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X58A-OC Review- MOST in depth!

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Nov 7, 2005
X58A-OC Review- Physical Review
(Layout, Packaging, VRM analysis, ICs Analysis, Initial Air Cooling Results)

(After staring at this board for a few hours, as I do every board, I try to analyze what type of design this board is trying to model. I have a feeling this board is supposed to have heatsinks that resemble a car, and a fast one at that, but I felt as though this ICH (Southbridge) heatsink looks like a flag waving in the air.)

Today I have my first close encounter with this masterpiece of a motherboard. Like no other motherboard its sole purpose is to fulfill the needs of overclockers, and overclockers only. Yes it is true, every motherboard is overclockable, yet not all motherboards are overclocking friendly. This isn’t the first motherboard to be tuned to overclock, and it’s not the first to hold world records, but it is the first motherboard to be targeted solely at overclockers, and extreme overclockers at that. Not everyone may agree with that statement, but it is true. While many motherboards feature overclocking as their main feature, they still are marketed towards gamers as well. As we saw earlier the G1 series is targeted towards gamers, and hardcore gamers at that, this board is on the exact opposite side of the spectrum in terms of features. While the G1 Assassin might have a creative 20K2 audio processor and a Bigfoot NIC, the X58A-OC has a revamped voltage regulator module and direct hardware controlled multiplier, BLCK, and even switching frequency adjustments. This board is similar to a few other boards in terms of its features, but this board is without any features that overclockers do not need. With this board you don’t pay a premium for ICs(chips) you will never use (extra USB, dual NIC, eSATA, IEEE, or even 6 channel audio), instead GIGABYTE took the money that was saved and invested it in custom order parts for the voltage regulator module, and some nifty overclocking features.

By far the most interesting part of this board is GIGABYTE’s take at miniaturizing their 24phase voltage regulator module (VRM), following that are the OC buttons, and then small things (4GHZ easy button, PWM switches, BIOS switch, 4 way CF/3 way SLI, triple slot spacing, etc….). Today I will begin by going over the parts of the board, and then I will explain how the new VRM compares to the old one. Following the explanation of how everything works with the VRM, I will go on to explain every chip, one by one. For you to get a real sense of what this board has to offer you will need to see what makes it tick, and then how it performs. Of course that is a huge venture so just as usual I split my reviews into two parts, with this one being all about the physical stuff.

Table of Contents:
Layout and Packaging
Voltage Regulator Module Analysis
Important Overclocking ICs
All other ICs (Including Marvell SE9182 SATA6G and EtronTech USB 3.0)
Heatsink Analysis
Board Installation and initial OC results

Please press the power button to begin​


Packaging and Accessories:

This board is standard ATX size. It will fit any case that can do normal ATX. There is no problem with it fitting into a case, even with triple slot PCI-E spacing. The box is fitting as well, plain and simple; it’s all in the name.

Overclockers don’t necessarily want any fancy boxes, or any fancy accessories like stickers, we just want a solid board that performs well.

I took the board out of the box to show you that we aren’t paying for anything we don’t need (they could have lost the CD, and probably a pack of the SATA cables, and even the back panel).

All the accessories included. We have a 3-way SLI bridge as well as a CrossFireX and a SLI bridge. The SATA cables are all black, and for those of you who think SATA3gb/s cables are different than SATA6gb/s cables, they say SATA6GB/S on them.

There are two cool parts of the accessories, the first are the voltage read cables. There are 7 of them, which means you can read every voltage available with a read point at the same time, you just need 7 multimeters. As you can see they are made to fit a wide variety of probes, this is one style that I personally like. I have used the ones that are like molex connectors, but this type will hold the tip of your probe in place, so you don’t have to worry about it falling out. I like this type of detail to attention; you don’t always see this with every brand.


Here we have the backpanel; it has slits in it for air flow I am guessing. I was told a very early version of this board has a built in fan in the heatsink. Hicookie said that it just wasn’t cutting it. Fans that are very small lack the ability to push more than a few CFM, and if they do they are loud. Most overclockers use their own large fans, so there was really no need for it I am told. You can see how cool this board is; look how it only will fill up 2/5 of your back panel!

Finally the masterpiece everyone has been waiting for, the X58A-OC, complete with its nice anti-static bag to ensure its safety into your hands. Next let’s move on to the layout of the board, to get a feel for it.

Layout and Design:

In this section I will go over everything from the buttons (including function), to connectors, and even to PCI-E spacing.
As you can see it is very gorgeous, very nice orange and black theme. It reminds me of Halloween, so maybe this board is something to be feared. I was told that they had many color schemes for this board. They had it made in many different colors, and then everyone at GB HQ at the time had a vote, and this one was picked. I think it looks great, might even match a few case setups nicely.

Here is a quick look at what we will be covering in this section:
This board has more fan headers than anyone should need in a case. It also has more buttons than you can hit at one time even if you use both hands. We will go over them one by one; I promise you won’t miss a thing.

The socket area is well done, very clean compared to many boards. This was done so that it is easier to insulate. The lack of can-type capacitors on the entire board makes insulation much easier. As you can see the main heatsink isn’t attached to the ICH (Southbridge) heatsink. This heatsink alone is quite heavy. We will take a deep look at the heatsinks in the cooling section. We will also take a look at how well some aftermarket heatsinks fit on this board, and how their fans work with these large heatsinks.


Moving to the RAM area, we can see that it is pretty close to the CPU socket. This helps cut down on parasitics, as the trace length is shorter from the CPU’s memory controller to the RAM slots. Also notice that the RAM slots don’t extend below the board’s heatsink. This is so you can switch out RAM without having to remove your extra long GPU. The buttons for OC are situated facing the right side of the board. This is a great position for benchmarking. GIGABYTE expects that most users won’t use a case; even if they do the buttons are still workable.


Here we have the lower right hemisphere. The SATA ports are all angled, and we even have a nice SATA6G port hooked up to the Marvell SE9182, Marvell’s new SATA6G controller. The ICH heatsink looks like a flag, I swear. Many overclockers won’t use the IOH/VRM heatsink, but this way they can still use the ICH heatsink, because it does get hot. You can also notice the PEG-OC (PCI-E power plugs) in our case they are actually SATA power connectors. I am told that you can hook up two different PSU’s to these plugs, one for each PSU. In the component test section you will see how well it works out. The position the SATA power connectors are in makes them perfect, in a case or outside, we can see how on a PSU’s daisy chain of SATA power connectors, the SATA drive can be hooked up right next to the SATA ports.


Here we have our trusty PCI-E layout. The 1st and 3rd PCI-E slots are full 16x slots, the 2nd and 4th are 8x slots. The way this is done means that you can fit two triple slotted GPUs and have them each run at 16x. The lack of NF200 makes 4-way SLI impossible, but keeps costs down. It is obvious that this board is made for 2D and single or dual card benching. If this board had an NF200 chipset, it would cost more, but also if you only use one or two cards you have added latency that otherwise wouldn’t be there. NF200 is really meant for 3 and 4 way SLI setups. We can see that GIGABYTE kept our trusty PCI slot, for anything from an iRAM to an extra diagnostic card.

Here we have our cute backpanel. Honestly more connectivity than needed, but the least I have ever seen. GIGABYTE is now using red USB 2.0 ports. The audio has been cut down to 3 ports, and the blue are USB 3.0 ports. I love the fact that they kept the PS2 keyboard and mouse ports.
Lets start again from socket area around, but this time with closeups of noticable features.


We have the trusty X58 Lottes socket. Some earlier X58 Foxconn sockets showed burn. It seems they have fixed it for P67, but for X58 Lottes is preferred. We also have out clear CMOS button, as well as our 3 DIP switches for VRM switching frequency. The stock value for switching frequency is 400 kHz, switch 1 = 600 kHz, switch 2 = 800 kHz, and switch 3 = 1 MHz. Each frequency is good for a different condition, or a different CPU. You have to play around and see which is best for you, and I will explain what switching frequency is and how it has an effect on overall VRM performance.


Here we have our trusty OC workspace. We have everything from voltage monitoring points, to multiplier and BLCK adjustment. You press the “Gear” button to change between 1Mhz and 0.3Mhz BLCK increments. We also have our trust LED POST display. I really like the LED POST display as it’s an easy troubleshooting tool. The Power and Reset buttons are together as well. The power, 4G, Gear, BLCK +/-, and Multiplier +/- buttons all are lit with orange LEDs inside. The 4G, power, and Gear buttons will stay lit, but the incremental buttons ONLY stay lit when being pressed. You will see how it works in the SetUP section.


Here we have a close-up for the voltage measurement module (that is what GIGABYTE calls it). You can either use their provided connectors, or free measure the pads if you only have one DMM (Digital Multi Meter). Each read point is also labeled.


Here we have the SATA ports, the SATA6G port is grey colored. The PCI-E power connectors are really a great idea. This is a first I have seen on any motherboard, and I hope it catches on because it really is ingenious.


As I said earlier somewhere, that I love DIP switches. Here we have one long overdue for the dual BIOS feature on the GIGABYTE boards. Rather than using fancy key combinations we can finally just flick a switch. This will no doubt cut down on board RMAs as well as increase user satisfaction and control. It is a small thing, but one that is important for serious overclockers. Not only can you save 16 profiles, but you can also use one BIOS to test a BETA while the other is your 24/7 OC, and you have full user control.


I just wanted to say again that there are 7 fan connectors, 6 of them at 4-pin PWM connectors. This is a feature we saw on the G1 Assassin; the user has full control over every fan port via EasyTune6 or even SpeedFan.
Now I know what a lot of you guys want to see, how does GIGABYTE do all of this? Well to begin here is the board, nude:


You can see one gorgeous Voltage Regulator Module (VRM). In this next section I am going to tell you and show you where all the saved money from the extra ICs go. Follow me to the most important and most interesting part of this review, Voltage Regulation Section!

Voltage Regulator Module:


X58A-OC Voltage Regulation.
The X58A-OC is an overclocking board done GIAGBYTE style. This means that they have paid attention to the smallest details and expanded the purview of overclocking features. They did this to a large extent in the VRM, but it’s not noticeable by looking at the box, but I will show you how they did it. Any overclocker will tell you that power delivery is one of the most if not the most important part of any motherboard. When it comes to overclocking many think that more phases equals better. While more phases can equal more current output, the truth is that you won’t ever need more than 6-8 phases, that is if each phase can output 30 or more amperes. On the X58A-OC you are getting a souped up Voltage Regulator Circuit/Module (VRC/M) which here on out we will call the VRM. GIGABYTE has reduced the phase count, but increased quality of many aspects of the VRM. In this section we will look at how.


On current motherboards a buck converter which is a DC to DC step down circuit is used to power the CPU. The issue is that we need to step down a lot and carry over a great deal of that power at very high (>90%+) efficiency while tightly regulating the power, to top it off, it needs to be done fast. A buck converter is a switch mode power supply (SMPS), much like your computer’s main PSU, but this one is a DC/DC power supply not an AC/DC PSU which powers all your main components. Changing 12v at something like 30a to 1.2v at 120a is no easy task. Every component including; CPU, CPU Uncore, RAM, IOH (Northbridge), and ICH is powered by a buck converter.
I need to cover a few terms before we begin this section.


PWM: Pulse Width Modulator, in our case an interleaved synchronous buck converter. This device outputs pulses on each of its channels to the drivers that control the MOSFETs.
Parasitic: characteristics of the operation of a component which are undesirable (ESR, ESL, DCR (Direct Current Resistance)) for the mode of operation we want. Example: a capacitor has resistance, a MOSFET has capacitance.
Switching loss: Energy lost per operation
ESR: Equivalent Series Resistance
Switching Frequency: Is simply defined as the frequency (amount of times) the same operation occurs, in our case the amount of times per second each phase is switched on.
Duty Cycle: is thought of as the time the object is on divided by the total time the object can be on. It can be expressed as a percentage or ratio. For our purpose and explanation we can also think of it as Vo/Vi=duty cycle. Duty Cycle is used in the control scheme of many PWMs.

The PWM:
Now the PWM used on this board is the ISL6336, a proven powerful mixed signal interleaved synchronous buck converter. It is the same analog one used on all high-end and mid-end GIGABYTE X58 boards. This PWM is responsible for modulating and sending out signals to the drivers that control the MOSFETs to change 12v at X amount of amperage into 0.9-2.1v at more amperage than your PSU can put out on a good day. At the same time the PWM is responsible for regulating the voltage. How does it do this?


How does it regulate the output?
It senses an output voltage and compares it to a reference voltage that you set, depending on the LLC setting its going to also effect the duty cycle as well as other factors. In a true analog PWM this is done with an amplifier that amplifies the error signal, which is then compared against the reference signal through a comparator, the difference will then let the PWM know how much to change the duty cycle and whether to turn on or off the MOSFETs. Now that is just a simple way to put things, in fact as time progresses PWMs are one of the hardest parts of the SMPS to analyze. For that you need to take a course in SMPS buck converter design.

In the ISL6336 current is controlled in this type of feedback loop, a measurement of the drop of voltage across a current sensing resistor lets the PWM know much current is flowing through each phase so that it can adjust the current per phase accordingly. Taking it to a broader sense of things this is a negative feedback loop, which are all but the most common in the natural world (which has nothing to do with this). If you are wondering, negative feedback is a means of a response loop in where the final result is meant to deviate from the original, positive feedback is to reaffirm the same result. The PWM is always trying to correct the voltage. Quick fact, in the human body there are ONLY 2 positive feedback loops, child birth and blood clotting. Of course Digital PWMs determine how to regulate voltage a bit differently.

So what does Digital Do Different?
Digital PWMs use an algorithm called PID (to help process the error) and instead of an amplifier they use an ADC (analogue to digital converter) so that the error can be dealt with digitally. Instead of turning on the MOSFET and changing the duty cycle until optimum conditions are reached, the digital PWM can calculate exactly how much time to turn on each MOSFET. There are other small differences, but in the end the major part of the difference between analog and digital is the error feedback processing and control. Digital PWM error compensation circuitry has come a long way, and really is up to par with analog PWM’s speed (which was a problem for transient response in the past); on the other hand analog PWMs have increased their effectiveness and precision as well and are up to par with digital PWMs in that sense. To be very honest after talking to some others who know a lot more about this than I, they say that Digital and Analogue achieve the same goals through different means, saying one is better than another is pretty hard to do, and that companies love to market these technologies. Until now digital PWMs had the one good advantage; much easier end user control.


Integration of Analog PWM End-User Control
What does that exactly mean? Well one of the proponents to analog PWMs is that they do not have control firmware that can be tweaked by a motherboard company or end users to fit their needs. They have to basically order the PWM pre set. So to give the manufacturers the ability to control things in their PWM they have to add off die ICs, such as a GPIO (general purpose I/O) to control for instance LLC. In our case they used the iTE IT8275E which controls phase switching and LLC. In the end analog PWMs do have end user control it’s just that it won’t be integrated easily, it takes more work and costs more. Now it doesn’t take a GPIO to control LLC, it actually takes a resistor connected between the FB and VDIFF pins on the PWM to control LLC, but to give users control they put in a GPIO so that the end user can control this. Switching frequency is actually a simpler integration, it takes a resistor to the FS pin, and this time GIGABYTE had the option to just leave it as hardware controlled by DIP switches. GIGABYTE did it this way because they wanted to give the user real-time control over switching frequency.


ISL6336 Features
Now multiple levels of switching frequency control is cool, both sides have it in this round. Another thing that the Intersil PWM has going for it is the fact that the phases (channels) are interleaved. The PWM also runs every phase in parallel. What does this mean for us? Well interleaving the channels means that their individual ripple frequency and ripple amplitude can be multiplied together, this means lower ripple. This leads us to two Intersil technologies, Adaptive Pulse Positioning (APP) and Active Phase Alignment (APA).
The APA scheme can during VERY high current loads align all phases (usually they work one at a time so each channel switches 1/6 of the cycle after the channel before it) with this load scheme the PWM can turn all 6 channels on at ONE time when needed. The APP scheme banks on the interleaving and ripple effects which allows the use of lower bulk output capacitance which has an effect on dampening ripple. That is why on almost all GIGABYTE X58 and P67 boards you see so little bulk output capacitors, because of their high phase count.



(Vishay DrMOS Gen III. SiC769CD rated 35A continuous 1Mhz Switching Frequency)
Next let’s talk about the good old MOSFETs and Drivers.
The DrMOS (DriverMOSFETs) are the same DrMOS used on all other GIGABYTE boards (35A rated continuous output current). These 35A generation III DrMOS have some very good advantages. First off all they are fairly small, which means more room on the board for other components. They also are able to operate at switching frequencies at 1 MHz. They boast over 90% efficiency in multiphase buck topology (which is the case here). Another huge factor is that the driver is integrated. The reason this is important is because driving signals need to be as close as they can to the MOSFET’s terminals. Integrating both the high-side and low-side FETs into a single IC with the driver allows room for other components while helping to increase the overall efficiency of the system, there is no need for extra PCB traces and extra impedance. These MOSFETs are classified as PowerPAK MLP6x6 package. The FETs inside the PowerPAK have low RDS(on) for the high-side FET is 6mohm and even lower for the low-side at RDS(on) of 1.5mohm. They are actually tri-state DrMOS. I was told that if you use LN2 to cool the CPU it will indirectly cool the copper in the PCB, and then through conduction it will indirectly cool the DrMOS which could help push more current (as I have been told). So let’s get down to business, how can GIGABYTE say that this motherboard has a VRM equivalent to their 24 phase boards? To be honest it’s ALL about the current rating of the inductor in this case.


The inductors:
The new: The inductors used on this motherboard are 56nH rated at 50a, GIGABYTE specifically special ordered them for this board, and I was told that the data on this specific inductor is still off limits, but that it has a current rating of 50A. GIGABYTE calls these inductors MPFC (Max Power Ferrite Choke).

The old: On all GIGABYTE boards in production today we have these ferrite core chokes. GIGABYTE isn’t the only company that uses these shiny blue/gray cubes (inductors), EVGA and some others do as well depending on the board and which buck converter. Now the rated current of those 1uH (100nH) inductors (chokes) on previous GIGABYTE boards is about 20A. Inductors always have a rated saturation current. What does this mean? Well rated saturation current is where you being to store energy in the “air” instead of the inductor’s core. Once you reach and exceed saturation current the inductor is saturated with magnetic flux, it loses its inductance and stops operating like and inductor, this poses a problem as it produces electrical noise and can damage other components (mainly the MOSFETs) because the current shoots up as inductance is lost. Different MOSFETs will blow at different times depending on the current rise and the max temperature they can take. The inductor can also be damaged and it depends on the material used and its max rating.

(Example of MOSFETs burning because of current pull through the inductor is too high, above GTX 570)(Special thanks to bassplayer for the picture)

Example of low rated inductors: This is the reason why you see many newer NIVIDA GPUs burn their MOSFETs with stock VRM design. It’s simply the fact that the MOSFETs are putting out more current than the inductors can handle. This is very dangerous. On previous GIGABYTE boards you have maybe 12 or 16 even 24 phases on a board, but GIGABYTE expects you only to pull maybe ½ or ¼ of the current output possible from the DrMOS. What GIGABYTE expects isn’t unfair, it’s the truth, you see these VRMs advertised as being able to handle 1200watt CPUs, or 800watt CPUs, and in reality you can never pull wattage even close to those numbers (more like 300-4000watts max). This is evident by looking at other boards used for subzero benching. As you will see towards the end of this section, I have made a table of the top X58 motherboards; Rampage 3 Extreme, the EVGA X58 Classified E760, X58A-UD9, and the X58A-OC. This is a very common practice, and all manufacturers do it to some extent. In the case of the X58A-OC, GIGABYTE opted out.


The Capacitors:
Usually in a review like this I never cover the inductors or capacitors because they are usually the same on every board. This board uses POSCap TPE, highly conductive polymer tantalum core, ultra low ESR capacitors. Boards such as the R3E and the EVGA Classified, both use a Proadlizer capacitor and then a few normal electrolytic can-type aluminum capacitors. Almost all other boards use normal aluminum can-type capacitors. For the motherboard’s CPU power supply we have a few different types of capacitors. The ones that are important right now are the bulk output capacitors. Each one is rated at 470uF, and has ESR of 6-7 mΩ. That gives us a total bulk output capacitance of 9400uF, a very hefty number.
Here is a table I made with some ratings that are important for us today.

There are many benefits that tantalum capacitors have over their aluminum electrolytic counterparts. First off they have much lower ESR than comparable electrolytic. They also store more energy per unit volume; which means at the same farad rating the tantalum capacitor will store more energy. They also have a much larger temperature range and their reliability is much higher. Almost all tantalum capacitors are rated to go down to -50C. Aluminum electrolytic capacitors show capacitance changes over time, temperature, and even frequency. Although pretty small, it can be a factor for those capacitors right next to the CPU during very cold temperatures. Their lower ESR allows tantalum capacitors to have a higher ripple current rating. This is very important for input capacitors.


(from POSCAP)

Input capacitors:
Usually always rated a few volts (16v ratings common) above the input voltage (12v), these capacitors are under the most strain, especially when it comes to transient loads. While the bulk output capacitors are very important and take the most notice, it’s the input capacitors which take the harshest load changes. The reason is while the bulk output capacitors have the inductors to help smoothen the large current changes, the input capacitors are directly feeding the MOSFETs which step down the power. A higher ripple current (Irms) is directly related to lower ESR, in which tantalum capacitors are well suited.

Output Capacitors:
The bulk output capacitors have a few jobs. A few of the more important jobs are; decoupling the output voltage, feeding current to the CPU while the inductors are recovering from a large transient event, acting as energy reservoir, and ripple suppression. The ideal parameters for the bulk output capacitors are that they have low ESR because, if it’s too high, it can take a toll on transient response. Higher ESR can cause more ripple, which would require a higher switching frequency counteract.
How is the X58A-OC suited?


The output filter:
The output filter is made up of two major components, the Inductors and Capacitors. Replacing all the bulk capacitors on any other GIGABYTE X58 board without calculating the effects of the reduced ESR could actually cause problems with performance. The rule is that if you replace either capacitors or inductors you really have to retest and will probably end up replacing both. That is most likely why they special ordered the Inductors. Together the LC (inductor and capacitor) circuit acts as a low pass filter. This means that it blocks high frequency signals. The MOSFETs output the current in pulses and the LC circuit stores the energy and then outputs it to the CPU. Effectively this method ensures that the output is a steady stream of current, you can’t pulsate power to the CPU like you can to an inductor. The PWM has some cool features, such as APP, which can turn all the phases on at once, I also believe that some other PWM companies (Chil) have this tech too.

The Transient Response:
Transient response is dependent on a lot of different factors, more factors than we can cover here today, but I will cover a few big ones including; efficiency, switching losses, and ESR. Speaking from a pure cause and effect relationship, the switching frequency is one of the key determinates of transient response. Higher switching frequency equates higher transient response. High switching frequency also has many benefits such as much better ripple control and less over and undershoot. The issue with high switching frequency is parasitics of the different components that are affected by switching frequency. Every time a MOSFET is switched (determined by switching frequency) on to output current to the inductors, we have something called a switching loss. Switching loss as defined earlier is a certain amount of power that is lost every operation. You can actually observe this by looking to see which part of the VRM gets hot, most of the time the most noticeable part is the MOSFETs and this is because of a loss of power to heat. If the MOSFETs are getting hot, or the efficiency is too low for design standards, or it’s just too expensive to cool then the engineers have to figure out how to lower the switching frequency or change out the MOSFETs for ones with better characteristics. Right now the parasitics of these MOSFETs are very low, but as you see the VRM heatsinks still can get very hot. The higher the ESR in your output bulk capacitors then the higher the ripple. That is why switching frequency is increased to a certain point where it can help negate the effects of the ESR. One other very important factor that affects transient response is the speed of the error feedback loop. But that is a discussion for another day.

Current output and some other factors:
Below is a table of some of the best top tier motherboards from different companies for the LGA1366 platform. You can see MOSFET current output rating VS inductor current ratings. You can see how almost all the VRMs are limited in one way by their inductor current rating, except for the X58A-OC.

(Above are the top best X58 OCing boards. These are also the best VRMs each company has to offer for X58. Current output is not very important at this level, I just wanted to show how the inductors limit current on every model, except the X58A-OC. 400watts is enough for any max OC with a LGA1366 CPU, 350watts is pushing it. ) (One other NOTE because many ASUS fans are going to challenge this. There have been no reports of the Rampage 3 series MOSFETs or inductors being damaged, this is for two reasons. First reason is that it is a properly designed VRM, which has very high quality parts. The current output isn't low its actually higher than ~97% of the motherboards out there today, with the ones up top being exceptions. Current output isn't the most important factor when it comes to VRMs, as long as your VRM can output 250amps you are golden for any OC. The other thing is that the MOSFETs used on the Rampage 3 series are top quality, very high quality and very good build means that they can take a harsh beating and survive, that plus saturation current is never really going to be reached is why even though current output is lower than the others, its still one of the best)

Final words on the X58A-OC board’s CPU VRM?

The X58A-OC has a really great VRM. To incorporate a higher switching frequency, and to increase overall transient response and ripple suppression, GIGABYTE revamped the output filter topology significantly. The issue with changing a current GIGABYTE design of the Inductor/Capacitor circuit is that if you drastically change an aspect of either the inductors or capacitors you have to change the aspect of the other. This VRM is built to work over a large range of switching frequencies. This is just speculation but I am guessing Hicookie wanted increased transient response like on the UD9, wanted to cut down on overall size(easier to insulate), wanted full user control over switching frequency, wanted to keep current output extremely high, and wanted to improve ripple control. Many of these wants are hand in hand. For instance when you increase switching frequency you are also able to decrease inductance required as well. Less phases for GIGABYTE means that their 6 phase PWM’s bandwidth isn’t stretched thin among 24 phases and the VRM will have better transient performance as well. To help really increase the effectiveness of ripple suppression GIGABYTE wanted to do something, and luckily for them they were able to change out the whole output filter (inductor/capacitor) and increase switching frequency.

In the end we have one of the most capable VRMs to be built on a motherboard. Not only in current output, but also in ripple suppression and transient response. Of course there are other options out there as well, and you can see how they add up. Up to now the EVGA Classified has had a crown on transient response, but to test transient response is very tough. There was an article in the OCMag which compared the transient response of the EX58-UD5, the Rampage 2 Extreme, the EX58-UD7, and the Classified among other boards. The Classified was the transient response winner, but now that we have this new GIGABYTE VRM, it might just come close or even beat the Classified. Of course this is mostly speculation, and only real world tests will show. I just wanted to point out that the change in inductors and capacitors are very great, and GIGABYTE isn’t playing when they say this design can be compared to their 24 phase design. It can easily be compared, and in some cases win.

The Uncore VRM:


Above is the Uncore’s VRM. The Uncore is the part of the processor that houses the internal memory controller, and that is what its best known for. It’s actually everything in the processor that is not the cores, such as L2 cache. The Uncore doesn’t use that much power, and is almost well equipped on every motherboard. Above you can see the different parts, same Inductors and Capacitors.


The MOSFETs are different and so is the PWM. For this GIGABYTE used the ISL6312, and it’s not the only ISL6312 on this board, we have two more which power the RAM and the IOH. The MOSFETs are made by Renesas (uPA2724UT), and they can output a nice 25A per phase. The ISL6312 is a native 3 phase PWM with integrated drivers (no need for external drivers), but has the ability to be a 4 phase PWM if there is an extra external driver. The Uncore is well equipped.

The RAM and IOH(X58) Voltage Regulator Modules:


As you can tell by now these VRMs are setup just as the Uncore VRM. Without regard to accuracy I outlined which components go to which output. The BLUE=IOH VRM and the RED=RAM VRM.
In orange are two ISL6312s, one per each VRM. The same Renesas MOSFETs are used, one pair (high-side and low-side) per phase at 25A per phase. Same high quality inductors and capacitors for each VRM. If you count we are missing 3 MOSFETs, those are can be found on the underside of the board, the only MOSFETs on the underside.

(3 missing MOSFETs, and two of these ISL6312s)


You are probably wondering how the other parts of the board are powered. The thing is that those other parts like the SATA and the ICH (ICH10R) don’t really require a variable output, and if they do then the need for regulation isn’t so much. The ICH has something like a few watts of heat output so it barley draws any power. Just like on all other GIGABYTE X58 and even P67 boards, the ICH is powered by a small ISL PWM hidden under the battery holder, and uses Nikos MOSFETs. As you can see above that IC says sexy on it, even though the IC really isn’t too sexy, I thought it was cool. Actually that chip is an operational amplifier which powers some onboard components that don’t need variable output. There are 4 or 5 of these SEXY chips on the board. LDOs (LowDropOut) regulators, which are linear regulators, are used to power most everything else.

The DDR termination voltage is actually powered by its own little IC, the Richtek RT9173D is a high power linear regulator used to specifically power the DDR’s termination voltage. Max 3A output. To end off this section we have below a tantalum POSCap replacing some ceramics.


Overclocking and Feature ICs.
These next ICs are the ones responsible for the temperature monitoring, fan control, and even the overclocking features.


This IC, the NuvoTon NCT2032D is obviously the IC that controls the overclocking buttons. It is not listed anywhere on NuvoTon’s website. NuvoTon is known for providing the same type of features on other boards, but not to this extent (multiple BLCK levels AND multiplier clocking). With the ability to preprogram a very nice 4 GHz overclock on touch, this IC provides us with true hardware overclocking. Hardware overclocking is nothing new, I remember that my old Abit boards had the uGURU standalone OC panel, and other boards have that too now. GIGABYTE unlike a lot of other motherboard companies still makes their own motherboards. Not having a contract in place, they would have to make a very large amount of special PCB design to have it for their boards. This is why they opted to keep the buttons on the board. Honestly the buttons work flawlessly, I was able to walk my 990x to 4.2 GHz without even increasing the Vcore, and of course it was only CPU-Z stable, which isn’t that practical. I can see the precision and variety of overclocking buttons really help those reach insane CPU-Z clocks.


Above we have the iTE IT8720F and Winbond W83L786, which both are hardware monitoring Super I/Os. The iTE monitors a temperature, provides the PS2 ports in the back, monitors voltages, and even provides CPU fan control. The Windbond gives us the rest of the fan control and temperature sensors. Both of these ICs are found on the G1 series motherboards, where they provide the same features. Together along with the NuvoTon IC they make one feature RICH overclocking motherboard.

NEW IC’s Marvel SE9182, EtronTech EJ168A

Apart from the new NuvoTon IC pictured above, we have the new Marvel SE9182 and the new EtronTech USB 3.0 controller. These make up the new ICs found on this board.

EtronTech is a small company that is known for memory ICs, and now they have come out with their first System IC, the EJ168A, which provides us with 2 USB 3.0 ports. I have seen this IC on a few other boards to date, and some to be released, so we will see this new USB 3.0 host controller in other boards as well. It is nice to have some USB3.0 competition with Renesas/NEC who has owned the field until now.


The Marvell SE9182 is another beast all together. Right now the self proclaimed KING of SATA6G off die solutions, this IC out performs its old SE9128 counterpart without hesitation. It even gives Intel’s SATA6G a more than fair fight, even though I’d use an Intel controller for RAID0 with SATA6G SSDs, this controller should handle one just as well as Intel SATA6G.

The IOH/ICH and Other ICs


Here we have our gorgeous Tylersburg Intel X58 IOH. With a native 36 lanes of PCI-E, with only 32 PCI-E lanes useable, this IOH gives us the power to run 2-way and 3-way SLI as well as up to 4-WAY CrossFireX.


The X58 IOH has the PCI-E lanes, and these ASMT ASM 1440 PCI-E switches distribute them. There are 8 of these switches, and they configure the PCI-E lanes accordingly.


Here we have our great ICH10R ICH (Southbridge), this IC provides us with all the connectivity we could want, and then more. Of course most of that connectivity was left out on purpose.


Next we have out trusty clock generator. The ICS9LPRS914HKLF so you can put it into SetFSB, OH WAIT! You have hardware buttons that can do the same thing!!! Here we have both of our 16MBit BIOS chips, each one can be selected by a switch, which is a great feature for GIGABYTE to finally add in.


Finally we have our ALC889 and then our RTL8111E which provide us with audio and our LAN.
That covers all the ICs on this board except for some OAMPs and LDOs.
Now let’s take a look at the cooling on this board.

The Heatsinks! And Cooling


As you can see these heatinks are of a brand new design. They are much different than any other X58 board and even more different than any other GIGABYTE board. Each heatsink has LEDs in them. I like them in the heatsinks rather than on the board. I think GIGABYTE understands that if an LED doesn’t have function then it’s just decoration. Here the heatsinks are part decoration in themselves, and I personally enjoy how this board glows in the dark.


If we take a closer look we can see that these heatsinks have all sort of different cuts and angles. The heatsink for the IOH and the VRM is pretty damn heavy. This aluminum heatink actually does have a heatpipe in it as well which connects the VRM block to the IOH block. We can also see that the heatink covers both the main and uncore VRMs. The heatink also covers the inductors/chokes, but doesn’t provide them with any cooling, which of course is unneeded.


This picture shows us the heatpipe as well as the thermal interface material used. The IOH is given TIM as normal and 100% of the DrMOS and the Low RDS(on) MOSFETs for the CPU power rails use thermal pads. The USB 3.0 EtronTech IC also has its own thermal pad, probably just to even the hold down balance. These heatsinks honestly do a good job, and you have to use them for air cooling. When you use Dry Ice or Liquid N2, you don’t necessarily have to use these heatinks, because the copper in the PCB will cool down these components through conduction. The problem with not using these heatinks is that you still are required to cool down the ICH (Southbridge) and the IOH (Northbridge), many users use ghetto solutions like a small Northbridge heatsink from a Pentium 4 era motherboard. The good thing GIGABYTE did is that they disconnected the heatink into two parts.


The introduction picture is of the ICH’s heatsink. This heatsink has a very long extension that covers a lot of PCB. This might actually help extend its surface area to help cool it better.


You guys are probably interested in what lights the heatinks up, and the answer is LEDs. The heatsinks have LEDs, the main heatsink has many and the ICH heatsink has 3. I think they give a really nice ambient glow.


Here is a close up image. The LEDs are surface mount, so replacing them isn’t too hard, but finding replacements are. Of course you need to be handy with a soldering iron to do this, and they are just fine the way they are.


Now above are probably two images that don’t seem like they come from the same board. Metal screws are how GIGABYTE has been attaching their heatsinks on to their P67 and later revision X58 boards. This time we see the use of metal screws for the ICH and IOH, 8 all together, 4 per block. Surprisingly they used plastic push through fasteners for the VRM part of the heatsink, 3 of them. I honestly have no idea why, but as I was removing the heatsinks and putting them back on I realized something. It’s a real pain to have to unscrew these heatinks so often and then keep track of them, using half pushpins and half metal screws makes some sense. Use the metal for where it counts, and use plastic for where you have variable pressure requirements. Many would want all metal, but after removing so many heatsinks so many times, push pins aren’t too bad of a concept.

The Board in Action and Some Initial Results

To start this section off I will start with how the board looks once you have it setup, and how everything works. I did some quick air results on two different CPUs as well.


First the only thing lit up when the board is off is the power button. It’s orange and glows pretty nicely. You can find your board even in pitch black!


The board looks fantastic when it’s lit up. They did a really nice job with the lighting. It would look pretty sick on a bench. I am sure some will build whole systems around this orange glow.


The OC button area is lit only when you press the “4GHz” or “Gear” buttons. They stay lit when active.


The +/- buttons only light up when you press them. Here I have pressed all of them.


Here we have the board setup with a nice air cooler. I have also plugged in the SATA power cables. The SATA drive is right next to the board and the daisy chain of the SATA cables makes it easy to hook up your SATA drive right next to the SATA ports. In a case these plugs are well positioned as well.

Now let’s take a look at the spacing:


As you can see the spacing with a very large 120mm fan like this is pretty right. The fan actually ends up just fitting correctly; it sits on the heatsink in this case, but doesn’t make it hard to fit, just a bit different than usual.


The other side of the heatsink as you can see is a tight fit. Your RAM should be in the orange slots on X58 GIGABYTE boards, and then the black ones once you have filled the orange ones up. Notice the difference in thickness of the two fans.


This is a cool shot of the back-panel in use. A little air flow might not be bad.


Here we have all 7 of the included connectors hooked up to the motherboard. It’s a very standard but nice design. Something I would like to see on all GIGABYTE boards.
Now for some easy overclocking results done on air!


All I did for this was press the 4G button. I had two different dual channel kits in this board, one a 1600 MHz kit(8,8,8,24) and one a 2133mhz(9,10,9,27) kit. Both are of the same density (2GB each). Took my RAM to 1600 MHz at 7,9,8,24 at 2T, which is very impressive. The CPU was taken to 4 GHz, but with a 20x multiplier 200 MHz BLCK, very easy OC. The voltage on the CPU was 1.36v and the voltage on the IMC (QPI/VTT) was 1.36v. It is actually a very impressive OC for any auto-OC button.

MAX AIR Overclocks!! Two processors, X58A-OC, and some easy aircooling fun.

Your overclocks WILL vary from mine.

MAX OC for i7 930


This is very nice, I was never able to get to 4.6ghz with my i7 930, it took 220blck, and the board did it with ease. This is a personal best for this CPU on air.

MAX OC for i7 990X

Here we have my 990x, which does 5.2 GHz easily, it also did 5.2 GHz on my G1.Assassin, and the difference is the Vcore used. I had to use 0.03V less!!! That is pretty impressive. There was more room in this chip, but that is for the LN2 and DICE. No need to degrade this beauty.

ONCE AGAIN, your OC results WILL NOT be the same!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The conclusion and preview:


Above is a picture of my pot on the board. It looks like it’s going to be really fun. More results will come about performance very soon. I will compare this board against my other X58 board, the G1 Assassin. This board’s VRM really packs a hefty punch; the switching frequency DIP switch is just a little extra. The new POSCaps and 50A inductors really make this board worth it. This board is not only simple to use, but it’s also a really great overclocking board. For instance in the BIOS once you save and reset it zips through POST like it’s no one’s business. On top of that BIOS quick boot, C1E and EIST are DISABLED at stock. I was able to reach either a higher clock (i7 930) or use lower vcore (0.03v less). I like the buttons, they make overclocking so easy, CPU-Z WRs will be snatched without a problem, because you have total control over increasing CPU clock through hardware, and even in minute levels.


This board really is worth the money, original estimates put it around the price of the UD5, but of course that is always how it goes. I expect it to be a bit higher. This board is for overclockers just like the G1 Assassin is for gamers. It still can do everything any other X58 board can do; it just has much less connectivity. This board really packs a lot of great overclocking features. The way GIGABYTE has focused in on different market segments is impressive to say the least. This model is one I hope to see included in many future GIGABYTE lines. Honestly voltage read points and the BIOS switch are long overdue in GIGABYTE boards. This board is a bit late as well, considering X58 is at the end of its run, but it’s better to be late and win than never enter the game. It glows pretty nice in the dark too! This board is the Ultimate OC board in my opinion, and my favorite motherboard ever.

High quality VRM and with switching frequency control.
Whole board has POSCaps only.
Triple slot PCI-E spacing on ATX size board
BIOS is stable and steady, tuned for overclocking
OC Buttons are excellent
Voltage read points and BIOS switch (finally)
Extra PCI power form SATA power cables.

Heatsink is just going to cut it, it’s a bit big.
Plastic push-pins for half of the hold down
VTT is outputted higher than what is set, by a fair amount ~0.02v to 0.03v
A little late in the X58 game.

Now we are done with part 1(physical review), part 2(performance review) is BELOW!
X58A-OC Performance Review:

By Steven B. (Sin0822)
A few weeks ago I took a look at the new X58A-OC from a totally physical standpoint. Take a look here for the first part of this review. I looked into the VRM design and what makes this board tick, as well as many of its features for overclocking and benching. Above all else this board is built for extreme overclocking. Liquid nitrogen and this board made friends faster than EVGA and NVIDIA. Today I will look into this board performance up against my other X58 board, the G1 Assassin. These new boards are tweaked to perform best in their intended uses, the G1.Assassin for gaming and the X58A-OC for overclocking. I have to be honest and say that while I am not new to overclocking (been doing it for 10 years), I am fairly new to extreme cooling. Up until the time I have received this motherboard, they one cooling I had done subzero was with my old Single Stage Phase change cooler, and a few Dice runs back in 2003. Until now the only high clocks I had ever received were from my old Pentium 4 561 which I hold the World Record for at 5.3 GHz. For me this board is more than just an excellent board for benching and overclocking, but also the motherboard that would help me step up to subzero cooling techniques. I am going to go step by step in my journey into X58 subzero cooling, bypassing expensive phase change coolers and going straight to Dry Ice and Liquid Nitrogen. As many know, overclocking on air and water is much different than overclocking under dry ice and liquid nitrogen, in-fact it’s a totally different ball game. This board has open so many doors for me in terms of taking my hardware and overclocking experience to the next level, and I will document exactly what happened and how I got it all going, so that those of you know are not quite ready for subzero cooling can take a look at how I did it. If I can do it, you can do it too!

Table of Contents:
Review of OC Features from Subzero OC
BIOS and Subzero OC Tips and Tricks
G1 Assassin VS X58A-OC benchmarks
Air Cooling Results
My Insulation Techniques and Tips
Dry Ice cooling results
Liquid nitrogen Cooling results

Review of OC Features from Subzero OC


This OC panel area is well placed, the buttons look to be a bit big, but that is all worth it when you are wearing gloves from pouring LN2 or handling dry ice and you need to change the BLCK or multiplier really quick. In my use I would boot at something like 5.7 GHz at -130C and then in windows change the vcore to 1.8v and move the multiplier up to 35x and then increase the BLCK up to 185+ to attain higher clocks while pouring to get to -150C. I found that using the multiplier and BLCK buttons is not only faster than using the software, but in some cases you can walk the frequency up really quickly and get a screenshot or press F7 to save the CPU-Z validation file really quickly right before it crashes.
The voltage read points are very beneficial, as it’s very important to monitor the voltages in real time. One issue I came across was that the QPI/VTT voltage is much higher than what you set. This can be a problem when trying to get around cold bugs and the VTT is almost 0.05v higher than what you set while you want 1.33v you need to set 1.27v instead. For me I bought 2 really cheap $6 USD Digital MultiMeters(DMM) from Microcenter and they are mini, but I have one monitor the CPU PLL voltage for cold bugs, one monitor the MCH(IOH voltage), and my better two DMMs monitor the vcore and vtt respectively. It is nice to monitor these voltages in real time so that you can see the difference from idle to load. One great thing about this board is that it comes with 7 voltage read wires so that we can monitor all seven voltages available for monitoring at the same time with 7 DMMs. This “Voltage Read Module” is a first on GIGABYTE X58 boards, something I want to see on future boards.
The POST display is more than useful. For instance, when the POST reads 00 the CPU has a cold issue and acts as if it isn’t there, sometimes the board gets stuck on C1 and then it could be a CPU IMC or RAM issue. A list of codes are in the back of the manual.

The BIOS switch is well placed as well, and I used it once or twice to make sure the boot problem was not a BIOS issue and instead is a cold issue. The Switching Frequency DIP switches could have been better placed. The issue is that higher switching frequency isn’t always better. Even for very high overclocks sometimes lower switching frequency is better. It is kind of hard to explain but I found that 800khz or 600khz would sometimes be better than 1000khz or 400khz (stock). The option to be able to change things without going into BIOS and having to reboot the system can help you test out settings while avoiding Cold Boot Bugs. Changing major settings in the BIOS such as the Uncore clocks will require the board to shutdown and then it might not boot up because it is too cold and then you have use a heat gun or torch to pull the temperature back up to like -100c/-50C for my two processors. The CMOS switch is also placed right next to the switching frequency switches, and it could have been better placed as well. Many times you don’t want to clear the CMOS, because you have the right CPU PLL set for cold boot bug and so I really don’t use the clear CMOS switch much unless it’s a dire circumstance. If the board fails to POST it will reset the CMOS itself after about 3-5 tries. OC recovery is pretty well implemented.



The Voltage Regulator Module (VRM) on this board is more than just strong, it’s also very well designed for overclocking. It doesn’t get too hot, yet it can handle even the highest loads with ease. It implements custom ordered parts not found on any other GIGABYTE boards, and rivals the best VRMs on other boards. For a comparison against the VRM on the EVGA Classified E760, ASUS Rampage 3 Extreme, and the GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 Take a look here for the VRM comparison and INFO. The design of this VRM is unique compared to other boards in that it can handle many different switching frequencies and many different loads quickly and can do well at extremely low temperatures without any problems. There was no need to keep the PWM warm, and the tantalum core POSCap capacitors had no problem getting cold. The best part about all of this is that every inductor on this board is custom ordered and the tantalum capacitors are all the only capacitors on this board, which makes even the minor motherboard power supplies (Uncore, RAM, IOH, ICH) more than capable. I found that I had to use less voltage than on my other motherboards to achieve the same or even higher overclocks with the same processors.

Quick BIOS and SubZero OC tricks/tips:

I want to help those OCers who are new to subzero or who want to undertake the experience like I did, just because this board motivates them. It did me. I have gathered a lot of info and hope it helps people get started.

The BIOS on this board is the exact same as every other X58 GIGABYTE board. It has been tuned a bit differently, but all in all the options are the same. This board supports the 3TB+ un-locker as other GIGABYTE X58 boards do now as well.

There were a lot of guys who helped me out with the cold bug stuff: Hicookie*, Chew*, and Dino* and a lot of the stuff below comes from their great minds and experience!

Here is how the BIOS looks and it’s a virtual interaction (you can explore the BIOS through the link):
(Credit is given to the user JZ)

Power Saving Features:
Like other GIGABYTE X58 boards C3/C6 States come disabled, but on the OC board EIST and C1E are also disabled, so don’t expect power savings to be automatically enabled, you have to enable them if you want to use them. For overclocking on X58 you want them off.

BIOS can monitor CPU temperature down to -82C, so Dry Ice overclockers and view the CPU’s temperature in the BIOS.

To get around the CPU’s cold bug when going subzero this board features CPU PLL voltage change down to 1.3v. Every CPU’s cold bug will be at a different temperature and will need a different CPU PLL to help maximize it. I went over a range from 1.3v to 2.1v and I found that 1.7v was the best, 1.6v was a little worse, but everything else from 1.3-1.9v was terrible and showed a -80C cold bug. 2.0v showed a -110C cold bug, 1.6v was at -130 and 1.7v was at -150C. You have to test the entire range, it takes long, but when you find it, it’s satisfying. Of course every CPU is different.

LLC Load Line Calibration:
This setting will eliminate Vdroop it is very useful for high load situations and you have 3 different levels. Only other brand of X58 board that offers multiple levels is the Asus Rampage 3 series. Level 1 on the OC board is very good and allows a slight vdroop, and level 2 will revere vdroop into “vrise”.

Can help with clod bugs too if you keep it low enough. Some say to keep it under 1.4v other say to go as low as 1.3v. Make sure to monitor the qpi/vtt voltage on this board for the correct qpi/vtt voltage.
Vcore is very dependent on temperature, many times at -120 you need much more vcore like 1.9v+ to maintain a lower clock than at -150 in which 1.8v might be enough.

Higher Uncore frequency can be beneficial to help warm up the CPU die while at very low temperatures. For Bloomfield this should be at 2x the RAM multiplier, for Gulftown 1.5x the Ram multiplier, but sometimes adding a few higher multipliers can help. 2x+1 or +2 for Bloomfield or 2x or 2x+1 for Gulftown can help as well.

CPU/PCI-E clock drive:
Differential amplitude help reduce noise from the high increase in frequencies. The option you choose, from 700-1000mv is described as how much different the voltage is for the frequencies than the other voltages for other signals to help differentiate the frequency signals from others. Really too much of this voltage might hurt more than help. Of course this should be raised a little bit, but many times setting the highest (1000mv) might hurt. I found that 800-900mv is good.

Clock Skews:
Delays added to the clocks for the CPU and IOH on this board, I was told that the highest clock skews might be best for Gulftown, while lower is fine for Bloomfield. Many don’t even have to change this, but when you are looking to tweak the OC to the max it could be helpful. I use 50ps for my 930 and 500ps for my Gulftown. It is important to note that even up to 700ps might be good for Gulftown as recommended.

High BLCK:
Slow mode is important for high BLCK when going over about 230blck. The issue with high QPI frequency is that there is a theoretical limit around 8GHz. The quality of the IOH as well as the design is board dependant, but even boards of the same make can show different BLCKs. Usually QPI Clock is determined by qpi multipliers, the lowest stock on is 36x. Slow mode allows QPI multiplier for 32x for Gulftown and 24X for Bloomfield, those are by Intel specs. Slow mode on Bloomfield is more detrimental to performance than it is on Gulftown, because of a smaller change in the multiplier.

PCI-E frequency needs to be increased for high BLCK, I found that this board did well up to 114 MHz, others have found around 112 or 111. GIGABYTE boards tend to require a tab more than other boards. Be careful as high PCI-E frequency and corrupt hard drives and other devices dependant on the PCI-E frequency. I haven’t had anything die from high PCI-E frequency, but it is possible.

QPI/VTT is very important for high RAM clocks and high Uncore and BLCK, I have used up to 1.7v, but once again you have to monitor this voltage manually if you got that high, and of course you should have the CPU be cold.

BDOS Codes:
When you get a bluescreen, you will get a code along with it, like 0x000000124 for example. Here is a list of the codes and what you can do to help get rid of BDOS screens:
BSOD Codes
0x124 = add/remove vcore or QPI/VTT voltage (usually Vcore, once it was QPI/VTT)
0x101 = add more vcore
0x50 = RAM timings/Frequency add DDR3 voltage or add QPI/VTT
0x1E = add more vcore
0x3B = add more vcore
0xD1 = add QPI/VTT voltage
0x9C = QPI/VTT most likely, but increasing vcore has helped in some instances
0X109 = add DDR3 voltage
0x0A = add QPI/VTT voltage

In conclusion tuning your system for any overclock takes a lot of patience and a lot of practice. It’s not that easy, but once you get used to it your only limit is the CPU and not your skills. There were a lot of guys who helped me out with the cold bug stuff: Hicookie*, Chew*, and Dino* really helped me a lot, and most of the cold bug information was recommended by them and then tested out by me. I felt like they deserve a lot of credit for some of the info above. Some other techniques to get rid of Cold Bugs on X58 are:
Use single stick of RAM in the second (or first orange) slot. This way only the first channel of the CPU’s IMC is in use, and the distance between the CPU and the slot is reduced as well. This helps reduce impedance caused by trace length.
Using a strong and powerful PSU is very important in subzero OCing. CPUs at 6 GHz or 7 GHz are going to pull anywhere from 300-400watts on average and will put a heavy strain on your PSU’s 12v rail(s). Make sure to plug in the dual 12v 8-Pin connectors as well as the PCI-E SATA power plugs to help OCing. I use a very crappy GT220 for OCing, and it can take a lot of PCI-E frequency. A lot of GPUs cannot handle high PCI-E frequency and they can stop working if the PCI-E frequency is high. That is why there is a PCI slot for a PCI GPU or an extra diagnostic card. I plus my GT220 in the last PCI-E 8x slot so that it is farthest from the cold of the LN2, that way I don’t have to insulate it.

G1 Assassin VS X58A-OC Benchmark Results:

Before I begin I want to state a few things. First the X58A-OC uses the BIOS 014, and some results use a new BIOS F3. I wanted to show that new BIOSes impact performance, and future final release BIOSes when the board is released will show different performance gains in benchmarks and this is important to know. BIOS can impact benchmarking performance in many ways.
Both systems are at 100% stock settings, both using the 990x and 4 GB dual channel kit. Each benchmark was run 3 times and the best score was used. Screen shots are provided this time on top or below the graphs.
If it states X58A-OC F3 that is the changed BIOS, I only re-benched with F3 on 3 benchmarks because of time.
SuperPI and wPRIME= lower is better.
Everything else higher is better. Please note that the G1 Assassin is tweaked for 3D as I think it is. The X58A-OC is tweaked for 2D.









The G1 Assassin won in 2/3 3D benchmarks, with the exception of 3DMark 11. It is important to note that the G1 Assassin isn’t an overclocking board. It is the only X58 board that I have though. A while back when the OC board was still under wraps I was told that it is tuned for 2D performance. I hope by final release they have one kick *** BIOS tuned to the max, at this time new BIOSes are showing minor improvement on 2D benchmarks, so I hope to see this trend continue.

Air Cooling Results and 4G Button

The 4G button on this board works as advertised, and can even accommodate different RAM configurations. I took 4 sticks of RAM, each 2GB and each from a different kit. One is rated 1600mhz @8,8,8,24 T1 and the other at 2133mhz @9,10,9,27 T2. Here is what the board did after I pressed the button:
The board set Uncore at 2x the Ram multiplier, it took the 8GB kits to 1600mhz with better timings than the 1600mhz kit could do. The CPU was taken to 4ghz with a 20X multiplier which is a bit odd because the CPu likes 21x, and a BLCK of 200mhz with qpi/vtt set at 1.4v which is a bit high. It is stable for 20 runs of IBT which is impressive for any auto OC feature on any board. 4GHz is a very high auto OC feature for any X58 board and I don’t see any good rivals to it. Further-more my 930 isn’t such a great OCer, its max air OC on the G1 Assassin and my old UD5 was at 4.5ghz with only a 4.3ghz stable. This board did one better with the 930 for max OC:
That is the highest I have ever been able to get a validation at on my 930, with not so high of a voltage either.
The 990x is a different story. It does 5.2 GHz on air on every X58 board I have tested, and not a MHz more. On the OC board I was able to do 5.2 GHz on less voltage (0.03v to be exact compared to the G1 Assassin:
It’s an easy OC. It’s easier to OC a 990x than a 930 for two reasons. The 990x is higher binned and the 930 needs to be OCed by BLCK as it doesn’t have unlocked multipliers like the 990x.

My Insulation Adventure

I was very overzealous when it came to insulating the X58A-OC. I had never done Liquid Nitrogen cooling on such a prized board and I was afraid it would die from condensation without good insulation. First I decided not to use the heatsink provided, but then it turns out that the IOH still needs to be cooled as it’s a VERY hot running IOH. You should check out some insulation guides if you have never done subzero cooling before. Buckeye has a nice guide in the LN2/DICE section and so does Kingpin. There are TONs of insulation guides out there. Many use keading eraser, some use dielectric grease, some use conformal coat with those. I used all of them. It’s very messy to use dielectric grease, and even messier with kneading eraser and dielectric grease. I used conformal coating as well, which was some clear spray paint, I taped off the RAM slots, I taped off the IOH and the MOSFETs as well with tiny pieces of tape. I also taped off the PCI-E slots. Then I used a brush and painted the board three times. I wouldn’t do conformal coating again as I don’t think it get underneath the ICs like grease can, and if condensation builds up there is no air release even in the form of bubbles.
Once you do this you VOID the warranty of any motherboard.
That is why many people just use kneading eraser, but I wasn’t going to take that risk. It is important to always let the board dry out and air out after every run, especially when doing long sessions.
This is what I tried first:

But the IOH is hard to cool down, so I insulated the heatsink:
You have to make sure to insulate the back of the board as well:
I decided to have the CMOS button and Switching Frequency switches available so I cut out a piece of neoprene and greased up the switches:
Finally I greased the socket, but before that I removed the socket hold down and insulated it as well.
You can see how messy it became. But my CPU is still alive and running, and there are not contact issues and the socket is still intact. On my DICE run some acetone leaked out of the POT, and my board was so well insulated it sat like a puddle above the CPU, I was able to soak it all up and it didn’t get further than the neoprene because I used dielectric grease between all layers. Between the CPU and the POT I used thermal grease.
I cut out a piece of neoprene as well and put it behind the socket and then the POT hold down above that.

If you use grease it’s VERY important NOT to get it in between any IC and the heatsinks, so you can use a large amount of thermal paste. MAKE sure the thermal paste is Ceramique based because others will freeze. Arctic Silver Ceramique is a preferred choice. Once again make sure that the MOSFETs aren’t greased on top. Also the MOSFETs will be cooled well by conduction of the copper in the PCB and the cold from the Liquid Nitrogen, so there is no need for a heatsink on them when using Liquid Nitrogen, but I used one anyway. You can always wipe off grease.
That is the final insulate before the POT is put in place. You need to test everything out and make sure there is no air gap between the POT and the board, so no liquid forms. You can see I cut out a little area for the switches. I put grease in-between every material and the board or other layers.
Your POT should also have neoprene around it and I use shop towels on the board and on the RAM and around the pot to catch any drips of moisture.
Here is the final result; I used dollar store shammies around the board to catch any moisture drops that will form.

make sure to use fans that blow air onto the board to prevent moisture build up on the insulation. Also you need to let the board and insulation dry out after each and every session or else you run a MUCh higher risk of condensation killing the board. DICE kills boards easily, LN2 kills them even quicker. You have to insulate well. It was VERY easy insulating around the capacitors on this board, as they are like any other chip, plus they can be totally covered unlike the DrMOS. I think that can-type capacitors are one of the hardest SMD components to insulate.

Dry Ice Results as follows:

I didn’t use the 990x for Dry Ice, but I wanted to use Dry Ice first because I know how to use it. I used acetone to help the dry ice spread its cold and complete heat transfer. I bought dry ice from a supermarket for $2 USD a pound, I bought 10LBS and it was enough. I was give blocks of dry ice, to break them up I used an old t-shirt and wrapped it around the dry ice, then made a sling. I smashed the sling on a solid paved concrete and it became powdered.
Make sure to use fans around the board to blow air, this is so that water doesn’t start to form around the insulation as airflow impedes the build-up of condensation.
Here are my results for my i7 930 on Dry ICE:
Remember the cold you go the more voltage you can use, but also remember the colder you go the more current the CPU will use. Also remember the higher you go in frequency the CPu will use more current as well. Dry Ice and allows 1.5-1.7 even maybe 1.8v on some processors, but most CPUs hate too much voltage and you will know by it not starting.
Dry ice usually doesn’t cause cold bugs because you can’t get colder than -70 - -78C because that is the temperature at which dry ice sublimates, and you can’t get colder than that. Also you should realize that you lose heat through different materials such as copper and acetone, so in reality your CPU will be at -70C at best usually. The good thing about this is that you can see the CPU’s temperature in the BIOS as it can read down to -82C.

Liquid Nitrogen Results:

Finally what everyone has been waiting for, can Sin0822 really do it? Yea.

Liquid Nitrogen is one of the coldest substances man can make. Liquid helium is about 40C colder. As certain materials reach lower temperatures they can become superconductive. Many experiments are done with lasers and some of these cryogenic materials on doped ceramic substrates to produce super conductivity at temperatures right about 0K, and here we use the same type of concepts. In the end the colder you go the higher you can get the CPU’s frequencies. Liquid nitrogen isn’t something you can buy in a grocery store, but many oxygen, welding, and gas companies and distributors have LN2. The problem usually isn’t getting LN2, its finding a container for it. LN2 boils at -196C and its liquid to gas ratio is about 1:700. This means that when it boils the gas is 700 times larger in volume. About 70% of the air we breathe is nitrogen, but in a small room you can be suffocated if there is too much nitrogen in the air from LN2. So please use caution. LN2 also can burn your skin and give you frost bite. Safety procedures are to use goggles and gloves to handle the LN2 as well as wear close toed shoes and long sleeve garments. You need a special container called a Dewar to contain LN2. A thermos isn’t enough. LN2 expansion is taken care of by a pressure valve built into the Dewar, and then users use thermoses to transport the LN2 to the POT. I did my experiments in a basement.
I used 20L of LN2 and a 25L Dewar. Total came to $108- $65 deposit on the Dewar and $35 for the 20L of LN2, cheaper than Dry Ice for me for its cooling capabilities.
You need a special thermometer to measure down to -200C. The easiest way to find one of these is to do a search for a J-type probe. Many of these thermometers support both kinds, and the J-Type probe type almost always can measure down to -200C. Many K-type thermometers will only go to -50C.
You can see the tiny DMMs in the picture above, $6 a piece I bought the only two I could find.
Here you can see how cool LN2 looks when its boiling, all that gas is pretty cold and easy to see, -163 in the picture above.
Condensation will form around everything close to the LN2, so that is why I used the shammies and the extra towels:
I was able to do 2 runs of LN2 the first time I hit 6.5ghz on my 990X, but the second time I hit 6.685. putting me in 6th place on HWBot:

My 930 is a different story, it didn’t do much better under LN2, because its cold bug was around DICE temperatures. I think I can do better once I work on its CPU PLL.

Benchmarks results and better 990x and 930 clocks are going to come VERY soon. I am also VERY confident i can hit 6.8ghz but time is short with many things coming, so i will save my MAX results for my first ever post in the overclocking section. Posts in that section need to be worthy of posting and this board and CPU combo with LN2 can take me there finally!!!! In a few weeks I will show off some benches and hopefully do some nice clocks. I will keep you guys posted in the overclocking section, because in the first time in 10 years I have clocks good enough to be posted there.
If I can do this anyone can, you just need to right hardware. Retail 990x clockers are hard to find, most will do about 6.5ghz under LN2.


These are milestone achievements form me, and it’s all thanks to this board. Without this board I would have never gone out and done all this overclocking, and it’s because this boards mentality, it’s a product built for extreme OCing. It’s a great step to help out any long time OCer like me get into subzero cooling and benchmarking. It motivated me to do LN2 overclocking, and I have to say it is the MOST fun I have ever had overclocking. To hit high clocks like that and figure out subzero overclocking is really exciting. It’s a challenge within itself and it’s a really fun thing to do. I will certainly be subzero cooling many system in the future, so in my future reviews look forward to me benching subzero and lettings you guys know limits of motherboards and other products!

Lets not forget the OC flag:

This board has facilitated the most fun I have had in ages. Taking my old 930 which isn’t really a great clocker and overclocking it about 500 MHz higher than I ever could on air is a feat that I won’t ever forget. Clocking over 6 GHz on a 6 core processor is one of the most fun things I have ever done! I was so excited about this board because of all its features and now I am really satisfied with the product. It is true that other boards can probably facilitate (close) to the same overclock, but it’s cool to have a product only made to facilitate it, and facilitate it well. But with this board it is EASY to facilitate high overclocks. CPU-Z and the OC board should be matched together; maybe GIGABYTE should come out with a special CPU skin like Asus has, as the buttons really help get those high CPU-Z validations. With software you waste time and your system could freeze up faster than when you hit a button and it’s physically implemented. The buttons have to be one of the coolest parts of this board. Of course CPU-Z clocking is only a single task, but the VRM on this board allows users to maintain heavy loads many benchmarks demand. Early benchmark results put this board ahead of the G1 Assassin, but with other boards this board is head to head. It is important to notice that the final BIOS should show better results than these early betas, and hopefully this board will rein king of X58 boards in 2D and high clock benchmarks, while its sister the UD9 reins king of 3D X58 benching. Only time will tell, when normal OCers like me get this board in their hands we will see what kind of damage it will create, so far its seeping into rankings and proving to be good at certain benches. I hope to see many more products just like this, just aimed at subzero OCing and general OCing. Our community is small and its hard to sell a product to a very small niche, especially with all the competition, but GIGABYTE has done it once again with the X58A-OC to compliment their extreme gaming boards the G1 Killer series. I think GIGABYTE is in the right direction, aiming to satisfy the separate needs of different users on totally different sides of the rainbow.

There are a few ICs on this board which are operational amplifiers, what is boxed in orange sums up my thoughts on this board:

Yes this board is sexy.

I would like to thank those @ GIGABYTE for this amazing product and for making this review possible! Thank you!

Any questions or concerns please PM me or make a post, Thank you!
Yea i was able to do 236blck without slow mode, a buddy of mine was able to get higher than me, at 245 without slow mode on PCMark05:
I haven't had time with test with slowmode, i am sure its a bit higher tho. i can test for you later. Of course bloomfield and gulftown BLCKs are usually a bit different, my bloomfield CPu sucks. But on air i see improvments with blck for my 930 at 220, my 990x can do 234 on air. No slow mode of course.

With slowmode tho, i can test for you as well.
All I can say about that insulation is oh gawd. :p

I'm glad it lived, but the conformal alone would have kept it alive. :chair:
excellent review, was really interesting to read. I wish all motherboards had the hardware overclocking buttons.
thanks guys, i also agree all mobos need OC buttons. Multi button not required, but blck adjustment with different increments is a superb addition to any board. This isn't the first board to have these buttons either, but its the first GB board to.
Thanks for the testing. 250bclk is a nice result!

DI/LN2 will definately raise a chips bclk ability.
yea man that CPU isn't even that good, i was SO happy when i hit that speed you couldn't believe it! lol

I'm beginner about overclocking
I have an Intel Core i7 950 CPU. Could I write my computer's properties, you could tell me 4.4 - 4.5 or 5 GHz is needed to run the BIOS settings, if possible Can you write? Thank you in advance.

Mobo : Gigabyte EX-58 Extreme (Bios F12)
CPU : Intel Core i7 950 D0
Ram : G-SKILL 6GB (3*2GB) Trident+Fan 2000MHz DDR3 CL9 Triple Kit
PSU : 1200 Watt Gigabyte Odin Pro
HDD : 5x500 GB WD SATA II 7200 RPM (RAID 0)
VGA : MSI GTX570 Twin FrozrII/OC GDDR5 1280MB 320Bit
CPU Cooling : NOCTUA NH-D14 Double
Case: Cooler Master Cosmos Series
Hey guys, so if anyone is out there looking to buy this board, you can get $100 off at newegg, $50 rebate, and $50 with the promo code "GAX58AOC" Gulftown benching is still strong!
Found this a little late, but thanks very much for this Excellent write up on this board!

You wouldn't believe how much I looked around for reviews and benchmarking write ups on this board - read a Lot + some pretty good ones...

But this one finally had the detailed info I was trying to find. Really nice to learn about the small details most others glaze over.

I just recently had my Seasonic S12 500watt PSU die...
- which goes some way to explain the overlclocking weirdness I was having on my CPU. I had put this down to it being an early ES.

Damn thing would Happily go from 2.6GHz to 3.6GHz at stock volts with almost nothing tweaked anywhere most anyway I tried to get there.
But almost Anything over 3.6GHz was a tad odd... unrepeatable 3.8 at high vcores then later 4GHz at stock boots to windows. 4.3 seemed Prime stable one time then back to cannot even complete Post at 3.8 lol
Really up and down causing me frustration playing with so many settings trying to find which ones were pulling at each other to get a sweet spot.

In the end switching my PWM up to 600k got 3.8GHz Finally Rock solid stable with almost no extra volts compared to what I had tried earlier!!!
- again more with the weird anything over the now stable 3.8 gave me pretty random instability.
(running on 19x200 as seemed happiest this way around after Much testing, headroom for later of 222 is rock stable tested with lower multi)

(This was weeks of tweaking and learning + understanding How Much I Now wanted an SSD with a clean install LOL)
- So I stuck with 3.8 since and now recently that mentioned Seasonic blew...

256GB OCZ Vertex 4 is in the post and a chance finding (literally 1.5mins after ordering, after days of reading reviews on all the best SSDs) of early Marvel controller compatibility issues on the Gigabyte X58A-UD5 SE9128 with this SSD led me here just now checking for info on my boards 9182 controller :D

So right now energy levels are back to 100% and feeling all confident about my new Antec EarthWatts 650 Platinum PSU helping me over my overclocking 3.8GHz brick wall :bang head

Really be happy to hit 4.4GHz without high vcore eating my power bill for folding@home :)

I still have one question about the PWM frequencies though...
(some things seemed pretty tough to find answers to)

Gigabyte described the 800 and 1,000 setting as bets left to LN extreme OCing...
I did not try above 600 as was not wanting to overheat something that relied on the extra cold my system is missing...

is it cool to play about at higher settings on air ?

Once again, thanks for the awesome write up.
I also have found myself becoming fonder than one should over a motherboard and would buy a future equivalent model Very happily.
The sense of tweaking Freedom is Well Worth the cost + lack of clutter = Fast motherboard compared to others in virtually every area.