The x58 series of intel chips and motherboards were first released in November of 2008 -- so over 10 years ago. Despite its age, the x58 architecture featured some novelties and abilities that -- at the time, and even long afterward, make them unique and still relevant today.
X58 — what made it so special?
x58 marked Intel’s first architecture to support both Nvidia’s SLI and AMD’s CrossFire technology, making it a staple in the multi-GPU community. It also features tri-channel memory configurations, USB 3.0 support, and SATA 6g/ps support -- no laughing matter in 2008, or years after. Supporting Socket LGA 1366, many x58 boards could support the 900 series of i7 processors (the fastest being the Core i7 990), as well as Xeon 5600 series which were designed in part for multi-CPU servers. This means that on an 11 year old board, it’s possible to get 12 hyper-threaded cores, with ample overclocking room -- depending on what sort of motherboard you are working with.
You can find Xeon x5660 or 5690’s for a relatively small price on places like eBay. Most of the time, these CPUs are finally pulled out of old server rigs, so they’re plentiful, driving the market prices down significantly with each server-dump.
In this build, we did exactly that. Using an old gaming machine I had lying around (literally in my parent’s storage-shed..through multiple winters), we ripped out the Asus P6x58D-E motherboard, threw it in a Corsair Air 540 case, with some significant upgrades to see how far we could push the x58 architecture.
|x58 2019 build|
|RAM||3x Corsair vengeance DDR3 1600mhz 8GB, 240 pinDIMMs (24gb total)|
|CPU||intel Xeon x5660|
|GPU||Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1660Ti OC 6GB (WINDFORCE dual fan model)|
|Case||Corsair Air 540|
|PSU||Thermaltake Smart 750W 80+ Bronze ATX|
Finding an Intel Xeon x5660 was pretty easy. A few minutes on eBay, and its evident there are dozens of sellers in North America and world wide. Being cheap, we went for a x5660 that cost only 20CAD with free shipping from China. There was no information about where the processor came from, or the condition of the unit -- only that the seller had 10 of these available. While waiting, we decided to see how well the motherboard would perform with an Intel core i7 930 (stock 2.8ghz) and the intel stock cooler. After testing a few configurations, we were able to push the i7 930 to just shy of 4.0 ghz with a modest CPU voltage that wouldn’t fry anything (on a stock cooler). Temperatures pushed into the 90s with a modest 100% CPU-load test after only five minutes or so. That is probably as far as anyone could take a 930 with a stock cooler. Using an inexpensive 240mm air cooler, temperatures in the low 70s-high 60s were easily achieved at 100% load.
After waiting only a week, the Xeon x5660 arrived in a slender package. Inside what looks like a microscope-slide case, the Xeon x5660 sat pushed against packing foam with an elastic band wrapped around it. No scratches on the surface, or any signs of wear, it fit easily in the motherboard, and was able to boot with ease. It seemed too good to be true, but (thankfully) it wasn’t: twelve threaded cores of x58 power for 20$CAD.
From there, it was onto overclocking. This particular series of ASUS motherboards has a very intuitive bios system that makes overclocking easy to understand. Since both the motherboard and the processors have been around for the last 8 or so years, there are numerous guides with suggested voltages. Using Trial and Error (and some tweakings to the stock utilities -- OCing does not play well with Asus Express Gate for instance), a stable clock of 4.222ghz was achieved without pushing too much on the CPU voltage. Push it further, and you can get up to 4.5ghz, but with voltages above 1.37 which I didn’t want to push to (+ there was limited stability at 4.5ghz with ram overclocking). So 4.2 ghz at ~1.35v was good enough. After a bit more tweaking with QPI/DRAM voltages, we were also able to get the 24gb of ram up to ~1900mhz -- a small overclock from 1600mhz. In fact, in order to get the Xeon stable, the ram almost had to be overclocked, or underclocked..which with dated 1600mhz rated DDR3 ram, was just not possible. Although we didn’t compare the i7 930 load temps side-by side with the Xeon x5660, theoretically, if you are going to try this yourself, Xeon processors, although more temperamental with voltages (at least finding the sweet spot), typically run a lot cooler despite having all the extra cores.
After upgrading to all the latest drivers, we let AIDA 64’s stability test run for ~30 minutes yielding CPU temperatures of only 66 degrees Celsius with no noted errors. Windows 7 + 10 boots up in less than maybe 10 seconds. We ran Cinebench R20, with an average score of 2043 — only 300 points behind an i7-7700K rig according to cinebench. Next, using multiple SSDs to help space out drive-loads, we tried pushing this thing with a few games.
With the Nvidia 1660ti GTX GPU installed (PCI-E 2.0-- not 3.0 apparently this doesn’t matter so much), running 1680 x 1050 with settings maxed out things stay stable at >60FPS in games like Fallout 4, Battlefield V (ray tracing not enabled), Battlefield 4. CS:GO, TF2 and overwatch all run at greater 100fps with settings maxed out. Multithreading in CS:GO (or any source-based game) affords the Xeon build with an extra advantage. We regularly see frame rates greater than 200FPS in areas of the map where there was little activity -- luls of only 90-100FPS with a lot of motion. In Battlefield V and 4, this x58 machine performs so well (taking advantage of multiple SSDs of course), that we were regularly within the first three players to load a new map. Multi-monitor setups did however not perform so well with Battlefield V -- probably because of using Direct X 12, and we didn’t bother to perform any tests with much ray-tracing (since it is known that without an RTX card, DX12 Ray-tracing can heavily impact performance). We also tested this configuration in kbuntu 18.04, playing TF2 and CS:GO in full OpenGL on max settings, we found framerates topping out at 300FPS. Very rarely would we see framerates dip below 250FPS -- really only ever on servers with many players, in crowded areas of maps.
There is also a not-entirely-strange error with Fallout 4 and Metro 2033. After overclocking, and booting up into-game, everything was moving at maybe 1.5x-2x the normal speed (characters running faster, sounds sped up). Apparently this is a common problem when setting the multiplier too high. The game unfortunately has to be locked around 100FPS (60 FPS with simply enabling V-sync in the Nvidia Control Panel) -- otherwise, it’s all sped up.
So, even using a motherboard that is 11 years old, with the right GPU, a stable overclock, X58 can be easily pushed to its limit. There are some upgrades you could make here like the GPU, or a better Xeon Processor, but this is pretty well it -- and that’s the unfortunate thing about this rig. This is probably the last generation of games where a setup like this will afford such a huge advantage. By no means does this machine blow any modern DDR4-based gaming machine out of the water (far from it with many benchmarks well below anything in Intel’s Coffee Lake lineup of processors) -- but for gaming in most DX12 (and below) titles, you can easily hit 60fps. Until DirectX 12 steps up their ray tracing support, you’re stuck without ray tracing-- but really, so is the majority of the PC gaming community. Unless you have a decent CPU/Mobo combo with a Nvidia RTX series card, there’s really no game you could play in 2019 that this system couldn’t handle. The only gaming-title we need to push this thing on is Metro 2033 Exodus -- a game which would seriously push this machine.
Stay tuned to globaxgaming to find out how this x58 beast fares with Exodus!
Update: RTX in BFV in Ultra Settings:
We decided to test DXR in Battlefield V using the above setup. In 8v8 matches, DXR on medium-low yielded about 45-65 FPS (highly dependant upon the map) — where as on High, we topped out at about 40-55fps. Playable but choppy. In 32v32 matches, DXR even on low would drop our FPS down to 25 — especially in environments with water, with a lot going on. So DXR in a simpler game (BFV only has DXR reflections, not world reflections) CAN run, but not particularly well.