3 - Multi GPU support and the new ICH10
ATI CrossFireX & NVIDIA SLI configurations
Now we already know that the X58 motherboards can obviously manage CrossfireX. But we already informed you that this ASUS mainboard is SLI certified, so we need to cover the topic of NVIDIA SLI support. Let's dig right into that one a little deeper right away, as this feature definitely made the biggest rumble over the past months whenever the name 'X58' surfaced somewhere.
Mainboard manufacturers can submit their X58 board to NVIDIA and get them certified. Once certified, the combo of a BIOS and NVIDIA GeForce Forceware driver will open up SLI support on the consumer side of the experience after recognizing a specific key handed out by NVIDIA to the motherboard manufacturer. That key will be located in the BIOS.
This allows native SLI support with a few restrictions. The native SLI support actually doesn't sound too restricted, as motherboards with as few as two PCIe x16 slots and as many as four PCIe x16 slots will be able to support an array of SLI configurations, including a 3-way SLI and even a fourth graphics card for a PhysX boost.
So be careful with this information. The danger here is that not all X58 mainboards are SLI capable. In fact the Intel reference mainboard at hand here today did not support SLI mode. Investigate carefully if you want to opt for SLI to make sure your X58 mainboard will support it, most of them will get certified though. We expect most mainboard vendors to get you at least a three PCI Express x16 slots solution to enable 2-way, 3-way and 4-way ATI CrossFireX or NVIDIA SLI configurations. ASUS, EVGA, MSI, Gigabyte, and DFI, have all licensed NVIDIA SLI technology for their new lineup of motherboards.
This ASUS P6T Deluxe mainboard is SLI certified and though we spot 3 PCIe x16 slots, supports up to 2-way SLI. We'll show you the reason for this in the photo-shoot.
Crossing the Southbridge
So we have the X58 chip "Northbridge" on that motherboard covering all the primary functions, but what about secondary lower level functions. Well Intel will pair the motherboard with the ICH10 or the ICH10R 'Southbridge' similar to the Intel P45 (Eaglelake) chipsets.
ICH10(R) implements a 10Gb/s bi-directional DMI interface to the X58. ICH10 is basically a die-shrink of ICH9, boasting similar specs. It supports several interfaces to the somewhat slower peripherals on your motherboard like SATA and USB:
- Six PCIe version 2 ports, four of which can be configured as either 4x1 or 1x4
- Six SATA 3Gb/s ports in either legacy IDE or AHCI mode. These can support external eSATA
- One PCI slot
- Intel high definition audio
- Integrated gigabit LAN.
- Six USB 2.0 controllers 12 ports
What kind of blows is that ICH10 does not offer direct PATA or LPT support. It's the weirdest thing. So I do except some motherboard manufacturers to include a 3rd party IDE controller chip into their motherboards to ensure that's supported, but fact is... in theory support for IDE devices is now officially getting to be a thing of the past. What's interesting to see is support for 'hot-swap' SATA functionality. ICH10 also offers reduced load on CPU and decreased power consumption. But the reality is that strangely enough, ICH10 doesn't seem to add a lot of new new features compared to the current ICH9.
Most motherboard vendors however will pair it with the slightly more expensive ICH10R chip. This silicon has all aforementioned features, yet adds RAID support to the mainboard, RAID levels 0/1/5.
So the mainboard we are testing today is the ASUS P6T Deluxe. With everything we just explained to you, you should already have a pretty decent idea of what kind of features this mainboard has. But it has way more as ASUS integrated several controller chips in addition to the North and Southbridge chips on the mainboard... Let's startup the photo-shoot and show you in detail.
But first a quick look at the memory and cooling we'll be using today.