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There are a number of basic features that can be found on all motherboards using the Intel X58 chipset. The X58 IOH (Input/Output Hub) otherwise known as the “north bridge” supports up to 36 PCI Express lanes. This means that multi-card configurations of 2x16 are supported, while 4x8 is also possible.
It is important to note that while the MSI X58 Pro-E does support CrossfireX, users must purchase a special “X58 Pro-E SLI” version if they wish to use SLI technology. Nvidia charges a premium to manufacturers to include SLI support and therefore the X58 Pro-E SLI board will cost more than the X58 Pro-E. Hopefully this will be made clear by the manufacturer and merchants offering the product.
The ICH10R south bridge has about a year on the market, but it is still one of the best equipped chips available. This tiny chip gives the MSI X58 Pro-E support for 12 USB 2.0 ports, 6 PCI Express x1 lanes, Gigabit LAN, HD Audio, and 6 SATA ports with RAID capabilities.
Based on these specs, all current X58 boards will feature at least 6 SATA ports supporting RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10, and RAID 5.
Additionally MSI has included the JMicron 363 controller, adding support for a single Ultra DMA 66/100/133 IDE bus and two SATA ports. Only one of the two SATA ports connected to the JMicron 363 controller is used onboard. The second port is located on the I/O panel, giving the X58 Pro-E eSATA support.
Another chipset feature is the Intel High Definition Audio (Intel HD Audio). This provides eight independent DMA audio engines that support multiple audio streams with audio codecs. Driving this feature is the Realtek ALC889A codec, enabling high-quality 192KHz/24-bit audio output.
The X58 Pro-E supports IEEE1394a (FireWire 400) useful for bandwidth-intensive applications like digital video (DV), professional audio, and external hard drives, which often consume hundreds or even thousands of megabytes of data per file. The board provides two 1394a ports due to the inclusion of the JMicron 363 FireWire controller.
The obvious and necessary USB 2.0 support is inherited from the ICH10R chipset, with a total of twelve ports, half available on the I/O panel and an additional six ports using the supplied brackets.
The X58 Pro-E features a single Realtek 8111C Gigabit LAN controller which uses the PCI Express bus for maximum throughput. Those wanting dual Gigabyte LAN controllers will need to look to the MSI X58 Platinum, though we suspect that most users will be more than happy with a single controller.
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