Even though the X99-E WS motherboard is listed as a workstation offering by ASUS, don’t let that classification fool you. The X99-E WS has many of the same features found on ASUS’ enthusiast-level motherboards. Particularly appealing to the gaming crowd is its quad-SLI/CrossFireX support at x16/x16/x16/x16 speeds. There are a host of other unique and intriguing features the X99-E WS offers that should appeal to the enthusiast and gamer alike. So, let’s find out if this latest offering from ASUS is worthy of consideration in the increasingly crowded X99 motherboard market.
Specifications and Features
Here are the specifications as provided by the ASUS website. What stands out here are the seven PCI-E x16 3.0 slots and the multi-GPU setups that are possible. On the storage side of things, we have SATA Express support and an onboard M.2 SSD slot. The board also supports up to 64 GB of DDR4 memory at speeds up to 3200 MHz (OC). There are several onboard buttons and switches similar to what we are used to seeing on Rampage and Maximus series motherboards, which we’ll have a closer look at later in the review.
|ASUS X99-E WS Specifications|
|CPU||Build in Intel® Socket 2011-v3 Processors
Intel® Core™ i7 Processors for LGA 2011 Socket
Supports Intel® 22 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
|Memory||8 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 3200(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Quad Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
||Supports NVIDIA® 4-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX Technology
||7x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (single x16 or dual x16/x16 or triple x16/x16/x16 or quad x16/x16/x16/x16 or seven x16/x8/x8/x8/x16/x8/x8)|
|Storage||Intel® X99 chipset :
1 x SATA Express port, gray, compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
1 x M.2 x4 Socket 3, gray, , with M Key, type 2260/2280 storage devices support (PCIE mode)
8 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray,
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology supports
ASMedia® SATA Express controller :
1 x SATA Express port, gray, compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
ASMedia® SATA Express controller :
1 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray, compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
|LAN||Intel® I210-AT, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Intel® I218LM, 1 x Gigabit LAN, Dual interconnect between the Integrated Media Access Controller (MAC) and Physical Layer (PHY)
|Audio||Realtek® ALC1150 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC featuring Crystal Sound 2
Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking, Front Panel MIC Jack-retasking
||Intel® X99 chipset :
4 x USB 3.0/2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, , 4 at mid-board)
Intel® X99 chipset :
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 port(s) (4 at mid-board)
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue)
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
8 x USB 3.0/2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, , 4 at mid-board)
||7 x PCIe x 16 slot(s)
ASUS Dr. Power
12K hours Capacitors
ProCool Power Connector
||Windows® 8.1 86×64
Windows® 8 86×64
Windows® 7 86×64
|Back I/O Ports||2 x eSATA
2 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
10 x USB 3.0 (blue)
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
8 x Audio jack(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
1 x Q-Code Logger button
|Internal I/O Ports
||2 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin)
2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 2.0 port(s)
2 x SATA Express connector: gray, compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
1 x M.2 Socket 3 for M Key, type 2260/2280 devices
1 x TPM connector(s)
8 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
4 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (4 x -pin)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x Thunderbolt header(s)
2 x 8-pin EATX 12 V Power connector
1 x 6-pin EATX 12 V_1 Power connector(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x EZ XMP switch
1 x Front panel connector(s)
1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
1 x 5-pin EXT_FAN(Extension Fan) connector
1 x DRCT header(s)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
1 x TPU switch(es)
1 x EPU switch(es)
1 x CPU/DRAM overvoltage jumper(s)
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Reset button(s)
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
1 x Dr.Power switch(es)
|Form Factor||CEB Form Factor
12 inch x 10.5 inch ( 30.5 cm x 26.7 cm )
Looking at the motherboard overview, you get a good idea of how the X99-E WS is laid out.
Whether you’re a gaming enthusiast or a graphics professional, the X99-E WS has the ability to run quad-SLI/CrossFireX with all the installed video cards at PCI-E 3.0 x16 speeds. Definitely enough GPU horsepower for the most demanding users. All below images and descriptions courtesy ASUS.
High-end power components are used throughout the X99-E WS to ensure efficiency and long term reliability. Seldom seen 12K hour capacitors, Dr. MOS MOSFETs, Beat Thermal Chokes, and improved ProCool power connectors are all used here.
The Q-Code Logger and Dr. Power features can provide critical system status and alert you of any power supply problems. By plugging a USB drive into the appropriate port, the Q-Code logger will copy an event log to the drive, which can then be used to diagnose system status or any potential problems. With the Dr. Power switch enabled and the accompanying software installed, you can get desktop alerts if the PSU is providing inadequate or weak power.
The ASUS exclusive OC Socket found its way to the X99-E WS, which ASUS says can help achieve higher CPU and memory overclocking with its additional socket pins. As a side note, the X99-E WS supports Intel Xeon E5-1600 and 2600 series processors.
There are many more features than what we’ve shown so far, but we’ll explore them when we take a closer look at the motherboard, UEFI BIOS, and the bundled software.
The retail box is mostly comprised of a black theme with a large picture of the motherboard on the front. Also on the front are several icon descriptors of a few high-level features. Around back, there are several of the features we mentioned above and a full list of specifications. The box sides are home to additional branding and a multilingual mention of a few features.
With the box opened, the accessories are sitting on top with the motherboard resting below. There is a good assortment of accessories, which include the following.
The ASUS X99-E WS Up Close
Our up-close tour begins at the lower-left corner where we’ll start with the onboard audio. The Crystal Sound 2 audio solution uses the Realtek ALC1150 CODEC as its basis, but several improvements have been made to enhance the audio experience. The audio area has been shielded from the rest of the motherboard to reduce interference from other nearby components. According to ASUS, the left and right channels are on different layers of the PCB to provide better quality audio signals. For EMI protection, a shield is installed over the Realtek CODEC chip for reducing electrical noise. You’ll also find an audio amplifier and a unique de-pop circuit that reduces the popping sound sometimes heard during system startup and shutdown.
Turning the corner to the bottom-left edge of the X99-E WS, we first come to the front panel audio connector and the S/PDIF out pins just above that. Next are the COMM (serial) port header, the Q-Code LED display, and the TPU switch. The TPU switch can be moved to the first position to perform an automatic overclock by adjusting the CPU ratio only. If moved to the second position, an automatic overclock will be attempted using both CPU ratio and BCLK adjustments.
The lower-right area of the motherboard has a lot going on. Along the bottom, there is a clear CMOS button, EPU switch, and TPM header. The EPU switch can be enabled to intelligently moderate power consumption based on the current system load. Also found along the bottom are two front panel USB 2.0 headers, a 4-pin fan header, the onboard power and reset buttons, and the header for the case wiring. This area is also home to the M.2 socket 3 port, a Thunderbolt header, and the chassis fan control and CPU over-voltage jumpers. The M.2 port supports M Key and type 2260/2280 devices, which will utilize the PCI-E lanes at x4 speed.
Around the corner, we come to the SATA port blocks. The first block is where the SATA Express ports are found. The upper SATA Express port is native to the Intel chipset, and the lower is provided by ASMedia. Above the SATA Express ports are eight more SATA 6 GB/s ports that are all native to the chipset as well.
The upper-right corner is where you find the Dr. Power switch, a couple more 4-pin fan headers, two front panel USB 3.0 headers, the EZ XMP switch, the 24-pin ATX power connector, and the MemOK! button. The EZ XMP switch can be used to automatically set the XMP profile for your memory without having to enter the UEFI BIOS to do so. The MemOK! button can be pressed to initiate a memory tuning process that can find bootable settings for memory that might otherwise be incompatible.
Along the top of the motherboard, we can see the battery on the corner and the dual 8-pin CPU AUX 12V power connectors.
Moving around to the upper-left corner, there isn’t much at the top of the motherboard. Along the left side are all the I/O connections, which are best described by the last two images below. Of note are the 10 USB 3.0 ports, dual Intel LAN ports, and a pair of e-SATA ports.
Moving towards the center of the X99-E WS, we can see the 7 PCI-E x16 slots. As you can see by the chart below, both 28 and 40 lane CPUs will be able to run up to a quad-SLI/CrossFireX setup with all the GPUs running at PCI-E 3.0 x16 speeds. This is possible because of the dual PLX chips found on the motherboard. This is great news for those that own a 28 lane i7 5820K processor! Just above the top PCI-E slot is a 6-pin power connector to feed additional power to the slots.
Looking at the CPU socket area, we see a relatively uncluttered area that should accept a wide variety of air cooling solutions. Just about any CPU water block will easily fit here as well. From this vantage point, we can also see the eight DIMM slots, which support up to 64 GB of DDR4 memory at speeds up to 3200 MHz (OC).
The heatsink covering the PCH also covers the dual PLX chips we mentioned earlier. Thermal pads are used over all contact points and were found to be well applied and making good contact. Two heatpipes are built into the PCH heatsink, each of which gets their own heat dissipating block/fin array attached at the other end. It appears one of the heatpipes concentrates on cooling the PCH, while the other concentrates more on the PLX chips.
The MOSFET heatsink uses the same concept with a thermal pad and heatpipe going to a heat dissipating block/fin array. The thermal pad was well applied and making excellent contact across the span of MOSFETs.
With the heatsinks removed, we can get a closer look at the 8+2+2 power phase design. Eight power phases are dedicated to the CPU, and both banks of four DIMM slots are assigned two power phases each. Three DIGI+ VRM modules are found on the X99-E WS to control voltage to the CPU and memory power phases.
Having a closer look at a few of the chips that provide many of the onboard functions, we first land at the group of ASMedia ICs found on the board. An ASM1184E chip serves as a PCI-E packet switch, and the ASM1074 ICs are used to provide additional USB 3.0 connectivity at the rear I/O and front panel. The ASM106SE chip provides the additional SATA Express port we discussed earlier. There are many ASM1480 ICs found around the PCI-E x16 slots, which provide the ability to switch a PCI-E slot between x16 and x8 depending on the amount of devices installed.
In order to bring all the PCI-E x16 bandwidth the X99-E WS offers, two PLX PEX8747 chips have been incorporated into the design of the motherboard. These two chips alone add a significant cost to the production of these units, which is why any motherboard that implements PLX chips costs significantly more than those without.
Handling the Super I/O functions, we find a nuvoTon NCT6791D is used. This seems to be a popular choice among many motherboard manufacturers.
The X99-E WS has dual LAN ports, both of which are provided by Intel. In this case, the Intel I210-AT and I218LM controllers are used.
The ASUS UEFI BIOS
You might think being a workstation motherboard, the UEFI BIOS would be watered down a bit. That’s hardly the case as we have the full compliment of options we’re used to seeing on ASUS’ enthusiast motherboards. For basic system configuration and monitoring, the EZ Mode area is a good place to start. If you click on the EZ Tuning Wizard link at the top of the page, you’ll be guided through an automatic overclock or setting up a Raid Array.
By pressing the F7 key, you’ll change over to Advanced Mode where there is an almost endless supply of tweaking options. The first area is the My Favorites tab where you can create shortcuts to your most visited areas of the UEFI BIOS. If you click on the My Favorites link at the top of the page, you’ll be presented with a navigation tree to find and add areas of the UEFI BIOS to the shortcut list.
Under the Main section, you’ll mostly find system information and specifications, but you can set the language and date/time from here as well.
The Ai Tweaker section is where all your overclocking, voltage controls, and memory options are found. The three sub menus are where all the memory timings, CPU power management, and DIGI+ Power Control options are located. Perusing the thumbnail images below will show you all the available options here… and they are plentiful!
The Advance section consists of nine sub-menus dealing with system configuration options. From here, you can enable/disable any onboard devices, set the CPU power management options, and control the PCH options, just to name a few. Again, the thumbnail images below will show you all the available options here.
The Monitor section is where you can get real time information on critical temperatures, fan speeds, and voltages. There is also a Q-Fan tuning option that can be used to let the UEFI BIOS learn the minimum and maximum duty cycles of each fan you have connected to the motherboard. If you then use the Q-Fan control option found here, the setting you choose will operate according to what was learned during the tuning process.
The Boot section is where you’ll find the post behavior options. Here is where you set your boot device priorities and a few other useful items.
The Tool section offers a few useful items worth exploring. The GPU Post sub-menu gives you a graphical look at what is installed in the PCI-E slots. EZ Flash 2 is a hassle free and safe way to update the EUFI BIOS’ firmware. The Overclocking Profile sub-menu gives you the ability to save up to eight BIOS profiles or an unlimited amount to a USB storage device. The SPD Information sub-menu will give you all the JDEC and XMP Profile information on the installed memory.
The Exit section is pretty common stuff, except for when you choose to save your current changes and reset. When doing this, a pop-up window appears showing you all the changes you have made during the current session.
Bundled Software/AI Suite 3
AI Suite 3 is often considered the best motherboard software suite there is. AI Suite 3 is anchored by its Dual Intelligent processors 5 (DIP5) utility and its full featured list of overclocking, fan control, and power saving options. You can let DIP5 configure your system automatically by using 5-Way Optimization, or you can do everything manually by using the TPU feature and its massive amount of options. If you choose the 5-way optimization route, you still have control over how the automatic tuning is actually performed. An example of this is the ability to tell the automatic overclocking to stop when it reaches a certain CPU voltage or temperature. Controlling the type and length of the stress test performed after each phase of the process is also possible. A recent addition to DIP5 is the Turbo App, which allows you to customize system performance, network priority, and audio settings specific to any application. After this is all set up, any settings you have configured for an application will automatically be applied when that application is launched.
Another big hitter found in DIP5 is Fan Xpert 3, which provides unparallelled control of fans hooked to a fan header on the motherboard. All of the fan control options can be customized specific to each fan’s specifications once you send them through the Fan Tuning process. From there, you can manually set the fan speed based on temperature thresholds using any of the monitored temperatures as the source. You can even assign each fan to the actual location inside your case where it’s installed.
The thumbnail images below show you the vast majority of options DIP5 offers. Suffice to say, it provides everything you need for total system optimization right from the desktop.
There are several other useful utilities included with AI Suite 3, which can all be seen by meandering through the thumbnail images below. On the USB side, there are two different USB charging utilities and a USB 3.0 boost utility. The System Information and Version utilities provide details on your system’s motherboard, CPU, memory, and all the AI Suite 3′s utility version numbers. EZ Update can check the ASUS server for any software, UEFI BIOS, or driver updates and offers to install them for you. Push Notice can be customized to send alerts to your portable devices when a specified system event occurs.
Turbo LAN is the utility ASUS provides for complete control over bandwidth prioritization. This joint effort between ASUS and cFOS provides a very detailed list of bandwidth options. Turbo LAN can potentially help to lower ping times, assign bandwidth priority to any application, and provide many other useful networking tools.
Browsing the included support DVD, you’ll find lots of other free software that can be installed. The ASUS HomeCloud service can be installed and comes with a free 90-day subscription. The two screenshots below show you the available software on the support DVD.
Benchmarks and Overclocking
|Test System Components|
|Motherboard||ASUS X99-E WS|
|CPU||Intel i7 5960X Haswell-E|
|Memory||G.SKill Ripjaws 4 DDR4-3000 MHz 4X4 GB kit|
|SSD||Samsung EVO 500 GB SSD|
|PSU||Corsair HX1050 Professional Series|
|Video Card||EVGA GTX 780 Ti Classified|
|Cooling||EKWB Supremacy EVO Water Block – 360 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump|
Our normal set of benchmarks that test compression, rendering, and video conversion will be performed on the X99-E WS. We’ll toss in a few 2d benchmarks just for good measure. We don’t really see much difference between motherboards within the same platform when these tests are run, especially when the same CPU, chipset, memory, and GPU are used. Because of that, we’ll simply provide screenshots of the stock and overclocked benchmark runs. This boils down to a search for any abnormalities the motherboard may exhibit during our testing. We’ll check these benchmark results against other X99 motherboards we’ve reviewed to make sure everything is in line.
With a few voltage adjustments and a quick trip inside the DIGI+ Power Control area to make a change or two, getting the CPU to a stable 4.75 GHz was a relatively painless affair. Just like we’ve seen on other X99 motherboards, the motherboard defaults to the 125 BCLK setting when our DDR4 3000 MHz kit is used. So, we’ll use the 4.75 GHz overclock for the overclock results you see below. We’ll see if we can squeeze a little more when we get to the Pushing the Limits section of the review. The stock benchmarks were run with the turbo speed of 3.5 GHz locked down, which is typically how we like to do the stock testing.
Compression, Rendering, and Video Conversion Benchmarks
Cinebench R10 – R11.5 – R15
x264 Pass 1 and 2
PoV Ray R3.73
7zip Compression Benchmark
Wprime 32M and 1024M
SuperPi 1M and 32M
Aida64 Cache & Memory
After taking a few minutes to compare these results with other X99 motherboards tested to date, nothing at all was found to be underperforming or out of line. The X99-E WS performed right on par with all the other tested motherboards and performed just as we’d expect. Nothing to complain about on the performance front.
Pushing the Limits
The i7 5960X CPU we are in possession of typically tops out right at 4.9 GHz, and that’s exactly where it topped out here too. I’m sure I could get more if I threw some stupid crazy voltages at it, but we need to keep this CPU around for a while longer! At 4.9 GHz, we were able to keep the memory set to 3000 MHz and complete suicide runs of wPrime and SuperPi.
The ASUS X99-E WS is a feature-rich workstation motherboard that has a lot to offer the enthusiast crowd too. The dual PLX chips and the added lanes they provide give the user the ability to run a x16 speed quad-SLI/CrossFireX setup, which is certain to appeal the hardcore gamer. For the overclocking crowd, the X99-E WS proved to be willing and able to take your CPU to its limits, and it offers the same UEFI BIOS options we’re use to seeing on other ASUS high-end enthusiast models.
Software wise, you’ll find AI Suite 3 and several other useful items. Whether you want to overclock things manually or try your hand at the automatic overclocking AI Suite 3’s DIP5 offers, you’ll find everything you need to give it a go.
The X99-E WS isn’t an inexpensive motherboard by any stretch of the imagination and currently sells for $529.99 at Newegg. Whether or not that price is justified is completely dependent on what you plan to use it for. If you need a powerhouse workstation for demanding productivity applications or want to build a beast of a gaming system, then the X99-E WS is worth every penny.