The number of users who make these features an absolute requirement is very low, and the vast majority couldn’t care less if they’re able to house a third graphics card on their new motherboard or not. In no instance does this mean that this sort of users isn’t after high-quality hardware; they just don’t have needs which would require a more advanced version of the given motherboard. Well, this article goes out to all such users, as they’re the target market of the motherboard model we’ll be reviewing today. We’ve recently tested the PRO version, so feel free to refer to that article first, as we’ll also do the same throughout this review. We’re hoping it’ll make an interesting comparison, especially in terms of whether anything can be said to be truly missing and whether the latter is worth the difference in price.
Tidy and elegant
ASUS P9X79 looks very appealing at first sight, and it could easily be described as balanced. Nothing can be said to stand out, the blue cooling system isn’t oversized, there’s no heatpipe connecting the chipset cooler to the voltage chips in the middle of the PCB; there’s only a square-shaped cooling profile. The second cooler covers the 14-phase digital power unit – the very same DigiVRM+ unit seen on the PRO model. The removal of the POST display isn’t too much of a drawback as most users don’t even know how to use it, and those who do seldom have the need or opportunity for that for the simple fact that many enclosures don’t have a transparent side panel. The FanXpert technology which enables software fan control is also gone, but a USB port for BIOS flashing when the computer is off has been kept (the so-called USB BIOS Flashback technology). Other notable omissions include the Bluetooth radio, one PCI-Express slot and two SATA connectors. This leaves you with three PCI-Express slots and six SATA connectors, which is really more than enough by itself, with most users keeping a single graphics card and no more than two hard disks inside their PCs.
Eight DIMM memory slots promises efficient quad-channel, with the motherboard supporting DDR3 memory up to a frequency of 2400 MHz. TPU and EPU chips are also present, so that you can automatically overclock your PC or keep its power consumption to a minimum, whichever suits your liking better. The audio controller is Realtek’s ALC892, a somewhat inferior solution to ALC898 on the PRO model, but with support for up to eight channels and lack thereof for Dolby Home Theatre (which constitutes the only real difference between the two). As far as connections on the back panel are concerned, the list is in fact more optimised than was the case with the PRO model. Firstly, there’s a combined PS2 connector, which can always come in handly, as well as Firewire, none of which makes an appearance on the PRO version.
As already stated, the Bluetooth module from the PRO version is gone, but that’s it. Six audio connectors, two eSATA 6 Gbps and ten USB ports, four of which support the 3.0 standard, make this motherboard ideally agile. S/PDIF is also there, its flexibility kept in check by Realtek’s chip. We particularly appreciate the fact that the layout of the motherboard has remained largely intact, keeping it commendable by itself. Every connector is well-placed, so that little can get in your way while assembling an X79-based system.
Specs, results & OC
|Dimm slots||8, max. 64 GB DDR3 2400 MHz|
|MultiGPU support||CrossFireX x3, TriWay SLI|
|Expansion slots||2x PCI-Express 3.0 x16, 1x PCI-Express 3.0 x8, 2x PCI-Express 2.0 x1, 1x PCI|
|SATA/ATA ports||2x SATA 6Gbps, 4x SATA 3Gbps, 2x eSATA 6Gbps|
|Audio||Realtek ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC|
|Network||1x Intel Ethernet kontroler|
|USB||4x USB 3.0, 6x USB 2.0|
|Onboard connections||4x USB 2.0, 4x SATA 6, 4x SATA 3, 6x Fan, 1x 24pin power, ATX 12V power, Audio (Front panel)|
|Back panel||PS2, 6x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.0, S/PDIF, 1x LAN, 6x Analog audio, S/PDIF, 2x eSATA 6Gbps|
The motherboard has proven to be very stable in real-world conditions, and the interface of the UEFI BIOS is identical to the one seen on the PRO model, both visually and functionally. As far as overclock goes, again, the capabilities are identical to the ones already seen on the PRO version. We stopped at a BCLK of 128 MHz, which is quite common for models in this price category, and any ambition for higher values has to be paid for in the substantial price difference between these and ROG models.
|3DMark 11 Physics Score||11.626|
|3DMark Vantage CPU Score||36.708|
|Aida64 Extreme 2.00|
|Memory read/write/copy [MB/s]||16.117 / 15.113 / 15.993|
|Memory latency [ns] **||68.2|
|7-Zip 7.20 x64 komp./dekomp. [kB/s]||26.584 / 335.305|
|x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 encoding [fps]||54,7|
|Winrar x64 4.10 Beta 2 Benchmark test||4.178|
|Blender x64 [sec] **||145,4|
|Cinebench R11.5 CPU/xCPU||81,27 / 10,46|
|True Crypt 7.1|
|AES [GB/s]||5,3 / 5,2|
|Twofish [MB/s]||861 / 909|
|Serpent [MB/s]||502 / 500|
Honestly, unless you’re truly an advanced enthusiast, P9X79 will lose you nothing compared to its PRO-suffixed brother, and the same goes for the Deluxe version too. Most of the additional capabilities they offer are unlikely to be put to good (or any) use, so even if you actually manage to get your hands on three graphics cards at the same time, it’s highly unlikely you’ll have the need for a fourth one, and the same logic applies to hard disks as well. Therefore, it’s entirely up to you to reflect upon your real needs and make a call.
Our advice is to remain firmly objective and set your priorities straight, as motherboard investments are the easiest to end up as futile, instead of being redirected towards some other piece of hardware. This makes models such as ASUS P9X79 the best choice there is, simply because they offer quality and more than sufficient capabilities with a price that is easily justifiable.