DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 1
DFI have long been known as the board of choice for overclockers. The DFI
Nf4 boards were massively superior to anything the competition could muster, so much so that everyone believed, myself included, that the Intel derivative of the Lanparty boards would be a resounding success. Sadly, this was not the case. Production problems meant more often than not, DFI were late to the table with their offerings and as such, the boards were not taken up in the numbers they had enjoyed previously. This isn't to say the boards were bad, it's just they offered little over the competition and as most enthusiasts had already bought P45 and X48 boards, most weren't about to trade up 6 months down the line when DFI released their variant. I half expected X58 to be a similar story but I am pleased to announce DFI are on time with the X58 T3eH8 Ultra motherboard.
Being an Ultra, the T3eH8 is being touted as a flagship model with all the premium additions you would expect from a top end motherboard. On-board switches, a plethora of jumpers, Bernstein HD Audio, Volterra Digital PWM as well as support for CrossfireX and Tri SLI are just some of the massive array of features this board has to offer. Being an overclockers board it goes without saying that it should be well cooled. True to form, DFI have once again outdone themselves with some jaw dropping heatsinks ensuring the board is cooled sufficiently even under heavy overclocking conditions.
DFI are focused purely on performance. You won't find unneeded power saving features on this motherboard as it was not designed to save the planet, it was designed to blow it apart. I sometimes wonder why some manufacturers make a big deal out of the green features of it's boards but then add useless extras that negate the power saving cost in the first place. DFI simply do not play that game. Raw speed is all they are about, DFI leave the tree hugging and saving the whale to someone else. Let's hope this consensus has been transferred to the ethos of the X58 T3eH8.
* LGA 1366 socket for Intel® Core™ i7 processors
* Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) technology - point-to-point interface that connects to X58; providing a dynamically scalable interconnect for increased bandwidth, lower latency and stability
* Integrated Memory Controller (IMC) supports 3 channels of DDR3
* Intel Hyper-Threading Technology delivers 8-threaded performance
* 8-phase digital PWM provides stable voltage to the CPU
* Intel chipset
- Northbridge: Intel X58 Express chipset
- Southbridge: Intel ICH10R
* System bus - 4.8GT/s to 6.4GT/s
* Six 240-pin DDR3 DIMM sockets
* DDR3 800/1066/1333/1600(O.C.) MHz DIMMs
* Triple-channel memory architecture
* Supports up to 24GB system memory
* Delivers up to 43.2GB/s bandwidth
* Unbuffered x8/x16, non-ECC and ECC, up to 4Gb DDR3 devices
Windows® 32-bit operating system is unable to accurately detect more than 4GB system memory. Therefore, if you are using this operating system, we strongly recommend that you install a less than 3GB system memory.
* 3 PCI Express (Gen 2) x16 slots
a. 2-way CrossFire at x16/x16 transfer rate lanes; or
b. 3-way SLI at x16/x8/x8 transfer rate lanes
* 1 PCI Express x4 slot
* 2 PCI slots
* Award BIOS
* 8Mbit SPI flash memory
* CMOS Reloaded
* Multiple GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit)
- 3 graphics cards in 3-way SLI or Quad CrossFireX configuration
* Bernstein audio module
- Realtek ALC889 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Center/subwoofer, rear R/L and side R/L jacks
- Line-in, line-out (front R/L) and mic-in jacks
- 2 coaxial RCA S/PDIF-in/out jacks
- 1 optical S/PDIF connector
- 1 CD-in connector
- 1 front audio connector
* 108dB Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) playback (DAC) quality and 104dB SNR recording (ADC) quality
* Marvell 88E8052 and Marvell 88E8053 PCIE Gigabit LAN controllers with Teaming technology
* Fully compliant to IEEE 802.3 (10BASE-T), 802.3u (100BASE-TX) and 802.3ab (1000BASE-T) standards
* Intel ICH10R chip
- Intel Matrix Storage technology
- Supports up to 6 SATA devices
- SATA speed up to 3Gb/s
- RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1 and RAID 5
* JMicron JMB363 PCI Express to SATA and PATA host controller
- Supports up to 2 UltraDMA 100Mbps IDE devices
- Supports 2 SATA devices
- SATA speed up to 3Gb/s
- RAID 0 and RAID 1
* VIA VT6308P
* Supports two 100/200/400 Mb/sec IEEE 1394a ports
Rear Panel I/O
* 1 Mini-DIN-6 PS/2 mouse port
* 1 Mini-DIN-6 PS/2 keyboard port
* 1 IEEE 1394 port
* 6 USB 2.0 ports
* 2 RJ45 LAN ports
* 3 connectors for 6 additional external USB 2.0 ports
* 1 connector for an external COM port
* 1 connector for an IEEE 1394 port
* 1 connector for the Bernstein audio module
* 1 IrDA connector and 1 CIR connector
* 8 Serial ATA connectors
* 1 40-pin IDE connector and 1 floppy connector
* 1 24-pin ATX power connector
* 1 8-pin 12V power connector
* 2 4-pin 5V/12V power connectors (FDD type)
* 1 front panel connector
* 8 fan connectors
* 1 diagnostic LED
* EZ touch switches (power switch and reset switch)
* ACPI and OS Directed Power Management
* ACPI STR (Suspend to RAM) function
* Wake-On-PS/2 / Wake-On-USB Keyboard/Mouse
* Wake-On-LAN and Wake-On-Ring
* RTC timer to power-on the system
* AC power failure recovery
* Monitors CPU/system/Northbridge temperature and overheat alarm
* Monitors Vcore/Vdimm/Vnb/VCC5/12V/V5sb/Vbat voltages
* Monitors the speed of the cooling fans
* CPU Overheat Protection function monitors CPU temperature and fan during system boot-up - automatic shutdown upon system overheat
* 6 layers, ATX form factor;
* 24.5cm (9.64") x 30.5cm (12")
As per norm, the DFI fails to disappoint. There are however a few points that should be mentioned. The 6+2 USB configuration is less than other boards on the market at the moment. This however can be expanded using the internal USB headers (no bracket included). Although the board supports TRI SLI it will be restricted to eight lanes on the 2nd and third card. This is due to the fact that the board does not have the nf200 chip allowing 16 lanes on all PCIe slots. As all the slots are PCIe 2.0 standard this is much less of an issue as the bandwidth is much less restricted as it was on PCIe 1.0 standard.
Lets see how DFI have presented the X58 T3eH8...
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 2
Packaging and Accessories
The exterior sleeve is a far cry from the cartoon lanparty's of old. I was very impressed with the X48 Ultra's packaging and the X58 is no different. Comprising of a very attractive outer sleeve with just the name on the front and details on the rear it is very hard to criticise the packaging thus far. The finer points to the motherboards features are continued inside the flip lid as well as a taster of the motherboard itself through a window.
The inner packaging comes in two sections. The first comprises the motherboard in a thin plastic style case and the second is the accessories, again in a chic cardboard box. I do admire this type of packaging as it totally separates the two and ensures that the product arrives unscathed from inconsiderate delivery drivers.
As you would expect from a flagship product, the list of accessories is both extensive and complete. Everything you could wish for is here: IDE, Floppy and 4x SATA cables (+Molex to SATA power converters) in the obligatory UV green. additional jumpers, Quick connectors, two manuals, driver disc, paste, paste spreader, 2x SLI and 1 xCrossfire bridge.
A step in the right direction for DFI is the inclusion of Quick connectors. While these are nothing new to Asus and MSI users, it shows that DFI are answering the calls from users that we want convenience, not a challenge when dealing with the fiddly bits of a PC build.
The motherboard comes with 2 manuals. The Flame Freezer manual directs the attachment of the optional extension to the heatpipe cooling of the motherboard and the motherboard, while at first appearance appears very thick is that that daunting once you realise it is a multi language manual. I say multi language as DFI also include what I lovingly like to call 'Chinglish' as well as all major European and Asian languages. Both manuals are well laid out with very well labelled diagrams and photos to aid the reader.
The I/O shield, as with the X48, is very thick and heavy set compared to your average backplate. This is due in part that the shield supports some of the weight of the Flame freezer with an additional screw on bracket. The plate is well labelled and should not present any issues. Rounding off the accessories is the inclusion of both SLI, Tri SLI and Crossfire bridges. This is a first for motherboard manufacturers as most will just supply a SLI bridge or none at all. This is a very welcome addition indeed, especially for those who have misplaced their Crossfire/SLI bridges.
Let's take a look at the motherboard itself...
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 3
Board Layout & Appearance
At first glance the X58 looks strikingly similar to it's X48 brethren, using the same Yellow and green slots as well as the black PCB as its forbear. Personally, I'm beginning to tire of UV reactive designs despite the board still looking fresh. I would have liked to see a new colour scheme to go with the new chipset but alas, DFI have seen fit to use up PCIe and memory slots from the X38/X48 parts bin.
The CPU socket ares is remarkably clear of capacitors and Mosfets. This is down to the Volterra full digital PWM system. Digital PWM allows much cleaner voltages to be supplied to the CPU which in turn can enhance overclocking on the CPU but this undoubtedly adds to the cost of the board. The Motherboard runs on an 8 phase power design which, while appearing low compared to some of it's competitors 'claimed' 16 phase design is more then enough according to DFI.
The DDR3 triple channel configuration is the same for all X58 boards thus far, with slots 2+4 for single channel, 2-4-6 for triple channel and all slots can be populated for a maximum supported 24GB of memory.
The board has a plethora of jumper settings, most of which will remain unused for all but the most extreme overclocker. The use of the illuminated on-board Power and Reset switches eradicates the need to operate the CMOS clear jumper as, like its predecessors, if you press both together this will reset the CMOS allowing for a fresh start and returning the motherboard into a bootable state should you become too ambitious with your overclocking.
The PCIe layout is very good indeed allowing for Tri SLI use of dual slot cards without any clearance issues. If you do intend on using 3 dual slots cards it is worth considering that, unlike the Gigabyte board we reviewed previously, there will be no remaining PCI/e slots remaining for additional expansion cards. Both Green PCIe slots are 16x until TRI SLI is used and this is where the 8x yellow PCIe slot comes into play. This will throttle the lowest PCIe Green slot back down to 8x with only the uppermost PCIe slot providing the full 16 lanes to the primary GPU.
The huge Northbridge heatsink is a break from the previous Ultra editions motherboards in that it is anodised black rather than a brushed aluminium colour. The heatsink does not fit in well with the overall aesthetics of the motherboard not only because of the black heatsink but because of the horrid top plate they have stuck on the sink which sticks out like a sore thumb. To the edge of the board we see that an IDE ports is still available aswell as 8 SATA ports. 6 of the ports are controlled by the ICH10R chip while the remaining 2 yellow ports are controlled by the Jmicron JMB363 chip along with the IDE port. While 8 SATA ports appears plenty, it's not as many as the Gigabyte UD5 which supply a whopping 10. Whether you need this many will depend on your own circumstances.
The I/O area is sparse compared to some of the other motherboards we have reviewed in the past. No on-board sound, a miserly 6 USB ports, dual Gigabit Lan (with teaming function) and support for PS/2 Keyboard and mouse are all that can be found. Rather than utilise on-board sound, DFI include a separate Bernstein soundcard based on the Realtec ALC 889 codec which, while saving room on the I/O area (which hasn't been utilised), does take up a PCI backplate. Straddling the I/O area is the largest cooler on the board which takes care of cooling the PWM area. One would think this should be plenty to cool this area, DFI however have other ideas as we shall see.
A very neat little feature of the board is the replaceable BIOS chip should it become corrupted through an incorrect BIOS update procedure. While no replacement BIOS chip is included in the package, taking the chip out and RMA'ing that is much cheaper (and easier) than RMA'ing the whole motherboard.
Removing the top of the Northbridge heatsink we come across an oddity. A solid metal bar nestles between the top and bottom of the heatsink yet there was no thermal paste to aid heat transfer. While this was disappointing at first there is method to DFI's madness. The metal bar can be removed and the optional Flame Freezer heatsink can be placed here instead of on the I/O backplate area to decrease temps further should this necessity be required.
Removing the mid section of the Northbridge and the remainder of the whole heatsink assembly was straightforward enough as the whole heatsink is attached to the motherboard via screws . Using screws instead of push-pin ensures that the best possible contact and mounting pressure is achieved.
Two different pastes were used on the motherboard but all areas had evidence of perfect contact, included the PWM area which is unusual as most manufacturers opt to use thermal tape in this area.
Fitting the flame freezer to the I/O area was a little fiddly and I do question the need for additional cooling here however nobody can doubt the the I/O cooling and indeed the overall cooling of the T3eH8 is awesome and I have no doubts whatsoever that this is perhaps the best cooling solution a motherboard has seen to date.
Well thats the motherboards aesthetics investigated. Time to get this show on the road and take a look at what performance features this board has to offer...
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 4
Heading straight to the business end of the BIOS we arrive at the Genie section. This, as all DFI users will already know, is where you will find the overclocking features of the BIOS.
Rather than have all the options on one page, the Genie BIOS has evolved into a structured separate BIOS where each section has it's own page dedicated to the specific options available. So if you are looking to alter CPU options, CPU feature will open a page. Memory Timings? Again, you have your own page. This structure keeps the main Genie page uncluttered and allows for easy navigation.
The CPU feature is a little misleading as it takes you to a section not normally associated with overclocking. However DFI have broken away from the norm and pandered to overclockers needs as any overclocker worth his salt will disable most of the settings found here to allow the highest clocks possible without being restricted.
The memory section is as complex as anyone could wish for with a huge range of options available each with its own sub menu. The menu can be opened or the options scrolled through by the use of +/- keys. Another option available which is not normally found in the overclocking sections is the Memory LowGap feature. This feature is best regarded as a throwback to the old AGP aperture setting/memory remap feature found on lesser boards. While not directly affecting overclocking it is nice that all memory features are found in one place.
As expected the DFI motherboard offers huge variance in the possible voltages allowed. Above left are the highest values possible which, should you set them as is, had better have a fire extinguisher handy as these will surely destroy your hardware if you don't keep your ambitions under control.
Base Clock and QPI frequencies are key to achieving a high overclock and a balance of the two is necessary to eek the most from your CPU. Again DFI give the end user every possible frequency available for you to try out.
A neat little feature that the DFI has is the ability to set two different base clocks. Most extreme benchers will have no doubt come across occasions where a CPU will not boot at a given frequency but appears to bench fine once in Windows by the use of programs such as SetFSB. This feature allows you to set a bootup clock, preventing boot up problems which will then automatically set your desired 'real' baseclock once POST is complete. Base Clock/Memory dividers as well as Uncore frequency are two sections I would like to see improved as this is done by multiplication. I would much prefer to see the actual frequency here rather than having to work out the values myself.
Once you have your settings all dialled in you can save these settings thanks to the CMOS reloaded feature. As the title suggests, previous settings can also be loaded saving both time and stress when a failed overclock presents itself.
With a wealth of options at our disposal, it's time we find out how the motherboard performs.
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 5
To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configuration used in this review can be seen below:
Processor: Intel Core i7 920 (2.66Ghz)
Motherboard: DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra
Memory: Corsair Dominator @ 8-8-8-24 1600Mhz
Graphics Card: NVidia GTX280
Power Supply: Gigabyte Odin 1200W
CPU Cooling: Stock Intel Cooling
Hard Disk: Hitachi Deskstar 7K160 7200rpm 80GB
Graphics Drivers: Geforce 180.60 CUDA
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1
During the testing of the setup above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used before the benchmarking began, with a full defrag of the hard drive once all the drivers and software were installed, preventing any possible performance issues due to leftover drivers from the previous motherboard installations. For the 3DMark and gaming tests a single card configuration was used.
To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:
Synthetic CPU Test
• Sisoft Sandra 2009
• PassMark CPU test
• SuperPI 1m, 8m, 32m
• Sisoft Sandra 2009
• Everest 4.60
File Compression & Encoding
• Sisoft Sandra 2009
• 7-Zip File Compression
• River Past ViMark
Disk I/O Performance
• HDTach 18.104.22.168
• Sisoft Sandra 2009
3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark 05
• 3DMark 06
• 3DMark Vantage
• Far Cry 2
• Company of Heroes
Overall System Performance
• PCMark Vantage
Power consumption is an aspect often forgotten when it comes to enthusiast motherboards but in todays climate, with rising utility bills special consideration needs to be taken when choosing you components as over a period of time, one components can prove to be much more expensive than another over its lifetime.
Power consumption was measured at the socket using a plug-in mains power and energy monitor. Idle readings were taken after 5 minutes in Windows. Load readings were taken during a run of 3DMark Vantage.
Using a respectable Vcore of 1.40v, the remainder of BIOS voltage settings were left in their stock state to ensure equality throughout the testing.
They say a picture says a thousand words and the above screenshot does just that. The overclocking on the DFI board is sublime, plain and simple. While many of the BIOS settings are confusing and perhaps daunting to some, NONE of the 'expert' settings were used to achieve this overclock. I just dialled in the CPU Vcore (1.4v), set the Bclk to 202 and the memory divider was adjusted to Bclkx8 (1616mhz). That's it. You really do not have to be an overclocking guru to get a lot out of this motherboard. However, with more time to familiarise myself with the settings and indeed time to experiment with the vast array of options available, this massive overclock could be increased even further.
DFI have once again proven themselves to be the no.1 choice for overclockers and with an exceptional package all that remains is to see how this board performs in our range of benchmarks. So returning the settings back to their stock state and disabling the Turbotech setting we started our suite of benchmarks...
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 6
Nothing extraordinary here with the DFI neither beating nor losing out to the competition. The Passmark CPU mark was a little disappointing but the remainder of the CPU benchmarks show that the DFI is no different from the other boards.
Let's see if there is anything to separate the board with our run of memory benchmarks...
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 7
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 8
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 9
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 10
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 11
A 'middle of the road' performance from the DFI T3eH8 in our short round of gaming benchmarks. On this evidence it is clear there is little reason to choose the DFI over any of the other boards unless Tri-SLI is a requirement. Your choices will then be limited to the Gigabyte and the DFI, both of which are amazing overclocking boards.
Maybe PCMark, showing an overview of system capabilities, can put some air between the top two boards...
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 12
PCMark Vantage is the latest benchmarking suite from Futuremark. Differing significantly from their 3DMark suites, PCMark performs a series of benchmarks designed to recreate and benchmark scenarios of a PC being used for everyday tasks. Vantage has a Vista only requirement as it actually relies on several different components from the OS in order to run correctly.
Finally, in our very last benchmark we see the DFI begin to show its worth. Winning out against the DFI in the majority of benchmarks. It has been a difficult run today with the boards scoring within the realms of each other making it difficult to choose one board over another, However if you take into account the overclocking results then these results could well have been a different story.
Let's head over to the conclusion where I attempt to put today's testing into perspective...
DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra Motherboard Page: 13
The DFI X58 T3eH8 is the perfect evolution of the X48 derivative. From the outset the motherboard has raised the bar for all other boards to follow.
The packaging is near perfect and while I would have liked to have seen a change in colour scheme to distinguish the new board from its stablemate no one can deny it's certainly an eye catching motherboard, especially if you are a fan of UV lighting.
The layout is excellent with all the SATA ports sat at right angles to the PCB preventing any interference to over sized GPU's. Speaking GPU's, this is only the second board we have tested that would allow the use of 3 dual slot GPU's in either SLI or CrossfireX configuration but that does present a problem. Unfortunately, as the sound card would take up one of these slots on the backplate there would be no space (or indeed no extra PCI/e slot) to have any extra expansion cards.
The motherboard cooling is nothing short of exceptional and with a huge range of BIOS options, including extremely high voltages available to the end user, that cooling will certainly come in useful. With typical DFI support, BIOS updates should come thick and fast and should a BIOS update become corrupt the ingenious removable BIOS chip design will cut down on costs for returning the board. Which is a good thing as the initial outlay for the board will certainly dent anyones bank balance.
Costing close to the £300 mark, the Ultra version is the highest motherboard on test. While it is also the highest performing board I do have some concerns if it is actually worth the extra outlay. For the average user the DFI offers little more than aesthetics, and the Gigabyte UD5 which weighs in a lot cheaper can do everything the DFI can do. However, if you are looking for the absolute ultimate in performance then the pendulum swings back in the DFI's favour and for that reason I have no hesitation in awarding the DFI X58 T3eH8 Ultra our distinguished Performance award.
- Extreme overclocking
- Audacious cooling
- Amazing looks
- Some BIOS options could be more user friendly
- Power consumption at load was highest on test
- Nothing to report
Thanks to DFI for providing the X58 T3eH8 Ultra motherboard for todays review. Please discuss in our forums.