It's confirmed, first hand – the ASUS Z9PE-D8 WS mainboard, shown at CES, is the second Dual Socket LGA2011 mainboard with full set of overclocking features. Only the matching unlocked CPUs are missing…
When talking about performance tuning and overclocking of the Socket 2011 dual CPU platforms, only one mainboard came to mind until recently – the big, powerful but complex EVGA SR-X. Its unusual 4+2 DIMM configuration, many slots and large size (HPTX) don't make it convenient for some setups, though.
Now, after some hands-on testing, we can confirm that ASUS has the horse for this race too. The Z9PE-D8 WS mainboard, from their server and workstation group, resurrects the glory days of the 4-year old Z7S-WS Dual Socket 775 ATX board by creating a dual socket standard SSI EEB sized offering with full memory and I/O complement, yet satisfactory for most of the users.
With 1 DIMM per channel, and optimised traces, you can still have up to 64 GB of normal or 256 GB (of eight Samsung 32 GB Quad Ranked RDIMMs) in the compact footprint machine based on this board, as well as four x16 PCIe v3 graphics cards (or seven if you use single slot cards). What's more interesting is the BIOS, which I checked on a configuration with two high end workstation-grade Xeon E5 processors.
There are a myriad of options. First, you can change the CPU multiplier all the way to beyond 50, if the CPU supports it – this one didn't, as expected, since all C-stepping Xeon E5 for now have locked multipliers.
Then, you can change the CPU, chipset, QPI, PCIe and memory voltages; force memory to run at higher speeds like 1866 and 2133MHz, and change primary and secondary memory latency timings, with over a dozen settings to control. The latter one worked very well, as I managed to push various kinds of memory well above their designated speeds, and get corresponding bandwidth increases. How does eight channels of memory at DDR3-1600 CL 6-6-6-16 sound, yet at CR1 command rate?
On the other hand, while having a beefed up power and chipset cooling capabilities, the board doesn't go to the same extreme extents like the EVGA entry or its Republic of Gamers betherens – but, based on the features seen, if and once Intel does release unlocked multiplier Xeon E5's, this board could comfortably handle dual 8-core processors @ 4.0GHz+ (spoiler: which is faster than anything available today), with enough memory bandwidth to feed all those cores well. Now, we have to see whether Intel can work out a business case for the unlocked Xeons, knowing the warranty and validation headaches that come along. How many readers would want to lay their hands on such unlocked beasts, put aside the costs? Let us know in the comments section below.