ASUS is usually one of the first manufacturers to market when a new platform is released, and that continues to be the case with the Haswell-E/X99 release. At first look, the ASUS X99 Deluxe looks about as packed with features as I’ve ever seen on a motherboard. In fact, ASUS claims this motherboard is their most feature-rich enthusiast offering to date. It’s time to have a look at the X99 Deluxe and see what ASUS has done with their initial Haswell-E/X99 offering, so let’s get after it!
Specifications and Features
Here are the specifications as pulled from the ASUS user guide. As you can see, just about anything that can possibly be connected to a motherboard is supported here. Onboard Wi-Fi, Dual Intel LAN, SATA Express, and support for multiple GPU setups are of note here too.
|ASUS X99 Deluxe Motherboard Specifications|
|CPU||LGA2011 v3 for Intel Core i7 Processors|
|Chipset||Intel X99 Express Chipset|
|Memory||8X DIMM, Max 64GB, DDR4 Up to DDR4 3000MHz non-ECC, Un-Buffered|
|Storage||Intel X99 Chipset|
ASMedia SATA Express COntroller
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac up to 1300 Mbit/s Transfer Speed|
|Audio||Realtek ALC1150 8-Channel HD Audio CODEC|
|USB||Intel X99 Chipset|
ASMedia USB 3.0 Controller
|Rear Panel I/O Ports|
|Internal I/O Connectors|
|OS Support||Windows 8.1/Windows 8/Windows 7|
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor 12 in. X 9.6 in.|
Being ASUS’ most feature-rich enthusiast motherboard to date means the list of features are quite extensive. We’ll begin with a look at the motherboard overview, which shows many of the high-level features.
Included in the accessories are the pieces that make up what ASUS calls their Xtreme Upgrade Zone. Here, you’ll find the Fan Expansion Card, the 3X3 Wi-Fi Antenna, and the Hyper M.2 X4 expansion card. The Fan Extension Card is a one-to-three fan hub that is powered by a 4-pin Molex. Additionally, you can control the fans you connect to this board in the UEFI BIOS or in the Fan Xpert3 software. The onboard Wi-Fi module uses a 3-wire antenna and ups the previous AC1200 standard to AC1300 speed. It also supports Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. The ASUS HYPER M.2 X4 is a PCI-E based M.2 interface card, which as the name suggests supports M.2 SSDs in PCI-E x4 mode.
The motherboard has its own M.2 slot, but it’s a vertical design instead of the normal type that lays flat on the motherboard. ASUS includes a bracket to secure the M.2 drive installed here.
The Crystal Sound 2 feature found on the X99 Deluxe is the ASUS implementation of a beefed up Realtek ALC1150 onboard sound solution. It offers PCB shielding, EMI protection, and left/right channel separation. On the hardware side, it uses Nichicon capacitors and has an audio AMP capable of driving studio quality headphones up to 600 ohms.
There are many more features to explore on the motherboard, the bundled software, and the UEFI BIOS. We’ll cover all these as we get to those sections of the review. For now, let’s get our first look at the X99 Deluxe.
The X99 Deluxe packaging is extremely informative and gives the potential buyer a good idea of the product’s capabilities. The front has a large picture of the motherboard and mention of the 5-Way optimization feature. Around back and under the top flap, there is a plethora of additional information on many of the features the X99 Deluxe offers. There’s even a see-through window to give you an initial glance at the motherboard. All the box sides are outfitted with additional branding and a multilingual blurb of just a few of the features.
Digging deeper into the box, we come across the motherboard resting securely in a cardboard bed and wrapped in an anti-static bag. Below the motherboard are the many accessories included in the kit. Here’s the breakdown of the accessories you’ll find packaged inside.
Before we take our customary up-close look at the X99 Deluxe, here are some pictures taken from several different vantage points. As you can see, ASUS opted for a new white/black/gray color scheme this time around.
The ASUS X99 Deluxe Up Close
We’ll begin our up-close look by exploring the outer extremities of the motherboard. At the bottom-left are the front panel audio connector, onboard power and reset buttons, post Q-Code LED display, clear CMOS button, and the the TPM header. If you find the post code LED readings hard to understand, ASUS tried to make diagnosis a little easier by adding four LEDs to the motherboard. These four LEDs correspond to CPU, Memory, VGA, and boot device. If any of them stay illuminated during the boot process, check that component for a problem that could be keeping the system from posting. Each LED is located close to where it’s installed on the motherboard and clearly marked.
Moving over to the bottom-right, we find two front panel USB 3.0 headers, two USB 2.0 front panel headers, and the chassis wiring connections. Just above these USB headers, there are four switches for using TPU, EPU, SLI/CFX, and EZ-XMP. The TPU switch has two positions you can select from. Position one will attempt to overclock the CPU via ratio adjustments only. Position two will attempt to overclock the CPU using ratio and BCLK adjustments. The EPU switch can be enabled to moderate power consumption based on system load. The SLI/CFX switch has two positions you can select based on the number of graphics cards you are using. Basically, what this does is simply tell you what slots to install your cards into by illuminating a LED next to the appropriate PCI-E slots. With the switch in the 2-Way SLI/CFX position, you’ll see LEDs light up next to the two recommended slots. Throwing the switch to the 3-Way SLI/CFX position will illuminate three LEDs next to the recommended installation slots. Enabling the EZ-XMP switch will initiate an automatic overclock of the memory. Just keep in mind, if you use any of these switches for automatic overclocking, results will vary depending on the components you have installed. Also located in this area are the Thunderbolt header, the DirectKey connector, and the CPU Over Voltage jumper. From a supporting button on your chassis, you can connect a cable from it to the DirectKey pins and reboot directly into BIOS when pressing the button. The CPU Over Voltage jumper can be enabled to increase the available range of voltage you can apply to the CPU in the UEFI BIOS.
Moving over to the motherboard’s right side, we find the SATA Express and SATA 6 GB/s ports located at the bottom area. The lower gray block of connectors are all provided by the ASMedia controller and include two SATA Express and four SATA 6 GB/s connectors. Just above those SATA connectors, we come to another block of six SATA 6 GB/s connectors, which are all native to the X99 chipset. There are also two 4-pin fan headers located on each side of the SATA controllers. Moving up the right side of the motherboard, we find two more SATA 6 GB/s ports that are native to the Intel chipset, the vertical mount M.2 slot and the 24-pin ATX power connector. The MemOK! button is located at the top right corner, which can be used to attempt auto tuning of incompatible memory should the system not post because of this.
At the top of the X99 Deluxe, there isn’t a whole tot to talk about other than the 8-pin CPU AUX power connector and the two CPU fan headers.
On the left side of the X99 Deluxe, you’ll find everything related to I/O and audio. The I/O area consists of 10 USB 3.0 ports (all ASMedia), two USB 2.0 ports, dual Intel LAN ports, BIOS Flashback button, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth antenna connections, and the audio jacks. Below the plastic cover are all the Crystal Sound 2 audio components we spoke of in the features section above.
Moving towards the center of the board, we land at the PCI-E expansion slot area. There are five PCI-E x16 slots and one PCI-E x4 slot available. Depending on whether you’re using a 40 lane or 28 lane Haswell-E processor, the speed at which multi-GPU setups operate will vary. For 28 lane CPUs, a single GPU will run at x16 speed, two GPUs will run at x16/x8 speed, and three GPUs will run at x8/x8/x8 speed. The 40 lane CPUs will run a single GPU at x16 speed, two GPUs at x16/x16 speed, and three GPUs at x16/x16/x8 speed.
Covering the PCH is a rather large heatsink with ASUS branding applied to it. I’m not quite sure why they decided to put a streak of blue on the shield, but a similar streak is also present on the MOSFET heatsink shield. Plain old black and white is much easier to blend in with a variety of system color choices, but tossing blue into the mix can make things a little more difficult in that regard. Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not like it looks bad; but it does add another element when figuring out a color scheme.
Since we mentioned the MOSFET heatsinks, let’s take a look at the CPU socket area. It’s a pretty wide open affair that should accommodate a variety of air cooling solutions on the market. As always, pay attention to memory height when selecting an air cooler as that’s probably where you’re most likely to run into a fitment problem. From this vantage point, we can also see the eight DDR4 DIMM Slots that feature the ASUS Q-DIMM design (meaning only one release lever per slot). Support for memory up to DDR4 3000 MHz is officially supported here, but I saw BIOS selectable settings for up to DDR4 5000 MHz. Let the memory overclocking begin!
Under the Hood
With the plastic shroud removed from the left side of the X99 Deluxe, we get a better look at the heatsink and Crystal Sound 2 area that lies beneath. A closer look at the audio components shows the Realtek ACL1150 CODEC IC and the board isolation trace. Also viewable from here is the nuvoTon NCT6791D super I/O controller.
Just above the nuvoTon controller, we can see a pair of ASMedia ASM1074 ICs for handling the 10 USB 3.0 ports at the motherboard’s I/O area. You can also see the rest of the audio board isolation trace from this view. Moving even further up the left side of the motherboard, we come to the two Intel LAN controllers and an ASMedia ASM1042A PCI-E to USB 3.0 bridge IC.
Situated between the PCI-E slots, you find an ASMedia ASM1187e IC used for extending PCI-E 2.0 lanes and a slew of ASMedia ASM1480 PCI-E switching ICs.
There are two DIGI+ VRM controllers found on the X99 Deluxe. One handles the CPU power phases, and the other handles the memory power phases.
Located just below the PCH are the ASUS TPU IC and the ASMedia ASM106SE SATA Express controller. The TPU chip is responsible for handling the unique automatic overclocking features. The second picture below is of the Intel X99 PCH.
The cooling scheme on the X99 Deluxe includes two double heatsink assemblies joined by a heatpipe. One assembly covers the PCH, and the other the MOSFETs. On the back of the motherboard is a thermal plate located under the MOSFETs for additional cooling to that area. All of the heatsinks were found to be making excellent contact with their intended targets.
With everything stripped from the motherboard, we can see the eight phase CPU power design ASUS implemented here. The memory appears to have two power phases of its own as well.
The ASUS UEFI BIOS
The UEFI BIOS leaves little to be desired as far as available options go and is easy to navigate and understand. Upon initial entry, you land at the EZ Mode screen where you receive basic monitoring information. From here, you can also set memory XMP profiles, set the boot priority, and even work with fan control options. EZ System Tuning is available to use here too, which can fine tune your system for performance or power saving.
For the more advanced users, pressing F7 gets you into “Advanced Mode”, which is simply packed with system tweaking options. The My Favorites tab is where you can add shortcuts to you most commonly visited areas of the UEFI BIOS. The Main tab is mostly informational in nature; but you can set the time, date, language, and security options from here.
The Ai Tweaker tab has everything to do with system overclocking, optimization, and power delivery. The amount of options available in Ai Tweaker are staggering and will certainly allow you to get the most from your system. Just about every voltage imaginable can be adjusted along with ratios, BCLK, and memory frequencies. There are three additional sub menus dealing with memory timings, DIGI+ Power Control, and CPU Power Management. The memory timing options are as detailed as you’ll see anywhere, but most of these can be left on their auto setting. The DIGI+ Power Control area is where the ASUS UEFI BIOS separates itself from many competitor boards with its power delivery options. It gives you total control of the CPU and memory power phases and exactly how you want that power delivered. The CPU Power Management sub menu has the EIST and Turbo Mode settings and the ability to work with the CPU’s integrated voltage regulation.
Moving over to the Advanced tab, we find all the system configuration options. There are nine sub menus dealing with everything from CPU, chipset, storage, USB, and onboard device configuration.
The monitor tab gives you real-time information on temperatures, fans speed, and voltages. If you prefer not to use desktop software to control fan speeds, then you have a pretty robust set of options right here in the UEFI BIOS. You can choose from three fan control presets, or configure the fans manually if preferred. Manual options include the ability to control any fan based on any monitored temperature source, even the T-Sensors.
The Boot tab provides all the options for system boot up behavior. Most of these are pretty common options found on modern motherboards.
Sliding over to the Tools tab is where you will find a few useful UEFI BIOS utilities. GPU Post shows basic information on the graphics cards installed in the system and their location. The EZ Flash 2 utility is the safest and easiest way to update the motherboard’s UEFI firmware using a USB device. The Overclocking Profile area allows you to save/load up to eight UEFI BIOS profiles or save/load an unlimited amount from a USB device. The SPD Information utility shows all the JDEC information on the installed memory, as well as few memory specifications.
The last UEFI BIOS area is the Exit tab, where you’ll find a typical set of options for loading optimized defaults or saving and discarding any changes made during the current session.
AI Suite 3 is the ASUS desktop performance enhancing utility that, put quite bluntly, has no equal among its peers. This is a full featured set of useful tools to help you get the most from your system. Automatic overclocking, fan control, system monitoring, and a slew of other useful utilities are what you’ll find here.
I suspect the majority of our readers will be most interested in the Dual Intelligent Processors 5 (DIP5) area. All of your overclocking, fan control, power delivery, and energy saving options are located here. New for this release is the Turbo App, which allows the user to customize an overclocking profile specifically for any application. The profile will be applied on-the-fly once the application is launched. You can also add fan profiles and audio profiles to any specific application as well.
Inside the TPU area, you’ll find the ability to manually overclock the system and a host of voltage options. The strap can be adjusted here too by selecting the CPU Strap tab. The Fan Xpert 3 section has a multitude of options for fan speed control. You can either choose from four presets or manually configure each fan attached to the motherboard and Fan Extension Card. You can also name each fan and assign a location to it based on its physical location inside the chassis. You’ll want to run your fans through the auto tuning process to allow Fan Xpert 3 to learn the high/low limits for each of them. This will allow Fan Xpert 3 to provide customized settings for each fan based on what it learned during the fan tuning process. The DIGI+ Power Control area has many of the same options as the UEFI BIOS. Either choose from three presets or opt to manually control power delivery to the CPU and memory. The EPU area has five tabs where you can adjust power usage. Under each tab, you have the ability to customize the default settings as you see fit. Below is a picture of the DIP5 main screen followed by a series of thumbnail images showing the different areas within.
The rest of the AI Suite 3 utilities are pretty self explanatory by looking at the thumbnail images below. There are a few USB 3.0 tools for charging portable devices, automatically downloading and saving BIOS updates to a USB device, and speeding up USB file transfers. The Push Notice utility is a neat feature that can send system monitoring alerts to a paired mobile device or over the network and internet.
At the very top of the DIP5 utility, there is the option to select the 5-Way optimization function. Selecting this option will present you with many options on how exactly you want the optimization process to be performed. The overclocking and system optimization process will take you through TPU, EPU, DIGI+, and fan control setup automatically. As far as overclocking goes, you can choose for it to use CPU ratio only or a combination of CPU ratio and BCLK. You can also choose per core or all core overclocking and base the overclocking limits off of temperature or frequency thresholds. As the overclocking progresses, a quick stress test is run after each increase. The stress test can be run at its default settings, or you can choose to run AVX based testing if preferred. You can also choose how long the stress test will run (up to one hour) and include memory testing if you like. As you can see by the pictures below, the auto tuning process is completely customizable.
So, how did the 5-Way Optimization feature work? Not too bad, actually! It managed to overclock the CPU to 4.572 GHz, and it found a happy home for the memory right near 2666 MHz. I was able to do better than this by manually overclocking the system in the UEFI BIOS, but for an automated process… not bad, not bad at all!
Benchmarks and Overclocking
You’ve probably noticed by now the ASUS X99 Deluxe was used to review the i7 5960X, which also published today. Because all the overclocking and benchmarks have already been performed in that review, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to simply copy/paste all that information here. So, if you haven’t done so already, please visit the i7 5960X review for all those results. Suffice to say, the X99 Deluxe performed magnificently during the i7 5960X review, and we were able to push the overclock as high as 4.875 GHz with a memory speed of DDR4 3000 MHz. Seriously, go check it out!
One thing I wanted to check was how far I could push the BCLK, which I didn’t do during the i7 5960X. Because BCLK overclocking can vary widely between motherboards, we thought it best to leave that testing for the X99 motherboard reviews we’ll be performing over the next few weeks. Just as a side note, we’ll also be leaving memory overclocking to the reviews we do on the memory kits we’ve been sent. Those reviews should be up soon, so stay tuned for that!
I can tell you the 167 strap setting in the UEFI BIOS works just fine. You won’t be able to stray much at all above that, but having a working 167 strap is impressive in its own right. I ran wPrime 32M and 1024M at 4.665 GHz CPU and 3000 MHz memory speed, which completed without any problems.
ASUS really went all out with the X99 Deluxe and it’s almost endless set of features. Not only does the motherboard offer all the latest technologies, but often in multiples. Dual Intel LAN controllers and two M.2 slots come to mind here. The enthusiast is well taken care of too as witnessed by the overclocking numbers achieved during the i7 5960X CPU review. I can tell you with confidence that the X99 Deluxe will allow you to overclock your components as far as they will go without getting in the way. ASUS’ most feature-rich enthusiast offering to date? Definitely!
The UEFI BIOS and the AI Suite 3 software package are both well laid out and full of useful tools and utilities. If you’re a novice overclocker, the DIP5 automatic overclocking feature is simple to use and can quickly get your system overclocked for you… all at the press of a button.
I’m really hard pressed to come up with any gripes about this motherboard, but if I must… the blue stripe on the heatsinks. I know, a petty complaint at best, but it’s all I got!
So, the burning question… Price? ASUS tells us the MSRP at release will be $399, which is right where I thought it would land. We don’t have a lot of competitor boards to compare that price to just yet; but it falls in line with what ASUS has priced their high-end Z87 and Z97 boards, if you take into account the new X99 chipset and the additional features those earlier boards do not offer.
Wrapping things up here, we have a motherboard with an insane amount of features that offers the enthusiast almost anything they could ask for. If you’re planning to build a new system around the X99 platform, take a good hard look at the X99 Deluxe. It’s a super easy call this time around… Overclockers Approved!