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Gigabyte X99-Designare-EX Review

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Gigabyte X99-Designare-EX Conclusion:

From a performance standpoint, the Gigabyte X99-Designare-EX is going to deliver results consistent with just about every other X99 motherboard when running bone stock. The performance envelope is set and the results are right in line with the comparison board. That really is the expectation from a high quality motherboard. Overclocking the board was, in short form, pretty easy. Use your basic tools, set the XMP profile, bump the core clock until failure, then tweak the voltage. Wash, rinse, repeat until you find your final result. Using Gigabyte's EasyTune software allows even the novice to get in the game with a nice boost that will improve overall performance in games, as well as your day to day software needs.

My Core i7 6950X is a 4.3GHz chip day in and day out. The X99 Designare-EX was able to deliver that clock speed from the start. I was hoping that the board would give me just a little bit more, but playing the OC game with a 10 core chip creates a ton of heat to deal with. That being said, I was able to tune the core voltage a bit lower than I had to use with the X99 Sabertooth reducing the heat load. Not to the point that an AIO can cope with the load, but enough to keep the chip from throttling in prime95. In that respect, I have no issues with the board and it gets high marks.

Overclocking the memory was a bit more challenging on this board, with the auto rules not playing nicely above the 3200MHz speed of my Corsair Dominator 64GB kit. The 32GB kit of G.Skill Trident Z modules were equally as challenging to get over 3200MHz. But really, at that speed right out of the box you really do not need much more to improve your memory performance.

Gigabyte went big on the feature set with this board. From the Ambient Surround RGB lighting and LED header that lets the board mesh well with all the current RGB accessories, to the drive connectivity with dual U.2 connections, Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, Ultra Durable build quality, new BIOS, PCIe and Memory Armor, and so much more. The accessory bundle included with the board lets you fully take advantage of all the boards capabilities. From something as mundane as the G-Connector that makes front panel connections a snap to the LED adapter harness to the Thunderbolt 3 adapter, you get a full bundle without compromise.

While the accessory bundle and boards performance are nice and speak for themselves, it's the backbone of the board that allows all this to happen. Gigabyte's Ultra Durable design starts with a PCB sporting dual 0.7mm copper layers that improve signalling through the board, as well as providing a built-in heat sink to cool off the installed components. It has 15 micron thick gold plating on the pins in the 2011 v-3 socket to prevent corrosion or poor connectivity in the socket. Gigabyte's 10K solid capacitors are used for an increased lifespan of the all-digital PowIRstage® ICs equipped VRM circuits. Memory Armor and PCIe Armor prevent damage and PCB flex that can cause cracked traces and ultimately board failure. Gigabyte puts a lot of work into the basic design for a long lasting product.

In the past, Gigabyte's UEFI BIOS have been good, but not fully there. The latest UEFI build used on this board corrects that in a big way. It is easy to navigate and has everything laid out quite well. The only real challenge that I ran into was how the VCCSA voltage was labeled. It was not labeled as an offset, but rather as an applied voltage. Mouse and keyboard support was outstanding with the few sets of peripherals I used. Even my MadCatz R.A.T. 3 mouse worked just fine.

Ultimately, you get a board with good looks and a ton of functionality. The white coloring is a scheme you either will like or hate. It's a scheme used by several others and seems to allow the Ambient Surround RGB lighting to pop. Packaged up in any of the "Snow" themed chassis on the market, it would look great. Currently priced at $418, the board is at the high end of the pricing window for X99 refresh boards. If you are looking to move into a socket 2011 v-3 board and system, the Gigiabyte X99-Designare-EX offers up pretty much all the options you need.

 

Pros:

  • Feature set
  • Performance 
  • Overclocking
  • BIOS
  • Ultra Durable design
  • Drive connectivity options

 

Cons:

  • None
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