ASUS P9X79 and P9X79 Deluxe LGA 2011 Sandy Bridge-E Motherboard Review - Test Setup and Overclocking
CPU: Intel i7-3930K
CPU Cooling: Arctic Freezer i30
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79/P9X79 Deluxe
Comparison Motherboard: Gigabyte X79-UD3
RAM: 4x4GB Patriot Viper Xtreme Division 4 1333MHz DDR3
GPU: ASUS GTX 560Ti 448 Core
OS HDD: OCZ Vertex 3 120GB MaxIOPS
Secondary HDD: Patriot Pyro SE 60GB
Power Supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid 1050W
OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-Bit
We will be comparing a variety of performance characteristics between the three motherboards we've tested on the X79 platform. We will test the SATA ports, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 transfer speeds, overall performance via PCMark7, as well as CPU-specific performance. Additionally, our Seagate USB 3.0 drive we use for testing doesn't have a driver compatible with the host controller for the ASUS board, so we weren't able to get any USB 3.0 data from the ASUS board, but we're updating our USB 3.0 testing hardware, and those numbers will be updated shortly. Each benchmark or test was run a minimum of three times to minimize variation in the independent test runs, and the average of the runs are reported.
The overclocked tests were performed by first setting the "Optimized Defaults," in the BIOS, then simply setting the multiplier at x42 and leaving the voltage AUTO. We wanted to test each board in a consistent manner based upon "out of the box" performance, please let us know in the comments if you'd like to see us take another angle on the overclocked settings. We avoided the software as different software may make a number of behind-the-scenes changes, and manual settings ensure we best control the test environment to make accurate comparisons.
ASUS has fully-included all overclocking options in their AISuiteII as well as in the BIOS. This includes their advanced DIGI+ power control, phase control, flexible fan speed profiles, memory options, as well as the standard overclocking settings. Using manual settings, we were able to push the our i7-3930K up to just over 4.5GHz at an imposed voltage limit of 1.45V, which we used as a baseline for the AutoTune settings found from the TPU switch, the OCTuner in the BIOS, and the AutoTune settings in AISuiteII. We should also note that the overclocking behavior was nearly identical between the P9X79 and the P9X79 Deluxe, which verifies ASUS' claims and was also expected given the hardware similarities. The P9X79 Deluxe was easier to get to 4.5GHz, but that's also because by default it pumps a bit extra voltage to the chip. In general, as we will see later, the P9X79 Deluxe did a bit better, possibly due to more intensive quality control on the higher-end models and/or luck of the draw. ASUS provides all the necessary options to make this a top-notch overclocking board, and since ASUS performs more compatibility validation testing than anyone in the business, the overclocking experience is sure to be a pleasant one for just about anyone.
The Digi+ power control is one of ASUS' proudest innovations, but the average user won't understand how to use it. But for the power users out there, it helps open up another world of possibilities for tweaking and optimization. Digi+ really deserves a dedicated article to do it all justice, so we will point you to ASUS' site for further details. For X79, ASUS has extended the capability of their 8th-generation power control design to include control over the CPU, VRAM, and also DRAM. Again, the power controls are available in both AISuite II and the BIOS, for convenience and flexibility.
Using automatic voltage settings when making manual changes showed that the P9X79 platform, in general, pushed more voltage to the chip than the Gigabyte X79-UD3. For a 4.2GHz with a 42 multiplier, the P9X79 Deluxe pushed 1.296V, where the X79-UD3 drew 1.236V. Seeing the hardware variability between Gigabyte's models, we cannot say if we'd see lower overall voltages from the UD5 or UD7 models.
The "Fast" setting in AISuite, the TPU Switch, the "Performance" Quick Profile in the BIOS, and the BIOS OCTuner all lead to the same end overclocking result. Each of these settings automatically set a clock speed, perform stability tests, and iterate until they settle on a final clock. In each of our tests, these settings all lead to a 3.9GHz clock speed, which is a nice boost, but also very safe, even with rather poor cooling equipment. The beauty of these settings is that they're dynamic, so if you're running the stock cooler and its clogged with dust, if the stability tests see the chip is running hot, it'll choose a lower clock speed. These settings usually only took a minute to converge on a setting, and it was also rather aggressive on the base clock speed, bumping it up to 103.00 in all cases.
The "Extreme" auto-overclock option is found in AISuiteII, and performs the same iterative process as described above, with a clock setting>stability test>repeat until it settles on an aggressive but safe overclock. In general, the iterative process likes to boost the base clock to 103.00 right off the bat, and then cycling the multiplier. We got a very aggressive 4.532 GHz, but it did take it up to 1.456V, which is actually only slightly higher than our voltage limit. The process worked flawlessly, and it really is great even for extreme overclockers who plan on pushing it hard themselves, as the AutoTune will iterate and at least give you a good starting point. The peak core temperature under load was at 88°C, which is a bit high for long-term usage, but overall we got a great result. When the dust has settled, you're rewarded with the image shown below: