The BIOS for workstation motherboards, at least from the ones we have tested, are not different from the main channel line of motherboards.  This is mainly due to the motherboard unit at ASUS that produces the workstation is also the same unit that deals with the consumer lines.  As a result, we get a near identical BIOS to the recent Z87 line of motherboards (updated with Last Modified, My Favorites, Quick Note etc), with one or two options aimed specifically at the WS.  As one might imagine, there is fewer automatic overclock options provided due to the nature of the market being aimed at (as well as the fact that Xeons are multiplier and CPU strap locked), but our analysis is essentially the same as our other reviews on this BIOS generation.

Since the inception of graphical interfaces for consumer motherboard BIOSes, motherboard manufacturers have been keen to give the user as much functionality as they need without going overboard with garish visuals, as well as catering for users who are new to the BIOS.  The Z77 platform BIOS from ASUS was well received, giving users a large number of options for configuration in a textual format – the implementation that debuted with Z87 and is on the P9X79-E WS is another iteration along similar lines with a few new interesting points.

Firstly when we enter the BIOS, we get our ‘EZ Mode’ (‘easy’, rather than ee-zed) similar to the last generation but with a few minor updates.  Firstly the font is changed to a pixelated form of common fixed-length word processing fonts:

On this front screen we get detail on the motherboard in use, the BIOS version, the CPU installed, the speed of the CPU, the total memory installed, the CPU information (temperature/voltage), the DIMM slot recognition and fan speeds.  An addition to this screen is that we can apply XMP without going into Advanced mode with a small drop down in the DRAM Information section.  The fans too can be adjusted with their own drop downs:

For users that want to access Advanced Mode but a specific menu, the Shortcut (F3) option at the bottom defaults to the following:

When entering the BIOS Advanced Mode, we get put into the Main tab to begin with:

Several options are new to the BIOS that are worth pointing out.  On the right hand side we have two new options – Quick Note and Last Modified.  By choosing Quick Note, a user can leave notes in a notepad type window for future reference. Last Modified does what it says on the tin – it tells the user what options have been changed in the BIOS since the system was booted.

Another feature shown on the Main screen is on the right hand side and in yellow, labeled ‘F4: Add to Shortcut and My Favorites’.  This is pointing to the tab on the top left of the BIOS, called ‘My Favorites’.

My Favorites allows users to select any option in the BIOS they want and place it in this menu.  This is of invaluable help to overclockers who use the BIOS frequently – it allows these users to place the options they used most frequently (CPU Ratio, CPU Voltage, Memory sub-timings) into a single menu rather than shuffle around several menus at once.  It solves the issue of ‘what is the right way to show your options’, as almost all the different motherboard manufacturers have their own way.  Also in terms of customization, users can place their own overall tabbed menu options into the shortcut menu.

The main series of options are all found in AI Tweaker, the home for overclocking options.

One of the many positives about the ASUS BIOS is the information provided with options in the top right corner.  For most of the options it provides an explanation of what the option does - if it comes with Auto/Manual selections these are described as well.  As for AI Tweaker itself, our options are split into CPU+DRAM, voltages and more voltages.  Advanced options for DRAM subtimings and power control are in sub menus off this main list:

Unfortunately we do not get the GPU options similar to Z77 ROG boards which show which GPUs are in the motherboard at POST.  This is a little unfortunate to be overlooked for a WS motherboard.

In the Advanced menu are the controller options and additional CPU/power state adjustment options.

In the Onboard Devices options above show the available controller options, and for Xeon Phi users the option in System Agent has to be enabled:

BIOS fan controls are found under the Monitor tab menu:

Ideally users will head to the OS for more extensive fan controls, but ASUS offers the basics here – an RPM lower-bound limit with silent/standard/turbo fan profiles.

Elsewhere in the BIOS we have boot options for fast booting, boot order, boot override, and also utilities such as EZ Flash and ASUS’ OC Profiling.

ASUS P9X79-E WS Software

One of the old habits of X79 launch for ASUS is AI Suite II.  While on Z87 and the Rampage IV Black Edition (a new build) the system is designed to use AI Suite III, for the P9X79-E WS we get AI Suite II, which still has much of the functionality except the slicker interface and DIP4 overclocking options.  Instead we go back to a TPU/EPU arrangement in the options.

AI Suite

AI Suite starts as a simple bar with buttons for the software tools, monitoring and updates, as well as a tuning button to allow the software to perform overclocking.  As part of our reviews of the P8Z77-V Pro and the P8Z77-V Deluxe, we have covered most of this software, including:

TurboV Evo: Overclocking tools.
DIGI+ Power Control: Adjusting power delivery to the system.
EPU: Energy saving functionality.
Fax Xpert: Fan control and management.
Probe II: Monitoring temperatures, voltages and fan speeds.
Sensor Recorder: Time comparison charts for Probe II.
AI Charger+: Fast USB 3.0 charging for BC 1.1 compliant devices.
USB 3.0 Boost: Increased USB 3.0 speed.
ASUS SSD Caching II: SSD Caching using ASUS technology and Marvell controllers.

Here are the key features:

TurboV Evo

The overclocking heart of AI Suite is TurboV Evo, which allows users to adjust the voltages and BCLK of the system in real time.  I typically use this software to find basic OS limits, and then attempt to boot into OS at that speed to give a little headroom.

Part of TurboV Evo is the Auto Tuning section, which gives users two choices for automatic overclocks - Fast and Extreme.  Both of these are covered in the Overclocking part of this review.

DIGI+ Power Control

One of the features that ASUS likes to advertise as part of their motherboard range is the ability for the user to adjust how the power delivery responds to load.  These options help maintain constant voltage under busy periods (useful for stability testing and overclocks), or can be used to reduce the power usage of the motherboard and increase life expectancy.  Along with the BIOS controls, ASUS also offers software tools in AI Suite to perform these operations.

Fan XPert

In order to separate itself from the rest of the motherboard manufacturers, ASUS does like to parade their fan technology.  By using upgraded fan controllers on board, a combination of hardware and clever software allows ASUS to control their fans like no other.  From the software perspective, we have Fan Xpert.

Fan Xpert will auto tune the fans, giving each one a power vs. RPM curve (as fans do not linearly increase in speed with applied power).  The user can then adjust a multi-point power against temperature curve for each of the fans in the system.  In my case, I like to have my fans run as quiet as possible when idle and during videos, and as fast as they can during gaming.

SSD Caching

For users that want to use a small SSD as a cache to a larger hard drive, ASUS use Marvell controllers on the P9X79-E WS to allow the system to use SSD Caching.  This was all the rage when prices for SSDs were $2+ per GB, but now we are down to less than a quarter that in some cases, which suggests that SSD Caching might have had its time.  It is still part of the X79 system however.

Marvell Storage Utility

While not from ASUS, the motherboard does come with the software in order to manage the Marvell SATA ports in terms of arrays.  The controller is capable of RAID 0, 1 and 10 (unfortunately not RAID 5), and the web-based interface is similar to other Marvell systems we have reviewed before.

Overview, Visual Inspection, Board Features In The Box, Overclocking
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • Hammerfist - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    What are the effects of PLX chip when using two or more R9 290 in crossfire ?
    We know that when doing AFR , R9 290 and R9 290X uses the PCIe lanes to move the frame around from on GPU to another .
    A frame time testing with two GPUs in different lanes will be very interesting .
    PCIe 1 - PCIe 2 -> Goes through the PLX chip and QS
    PCIe 2 - PCIe 3 -> Goes through QS only
    PCIe 1 - PCIe 5 -> Goes through both PLX chips
    PCIe 2 - PCIe 6 -> Goes through both PLX and QS chips
    and possibly more combinations.
    I am not saying that all possible combinations need to be tested , just two combinations to give us and idea of the latency involved is good enough like
    1) PCIe1 - PCIe3 (only PLX)
    2) PCIe2 - PCIe6 (both PLX and QS)
  • Ian Cutress - Saturday, January 11, 2014 - link

    I did some PLX testing on various Z87 motherboards that use one of the chips, and the overall defecit over ideal routing was a 1-2% loss per PLX chip in the worst case scenario. This is better than the old NF200s, which had up to a 5-10% loss iirc? Of course with X79 it's a little different in that the CPU could go for an x16/x8/x8/x8 layout and whether going for an x16/x16/x16/x16 would make a difference. While I don't have 290 cards to hand, I do have 7970s and now GTX 770s to do a small comparison in the future.
  • watersb - Saturday, January 11, 2014 - link

    Ian, thanks very much for this review.

    I am not a gamer, but my science and storage workloads are well met by Xeon workstations. The build-your-own route can make financial sense sometimes, depends on the job.

    Glad you are there checking it all out.
  • mapesdhs - Saturday, January 11, 2014 - link

    The main benefit of a DIY oc build is gaining access to the performance equivalent to an
    expensive high-core XEON on a lower budget. XEONs with lots of cores have much lower
    clocks, so a 6-core SB-E or IB-E at 4.7+ runs very well. There are tradeoffs of course,
    such as non-ECC RAM being used; this might rule out the idea for some tasks. Still, there's
    a lot of scope for building something fast without breaking the bank. If one needs a degree
    of reliability though then I guess just step back a step or two on the oc, say 4.5GHz, and/or
    go for top-end cooling by default such as an H110 + suitable case.

  • Pooyan - Saturday, January 11, 2014 - link

    Great article, Ian. Although I wish you focused more on workstation aspects of the motherboard, not gamin and stuff :D
    1. Do you know any motherboards from other manufacturers with similar specs?
    2. ASUS says it's a CEB motherboard. So the case has to be CEB as well? Or can it be E-ATX? Isn't that kinda small for it?
    Thanks again for the review.
  • mapesdhs - Saturday, January 11, 2014 - link

    The only other board I could find that came close in overall concept to ASUS' X79 WS
    series is Asrock's X79 Extreme 11. However, apart from being quite a bit more expensive,
    in the end I felt Asrock messed up a bit by not using a SAS controller with any onboard
    cache, which can spoil 4K performance. Given the board cost, I can't imagine why the
    didn't choose an equivalent LSI chip that had a 1GB cache or something, would have
    been much better. Maybe the added cost was just too much.

    Can't remember offhand about CEB vs. EATX; I think CEB means the board can be
    deeper aswell as longer. Either way, fits fine in a HAF 932, though the case I'd
    recommend atm is an Aercool X-Predator. Caveat: if one has to move a system
    around a lot, eg. transport to company sites, then choose a different case that has
    handles. Either way, for max expandability, use a 10-slot case.

  • Pooyan - Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - link

    I thought it only fits in a CEB case. That's why I was gonna get a Silverstone RV03, because that's the only CEB I could find. This is a great help for me. It means I have other options for the case. Thanks a lot!
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - link

    An old thread I know, but a minor update for anyone who finds this for some reason as I recently built an editing setup with a P9X79-E WS I managed to get for only 200 quid (fitted with an i7 3970X, Quadro 6000, GTX 580 3GB, etc.): now I'm using a Corsair C70 Military Green case, definitely better. More rear slots than the HAF 932, though I'm only using two NDS fans with the H110 (decided after several builds that four is unnecessary). The C70 has fewer front 5.25" bays than the 932, but using more SSDs, etc. has meant that's not an issue.

    Hoping to see if it's possible to boot from a 950 Pro soon...

  • Umbongo - Saturday, January 11, 2014 - link

    "Being a Workstation board, the P9X79-E WS is designed to accept any socket 2011 Xeon, as well as ECC memory – up to 64GB is listed on the specification sheet, although 16GB ECC DRAM modules are now available through Newegg for $210 each."

    The X79 chipset supports unbuffered ECC with a Xeon. 16GB DIMMs are not available as ECC unbuffered, only ECC registered. You need a C600 series chipset with a Xeon to use registered memory.
  • Ian Cutress - Saturday, January 11, 2014 - link

    Ah, I thought I had seen 16GB unregistered memory. Seems like I was mistaken (!)

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now