Intel DX58SO2 LGA 1366 X58 Motherboard Review

We don’t generally cover Intel branded motherboards because those products do not pop up that often on the enthusiast radar. Intel does have an "extreme" flagship X58 motherboard that may be worth your attention. We fire up Intel's DX58SO2!

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Overclocking

Let me start by saying that overclocking has never been Intel’s forte and that hasn’t changed here. If anything the DX58SO2 tries to replicate the overclocking experience of newer P67 / LGA1155 based systems but ends up taking a step backwards while doing so. Intel does not offer a wide range of adjustments via BIOS or via their Extreme Tuning Utility necessary to overclock very well. At least not to the degree you can on virtually any other enthusiast motherboard out there. The board provides IOH voltage adjustment, QPI voltage adjustment, QPI link speed adjustment, BCLK adjustment, and turbo multiplier adjustment. They have provided little else such as phase frequency control, spread spectrum settings, and so on. Where Intel really took a step back was with regard to the lack of proper multiplier adjustment. Even when using an Extreme Edition CPU like the Core i7 990X I wasn’t able to adjust the multipliers upward. I could however adjust the Turbo multiplier. So Intel has moved toward overclocking on its X58 board which essentially tries to behave the way the LGA1155 / Sandy Bridge parts do. Even more unusual is the fact that there isn’t support for DDR3 2000MHz memory speeds. You can achieve them through overclocking, but essentially you can’t really use DDR3 2000MHz modules like you should. This is again mirroring P67 Express chipset based boards.

Initially I started off BIOS overclocking with BCLK adjustments as such an option exists on X58 chipset based boards. I raised the BCLK incrementally until reaching 170MHz where I ran into my first hurdle. I then adjusted the IOH voltage upwards to 1.225 volts. This corrected the problem and allowed me to take the board to 185MHz BCLK without issue. No amount of voltage adjustment would enable me to go farther. I could boot into Windows with my IOH voltage at 1.4v+, but it would quickly fail any type of stability testing. I also encountered north bridge temperatures in excess of 84c while trying to take the BCLK past 185MHz. QPI voltage adjustment proved to be a futile gesture as well. Again there are no spread spectrum settings, or additional voltages which can be adjusted to help get past this wall. At least the wall I encountered.

Treating the DX58SO2 like a P67 Express based setup worked far better for me. Using either the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility or the BIOS, I could take the CPU voltage up to about 1.5v, which enabled me to use turbo multipliers on all six cores of up to 37x. This resulted in a stable 4.93GHz clock speed. Amazingly enough the system was stable and ran fine, but it was a bit on the warm side with CPU temperatures reaching 79c with fluctuations upwards of about 82c while using water cooling. This is on an open test bench, so in a closed chassis this probably wouldn’t be so easily achieved. On the subject of memory speeds, I could run any speeds up to DDR3 1866MHz, but 2133MHz was a no-goat any voltage settings. At least with the modules I was using.

I can’t help but wonder if Intel’s decisions and the direction it has taken with its BIOS and overclocking utilities could be holding the Core i7 990X back from its true potential. It might be kind of nice for the overclocking n00b or people who’ve become accustomed to LGA1155 based machines, but that does not seem like a very likely scenario to us. BCLK overclocking also yielded temperature problems in my experience as the heat sink was always hot enough to burn the crap out of me during testing unless I had the system running at close to stock BCLK frequencies.

At the end of the day the DX58SO2 should be avoided from an overclocking perspective unless you’ve got a Core i7 980X or 990X processor to go with it. There may be room to get more out of the CPU than I saw here with more time and testing. Even then it won’t be the experience you are used to. I believe you’d be better served overclocking with virtually any other offering from ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, and just about anyone else with a decent enthusiast level X58 board out there.

Using BCLK adjustments this is where the DX58SO2 reached its limit.

3.33GHz (185x18) DDR3 1852MHz

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Using Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility and BIOS, this is about the best I was able to achieve. I could have increased the BLCK some with the multipliers at 37x, but anything over 5GHz simply ran too hot and this is what I felt worked best given this combination of hardware.

4.93GHz (133x37) DDR3 1866MHz

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Conclusion

Dan's Thoughts:

In short I was disappointed with the Intel DX58SO2. The RAID controllers are a mess and are so quirky they border on being useless. The DX58SO2 brings nothing to the table that really sets it apart from anything else out there. The UEFI BIOS is pretty much the uninspired BIOS we’ve seen out of Intel for years with nothing being done to take advantage of what UEFI has to offer outside of being able to boot from larger drives. Of course this doesn’t even scratch the surface of just how bland and ultimately sterile the BIOS is from an overclocking standpoint. While the hardware is somewhat capable, the lack of options may certainly hinder any effort to take any processors but Intel’s Extreme Edition’s to the edge. The inclusion of two Intel NIC’s is nice and their performance speaks for themselves but this one exceptional area of excellence doesn’t negate or excuse the mediocre package that the DX58SO2 ultimately represents.

I’m sure my conclusions concerning the DX58SO2 may sound a bit harsh to some. However given the sheer number of proven enthusiast oriented motherboards for sale, I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable. Intel has done nothing here to deserve praise or even a little slack. That’s not to say the DX58SO2 is horrible because it’s not, it just is not something "meant" for the HardOCP demographic. Now if you are [H] IT and building 250 workstations, this is a board you might keep in mind. However, the DX58SO2 is a board which I can’t really recommend to any enthusiast desktop for any reason. There are simply far better choices out there from virtually every major motherboard manufacturer.

Kyle's Thoughts:

It has been a long time since went a few rounds with any Intel motherboard. The DX58SO2 had me at a disadvantage right out of the box and cost me a couple days of test time since I could not get it to POST. This is not a highly unusual thing to happen, but it is often figured out quickly. It is usually because of a memory or CPU compatibility issue. Sometimes it may be a video card dislike and once or twice in the last 13 years I have seen the PSU be the culprit, so before we start crying to the board builder, we try to work things out ourselves, but this never happened after a couple of days of trying. Ends up the board was delivered with the BIOS update/entry jumper removed. That was very clear to the Intel engineer that answered my email that I finally broke down and sent, but it has been years since I dealt with an Intel board. Does Intel still put that stupid jumper on its "Extreme" motherboards? I have to jumper the board to enter the BIOS? And I have to jumper the board to flash the BIOS? I am not going to rehash everything that Dan already shot holes in. Let me just say that the DX58SO2 is obviously not an enthusiast board, but rather a workstation board with a marginally good cooling system with a skull logo on it.

I never could get my Microsoft wireless keyboard to work on the DX58SO2, which I use on every other motherboard I test. The wireless mouse that works off the same receiver worked fine though. When I installed Windows 7 Ultimate from a USB flash drive, it took about 30 minutes longer than it does on a normal Intel X58 system, which is usually very quick.

While Dan pointed out that the multipliers were not adjustable on our unlocked "Extreme" processors, I found that no matter what I did, with all the power savings and Turbo features turned on, I could not get the board to down-clock the processor when it was at idle. It would hold at 3.6GHz no matter the level of CPU usage.

The Bottom Line

The Intel LGA 1366 Core i7 platform is still the crowned jewel of Intel's line up. The LGA 1366 processors and X58 chipset are a beastly combination. Kyle still personally uses an overclocked Core i7 980 in his system that he says he will not be giving up for a while. If you are looking for a workhorse that will pull its weight when it comes to "real" workloads, the LGA 1366 with 6 cores is hard to beat. However when we see the LGA 1366 platform drop into the realm of 4-core processors, from an enthusiast standpoint, you would be much better off going with a newer Sandy Bridge system. But to the DX58S02...

No matter how many extreme monikers and skulls Intel puts on the box and the motherboard itself, the DX58S02 is still not a true enthusiast class product. Enthusiast motherboards today are all about feature set. Interestingly, Intel is the company that forced this by pulling all of the important controllers onto the processor die. The only way a motherboard company continues to set itself apart from the pack is through motherboard feature sets, and surely those for enthusiasts. It seems that Intel has forgotten that it has to live by its own rules. ASUS, MSI, and Gigabyte simply smoke the Intel DX58S02 when it comes to enthusiast X58 chipset boards.

The DX58S02 is a good motherboard, it is just not a good enthusiast motherboard by comparison.

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