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ASUS X99 Deluxe Review

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ASUS X99 Deluxe Closer Look:

ASUS X99 Deluxe is an ATX specification motherboard measuring 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm for use with Intel's latest Haswell-E Socket 2011 v-3 processors. Visually, the X99 Deluxe is a departure from what we are used to seeing from ASUS, with a unique shroud around the I/O connectivity and down the left side of the PCB. Couple that with a wicked looking white and black theme, and it's a winner in the looks department. ASUS continues to use a proprietary fiber weave design to build a multi-layer PCB that has improved moisture resistance, along with reductions in EMI and voltage leakage.

Incorporated into this design is ASUS' own OC Socket, which includes extra pins to improve the overclocking potential of your hardware. With 28 to 40 PCIe lanes at your disposal, depending on the processor installed, you get graphics options up to 4-way SLI or CrossFireX. Each part of the massive cooling solution is held in place with screws to ensure you get adequate contact to keep the Digi+ VRM components cool. On the back side of the PCB is a backing plate for the warmest part of the Digi+ VRM circuit.

 

 

I/O Connectivity is hidden under a cowl-like shroud that doubles as the cooling solution for the VRM circuit, with a bit of the heat sink making an appearance above the USB 3.0 ports. From left to right, we have: the USB BIOS Flashback button; a pair of Intel-based gigabit LAN ports, which support teaming and are managed by both an Intel I218V and I211-AT controller; a total of ten ASmedia-managed USB 3.0 ports; Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connectivity for the dual-band 2.4/5GHz controller, which delivers speeds of up to 1300Mbits/s over Wi-Fi; and last but not least, the analog and optical SPDI/F digital ports for the Realtek ALC1150-managed 8-channel Crystal Sound 2 audio solution, which supports DTS Ultra PCII and DTS Connect. Each of the connection points that can be accessed externally feature ESD Guards; a feature that just might save your hardware should you end up with that all to familiar static discharge.

The unique heat sink cover extends down over the left side of the PCB to provide EMI protection for the ALC 1150 codec, as well as creating a different look. As seen at the bottom left hand side of the PCB, ASUS' Crystal Sound 2 audio system features premium Japanese-made audio capacitors, unique de-pop circuitry, audio amplifiers, and dedicated audio PCB layers that separate the left and right channels in the PCB. All those are to provide a rich warm sounding audio solution. System expansion really depends on the processor you choose and whether it has 28 or 40 PCIe lanes. There are five 16x PCIe slots and a single PCIe 2.0 4x slot. The 16x PCIe 3.0/2.0 slots run in the following configuration when running a 40PCIe-lane CPU x16 (x16, x16/x16, x16/x16/x8, x8/x8/x16/x8, x8/x8/x8/x8/x8 mode), and falls back to 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16, x16/x8, x8/x8/x8) with a 28-lane CPU, such as the Core i7 5820. Quad-GPU solutions up to 4-way SLI and CrossFireX are suppoted by the X99 Deluxe.

 

 

Along the bottom of the PCB, there is a lot to see. You have the Nichicon Audio capacitors used in the Crystal Sound 2 audiou solution, digital and analog audio outputs, power and reset buttons, Q-LED diagnostic LED, Clear CMOS button, and TPM connection. Just above the Clear CMOS button is the board header used with the included Fan Extension card to increase the amount of controllable fan headers available to the end user. Moving right, the board gets crowded really quickly. To start there are a pair of USB 3.0 headers and a pair of USB 2.0 headers controlled by the X99 PCH. Sitting above the USB connectivity are four switches and various headers.

The four switches are used to enable or disable functionality. From left to right: the SLI/CrossFireX switch to disable or enable 2- or 3-way graphics options; the EZ XMP switch enables or disables the XMP profile of the installed memory without entering the UEFI BIOS; the EPU switch enables the energy saving mode on the X99 Deluxe, once again avoiding the BIOS; and the TPU Switch is a three-position switch that allows the user to disable Turbo Boost frequency to the left, enable it in the middle, and enable bclk and multiplier adjustments when in the right position.

To the right of the switches is a Fan Xpert 3-managed fan header. Between the switches and the front panel connectivity is a Thunderbird connectivity header, the Direct Key jumper, and the CPU Overvoltage jumper. It is pretty well packed, but you get so much flexibility if you just want to plug it all up and go to work.

 

 

The right side of the PCB is where you find the majority of the storage connectivity. Sure you get a PCIe 3.0 4x-based M.2 adapter, but not everyone is ready for that jump. ASUS does however give the user storage connectivity options. From the bottom, there are a pair of 10 Gb/s SATA Express drive connections, one through the X99 PCH and the other run with an ASmedia controller. A total of eight SATA 6Gbps SATA drive connections are ready for use and support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10. Intel's Smart Drive technologies are supported for the fastest drive connections possible.

Next up is an M.2 Socket 3 connection with vertical M Key design for use with type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices supporting (Support PCIE SSD only). Further along is the 24-pin ATX Power connection and MemOK button, which runs through a series of tests and adjustments to allow the memory to boost successfully. Memory overclocking is some serious fun and over the past few years, ASUS T-Topology has been oft imitated. ASUS uses this design key to improve memory overclocking by equalizing the trace length, balancing power, and reducing signalling noise to improve margins. Populating all eight DIMM slots allows you to run up to 64GB of DDR4 memory at speeds up to 3200MHz right out of the box. Higher speeds can be achieved with modules that are capable and a robust memory controller.

 

 

Across the top, there is not a whole lot going on outside of the heat pipe-interconnected Digi+ VRM cooling solution, the 8-pin EATX power connection, and the CPU fan header and optional fan header for the CPU. The heat sink is well integrated into the design and proves useful when really pushing the CPU overclocking, as the power load through the VRM is significantly increased.

 

 

The CPU socket area is pretty clear thanks to the use of ASUS 8+4 phase Digi+VRM circuit and the large retention system for the LGA 2011v-3 socket. If you are upgrading from an X79 platform to take advantage of the additional core count on the Core i7 5960X, you can use the same cooling solution as long as it can handle the additional thermal load. ASUS has made some changes to the CPU socket with its OC Socket design. Adding several pins to the socket to connect with certain pads on the LGA 2011 v-3 Haswell processor, ASUS was able to improve overclocking margins on both the CPU and DDR4 memory, while delivering a near 0v vdroop under load. This is just one more plus ASUS brings to the table.

 

 

The heat sink package on the X99 Deluxe is unique to say the least. The large shroud over the left side is a dual-purpose part that works as a design element as well as to limit EMI interference to or from the audio codec. The VRM heatsink at the top of the PCB is married to the one under the shroud via a heat pipe to drive the heat out through the I/O shield. Across the mid section of the PCB is another heat sink that is married to the low profile assembly over the X99 PCH. In my testing, the cooling proved adequate for the job, although you may want to direct some airflow over the VRM heat sinks if you plan on punishing the CPU and the record books.

 

 

I really like the look of this board and how the color scheme was used. I'm sure it will be a love it or hate it experience, but as I saw in my Core i7 5960X review, the board is capable of delivering all the performance the CPU can dish out and more when tweaked for performance. Let's get through the applications and the outstanding UEFI BIOS before the performance results.




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