There’s no need to open this review with an in-depth introduction, as the motherboard brings nothing revolutionary to the table. However, it has several distinctive features. Firstly, it’s a rather unattractive motherboard (in the sense that there’s no “wow”-effect), yet it packs much, much more than meets the eye. The packaging consists of two sections, one with the motherboard itself, and the other with all the equipment. The equipment entails two pairs of SATA 3 Gb/s and two pairs of SATA 6 Gb/s cables, as well as a tri-way SLI bridge and an ordinary one. Also contained are the already legendary ASUS’ Q-connector, backplate, and finally a DVD with the drivers and accompanying software. All in all, it looks like a standard motherboard bundle, except for the “BT GO 3.0” module, which is a combination of Bluetooth 3.0 and HS (Hot Spot). The latter gives you the option of creating a peer-to-peer communication channel without an access point. Speaking of Wi-Fi, the adapter supports 802.11 b/g/n. Bluetooth 3.0 enables functions such as remote controlling your smartphone/tablet and vice versa, which can be creatively used to overclock your PC via an Android phone, for instance. We know, we know, it seems excessive, but it’s just an option. Of course, the Wi-Fi antenna is included with the adapter and integrates two small magnets, making it easy to stick anywhere on your chassis.
The cooling system consists of two separate heatpipe systems and does its job very well, as there was no sign of overheating at any point during testing. If you have a well-overclocked CPU, however, you might want to tap on a side panel fan or similar which will help the otherwise great architectural solution to keep things in check. By the way, this model’s cooling system lies on the components (FETs) directly, the dissipation is transferred via thermal tape, and everything’s accompanied by a backing clip. This ensures that the system will always maintain maximum contact surface with the components, and thereby better heat transfer. The dimensions of the cooling bodies themselves are such that you won’t have any collision trouble regardless of which CPU cooler you opt for.
Two out of four third-gen PCI-Express slots work in full x16 mode, while the other two are available as x8. However, if you opt for three NVIDIA cards, you’ll only get x16/x8/x8. If you go for four simultaneous AMD graphics cards, all slots will operate in x8 mode. Therefore, as long as up to three NVIDIA and four AMD cards are sufficient for you, you needn’t worry about compatibility. Two more x1 slots complete the picture, and the layout of the slots altogether is very good. We say very good, but not excellent, since in the case that you want to install three dual-slot graphics cards, you won’t be left with a single PCI-Express slot usable for an extension card. Still, if perfect slot layout is imperative to you, you’ll have to reach for an ROG motherboard; we believe that the vast majority of users will never have more than two cards in conjunction with this model.
The chipset and DIMM slots (eight of them) have excellent voltage filtering, and the same goes for the CPU, served by an entire 16 filtration phases. ASUS calls this power control sector “16+4+2+2”, which indicates the (already “good old”) DIGI+ power control unit (third-gen “Dual Intelligent” chip). We’ll delve deeper into the power capabilities of this motherboard a bit later. The PCB contains the always welcome power and reset buttons, especially if you’re an overclocker or tend to tune the system before installing it in the chassis. The two-character display is there too, giving critical messages during POST and bootup, so that you always know which component caused the potential issue. TPU and EPU switches also make an appearance, so make sure you have a look at the separate box in this article if you want to know more about these.
ASUS P9X79 Deluxe has four SATA 2.0 and four SATA 3.0 ports. Two of the latter are of the “SSD Cache” type, which is elaborated on in a separate box in the article. Connectors for power, restart, power LED, HDD LED etc. are all clearly marked, while the signal LEDs for vital components are as present as ever. We’ve already got used to shortened DIMM clips with ASUS motherboards and we definitely commend this approach every opportunity we get, as will be testified by all those who frequently change RAM sticks. One USB 3.0 connector on the motherboard itself and six more on the I/O panel are more than enough.
Realtek’s ALC898 (7.1) is one of the best integrated solutions out there, which gives spectacular results in cooperation with the optical audio out. The I/O panel has two LAN ports, one of which is managed by Realtek’s rather average gigabit LAN chip, and the other by Intel’s 82579V gigabit LAN controller, probably the best integrated LAN controller ever.
|ASUS P9X79 Deluxe|
|Chipset||Intel X79 Express|
|Memory||8 x DIMM, Max 64GB|
|Expansion slots||2x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16), 1x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x8), 2x PCIe 2.0|
|SATA/ATA||4x SATA 6 Gb/s, 2x SATA 3 Gb/s, 2x eSATA 6 Gb/s|
|Audio||Realtek ALC898 HDA 7.1|
|Network||1x Intel 82579V + 1x Realtek Gigabit LAN|
|Internal interfaces||1x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, 4x SATA 6Gb/s, 4x SATA 3Gb/s, 5x Fan, 1x S/PDIF out, 1x 24-pin EATX Power, 1x 8-pin ATX 12V, 1x Front panel audio, 1x System panel, 1 MemOK! taster, 1x TPU switch, 1x EPU switch, 1x Power-on, 1x Reset, 1x Clear CMOS jumper, 1x Bluetooth v3.0 + HS connector|
|Back panel||1x Bluetooth module, 2x Power eSATA 6Gb/s, 2x LAN (RJ45) port, 6x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0 (one port may be reserved for USB BIOS Flash), 1x Optical S/PDIF out, 6x Audio jack, 1x Wi-Fi antenna port, 1x USB BIOS Flashback|
Overclock limits and power section
The BCLK of our CPU managed to work stably at 135 MHz, without much manipulation of any voltage value. In extreme conditions (overclock session with liquid nitrogen), the BCLK of our Core i7 3930K CPU would’ve probably reached 15-20 MHz more. Not that we couldn’t test for that, but it wasn’t worth the time and resources for a motherboard that isn’t an overclocker’s choice of weapon. There are better models for this sort of thing.
The test RAM, Mushkin 4 x 4 GB 1600 MHz CL9 1.5 V, worked stably at 2133 MHz and a voltage of 1.65 V, which is phenomenal, and that’s putting it mildly! These numbers are likely the result of ASUS’ announcements of a new topology for integrated memory controller communication with the DIMM slots, i.e. RAM, starting from this very model. If you throw the fact that our Mushkin costs less than 5€ per gigabyte into the mix, all this has an even greater value.
The one feature ASUS has been working on extensively as well is the BIOS, and the latter is truly complex on this motherboard, despite the fact that it’s not a cream-of-the-crop model. Absolutely everything seems to be adjustable, to the last value. Of course, we used the opportunity wholeheartedly and went to test the overclock limits of our Intel Core i7 3930K CPU. The voltage was set to 1.3 V, which is a perfectly safe bet in a 24/7 environment. We managed to reach a perfectly stable and well-tested (over multiple hours) clock of 4300 MHz, with HT on. It may not seem like much at first sight, but bear in mind that this is a very powerful hexa-core CPU.
|Intel Core i7 3930K||Intel Core i7 3930K @ 4.3 GHz|
|7-Zip 9.20 x64 compression/decompression [KB/s]||28234 / 342112||31758 / 395112|
|WinRAR 4.0 [KB/s]||4611||5083|
|True Crypt Serpent/Twofish/AES [MB/s]||466 / 943 / 4676||599 / 930 / 6007|
|AIDA 64 1.85 memory read / write / copy [MB/s]||18755 / 14772 / 16669||19809 / 16455 / 18123|
|AIDA 64 1.85 memory latency [ns]**||50.2||47.8|
|Speedtraq multithread/singlethread [sec]**||1.97 / 11.75||1.78 / 10.88|
|wPrime 32M/1024M [sec]**||5.54 / 139.17||4.49 / 121.99|
|**less is better|
|Test configuration: Intel Core i7 3930K, AMD HD6870, 4x 4 GB Mushkin 1600 MHz CL9@2133 CL11, Cooler Master SilentPro 850W, Win7 x64 SP1|
The quality of the power section is one of the main points to consider when buying any upper-class motherboard, especially if your aim is to overclock. We set the BIOS CPU voltage to 1.29 V and booted the system. In idle mode, the CPU voltage stood at 1.304 V, and it wouldn’t go under that value even after an extended amount of time under full load. On a scale from 1 to 10, this would be a clear 9. Why not 10, if the only variation is in the third decimal digit, you may wonder? Simply because we’ve seen even better on ROG motherboards. However, in practice, this means that the P9X79 Deluxe’s voltage control and power section are impeccable.
Is it worth the money?
It’s not a light decision to say that a $360 motherboard is worth the money, but in this case, there’s no other way to put it. Firstly, it can take a full-blown, overclocked hexa-core CPU and not even feel it. In other words, don’t even think of insulting this motherboard with a quad-core CPU – there are much cheaper solutions for that in the Z77 world. What matters with this model is the overclock potential in the 24/7 environment, and that’s entirely in line with an ROG model, while the overclock potential for RAM has left us speechless. 100% stability when pushing 1600 MHz to 2133 MHz (and the motherboard even woke up at 2400 MHz) is ludicrously good. Adequate multi-GPU support is there, so this motherboard can even be used for a workstation. The sheer number of USB 3.0 ports and a host of ASUS-exclusive technologies such as “SSD Cache”, TPU, EPU, USB 3.0 Boost and “BT GO 3.0!” all make this model a stock-looking beast. Best of all, the motherboard failed to cause any headaches to us at any given time during testing, which only means that it’s a 100% ironed-out product, which is a rare occurrence these days. All things considered, we give ASUS P9X79 Deluxe our full recommendation, but only if you’re ready and willing to utilise all it has to offer to the max. Otherwise, it would be a waste of money.