If you thought Intel’s latest X48 chipset was really something, wait till you see this—we got our socks knocked off and the tingle left behind in our toes was enough to assure us we were looking at something radically different. In fact, this motherboard is so new, there were no details of it on the Net as of this writing.
Presenting the Skulltrail in its desktop (yes, Desktop) avatar—Intel’s D5400XS—a consumer board featuring dual processor support, and four, SLI-capable PCIe graphics slots, among other things—but don’t say that out aloud. The D5400XS is based on Intel’s MCP 5400 Northbridge (MCH), and a 6321ESB I/O ICH. Somewhere between lie two MCP 100s from NVIDIA—that’s what enables SLI on this board.
With support for 16 GB of ECC memory through four DIMMs and the ability to house two quad-core processors, the D5400XS is bound to leave a trail of skulls in its ponderous wake...
And it’s a Desktop-oriented board too—with Intel’s latest IDT STAC 9274D 8-channel HD-supporting audio codec, six SATA ports, two E-SATA ports, and even nifty add-ons like power and reset buttons, and an HDD activity LED right on the board. There’s also a two-digit POST (Power on Self Test) debugger. The BIOS is chock-full of overclocking options—CPU, memory and FSB overclocking and overvolting are supported, and strangely enough, recommended. All this makes the D5400XS one helluva desktop board, although its overclocking potential is yet to be seen. The reason we kept our shenanigans to a minimum (despite the fact that Intel helpfully provided us with unlocked CPUs) was that at 3.2 GHz, we felt these quad-cores were close to their thermal limits. The thermal specs of these 45nm cores are even better than the G0 stepping Core 2 Quads we tested earlier, but we didn’t want to push anything.
While you won’t really appreciate the power of two processors with most regular tasks, if you’re a 3D designer, animator or hardcore gamer, you will definitely appreciate the sheer horsepower at your fingertips. With multi-tasking or even multi-threaded applications, the difference astonishes—especially with the two QX9775 Core 2 Extreme processors, which are basically 45nm, 3.2 GHz quad-cores. Note that the pin layout on the board is slightly different—Socket 771 (LGA) CPUs are supported. (Regular Desktop CPUs are in the LGA 775-pin format.)
Check out our benchmarks (above) to see how this monster kicked hindquarters.
We don’t expect the D5400XS to break any sales records—just benchmarks. This platform may just kick off in the workstation market, particularly for rendering machines, where the enormous multiprocessing CPU and GPU power will be harnessed better.
The entire platform is power-hungry. If you’re looking at SLI, two quad-cores, and around three hard drives, opt for a 1000-watt power supply... Also invest in a decent air conditioner—and/or good aftermarket CPU coolers; these babies dissipate 150 watts each.
Buy this only if you can really afford to—at around Rs 25,000 for just the board, it’s one of those luxuries that’ll just add to your collection of nice things, right beside the Rolex and Porsche!