Intel has released Broadwell-E processors to consumers, bringing up to 10-core CPUs into your system for a fraction of the price of their server counterparts. That and they’re actually overclockable too, though not necessarily by much it seems. But with new CPUs naturally comes new motherboards. Gigabyte has not only provided new bios’ for their older X99-based motherboards, they’ve also released a whole new lineup that’s replete with nearly every new feature that the slightly aging platform has to offer. On top of that they’ve updated the visual style with LEDs, a far more sturdy PCIe socket design and plenty more. We present the GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming
Why have new boards altogether instead of riding out the wave before the next socket and chipset comes along? Because this gives a chance to refine the platform before it makes its exit. And you can’t have a new CPU without having an equally new and gorgeous motherboard anyway. Likewise, they’ve been able to add on a bit better USB 3.1, and subsequently Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. Is it, though, worth it to upgrade to a new motherboard such as this? That’s an excellent question, and we’ll get to that shortly.
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming, an update for Broadwell-E with lots of goodies
Taking a tour of the new board shows us that they’ve updated the look with the white motif that they introduced with their Z170 boards. The heatsinks on both the chipset and the VRMs are far larger and more robust than the previous generation X99 boards. GIGABYTE has also retained the all digital power design that has allowed for some very precise voltage monitoring and control throughout the motherboard.
Around the PCIe sockets they’ve added their metal shielding that makes them quite durable and allows them to withstand more downward pressure and abuse when installing GPUs. The same metal shielding has been applied to the DRAM sockets as well. The contact pins aren’t any more durable than they otherwise would be, so don’t get too aggressive shoving in your RAM. The armor itself lends a nice visual flair to the board, and also has a practical purpose should you want heavier modules in there.
Speaking of RAM, the officially supported speeds have increased by quite a bit here too. Not to be outdone by Intel’s newer offerings, they’ve finally allowed official support for much higher speeds, up to DDR4 3600, though that might be a rare site unless overclocking. Though they’re available with and without XMP. Just in case you wanted to be able to run the absolute fastest in memory, you can now do that. It’s best to shop around for those modules that are on the supported list, though I’m sure that most should work properly, just be aware that if it’s not on the list than there is no guarantee.
USB 3.1 through Intel’s own controller has been added. That controller uses four PCIe Gen2 lanes to reach up to 20Gb/s of bandwidth. To help you reach that full potential, they’ve been kind enough to put a Type-C connector on the rear, though there’s only one. The good news is that due to the immense bandwidth available from that one slot, you can daisy chain quite a few devices and still get usable bandwidth from each one.
One of the big additions on the X99-Ultra Gaming is that of the near whole-board coverage of LED lighting. There are LEDs capable of the full spectrum of color, so you can choose between near anything you’d want, and make those colors pulse or even change to the beat of music. It’s a fairly cool effect, and actually useful for when you want to double-check something you installed. There’s also an on-board pin header that lets you connect a variety of LED strips so you can control them directly instead of with a remote or other means. That’s quite convenient for modders or even those, like myself, that use an LED strip for lighting in my work area. It might not seem terribly useful for the vast majority, but it’s a very clever inclusion. LED light strips that are compatible with the motherboard aren’t terribly expensive either. It lets you customize on a smaller budget and without having to consider having a separate controller. Everything is integrated.
We’ve made a short video to show off some of the different colors available and lighting modes. Take a look.