Back in Black meets Sabertooth
Some of you may have read when I recently upgraded and built the “Back in Black” system. When Sandy Bridge came out it was my intention to upgrade the existing Core I7-940 to the new Core I7-2600K. I bought the CPU and a Gigabyte board to put into this system and shortly after we where faced with the recall so I did not get to really complete the system as planned. I did get a chance to install and run the system for awhile, but it was problematic due to the GPT issues so I ended up putting the Core I7-940 back in and decided to wait for the new series to released.
As you know, the new Sandy Bridge boards are available again so I decided to purchase one to mate up with the 2600K that I had sitting around from the first round. It is no surprise to anyone who reads this site that I have been an avid Gigabyte fan for years now and I still am. That being said, after some recommendations and inputs form Mike M. (no-control ) who had bought the Asus, I thought I would go ahead and break tradition buy my first Asus board in quite some time, the Asus Saberooth P67. Why you ask? The short answer is esthetics and features. For about $30 more than the GA-P67A-UD4 that I had for a short while, this board has a few more features and of course it just looks cool. The Asus has a built in Intel NIC as opposed to the Realtek, has both Intel and Marvel 6Gig Sata 3 controllers, and has a better EFI BIOS. As it turns out, the first two turned out to be far more useful then the latter however all of it adds to the overall value of the board.
The Core I7-2600K
To complement the Core I7-2600K, I added 16 gigs of Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 Mhz RAM (matched set). The Vengeance is Corsair’s new mid range memory to compete with GSkill Ripjaws which have been a long time favorite of mine. It is very well built, runs stable at speed, and is competitively priced.
As with all products, there are some good things as well as “opportunities” for improvement. First on the list of good things are looks. This board is not only well built but it just plain awesome looking. As I mentioned it has a built in Intel NIC card which is a bit faster than the Marvel or Realtek versions. The connector panel is padded and shielded like EVGA boards which again is a nice feature. I really enjoy having 3 different type of controllers as I plan on striping two SSD drives once the system has had some run time. The real eye catcher on this board is the new BIOS. It is about the prettiest BIOS you have ever seen. The EFI BIOS is completely graphical and allows for endless tuning. Not only does it allow all you basic presets, defaults, and settings, it has some great performance overclocking from within the BIOS, That said, the BIOS is pretty awesome but it is still a BIOS and once you setup your board and play around with the settings, you basically do not see anymore unless you need to make changes. In terms of performance it is pretty stellar. The one thing that stood out in the things that I have done with it was audio encoding (have not tried video yet). Normally when I edit the podcast, I open the recorded MP3 file an it takes sometimes up to 10-30 seconds to load and redraw the MP3 file into Adobe Soundbooth. With the Sandy Bridge system it is not measurable, meaning the file is loaded and redrawn on my screen as I take my finger off the mouse button. Encoding and saving the MP3 across my network used to take 2-3 minutes based on the file size and is now less than a minute. I am not exactly sure what is making the difference but the difference in encoding is staggering as compared to my X58 Core I7-940. Everything else is about on par with what I have tested, with only the decoding process standing out as clearly being superior.
Overall it is a very good board and in terms of the system and system performance, it is very fast. The only issue I found was with SSD benchmarks. Only one benchmark I ran on the SSD (ATTO) was slightly higher than with my old system, the other two I use were slightly slower. The result was the same on other Sandy Bridge boards I tested. The benchmarks I used, ATTO, AS-SSD bench, HD Tack, and Windows Index, show one thing for sure is that updates to the benchmarking software will be required to get accurate results as real life usage does not reflect some of the benchmarks being seen as visually the system is faster and more responsive.
X58 with Vertex 2 120 Gig
Sandy Bridge (Asus Sabertooth) with Vertex 2 120 Gig
Core I7-940 (X58)
Core I7-940 (X58)
ATX size motherboard with “Armor” shied which surrounds the board.
Motherboard loaded with 4 x 4Gig modules
This shows the area where you can remove to install a 50mm fan. This is an optional feature which I have not installed yet.
Overall this is an awesome board and is worth every penny. You could even argue that with the higher grade components such as the built in Intel NIC card and the 3 Sata controllers that it is a great value even compared to other boards. Comparing this to the original Gigabyte I bought (GA-P67A-UD4) and the GA-H67A-U2H-B3 that I have in my other system, all performance is about the same and the only real difference are the features set, price, and of course the BIOS. Gigabyte uses a Hybrid EFI BIOS that looks more traditional, while Asus choose to use EFI Graphical BIOS. In the end, go with features/price that meets your needs as the BIOS is really cool to play with but once you past that stage, you rarely go into it.