Today we bring you the next installment of our Motherboard Memory Lane series on HWBOT. As with previous articles, the idea is to revisit a specific chipset platform from the past. This time around we’re looking at the Intel X48 platform, its features, the motherboards and CPUs that were popular with Overlockers at the time and some of the record high scores that were submitted to the database at that that time.
The Intel X48 platform is the second of Intel’s X- Series platforms that were market specifically at the high-end consumer space – the space that Intel now refers to as the High-End Desktop or HEDT segment. Let’s start by taking at look at the technologies and the features that helped define it.
Intel X48: Overview
The Intel X48 platform was first revealed in late 2007, hot on the heels of the recently launched mid-range P45 chipset, and the first X-series chip, the X38. In most respects however the X48 Northbridge was very similar to the technical features of the X38. A side by comparison reveals one major difference – official support for 1600Hz FSB speeds and DDR3-1600. The enthusiasm of tech media, enthusiasts and overclockers towards higher FSB and memory speeds was tempered however with the fact that most motherboard manufacturers had already offered FSB speeds of 1600MHz and beyond on the previous X38 platform.
Aside from official support for faster bus speeds, the X48 platform boasted features that were already familiar to X38 platform users. These include 32-lanes of PCI Express 2.0 directly from the Northbridge, which could be split across two slots to offer dual-GPU Crossfire configurations plenty of bandwidth. At this stage, despite Intel’s best efforts, Nvidia’s SLI technology remained out of bounds for non-Nvidia nForce motherboards. Nvidia would eventually capitulate and offer SLI licenses for the subsequent X58 platform.
In terms of memory support the X48 platform remained at an historical crossroads, offering support for both DDR2 and DDR3. Most motherboard vendors however focused their attention on developing DDR3 compatible boards with DDR3 prices becoming more attractive and commonplace around this period. Higher frequency DDR3 kits of 1600MHz and above were also becoming more common, offering significant performance advantages.
As with P35 and X38 Northbridges, the X48 was also paired with the ICH9 and ICH9R Southbridge solution. This meant that there were no new advances in peripheral, storage or networking features for enthusiasts to lap up – underling the notion that the X48 represented more of a platform update than a true replacement.
Most Popular Intel X48 Motherboards
Let’s take a look at the top ten X48 motherboards on the HWBOT database. What we can see from the data regarding the number of submissions made using X48 boards, is that ASUS are by far the dominant force once again, with the ROG brand really starting to make an impression with enthusiasts and overclockers.
- -ASUS Rampage Extreme – 56.35%
- -ASUS Rampage Formula – 13.29%
- -ASUS P5E Premium/Wifi-AP – 9.04%
- -Foxconn Blackops – 6.61%
- -ASUS P5E64 WS Evolution – 4.23%
- -GIGABYTE X48-DS4 – 2.68%
- -GIGABYTE X48T-DQ6 – 1.49%
- -GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 – 1.37%%
- -ASUS P5E Deluxe – 1.24%
- -GIGABYTE X48-DS5 – 0.91%
ASUS claims top spot on the list with a massive 56.35% of all Intel X48 platform submissions made using ASUS Rampage Extreme motherboard. In fact, if we take the top three motherboards, ASUS has an incredible 69.64% of the pie. The top two boards both belong to the Republic of Gamers sub-brand which was clearly gaining significant momentum with overclockers at this time.
The ASUS ROG Rampage Extreme featured a Fusion waterblock and a SupremeFX X-Fi audio card. It also advertised DDR3-2000MHz support straight out of the box and arrived with specific tuning features to woo Overclockers.
Although GIGABYTE has four boards in the top ten, proving how the company was beginning to gain traction with enthusiasts, the relatively small percentage numbers underline that they still had a long way to go in mounting a challenge to ASUS. The Foxconn Blackops board was popular with 6.61% percent of the X48 pie, proving that the company could (if only briefly) compete in the high-end space.
Most Popular Intel X48 Compatible Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
When we look at the processors used on the Intel X48 platform there is one stand out model that was actually used in 24.96% of all submissions – the Intel Core 2 Duo E8600. It was introduced in mid-2008, almost two years after the launch of the Core 2 Duo series that stole the performance crown back from AMD. The Core 2 Duo E8600 was a dual-core processor based on the Wolfdale architecture. Manufactured on the 45nm process, it arrived with a 3.33GHz base clock, 6MB of L2 cache and a of TDP 65 watts.
Second on the list we have the more affordable Core 2 Duo E8400 with 6.75% of all X48 submissions. If we focus in on quad-core processors we find, the most popular choice to be the Kentsfield-based Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 with 4.62% of the X48 submission pie.
ASUS Rampage Extreme: Record Scores
We now take a look at the highest scores posted using the most popular X48 platform motherboard, the ASUS Rampage Extreme.
Back in 2008 the job of Overclocking a processor generally involved raising the motherboard’s reference clock. The reference clock actually dictates the FSB speed (reference clock x4 = FSB). The final parameter of adjustment was the CPU multiplier (FSB x multiplier = CPU clock). As with all Overclocking, thermal and voltage constraints, plus the availability of settings in the motherboard’s BIOS would eventually determine the upper limitations of the reference clock, and therefore the CPU clock.
The highest Reference Clock ever recorded on HWBOT using an ASUS Rampage Extreme board was submitted by Finland’s SF3D who managed a clock of 710.34 MHz. This was done using the popular Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 chip. The configuration involved an FSB speed of 2,841.35MHz and multiplier of x6 to hit a clock frequency of 4,262MHz.
You can find the submission from SF3D here: http://hwbot.org/submission/1073993_sf3d_reference_frequency_rampage_extreme_710.34_mhz
Today we tend to focus less on actually CPU frequencies and don’t really consider them to be true benchmark scores. However, back in era of the X48 platform, it was a highly contested benchmark for many of the world’s top overclockers.
The highest ever CPU frequency ever submitted to HWBOT using the ASUS Rampage Extreme motherboard was done using an Intel Celeron D 347 ‘Cedar Mill’ processor which was clocked at 8,349.38MHz by China’s wytiwx. Interestingly this is the same overclocker that made the highest frequency on the P45 platform. It’s an even more impressive score when you consider that it is +172.32% beyond the chip’s stock settings..
Here’s a shot of the rig as used by wytiwx:
You can find the submission from wytiwx here on HWBOT: http://hwbot.org/submission/2367169_wytiwx_cpu_frequency_celeron_d_347_8349.38_mhz
Finally we come to the ultimate classic CPU benchmark – SuperPi 32M. It remains one of the most important in terms of historical relevance, stretching back to the early days of Overclocking. The fastest SuperPi 32M run submitted on HWBOT using an ASUS Rampage Extreme was submitted by Germany’s stummerwinter. He used a Core 2 Duo E8600 clocked at 6,530MHz (+96.10%) to complete a run in just 7min 19sec 530ms.
Thanks for joining us for our third Motherboard Memory Lane article. Join us again next week when we take a look at the classic Intel P55 platform.