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It’s been seven months since the Haswell-E X99 platform was released to the masses, but their appears to be no end in sight as far as new motherboard options hitting the market. Case in point is GIGABYTE’s recent announcement of four new X99 Champion series motherboards to add to their already impressive X99 family. GIGABYTE was kind enough to send along one of their new Champion series motherboards for us to have a look at. The X99-Gaming 5P is on tap today and is obviously aimed squarely at the enthusiast gaming market. Don’t be fooled by the “Gaming” title though because this motherboard seems well-equipped to handle overclocking, or just about anything else you can throw at it. So, let’s get started and find out if the X99-Gaming 5P is really a champion.
Specifications and Features
One of the new features added to the Champion series motherboards is its ability to support XMP profles up to DDR4-3333 MHz, which is good to have as we begin to see higher speed DDR4 memory hit the market. In lieu of the standard Realtek audio CODEC found on most motherboards in this class, GIGABYTE opted for a Creative solution that we’ll explore in more detail later. The board is also decked out with the Killer E2201 LAN controller, which seems to be popular among the gaming crowd. Two M.2 ports are found on the motherboard – one socket 3 for adding a SSD, and one socket 1 that can be used to add a Wi-Fi module. Worth noting here is the E-ATX form factor, which means you’ll need to confirm you’re case will accept a motherboard that size. The specifications below are provided by the GIGABYTE product page.
|GIGABYTE X99-Gaming 5P Specifications|
Chipset + Renesas®uPD720210 USB 3.0 Hub:
|Back Panel Connectors|
Moving on to the high-level features, you’ll see the X99-Gaming 5P has a lot to offer the overclocking and gaming enthusiast. As mentioned above, the Champion series motherboards offer increased XMP profile support up to 3333 MHz. All images and descriptions courtesy GIGABYTE.
GIGABYTE has gone all-in with International Rectifier (IR) to provide their all digital CPU power design. GIGABYTE states the IR PWM controllers and PowIRstage controllers will deliver precise power delivery to achieve maximum performance from your CPU. Server level chokes and black 10K capacitors are used to ensure reliability, efficient power delivery, and a long lifespan. The single package DirectFET MOSFET design incorporates the high and low side MOSFETs along with the MOSFET driver all in one IC.
Music to a gamer’s ear is GIGABYTE’s PCI-E design that uses all 40 lanes from a compatible CPU when 3-way or 4-way graphics are in play. GIGABYTE uses an onbaord external clock generator and direct connection of a x16 lane to the CPU to provide up to 320 GB/s bandwidth compared to a standard design of 256 GB/s.
We talked earlier about the dual M.2 slots found on the motherboard. The two slots are intended for a M.2 SSD and a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module. The socket 3 port will support either SATA 6 GB/s or PCI-E M.2 SSDs. SATA Express is also available even though the availability of supporting devices have been extremely slow to hit the market, which casts a cloud over the viability of the interface in general.
It’s become common place on most high-end motherboards nowadays to see an onboard audio solution that’s been beefed up. GIGABYTE is no different in this regard with their AMP-UP Audio Technology. An upgradable OP-AMP, gold plated audio hacks, high quality audio capacitors, EMI shielding, and board separation are just a few of the many audio features designed into the X99-Gaming 5P. Below is the complete list of features the AMP-UP audio solution offers.
Advertised as one of the best gaming network solutions, the Atheros Killer E2200 LAN controller has the ability to identify and prioritize network traffic.
For a little extra bling, GIGABYTE added graphics and lighting to the heatsinks, LED lighting to the underside of the board near the audio components, and another set of LEDs at the I/O area.
While it’s not uncommon for motherboard manufacturers to use gold plated CPU socket pins, GIGABYTE takes it a step further and applies gold plating to the DIMM slots and PCI-E slots as well.
To prevent accidental damage while mounting the motherboard in a case, GIGABYTE makes sure no circuitry is too close to the mounting holes.
GIGABYTE has been using their 2X Copper PCB design for quite a while now. In theory, the feature should offer better cooling and allow the trace paths to handle higher power loads.
The retail box is a mostly red and black affair that’s attractive, informative, and provides a secure surrounding for the contents. The front has the model and the familiar GIGABYTE eye we see on a lot of their packaging. The G1 Gaming insignia tells us the X99-Gaming 5P is not only part of the new Champion family, but carries dual citizenship as part of the G1 Gaming motherboard family too. Around back, we find a plethora of information on the motherboard’s features and specifications. Three of the four box sides are pretty much identical, but one side has a multilingual basic feature list.
The box front has a flap that can be raised, which gives you a peek at the motherboard through a plastic window. Raising the second flap reveals the motherboard sitting in a cardboard bed and wrapped in an anti-static bag.
With the motherboard removed from the box, you’ll find the accessories neatly arranged at the bottom of the box. The accessory stack is pretty impressive and includes what you need to get a system up and running. Of note here is the abundance of SLI bridges to accommodate 2, 3, and 4-way SLI as well as a set of nicely braided SATA cables. Here is what’s included:
Before we hone in for a closer look at the X99-Gaming 5P, here are a few pictures of the motherboard taken from various angles.
The GIGABYTE X99-Gaming 5P Up Close
Our up close tour begins with a look at the motherboard’s bottom edge. Starting at the left, we see the front panel audio header followed by a 4-pin Molex connector. You probably don’t need to use the 4-pin connector if you’re using a single GPU, but it’s wise to use it for multiple GPU setups. Further to the right, we see two front panel USB 2.0 headers, a 4-pin system fan header, and the case wiring connection points. At the very right corner is another 4-pin system fan header.
Heading up the right side, we first land at the SATA port area. Here we have 10 SATA 6 GB/s ports and a SATA Express port. The 10 SATA ports are divided into six that offer RAID support, and four that do not (referred to as sSATA). Just above the SATA ports is the CPU Mode switch, which enables extra CPU socket pins (2083 in total) if placed in the OC position. This allows for additional voltage options in the UEFI BIOS and will bypasse the FIVR. Higher up the right side are the front panel USB 3.0 header, 24-pin ATX power connector, and four of the eight DIMM slots. The motherboard supports up to 64 GB of DDR4 memory at speeds up to 3333 MHz (OC).
At the top edge, we’ve got the 8-pin AUX CPU power connector and the 4-pin optional CPU fan header. The primary 4-pin CPU fan header is located more towards the center of the motherboard.
The left side of the motherboard contains the I/O area and everything related to the AMP-UP audio solution. The I/O area has a pair of old school PS/2 ports for use with a keyboard and mouse. Next, is the block of four USB 2.0 ports that are designed with an isolated power source. GIGABYTE refers to these ports as USB DAC-UP, meaning they are optimized for use with a USB DAC device. The next block of four USB 3.0 ports contains one that’s white in color, which is the one you’d use with the Q-Flash Plus feature. Q-Flash Plus is a method of flashing the UEFI BIOS pre-post. Two more USB 3.0 ports and the Killer E2201 LAN port are next in line. The gold plated audio jacks support up to 5.1 channel speaker setups and also provides an optical out jack. There is a bracket found just below the I/O area where you can install Wi-Fi antenna connectors if you install a module in the M.2 Socket 1 Port. Just behind the bracket is the another 4-pin system fan header.
At the bottom of the motherboard’s left side are all the bits that make up the AMP-UP audio. From the picture, you can see the isolation line, removable op-amp, and Nichicon high end audio capacitors. Also located here is the audio gain control switch for matching your headphones specifications. Also, note the EMI shield over the Quad-Core Creative Sound Core3D Audio Processor.
The expansion slot area has four PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots and three PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots. With a 40-lane CPU, 4-way SLI/Crossfire is supported. A 28-lane CPU can run up to 3-way SLI/Crossfire. In the middle of the expansion slot area, the Socket 1 and Socket 3 M.2 ports can be found. The dual M.2 ports are arranged in a stackable configuration.
The CPU socket area is relatively open and should allow installation of most popular air cooling solutions on the market. A CPU water block of almost any kind imaginable should easily fit as well.
The passive cooling solution applied to the motherboard is two heatsinks joined together with a heatpipe. The heatpipe makes a long run from the PCH heatsink all the up to where it joins with the MOSFET heatsink. A thermal pad is used over the MOSFETS and a thick TIM solution is applied to the PCH heatsink. Both heatsinks were found to be making excellent contact, and the thermal interface material was well-applied to both.
With the heatsinks removed, we get a good look at the 6-phase CPU power design. As we discussed in the features section above, International Rectifier components are used throughout the MOSFET and VRM areas. The chokes appear to be Cooper Bussman 1007R3-R15, which GIGABYTE advertises as server grade. Each set of four DIMM slots get their own two power phases where International Rectifier components are also used. All this equates to a 6+2+2 power phase design, which should be plenty for the task at hand.
Because most of the connectivity on the motherboard is native to the X99 chipset, there isn’t much in the way of third party controllers. We did find the Killer E2201 LAN controller and Reneses D720210 USB 3.0 hub controller. The Quad-Core Creative Sound Core3D Audio Processor resides under the EMI shield we showed you earlier. There are a few ITE controllers that handle fan control (IT8792E), the Q-Flash Plus feature (IT8951E), and SuperI/O (IT8620E). Lastly, we found several NXP L04083B PCI-E switching ICs scattered about the expansion slot area.
The GIGABYTE UEFI BIOS
There are a few different options for navigating through the BIOS. For basic setup options you can use the Startup Guide area, which has a tiled interface you use to navigate through the different areas. For example, the second picture below shows the Start-up options once that tile is selected. For a more detailed set of options in a compact design, you can use the S.T. Mode (Smart Tweak), which provides quick access to most of what you need for overclocking.
Entering Classic Mode provides everything included in Startup Guide and Smart Tweak, plus an even more detailed set of options. The look and feel of Classic Mode is a little old school, but it works well and is easy to navigate. When entering Classic Mode, you first land in the M.I.T. (Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker) area where everything you need to overclock is found. There are six sub menus where you can access frequency, memory, and voltage settings. The sub menus also contain your system monitoring, fan control options, and a few other miscellaneous options.
System Information is the next section, which is mostly informational in nature. You’ll find the date and time settings located here.
The BIOS Features section contains the system post behavior options, such as boot device priorities.
Moving over to the Peripherals section, you’ll find the onboard LED lighting controls. You have a couple USB and LAN options in this section as well.
The Chipset section has all the SATA Configuration options and is where you can enable/disable the onboard audio.
Under the Power Management section is pretty standard stuff you see on most modern motherboards, From here you have the option to control the USB DAC power and the ability to power on the system with the keyboard or mouse.
The Save & Exit section again is pretty standard stuff, but you do have the ability to save up to eight profiles directly to the BIOS. A storage device can be used to save profiles as well.
Bundled Software – GIGABYTE’s APP Center
Virtually no stone was left unturned where the APP Center software is concerned. Everything you need to get the most from your system can be found in this software suite. Desktop automatic overclocking comes via the EasyTune app, or you can choose to manually overclock as well. Additionally, there are fan control options available, EZ Setup options for configuring storage settings, and a host of other utilities within APP Center. The thumbnail images below will show you a partial list of what’s available, but suffice to say APP Center is well worth installing to explore it’s many useful tools.
Also provided is the Game Controller utility, which allows you to configure your keyboard’s hotkeys and mouse sensitivity.
Network bandwidth prioritization can be controlled by the included Killer Network Manager utility.
For detailed information on all the features App Center provides, GIGABYTE provides a dedicated page on there website where you can learn more.
Benchmarks and Overclocking
|Test System Components|
|Motherboard||GIGABYTE X99-Gaming 5P|
|CPU||Intel i7 5960X Haswell-E|
|Memory||G.SKill Ripjaws 4 DDR4-3000 MHz 4X4 GB kit|
|SSD||Samsung 840 Pro 256 GB SSD|
|Power Supply||Corsair HX1050 Professional Series|
|Video Card||EVGA GTX 780 Ti Classified|
|Cooling||EKWB Supremacy EVO Water Block – 360 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump|
|OS||Windows 7 Professional x64|
We’ll perform our usual set of benchmarks to test compression, rendering, video conversion, and memory performance. We’ll also toss in some 2d benchmarks as well. We don’t typically observe much difference when comparing motherboards, especially given we keep the same CPU, chipset, memory, and GPU standardized. So, like we normally do, we’ll simply provide screenshots of the stock and overclocked benchmark results. This is basically a way for us to search out any abnormalities the motherboard may exhibit during the benchmark runs. We’ll do the work for you and check these results against other X99 motherboards we’ve reviewed to make sure everything is up to snuff.
With just a couple voltage adjustments and a few modifications to the power delivery, overclocking the CPU was a painless affair that landed us at a stable 4.75 GHz. The DDR4-3000 MHz kit we use defaults the BCLK to 125, just as all X99 motherboards will do. So, we’ll use 4.75 GHz for the overclocked results you see below. Once we get to the Pushing the Limits section of the review, we’ll see how much is left in the tank. The stock benchmarks were run at the CPU’s 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
As you can tell by the results above, the X99-Gaming 5P threw out some great performance numbers. After checking these results against competitor boards we’ve reviewed in the past, performance was right where it should be. The overclock proved perfectly stable throughout our testing without so much as a single hiccup. Absolutely nothing to complain about on the performance front.
Pushing the Limits
We’ve had our i7 5960X CPU in a lot of different motherboards and have learned its maximum overclock is right around the 4.9 GHz mark. The X99-Gaming 5P had no problem getting it there for our usual suicide runs of wPrime 32M and SuperPi 1M. We can say with confidence your CPU will reach it’s maximum long before this motherboard gets in your way.
The GIGABYTE X99-Gaming 5P brings a lot of features that will appeal to the gaming and overclocking crowd. If you load the motherboard up with 4-way SLI/Crossfire, you’ll have more bandwidth available than a lot of competitor boards offer. Couple that with the AMP-UP audio, Killer E2201 LAN, and a couple gaming oriented pieces of software included in the bundle, and you’re well on your way to a powerhouse gaming machine.
The enthusiast overclocker is well-represented with the X99-Gaming 5P, which is easy to tell by the excellent results we obtained when pushing the system to its limits. As memory manufacturers begin to push DDR4 speeds higher, the increased XMP profile support of up to 3333 MHz will be something you’ll be glad to have. The BIOS was easy to work with while overclocking and has plenty of options available to push your overclock as far as you like. Don’t forget that nifty OC Mode switch to enable additional CPU socket pins and add a few more voltage controls in the BIOS.
GIGABYTE informed us the MSRP on the X99-Gaming 5P will be $309, which is right in line with similar offerings. We couldn’t find it for sale at the usual places, but it should hit store shelves any day now. Whether you’re a gamer, overclocker, or both, the X99-Gaming 5P is well worth serious consideration if you’re planning a build around the X99 platform.
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