Gigabyte X99-Designare-EX Reviewccokeman -
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Gigabyte X99-Designare-EX Intrduction:
Just a short while ago, Intel released its new flagship Broadwell-E processors based on the 14nm Tri-Gate 3D transistor process and Broadwell micro-architecture. While you can load these new processors into the earlier X99 chipset-based Socket 2011-V3 boards, the motherboard manufacturers have refreshed the platform to take advantage of the latest capabilities of the Intel Broadwell-E lineup. Earlier boards just need a BIOS update to work, but we will find out with this first refresh board I have from Gigabyte if the feature set is worthy of the $1700 price point of the 10 core Intel Core i7 6950X.
Gigabyte's X99 Designare-EX features an all-new look, the latest RGB lighting scheme, support for the latest multi-GPU strategies from both NVIDIA and AMD, and a host of value added features. You get Gigabyte's Ultra Durable design using an all-digital power circuit equipped with 3rd Generation PowIRstage® controllers, server grade chokes, and long life DuraBlack solid capacitors. Plus there are dual 2oz copper layers in the PCB, 15 micron gold plating on the CPU socket pins, memory and PCIe Armor, and high wattage USB 3.1 functionality to start. Follow it up with support for the latest storage interfaces like U.2 and PCIe Gen3 x4 110mm M.2, and you get what should prove to be a long lasting, high performance motherboard.
While not for the faint of heart, the X99 platform in general is at the upper echelon of the economic scale. Gigabyte has this board priced currently at $418 as you see it here. When you get into the whole package, on paper it has a lot to offer for its price point. Let's dig in and see if it earns that price point.
Gigabyte X99-Designare-EX Closer Look:
The packaging is fairly interesting in that it features an F1 style racer in an RGB color scheme. This points to the full LED RGB lighting used on the X99-Designare-EX with its Ambient Surround RGB feature set. Across the front, you get the board name, Ultra Durable mentions, support for XMP Profiles for DDR4 3333MHz+ memory kits, 3-Way GPU support, NVMe storage support, and USB 3.1 with Power Delivery 2.0 support. The back side of the package really digs further into the components and features that really make this board what it is: a high performance machine much like the F1 car on the flip side. The front cover flips open to give the curious potential owner a peek at what the board looks like so you can plan the build.
A high end board usually has a high end accessory bundle to make sure all of the board's features are usable without another trip to your favorite brick and mortar store or e-tailer. In this respect Gigabyte has you covered from top to bottom. Included are the I/O shield, LED harness to connect to the four pin header on the board to control a set of add in LEDs, six SATA 6Gbps cables in both straight and angled configurations, Gigabyte's G-Connector to connect and secure front panel wiring, a 1-3 12v ATX power connector, 2 and 3-Way SLI bridge connections, a short jumper DisplayPort cable to allow video over the Thunderbolt interface, and an antenna for the Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac adapter. Then non-hardware side of the bundle is just as robust, with a pair of reusable Velcro straps, cable identifiers, an Ultra Durable case badge, the manuals, and driver discs.
As you can see, Gigabyte has equipped this board to meet all of the goals set for it by putting all the technology and hardware to work. Let's get a look at the board before moving into the testing phase of this review.