PCI slot alongside two PCIe x1 slots. Finally, we have three PCIe x16 slots to round everything out that run in a x16 / x16 configuration for two card SLI / CrossFire setups and x16 / x16 / x8 for three card setups. Also around here you can see a little PC speaker towards the bottom slots.

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Moving across to the bottom of the board, we've got our front panel audio header, fan connector, power and reset button, 1394 header, front panel system header, USB 3.0, BIOS reset header and four USB 2.0 headers.

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Turning the corner, we've got a total of six SATA ports that all run off the X79 chipset with the four black ones being SATA II and the two blue ones being SATA III. Being an Intel board, it comes as no surprise that they've chosen to ignore the implementation of a third party controller to expand the SATA ports.

The Motherboard Continued

Moving to the top corner of the board, there's very little to see with a fan header on the far left and our main 24-Pin ATX power connector. Behind that we can see a total of four DIMM slots which is of course only half the picture.

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Before we move out a bit, we jump to the top of the board where we can see our 8-Pin CPU power connector.

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Stepping back a bit, we can see we've got a total of eight DIMM slots on offer here today with four sitting on each side offering us a total of 64GB of RAM in Quad Channel at speeds up to 2400MHz DDR via overclocking. Around here we can also see our two heatsinks that look pretty good and you can see the bottom one has heat pipes that run to the bottom most heatsink. Like most boards these days, though, the area is pretty clean.

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Moving to the I/O side of things, it's actually not too busy. Starting from the left, we've got a button that lets us switch back to default settings on the BIOS; it does come in handy, I must admit. Next to that we've got two USB 3.0 ports, six USB 2.0 ports, two Gigabit networking ports, 1394 Firewire along with five auxiliary ports and an optical out to round off the sound side of things.

BIOS

Moving into the BIOS, I instantly find myself really unimpressed with what's on offer from Intel. If you go through the BIOS most of the options are there and looking at the "Performance" section, I love that the "Default" settings are for certain areas. It makes overclocking a little less stressful sometimes as you know what the starting point is instead of just the "Auto" option.

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Memory options are also pretty good and setting the speed up or loading the XMP profiles is pretty easy.

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The issue with the DX79SI BIOS is that we've become so spoilt with the look of this area in the past year. We've seen ASUS and ASRock offer really nice versions of the UEFI BIOS and we've seen GIGABYTE join the party in a big way offering us a really great looking BIOS that they've dubbed as the "3D BIOS".

Outside of the brightness these BIOS designs bring to us, the overclocking options are also much more substantial. The DX79SI BIOS isn't bad by any means; it's probably more it's just not up to the standard that we've become used to over the past 12 months.

Test System Setup

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.

In the testbed department there's not a lot that has to be said as everything is fairly well covered in the image above. Because of that, we'll get stuck into what's going on with the overclocking side of things.

While the DX79SI BIOS isn't my favorite BIOS by any means, we still get a strong option of overclocking. With the heatsink design being a little more tame, though, compared to some other companies we didn't want to go crazy with the voltages.

Setting the 1.25 Host Clock Multiplier that pushes our BCLK to 125, we found instantly the board wouldn't boot. Getting back to default and into the BIOS, we ended up just using the multiplier to find our overclock.

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We ended up and running in Windows at 4.5GHz which is a nice little overclock, but by no means the best we've seen to date. This was done by leaving the BCLK at 100 and just pushing the CPU multiplier up to 45x. Moving to the next level, we found ourselves staring down the barrel of some instability and 45x really seemed to be the sweet spot for the motherboard.

While not a huge overclock, it should yield a nice boost in performance over the stock clocks which is exactly what we'll find out today.

Let's get started!

CPU Benchmarks

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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In our first set of benchmarks we can see performance for the most part lines up where we'd expect it to. Saying that, our L3 Cache read numbers are a little wacky for some reason. Multiple reboots didn't seem to fix the issue either.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

Developer Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

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MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

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Looking at both PCMark 7 and MediaEspresso performance, we see no surprise here with the DX79SI lining up with our other X79 boards for the most part. We can also see a nice little boost in performance when it comes to the overclocking side of things.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at USB 2.0 and 3.0 performance, we can see the board lines up with our other ones which don't use any kind of "Turbo" technology to boost the performance.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

Developer Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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Looking at the performance of our SSD, we can see it's very strong compared to the MSI board which really struggled under these tests for some reason. Compared to the ASUS offerings, it sits back just a little, though.

Memory Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking at memory performance, we don't see anything out of the ordinary with the numbers lining up with our other X79 boards just as we'd expect.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com//

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Checking out the performance of our GTX 580 on the board, we see typical numbers that line up with our other Intel setups here with a slight boost to the Performance preset under 3DMark 11 when we overclock.

Temperature and Power

Power Draw Tests

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On the power side of things, the board sits a bit higher than our MSI one, but lower than the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme which really draws quite a large amount of power when idle.

Core Temperature

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Checking out our CPU temperature, the Intel board comes in well. Even overclocked we see only a slight bump in heat, albeit the overclock isn't as high as some of the other ones we've looked at which sees our 3960X running at 5GHz.

Final Thoughts

With a price tag of around $300 US, the Intel DX79SI isn't a cheap board with cheaper X79 offerings coming in from as low as $219.99 US. There's nothing wrong with the DX79SI, but there's nothing that really makes it stand out that much, especially when you compare it to companies like ASUS, GIGABYTE, MSI and ASRock who offer us a really wide range of boards at different price points.

SATA ports are minimal due to the lack of an extra controller being present; the I/O side of things is just quite bare, period. To run SLI or CrossFire you need to run the cards in the first two PCIe x16 slots for them to run at x16 / x16. With a third slot on offer, though, it feels so pointless running two dual slots cards sandwiched together. The other option is to move it to the end, but then you're moving it to an x8 wired slot.

The BIOS is fine in the sense that we've got a lot of options on offer and it's fairly easy to navigate, but it's got nothing on companies who have really been fine tuning the UEFI BIOS over the past 12 months.

On the plus side of things, the dual Intel Gigabit networking is nice; the color scheme of the board is also good. The bundle isn't too bad with the Bluetooth / WiFi module included, albeit not in ours today. The 3 Year warranty on the board is also really nice.

The issue is that these aren't really enough for us to go, "I'd pick this over an equivalent option from someone else". At this price point you can pick up the MSI X79A-GD65 or ASUS P9X79. An extra $30 US, though, will get you the PRO variant of the ASUS board or even a GIGABYTE X79A-UD5.

The Intel DX79SI isn't a bad motherboard, but amongst the cut throat industry that is motherboards, it doesn't stand out against boards from the companies we've already mentioned. Unless you needed to have an Intel board, we'd probably suggest you look at some of the other feature packed offerings from companies like ASUS, GIGABYTE, MSI and ASRock.

The final issue is that the board just seems hard to find - it's not listed at Newegg, Frys or Tiger Direct. With so many other options available to these companies, it's probably not a huge surprise, though.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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