It’s been a little while since we’ve posted a motherboard review, so let’s waste no time in tackling another one, shall we? Although EVGA’s X58 SLI has been out pretty much as long as Intel’s Core i7 platform, it’s been praised for it’s stability and feature-set, so we’re going to be taking a fresh look at the board today and see how it fares in today’s competitive market.
Before we dive too deep into this particular model, I’d like to mention that EVGA recently released their Classified board, one that we first took a look at during CES. This board is in a different league than the one we’re dealing with today, primarily because it retails for $449. It is, in all regards, high-end, so it’s worth a look if you are looking to really pimp out your machine.
But, back to the X58 SLI, an offering that retails for under $300 ($270 before mail-in rebate at one e-tailer), and offers enough of what gamers are looking for. This of course includes SLI support (and also CrossFireX), in addition to thoughtful design, great aesthetics and performance, and of course, decent overclocking-ability. We’ll be sure to tackle each of these throughout the article.
Closer Look at EVGA’s X58 SLI
Although the board features a rather bland model name, its feature-set is not so much. As mentioned, the board supports multi-GPU configurations and other features any gamer would be proud to have in their machine. As always, let’s take a step-by-step look around the board, to see where it shines, and falters.
The first stop is the bottom right-hand corner, where we can find a modest Southbridge heatsink and also a litter of various headers, including two for your fans and others for your USB, FireWire and chassis. Also here is a total of eight S-ATA ports, two at the absolute bottom, the other six vertically-mounted. For debugging (and this does prove useful from time to time), there’s a BIOS LED readout. For those living with legacy components, an IDE connector is also available.
This board not only features dual-GPU configurations, but also triple-GPU, should you wish to go that high-end route. Note that going with such a configuration will rid out both the single PCI-E 1x and also the two legacy PCI slots. This can’t be avoided unless you happen to have single-slot cards, but that tends to wipe out the idea behind triple SLI.
Because PCI-E slots are backwards-compatible, should you go with two dual-slot GPUs, you can still use the other PCI-E 16x for another component, including an audio card or network adapter. It doesn’t matter if the card is a PCI-E 1x, 4x or 8x form-factor… it will still function just fine (I run my ASUS Xonar D2X in a PCI-E 16x slot, for instance).
You might also note the extra S-ATA port here. Although it’s located in the strangest of locations, it might prove useful to those who want to run an external S-ATA drive, and really, that’s the only use I can figure. A standard S-ATA cable is not going to stretch far enough to reach this port to where the hard drive is mounted – at least in most chassis’.
Moving upward, we find the brightly-colored DIMM slots. The green matches EVGA’s company’s color scheme and flows well with the rest of the board. In this area, two more fan connectors are found. Aside from the 4-pin CPU cooler fan connector, there are a total of four fan headers on this board, allowing for optimal cooling-ability.
Speaking of cooling, here we can see the Northbridge cooler, which features one of the most unique designs I’ve seen to date. The heatsink itself stands tall, but rather than a fan be installed on top, it’s installed on the side. Inside is a leaf-blower style fan that exhausts air both out the only open side, and also through the heatsink itself. I’m not sure how effective this is compared to other solutions, but I can confidentally say one thing… the Northbridge will still get mighty hot. That’s a problem difficult to tackle with modest cooling solutions.
You can better see the design when taking a look at the opposite side. It’s different, but I have no complaints. I think it looks rather good, and it compliments the PWM cooler quite well. That in itself is something to be noticed, because it’s also unlike most other solutions. It features a Thermalright feel (for all I know, that might be the manufacturer), is small, and looks great. The chrome color really does add some eye-candy to the board, adding to its allure.
Here, you can also see the power configuration, which is likely 8+2, although EVGA doesn’t make note of that anywhere. The common configuration lately is to group a bunch of phases together dedicated to the CPU, with another two dedicated to the memory and QPI. More phases generally means greater stability with overclocking, although as we’ll find out later, that didn’t help us out too much here.
I mentioned that this board carried many features, and a look at the I/O panel proves it. Here we find a total of eight USB ports, along with an e-SATA and also a FireWire, a PS/2 keyboard port, audio and also two LAN ports. Also here is a Clear CMOS button, in case of an overclock gone awry.
In way of accessories, the X58 SLI continues to deliver. We have a wide assortment of HDD/ODD cables, USB and FireWire add-in card and also two SLI bridges – one for dual, the other for triple. For those lacking S-ATA power connectors, the company even goes as far as to include Molex-to-SATA power adapters. These are likely to be required by few, but will be extremely appreciated by those few. They also include an add-in card for Serial connectors, so EVGAs commitment to legacy hardware is really unparallelled.
From a design and features standpoint, I’m pleased overall here, especially with what’s available as an accessory and also on the back I/O port. I do have a few complaints with the overall board layout, however. Remember EVGA’s nForce 680i SLI board? There were some strange component placements there, and the X58 SLI doesn’t change up too much.
Take for example the location of the fan connectors. There are two at the absolute bottom, and then two more at the absolute right. That means with fans with shorter cables, you may have a difficult time reaching one or the other. I experienced this with the 120mm fan on the back of my chassis… in a spot where most all chassis’ have a fan. The cable was somewhat long, but not long enough to reach any of the available fan connectors. Instead, I had to use a 3-pin-to-Molex adapter in order to make it work. There’s really no need for this, since almost all chassis’ will have a fan in this location. There is a fan behind the PWM heatsink, but it’s designed for the CPU. If you don’t use it for the CPU, then you’ll just have to worry about stretching that cable somewhere else.
That’s the main complaint I have, although there are minor things I find a bit strange also. For what reason, for example, are the internal USB connectors found three or four inches up into the board? Typically, these are found at the aboslute bottom, where they are convenient. This location would make a triple-GPU configuration a little awkward, given that the third GPU could cut right into a USB cable’s path.
Those complaints aside, I still have much more good to say about the board than bad. If EVGA takes note of these complaints, their boards will be just that much more desirable.