Intel X48 Motherboard Round-up: ASUS, ECS, & Intel

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Stop us if you've heard this one before: In this article we will be looking at the latest high-end desktop chipset from Intel, featuring support for DDR2 and DDR3 memory, support for 45nm dual- and quad-core processors, and PCI Express 2.0 connectivity with 16 lanes devoted to each PEG slot and compatibility with ATI's CrossFire technology.  If it all sounds familiar, it's because the Intel X48 Express Chipset that's used on the three boards we'll be looking at here is almost exactly the same as the X38 Express that preceded it a few months back.  In fact, if we take a gander at the chipset block diagram below, the only glaring addition would be official support for a 1600 MHz FSB - something that some X38 boards were hitting already, but without that "official" tag.

 

One might also stop and point out that DDR3 is the only memory technology listed in the diagram (twice, to be exact).  Initial reports stated as much, but we obviously know that wasn't to be the case, which is a good thing for a variety of reasons.  For sure, hitting the highest supported memory frequencies will only be possible using DDR3; with some manufacturers already offering >2.1GHz modules.  It's the price and availability of DDR2, though, that makes it a quite an attractive option.  Although DDR3 prices have begun to fall somewhat, 4 GB of DDR2 can be bought on the cheap these days.  Upgrade paths are also made easier as there's one less component to buy when building a new system, if you already own some DDR2 that is.  Thus, having X48 boards that support either standard is a win-win for just about everybody.

So, featuring basically the same Northbridge and identical ICH9/R Southbridge, the X48 really becomes more of an update over the X38, rather than a real replacement, and hence claims the title as Intel's flagship chipset for now.  The good news, however, is that the last few months should have allowed for a maturing of sorts, as manufacturers will have had more time and experience to tweak and refine their boards even further.  Three such manufacturers have sent us X48-based motherboards for us to put through the wringer, all aimed at the enthusiast crowd.

The first motherboard comes from ASUS, and belongs in the gamer-oriented Republic of Gamers series, which we have taken a few looks at in the past.  We've been mostly impressed by what they've offered in this series, and expect no less with the Rampage Formula.  Next up is the X48T-A from ECS.  We can honestly say that we haven't seen much from ECS in the past couple of years in the enthusiast segment, so we aren't exactly sure what to expect, but if early impressions mean anything, this "Black Series" board means business.  Finally, following on the heels of their popular Bonetrail X38 board, Intel has sent along the DX48BT2, which, like the X48 chipset is more or less an update of the original.  Three boards, three manufacturers, all shooting for the top spot in our round-up.  Who will come out on top?  Let's read on and find out...

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amdcrankitup 6 years ago

No matter how you look at it Asus is the king! That Rampage is one great looking board.$300.00 is a lot of cash to put out but if I had it I drfinatly would pony it up.My computer is my hobby and having the fastest I can get with stability is my goal no matter how limited my finances are!

bob_on_the_cob 6 years ago

Nice roundup. Loving the asus board

Edit: Just put two and to together. That's my new intel board!Big Smile You guys seem to agree with other reviews in that overclocking the board is a exercise in fustration. Guess I'll hold off on throwing my water setup in there untill some new bios come out.

Recoil 6 years ago

In this artical the following statement is not entirerly correct, regarding the ASUS Rampage Formula

 "The smaller Southbridge heatsink is branded as a member of the RoG, and has a heatpipes extending from it and leading to the large copper heatsink over the Northbridge"

I have this mobo and while i was adding a water cooled notrth bridge block (Zalman ZM-NWB1) to the notrthbridge i obviously had to remove the stock north and southbridge heat sink and to my suprise found that the heat sink assembaly was way to light to be copper, it has a copper heat pipe that runs all the way through it and a copper plate right where the north bridge sits, but what looks to be a farily big copper heat sink is acttually a alloy heat sink anodised to look copper, very missleading and down right dishonest in my opinion.

ASUS have not made claim in any of their documentation that the heatsink is copper but the reviewer of this artical made the same asumption i did when i purchased this mobo, that the north bridge heat sink looks like a large all copper heat sink which is incorrect.

All you really need to do to confirm this is run a screwdriver edge along a part of the heat sink (scraching the surface) and you will see the silver alloy below

I feel this is very deseptive and while the heat sink probably needs anodising it could have been just about any colour but ASUS choose a very close to copper colour, in my opinion to fool consumers.

I think this mobo is a great board very easy to OC, and reliable, but i hate being cheated and thats how i feel about this heatsink.

The huge X48 northbridge on this mobo runs very hot and even hotter when overclocked, so for someone using aircooling only an all copper heat sink would have most likely allowed them to push the CPU harder with less heat but the mostly alloy copper look alike heat sink is not so great  even with the little fan ASUS provide with the mobo.

ASUS have had a few black marks against there name for varrious things like EPU issue, so this is just another.

The old saying "Let the buyer beware!" stands very true here!

Anyway ive had my biarch.

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