Intel‘s ultra-high-end desktop platform got a shot in the arm from Ivy Bridge-E in September. This refresh delivered updated CPU cores, but it didn’t bring any changes to the two-year-old LGA2011 platform. Intel didn’t update the accompanying X79 Express chipset, which is why we didn’t see a wave of new motherboards rolled out with Ivy-E. Asus’ X79-Deluxe was the only fresh face at the time, and neither Gigabyte nor MSI has released anything since.
Part of Ivy-E’s appeal is the fact that the chip is a drop-in replacement for its Sandy Bridge-based predecessor. Existing X79 boards should require no more than a firmware update to work with the latest processors. Gigabyte and MSI both have newish X79 models that we haven’t tested, so we decided to have a little throwdown to see how they compare. In the black and grey trunks, we have the $220 Gigabyte X79-UP4. And, uh, also in black and grey trunks, we have the $250 MSI X79A-GD45 Plus.