Intel Core i7-6950X 10-Core CPU Review: Broadwell-E Takes Flight

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New X99 Motherboards And Memory

One of the side benefits of Intel releasing newer processors for existing sockets, is that its board partners usually launch a fresh wave of motherboards to market alongside the chips. Although they’re not true, next-gen platforms, this approach works well because the boards tend to be feature-rich and relatively problem-free from the get-go, since most of the firmware kinks associated with the chipset have already been worked out. The newer boards typically sport many attractive new features as well.

Case in point, the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon. Like most other X99-based motherboards, the X99A Gaming Pro Carbon leverages all of the chipset’s inherent features, but MSI definitely kicks things up a few notches and puts their own spin on things. The X99A Gaming Pro Carbon, for example, has customizable RGB LED lighting, that can be extended with up to two additional lighting strips, and metal reinforcements on its M.2 and expansion slots, and its DIMM slots, for added strength and rigidity.
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The MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon

As you’d expect in an enthusiast motherboard from this generation, the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon features a mouse-friendly BIOS / UEFI that’s quick and easy to navigate and offers an extensive array of overclocking and performance-related options. MSI calls it their Click BIOS 5, and it sports everything from high resolution fonts to the latest version of MSI’s hardware monitor functionality. The X99A Gaming Pro Carbon also features some highly-durable Titanium chokes, in addition to high-conductivity polymer and / or solid capacitors throughout, to improve long-term reliability and overall efficiency. The board is also outfitted with an all-digital PWM as well, to further improve power efficiency and smooth delivery.

The MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon also offers easy overclocking by way of its OC Genie and Game Boost features, but the UEFI sports all of the overclocker-friendly tools we’ve come to expect from MSI for manual tweaking as well. The fan controls on the board are also very robust and MSI has put in additional effort to isolate the memory circuitry to ensure clean signaling and the highest possible overclocks.

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Other features of the X99A Gaming Pro Carbon include USB 3.1 Gen 2 type-C and type-A ports for quick-charging and straightforward connectivity of the latest mobile devices, Intel powered gigabit networking with built in 15kV surge protection, on-board power and reset switches, a POST-code error reporter, CrossFire / SLI support, and it includes a 1 year premium subscription to XSplit GameCaster too.

In addition to the aforementioned items, we should point out that the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon offers 8-channel audio with Nahimic Audio Enhancer support and MSI’s Audio Boost 3. Audio Boost 3 incorporates dual OPA1652 AMPs, gold-plated audio jacks, EMI shielding, and high-quality audio filtering caps designed to enhance the quality of the audio output on the board.

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MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon Back Panel IO

We found the layout of the X99A Gaming Pro Carbon to be very good and also really like the dark red, black, and carbon-fiber features on the board. Your tastes may vary, of course, but we think this is one heck of a good looking motherboard and it was a pleasure to use throughout testing. There is also plenty of IO on the board, including a PS2 port for sticklers (like me) that still have true N-Key rollover keyboards that use the legacy port.

A number of Intel’s memory partners are also at the ready with updated quad-channel DDR4-based memory kits optimized for Broadwell-E. We got our hands on a new Trident-Z kit from G.SKILL and have them pictured for you below...

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G.SKILL Trident Z F4-3200C14Q-32GTZ Quad-Channel DDR4-3200 Memory Kit

We should quickly mention that, like previous-gen high-end platforms from Intel, the X99 and Broadwell-E offers full support for the Extreme Memory Profile (XMP 1.3) specification, for easy memory optimization and overclocking.

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The G.SKILL Trident Z memory kit you see here supports XMP and consists of four, 8GB, DDR4-3200 sticks of memory (total capacity 32GB), model number F4-3200C14Q-32GTZ. The sticks run at 1.35v with CL14-14-14-34 timings, and they feature dual-color, aluminum heat-spreaders, with an attractive anodized finish and thin-fins that run the length of the DIMMs. This kit obviously sports orange inserts, but multiple other colors are also available.

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G.SKILL Trident Z F4-3200C14Q-32GTZ Memory Bandwidth

We've got memory bandwidth data on the next page with the Core i7-6950X, board, and memory running at their reference specifications, but also wanted to give you a taste of what this memory offers on the platform. By simply enabling XMP and running the G-SKILL kit with its  XMP profile, aggregate bandwidth peaks at over 45GB/s. At stock settings, it hovers in the 40GB/s range.

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