Overclocking is the art of making computer components run at higher clock rates than what they were designed for. Dating right back to the 80286 CPUs of the ’80s if it could be overclocked enthusiasts were there with software hacks and soldering irons to make it happen. Over the past two years major manufacturers have taken overclocking more seriously offering more features voltages and bus speeds than ever. In 2011 overclocking has become a sport as hardware is purchased with the sole purpose of overclocking and international competitions award thousands to those who can achieve the highest frequencies. The last major hurdle was the release of a motherboard specifically designed for overclocking and here it is: the GIGABYTE X58A-OC.
It is ironic that GIGABYTE is the manufacturer bringing this landmark board to the market – only three years ago it was laughable in overclocking circles but since then it has put up an array of strong boards taking every world record in the process. The X58A-OC is the pet project of in-house overclocker Hicookie who is the catalyst behind GIGABYTE’s ascent to the elite heights of the overclocking world.
Starting with the IO shield you can tell there’s something different about this board with just basic sound 4 USB slots PS2 keyboard and mouse and a single Ethernet port. Not the usual high-fidelity connectors you’d expect but it’s perfect for overclockers. Also included are 4 PCIe slots and a single PCI slot to accommodate 3-way SLI and 4-way CrossFire configurations with 2 additional SATA power connectors to deliver clean power to the PCIe slots. GIGABYTE has packed 8 right-angled SATA connectors on the back for high performance RAID arrays 3 of which support SATA 6Gb/s.
This board features a redesigned power delivery system OC-VRM which includes high-quality Japanese components and surface-mount tantalum capacitors to ensure clean and stable power delivery under high load. The voltage regulation system is capable of delivering a peak 1200W of power more than your CPU could ever need. The final polish on OC-VRM is a flexible PWM frequency that can be adjusted by a number of dip switches adjacent to the CPU socket.
The most exciting feature is the new OC-Touch system allowing overclocking at the touch of a button. This also includes a 4G button that will automatically overclock the system to 4GHz.
A bit sceptical of this we stacked the RAM slots with 24GB of 4GB unmatched memory modules dropped in a last-generation i7 960 and hit the 4G button. After an automatic reboot a few beeps and 30 seconds our system had loaded with a frequency of 4GHz including a modest overclock on the RAM modules. In a word impressive.
The last piece of the puzzle is efficiency and the board proved a winner there too. X58A-OC challenged the market-leading GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 and ASUS Rampage III Extreme exceeding its predecessors in all categories except memory bandwidth where ASUS still holds the crown. This board has been designed with overclockers in mind but we’re sure others will have the X58A-OC on their wish list too.
Available from GIGABYTE retailing for $450.
APC rating: 9/10 (Editor’s Choice)