Haswell-E Debuts: Intel Core i7-5960X Processor Review
Gigabye and Asus X99 Motherboards
For the purposes of this article, we acquired a handful of X99-based motherboards to give you all an idea as to what type of boards will be hitting the scene when Haswell-E and the X99 hit store shelves in the coming days...
First up we have the Gigabyte X99 Gaming 5. In terms of its feature-set, the X99 Gaming 5 is fairly well appointed. It offers all digital voltage regulation and the board is part of Gigabyte’s “Ultra Durable” family of products. It also offers a total of 16 USB ports (eight USB 3.0 and eight USB 2.0), ten SATA 6Gbps connectors, plus an M.2 port and a SATA Express port, CrossFireX and SLI support, DualBIOS technology, and On/Off USB Charge support. The X99 Gaming 5 also sports gold plated audio outputs and a Killer E2200-series LAN controller too.
Other noteworthy features include on-board power and reset switches, newly designed heatsinks and a totally redesigned BIOS / UEFI that gives users the ability to navigate through its various menus with a mouse.
Gigabyte also put considerable resources into optimizing the audio-related features on this board. The X99 Gaming 5 features Creative Labs’ Sound Core3D chip, with full support for the Sound Blaster SBX Pro Studio suite. The audio circuitry on the board gets its own zone, that’s isolated from other componentry, it uses high end, Nichicon audio capacitors, and all of the audio connections are gold-plated.
The board you see pictured here is the ASUS X99 Deluxe. As is typical of ASUS, this board is absolutely jam-packed and overloaded with features. In addition to exploiting all of the features inherent to the X99 chipset, the X99 Deluxe offers built-in 802.11ac WiFi and BT 4.0 connectivity, additional SATA 6Gbps ports (12 total, with 4 ports from SATA Express and an M.2 socket). What’s interesting to note is that the M.2 socket is vertical—the board includes a bracket to secure the drive perpendicular to the PCB. The X99 Deluxe also includes an add-in card dubbed the “Hyper M.2 X4” which gives users the ability to plug an M.2 drive into an available PCI Express slot.
The ASUS X99 Deluxe is also packing what Asus calls its “Dual Intelligent Processors 5”, with 5-way optimization. The Dual Intelligent Processors consist of Asus’ EPU unit, which we’ve covered in the past, and the TurboV processing unit (TPU). The processors work together with the X99 Deluxe's all digital VRM (DIGI+ Power Control) and give users the ability to monitor and adjust power delivery across multiple sections of the board. According to Asus, the combination of the programmable digital VRM and Dual Intelligent Processors 5 results in superior efficiency and longevity, lower operating temperatures, and quieter fan operation, as well as better power delivery than previous generation products. There are even extra pins in the socket (ASUS calls it an O.C. Socket) that reportedly stabilize voltage delivery even further.
The Asus X99 Deluxe also supports SLI and CrossFireX support, Crystal Sound 2, and Asus includes a copy of their AI Suite software as well, which gives users easy access to all of the Asus-proprietary features mentioned here in a single software package. In addition to the aforementioned features, the X99 Deluxe also sports an excellent UEFI with one-click overclocking, per-header fan controls (even on 3-pin headers), and many of the changes introduced with the 8-series chipsets for Haswell, like Quick Notes, Favorites, list of Changes on Exit, etc. The updated design and layout of the UEFI on this board is absolutely top-notch. ASUS also offers a few more of their proprietary features like their MemOK!, USB BIOS Flashback, and Ai Charger technologies.
As we've come to expect from Asus, the X99 Deluxe ships with an extensive accessory bundle, and like other enthusiast-class boards from ASUS, this one is highly tuned for overclockers. Not only is the layout user-friendly, but the board sports heavy-duty passive cooling, integrated power and reset switches, plenty of I/O connectivity (including dual Intel Gigabit LAN controllers and 802.11ac), under-board lighting, and stylized shrouds over the I/O ports.
ASUS also goes the extra mile and includes a Fan Extension Hub with the X99 Deluxe. The Fan Extension hub is a small PCB which can be placed anywhere inside a case, and give users access to an array of extra fan connectors. The Fan Extension Hub should be useful for water-cooled systems that need a few fan headers in a remote section of a system. We should also mention that the X99 Deluxe supports Thunderbolt as well, with the addition of an optional ThunderboldEX/DUAL module available from ASUS.
Overall, this is one great looking board in our opinion, with a feature set that’s currently unmatched.