Gigabyte X58-USB3 Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on October 19, 2010
The Gigabyte X58-USB3 motherboard is a socket LGA1366 model featuring two USB 3.0 ports, six memory sockets, and three PCI Express x16 slots. Let’s take a look at it.
The X58-USB3 doesn’t have SATA-600 ports, and this is, in our opinion, its main drawback.
The portrayed motherboard comes in the ATX form factor.
The north bridge of the Intel X58 chipset provides 36 PCI Express x1 lanes, while the south bridge (ICH10R) provides six more lanes.
The first two PCI Express x16 slots (PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX16_2) always work at x16 speed, and support both CrossFireX and SLI modes (the X58-USB3 comes with one SLI bridge). The third PCI Express x16 slot (PCIEX4_1) always work at x4 speed.
The X58-USB3 also comes with three PCI Express x1 slots and one standard PCI slot. Luckily two of the PCI Express x1 slots are placed to the right of the first PCI Express x16 slot, so if you install a dual-slot video card in it, the video card will block only one PCI Express x1 slot, still leaving two PCI Express x1 slots usable.
You will need a case with at least eight slots if you decide to install a dual-slot video card in the third PCI Express x16 slot (cases usually have seven slots).
Intel socket LGA1366 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor – and not the chipset – that defines what memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
At the moment the integrated memory controller from socket LGA1366 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,066 MHz under triple-channel architecture, however Gigabyte says the X58-USB3 supports DDR3 memories up to 2,200 MHz through overclocking.
One of the highlights of the X58-USB3 motherboard is the presence of six memory sockets, and not only four. This allows you to make future memory upgrades without having to remove your current memory modules and, at the same time, to keep the maximum performance possible.
Just to clarify, in order to achieve the maximum performance you have to install three or six memory modules. If you install three memory modules you have to use sockets with the same color. If you install a different number of memory modules the system won’t achieve its maximum possible performance.
On motherboards with only four memory sockets you have a problem: if you add a fourth memory module this module will be accessed at single-channel performance (1/3 of the maximum transfer rate), so for you to add more memory keeping the maximum performance you have to remove your old three modules and install new ones. This upgrade is more expensive than using a motherboard with six sockets, where you can simply add three more modules and keep your old modules installed.
Since currently DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 4 GB, you can have up to 24 GB with this motherboard, if you use six 4 GB modules.
The first, third, and fifth sockets are white, while the second, fourth, and sixth are blue. In order to achieve the maximum performance you should install three or six memory modules in order to enable triple-channel architecture. When only three modules are used, install them in the white sockets, otherwise your computer won’t turn on.
The Intel X58 chipset is a dual-chip solution, using the ICH10R south bridge chip. This chip supports six SATA-300 ports (with RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10). These ports are located on the corner of the motherboard rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. This motherboard doesn’t come with SATA-600, ATA-133, nor floppy disk ports.
This motherboard has 10 USB 2.0 ports, six soldered on the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. This motherboard comes with two USB 3.0 ports soldered on its rear panel, controlled by a NEC μPD720200 chip. No FireWire ports are available.
The X58-USB3 comes with eight-channel audio, generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC892 codec. Unfortunately Realtek doesn’t publish technical specifications for this codec at their website. The portrayed motherboard comes with an on-board coaxial SPDIF connector, and you can either install an optical SPDIF connector or route digital audio to your video card to have digital audio on the HDMI connector using the available “SPDIF_I” header.
The analog audio jacks are independent, meaning that you won’t need to “kill” the mic in or the line in jacks if you install an analog 7.1 speaker set.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E chip, which is connected to the system using a PCI Express x1 lane and thus not presenting any potential performance issues.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel, with keyboard and mouse PS/2 connectors, coaxial SPDIF output, six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.
Like most motherboards from Gigabyte, the X58-USB3 comes with two BIOS chips, allowing you to recover your BIOS if the contents of the main chip are destroyed by a virus or a bad BIOS upgrade.
In Figure 7, you can see all the accessories that come with this motherboard.
The Gigabyte X58-USB3 comes with a six-phase voltage regulator circuit. Of the six available phases, four are used to generate the CPU main voltage (Vcc, a.k.a. Vcore), while the other two are used to generate the voltage required by the integrated memory controller, the QPI controller, and the L3 memory cache (VTT). Therefore, this motherboard has a “4+2” configuration.
All capacitors used on this motherboard are solid made in Japan and the voltage regulator circuit uses ferrite chokes, which are better than iron chokes. Please read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator tutorial for more information.
The X58-USB3 also uses 2 oz (56 g) copper tracks, which is the double of the thickness usually used on regular motherboards. Benefits of this feature include lower temperature and lower electromagnetic interference (a full list of benefits can be seen here).
The X58-USB3 provides several overclocking options. Below we list only the main ones available in the F2 BIOS.
The main specifications for the Gigabyte X58-USB3 include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
The new Gigabyte X58-USB3 seems to be a nice top mainstream socket LGA1366 motherboard, with two USB 3.0 ports, three PCI Express x16 slots supporting both SLI and CrossFireX modes, six memory sockets, two BIOS chips, on-board coaxial SPDIF output, good overclocking options, and great construction quality. High-end users, however, will miss SATA-600 ports, maybe a second Gigabit Ethernet port, and probably will demand a voltage regulator circuit with more phases. If this is your case, you should look for another (probably more expensive) product, otherwise we believe you will be happy with this motherboard.