ASUS X79 Deluxe LGA 2011 Motherboard Review

ASUS resurrects the tried and true X79 chipset putting it back in the spotlight with updated features just in time for Ivy Bridge-E CPUs. We take a look at ASUS’ X79 Deluxe and not only see if this motherboard is worth your hard earned cash, but answer the question: is there any compelling reason for existing X79 users to upgrade?

The ASUS X79 Deluxe is based on Intel’s X79 Express chipset. While ASUS already has a slew of X79 chipset based motherboards in its catalog, the platform is somewhat dated and ASUS obviously and correctly thought the old platform needed a refresh. The X79 Deluxe merges some of the latest design innovations seen in the Z87 Express motherboards with the venerable X79 Express chipset. Features such as Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-Way optimization are added making the X79 Deluxe feel a lot less outdated.

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Naturally the chipset lacks many of the features we now take for granted looking at Z87. Features like full SATA 6Gb/s ports, native USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt options are absent from the chipset. Fortunately ASUS has done quite a bit to combat some of these shortcomings. ASMedia USB 3.0 controllers, the Marvell 9230, SSD caching II, updated WiFi, and an ALC1150 audio CODEC are just a few of the things ASUS employed to bring the X79 chipset into the modern age. The all digital 8+2 phase power solution sounds a bit anemic for a hex core monster of CPU power, but as we’ve seen time and time again quality trumps quantity every time.

ASUS’ DIGI+Power control and overall electrical design has proven to be nothing if not robust. This motherboard like the current Z87 lineup from ASUS sports the ESD guard ICs, overcurrent protection, all solid electrolytic capacitors, and stainless steel I/O for corrosion resistance. DIGI+VRM control rounds out what ASUS refers to as "5X" protection. Effectively this helps achieve parity between the current crop of Z87 motherboards and the aging X79 Express chipset or close to it.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The packaging for the X79 Deluxe is "semi-fancy." It’s not quite Republic of Gamers fancy, but it is definitely a cut above the usual Z87 models we normally see. Our sample arrived intact with the following accessories: Driver disc, user guide, I/O shield, SATA cables for days, WiFi+BT 4.0 antenna, Q-Connectors, and finally 2-Way and 3-Way SLI bridges.

Board Layout

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The layout of the ASUS X79 Deluxe is excellent despite the crowded PCB. 8 DIMM slots, 12 SATA ports, 4 PCIe x16 slots, onboard WiFi module, and large cooling hardware do make for a tight fit with some components. Again the execution of this shows serious attention to detail as the chaos is organized into a very usable format with no glaring flaws or problems. Despite my nitpicky nature with motherboard layouts there is little I can complain about without seriously stretching my brain to find things to complain about.

The motherboard has all you would expect in an enthusiast class offering in this price point and caliber. Onboard power and reset buttons are found near the expansion slots. An LED debug code display is present as are numerous fan headers and dip switches.

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LGA 2011 based motherboards are generally unique in that these usually sport 8 DIMM slots for a total supported capacity of 64GB of DDR3 DRAM. This means that the CPU socket area is flanked by DIMM slots on two sides while the MOSFETs and cooling hardware for these have to be on at least one other side. This leaves you with little room between your CPU and the first expansion slot. In total there isn’t a whole lot of extra room but builders at this level will probably want to go with either low profile DIMMs, all in one, self-contained water cooling units, or custom water cooling loops. Any of these options would alleviate your possible CPU cooling clearance issues should they arise. Despite the lack of open spaces on the PCB, I wouldn’t say that you would run into definite clearance issues; only that it’s possible with some air coolers.

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The ASUS X79 Deluxe lacks any type of color coding for its eight DDR3 DIMM slots. This was no doubt done for aesthetic reasons. Slot ordering is in the manual, marked on the PCB and anyone who isn’t new to the hobby should be able to figure out the proper allocation of spaces for dual and quad-channel memory mode operation. ASUS once again employs the use of single-locking tab DIMM slots which is much appreciated due to the tight clearances we have to work with given how packed the PCB is.

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The chipset can be found in the usual place underneath a large flat heat sink. Unlike most motherboards, this one utilizes a heat pipe for heat dissipation. In front of the chipset you’ll find a vast array of SATA ports. The X79 Deluxe includes a total of 12 ports, 4x 3Gb/s, 8x 6Gb/s ports and two powered eSATA 6Gb/s ports.

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One of the features that we like about the X79 is the massive 40 PCI-Express lanes which can be allocated in various ways. This would require a non-native PLX based solution to provide the same kind of lane allocation that X79 natively provides. This is especially useful in multi-GPU configurations. The expansion slots can run in a 16x16, or 16x8x8 configuration making this motherboard optimal for 2-Way and 3-Way SLI/CrossFire systems. The slot configuration is well thought out eliminating the need to hang a card off the motherboard’s bottom edge which can be problematic in some chassis.

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There are no shortage of connectivity options with the X79 Deluxe. Since the platform doesn’t support integrated video, the back panel isn't filled with display connections but rather 4x USB 2.0 ports, 6x USB 3.0 ports, 2x powered eSATA ports, 2x RJ-45 ports, two WiFi antenna connections, 1 optical out, and 5 mini-stereo jacks.