ASUS has been the top dog in the realm of PC components for a long time now, and it doesn’t take a genius to see why, especially when you look at their motherboards. Take the P9X79 Pro – when you pull it out of the box everything about it just screams “elite”. Just look at the huge heat sinks on this bad boy – it easily looks like it should belong in the upper echelon of mobos. Of course, you can not just buy a motherboard (or any component really) based on the way that it looks – it is the performance, the speed, and all the little bells and whistles that will bring you on board; the P9X79 Pro has these in spades.
The “Pro” version of the P9X79 is the “middle of the road” version, seated comfortably between the non branded base P9X79 and the high end P9X79 Deluxe, but that doesn’t mean you are getting any kind of middle ground performance from it. One of the things that really impressed me with this board is ASUS’s included SSD caching. For some reason on the X79 Express chipset Intel decided not to include their Smart Response Technology, but ASUS brings their own tech on board to fix this omission. Even better, the SSD caching from ASUS is a good bit easier than dealing with the Intel SRT – all you need to do is plug your SSD and normal hard drive into a Marvell controlled SATA 3 6 Gbps port and enable ASUS SSD Caching in the AI Suite 2. It lets your whole system run with speeds damn close to having a huge SSD, without draining your wallet.
Another feature that comes standard here is ASUS’s BIOS Flashback technology. It’s quite possibly the easiest way to update your BIOS – just get your mobo, a power supply, and a standard flash drive. That’s right, you don’t even have to have any hardware connected. Plug the flash drive in, hit the button on the I/O panel, and the magic happens. No opening up your chassis anymore, no worrying about hardware conflicts, and no worrying about having to hook up some other hardware to fix things. Easy doesn’t begin to describe it.
Now look, let’s be real here. Performance doesn’t change a whole heck of a lot between motherboards at this level – it’s all about the components that are hooked up to them, and what they can do with those components. The thing that separates a good enthusiast motherboard from a bad one is more often than not, the feature set. I’ve gone over two of the features on the P9X79 Pro so far, but I’m not done yet. Another feature of the P9X79 Pro is the ASUS UEFI BIOS Shortcut – if you have never used an ASUS BIOS before, it could be easy to get lost under the plethora of options; just hit F3 though and you can quickly and simply type in what you want and go to it. It might not seem like a big deal to some people, but for someone who is just figuring things out it’s worth its weight in gold.
Still not enough for you? Okay, how about ASUS making USB 3.0 transfers even faster? With their USB Boost technology, they have been able to do just that. By using the USB Attached SCSI Protocol (or UASP for short), ASUS has increased the performance of the ASMedia USB 3.0 controller that comes on board the P9X79 Pro. Just plug in any device that supports the UASP and enable the feature in AI Suite 2. Bing, bam, boom. Oh, and for the record, when running a few tests on this feature it increases the speed of a normal USB 3.0 by about 170%. Now I know I keep mentioning the AI Suite 2 but haven’t talked much about what it actually is – let’s fix that. The AI Suite 2 is far and away the most robust system control program you can get. Through its multitude of tools you can manage voltages, adjust frequencies, change fan speeds, do everything I already mentioned here – and so much more. The AI Suite 2 alone is worth the price of admission on this thing.
Thankfully since the P9X79 has come out, the price point has dropped a good bit – giving those who want to go with a Sandy Bridge chipset over an Ivy Bridge one a great motherboard to choose. I could go on and on with testing numbers and such, but to be quite honest unless I had a number of other motherboards to test with the EXACT same hardware it wouldn’t really matter much. I’ll say that I used an i7 3960X CPU, 64GB of Corsair 2133Mhz Vengeance RAM, and an XFX Radeon HD 6950 graphics card to check it out. I was quite impressed with what all the P9X79 Pro was able to do with it. I didn’t like that there was no fan on the southbridge, but it’s really such a minor negative that it’s hard to dock much for it. It also has no integrated WiFi, but that is on the Deluxe model.
Bottom Line: If you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on the P9X79 Deluxe model, the Pro is a decidedly fine choice for the entry level enthusiast.
- A vast treasure trove of features (some exclusive) keeps ASUS ahead of the game in enthusiast motherboards
- Eight DIMM slots for a whopping 64 GB possible of RAM
- Full use of the AI Suite 2 software
- No fan on the southbridge
- Still more expensive than a lot of people will be willing to go
You can get an ASUS P9X79 Pro from NewEgg for $319.99