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Tuesday, 12 January 2010 18:24

EVGA unveils its dual-socket 270-GT-W555 beast motherboard

Written by Jon Worrel

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Hands on: Literally the size of an extra-large pizza


During the
course of our venture at CES 2010, we had an incredible opportunity to stop by the EVGA suite at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas for two hours of talk-time with Product Manager Jacob Freeman and living overclocking legend Peter Tan “Shamino” regarding some upcoming products in the company’s queue.

Last March, the company released a product lineup that drove us enthusiasts to spend our time e-camping on its product page for weeks in advance, pledged us to skip precious hours of sleep and encouraged us to converse with hundreds of fellow EVGA forum dwellers into the wee hours of the night. The company dubbed these products “the ULTIMATE in X58 motherboards,” a revolution in modern PC overclocking freedom and potential which became known as the EVGA X58 SLI Classified series. Since that time, there have been unprecedented advances in performance trends across the HWBot as enthusiasts seek to murder the 3DMark world record stats pages and motivate the cycle of hardware innovation for generations to come.

EVGA’s flagship X58 4-way SLI compared with the EVGA 270-GT-W555


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EVGA’s latest and greatest creation comes in the form of a dual-socket LGA 1366 enormous giant codenamed 270-GT-W555. Right off the top, it is clearly evident that this is perhaps the largest PC gaming and enthusiast-oriented motherboard to have ever been considered for release in the public consumer market. It not only features dual LGA 1366 sockets for Intel 45nm Xeon 5500-series processors and upcoming 32nm Westmere-based variants, but it also supports up to 48GB of DDR3 1600MHz+ working in triple-channel mode across all twelve slots. The board utilizes a single Intel 5520 server chipset and is intended to support dual-QPI processors. However, EVGA tells us that the board can run single processors for those still managing to find the cash for two. However, we aren't sure if that means both Core i7 and Xeon CPUs or just the latter.

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Many have been asking about the form-factor type of the 270-GT-W555 for the past few days since its official debut at CES. We tried getting answers out of Jacob and Peter, but they told us that there is currently no official ATX standard for this size board. We searched through Wikipedia and stumbled upon a form factor known as Super WTX, but not much is known about it and Intel appears to have discontinued the WTX standard almost ten years ago. What we do know is that the EVGA board will fit in a Pizza Hut extra-large pizza box – not quite a Domino’s box – and that it only fits in two computer case lineups ever manufactured in the world. One series is from Lian-Li, and the other series is from SuperMicro.

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The board also features eight USB 2.0 ports, two of which conveniently double as eSATA ports, as well as two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports powered by an NEC µPD720200 controller chip. During our time on the show floor at CES, we spoke with product managers from ASUS, MSI and even NEC, who all stated that even the high-end market sector is not showing enough demand for manufacturers to integrate complete sets of USB 3.0 ports into their latest boards. Sure, it’s possible to integrate more controllers, but even EVGA’s monstrous creation does not need them at this point in time.

The 270-GT-W555 also features a total of eight SATA ports, six of which are black-colored and run at 3Gbps. The other two are red-colored and run at 6Gbps. Thankfully, there are no JMicron controllers present on this board, and we are glad to report that all of these ports run off the Intel ICH10R southbridge.

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We noticed that a few fellows on the XtremeSystems 270-GT-W555 discussion thread were complaining about the board not having 90-degree SATA ports. Rest assured, we can guarantee that every graphics card to date is able to fit on this board. We even brought some Radeon HD 5970s to EVGA’s suite in an attempt to test them for size and we can confirm that the 12.2-inch cards left plenty of room to spare for all of the SATA ports and even the BIOS selection switch. Out of respect, however, we didn’t take any pictures of the Radeon cards on the board due to the fact that EVGA is an Nvidia partner and a great one at that.

The only issue we noticed on the board was the one that Peter pointed out to us. When the northbridge heatsink is in place and the top PCI-E slot is occupied, it becomes difficult to hold the slot latch in order to remove the GPU because there is simply not enough room for fingers to get between the heatsink and the latch. The EVGA team asked us whether we would prefer to keep the slot-latch design or whether some other type of mechanism should be implemented instead. Before the final production model enters production, it would be a good idea for some of you guys to recommend Peter alternative solutions to the problem in the XtremeSystems forum thread above.

One of the more convenient aspects of the 270-GT-W555 in terms of overclocking is the fact that it features triple BIOS support, allowing overclockers to boot from three separately available startup configurations. This feature was first introduced with the P55 FTW and will continue to be standard on the company’s upcoming high-end and enthusiast product offerings.

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At this point, many of you are probably wondering how the seven PCI-Express slot layout works and how many lanes each of them supports in different respective SLI and CrossFire modes. In perspective, the 270-GT-W555 features two Nvidia Nforce 200 chips that enable for full PCI-Express 2.0 x16 bandwidth across Slot 1, Slot 3, Slot 5 and Slot 7 simultaneously. If all seven slots are populated by single-slot cards at the same time, then they will all run in x8 mode except for the very bottom slot which will run in x16 mode. Peter made note that Slot 7 will always run in x16 mode while the other six will vary in bandwidth depending on the number of GPUs installed. This could prove to be very useful for Tri-SLI + PhysX, in which all four cards would be able to run in x16 mode, an impressive feat only capable on this board.

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Peter has also included dual 8-phase Digital PWM layouts, one for each processor socket. Each of them supports frequencies of up to 1333KHz which can be managed in the BIOS. Of course, the CPU sockets themselves are infused with three times the normal amount of gold content of a standard CPU socket and feature Super-low ESR and ESL Film Capacitors right behind the sockets,  also known as “LICC Capacitors” (Low Inductance Chip Capacitors) – but most enthusiasts already know these features come standard with EVGA Classified Series motherboards.

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Most of us know that when Peter designs and engineers a new motherboard for EVGA, it comes feature-packed with a very purist approach to ensuring the cleanest electric currents and voltages travel to discreet sections of the board with incredible precision. On the 270-GT-W555, each CPU socket is equipped with a 6-pin PCI-Express and an 8-pin EPS12V connector, each capable of supplying its own +12V to the processors current under heavy overclocking scenarios where power strain is an issue. In addition, there is a 6-pin PCI-Express connector near Slot 1 on the PCI-Express layout, which is capable of delivering additional power to all seven PCI-Express slots if needed.

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Last but not least, it might be important to mention that the board does include an IDE connector, but not a floppy connector. Some of us still reluctantly sport IDE drives in our cases – you know who you are – but in 2010, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to be using a floppy drive anymore. Windows XP RAID drivers can always be slipstreamed if that’s the main concern, and it usually is. At the same time, the board supports EVGA’s new EVBot for adjusting CPU voltages on the fly, and we are definitely convinced by its novelty use after Peter used it to break a Core i3 world record under liquid nitrogen during the XtremeSystems Party at CES.

All in all, the EVGA 270-GT-W555 is perhaps the most powerful piece of consumer-end computing hardware we’ve seen in the past few years. While this EVGA Classified Series board doesn’t have a name yet, we really hope it will be something along the lines of “FTMFW Edition” because honestly, nothing less would do it justice. EVGA expects it to go on sale sometime between late March and end the end of April, but pricing is currently unknown at this point. The company did say that it would be priced according to the extensive hardware it packs, and we are truly expecting something in the $700 range, but this is only a rough estimate as the company’s officials haven’t yet agreed on a price point. We look forward with great anticipation to seeing Peter’s latest and greatest creation hit the retail channel in just a couple short months from now.

EVGA 270-GT-W555 testing in the lab


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Last modified on Wednesday, 13 January 2010 08:38
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