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Over the years we've seen plenty of high end gaming motherboards from EVGA that support both AMD and Intel processors but they always - that's ALWAYS - use an Nvidia chipset. We're breaking new ground with the EVGA X58 SLI as it is the first EVGA motherboard with an Intel chipset.
The problem for EVGA is that Nvidia doesn't have a chipset that supports Core i7 so it was faced with the prospect of ignoring Intel's Core i7 processor, which is pretty much the same thing as abandoning the high end of the gaming market to its competitors. The alternative was to use the Intel X58 chipset, so here we are with an EVGA motherboard that looks highly reminiscent of the nForce 790i Ultra SLI motherboard. There are three graphics slots that support both 3-Way SLI and CrossFireX with 16 lanes of PCI Express 2.0 for the primary and secondary slots. If you plug in three Nvidia cards the bandwidth from the second slot divides to feed eight lanes of PCI Express to the second and third slots.
There are a total of nine SATA ports with six ports on the ICH10R Southbridge, two more on a JMicron JMB363 controller and another port on a JMicron JMB362 chip that also supports an eSATA port. The SATA ports are either laid down or located where they won't cause any problems and the IDE connector is also laid down at the edge of the board. This makes it very easy to connect your hard drives and optical drives and the same consideration has been extended to the ports and connectors. There are eight USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panel as well as one Firewire port, one eSATA, dual Gigabit Ethernet and a full set of audio connectors. That sounds like plenty but, just in case, EVGA has included no less than three brackets in the package. One bracket has four USB ports, the second has a single Firewire port and the third bracket carries an olde worlde Serial port.
The location of the USB headers is slightly unusual as they sit below the Southbridge instead of the more usual position at the foot of the board. It looks like they had to move to make room for the three buttons for power, reset and clear CMOS. Incidentally, there is a second CMOS button on the I/O panel, which is extremely useful if you're fiddling with BOIS settings when your computer's in situ.
One unusual feature of the EVGA is the active cooler on the Northbridge of the chipset. Unusual, that is, for Core i7 motherboards, which usually manage perfectly well with passive cooling. If you look at EVGA's history with Nvidia chipsets you'll see that active cooling has previously been considered an absolute necessity, so there's obviously some hangover from those days.
A chunky metal cooler bridges the Northbridge, Southbridge and half of the power regulation hardware with a 50mm fan that stands almost vertical to keep the whole shooting match cool. There is a second (passive) cooler on the remainder of the power regulation hardware that sits between the CPU cooler and the eight-pin ATX power connector.
The Northbridge cooler stands 70mm tall and while we were able to install our preferred Noctua NH-C12P CPU cooler we faced a small problem due to the height of the cooler. We had to rotate the Noctua such that the main body of the cooler hung off the end of the motherboard (which isn't ideal as it would interfere with a power supply) instead of sitting over the Northbridge.
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