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Call me VSG
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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys, it's been a while since I posted a review here (mostly because I have my own website now) and today I get to do another here since this is not a sponsored item sent for review. I was looking for an x99 motherboard to use as a test bench as the Asus x99 R5E I have will go in my personal build and I fancied the looks on the Gigabyte x99-Phoenix SLI along with the features advertised. Since the motherboard is still very new and there has not been a lot of coverage online, I figured I would share my experience here in case it helps other people. This will be a work in progress in that I will add on to the review in parts and encourage you to participate by asking for specific details that I may have missed. This is the first time I am covering a motherboard fully like so, so expect a lot of pictures and details coming up as with every review of mine.

Contents

 

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Call me VSG
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Discussion Starter #2
Unboxing and Overview- Part 1

I got the motherboard from Newegg, and so reseller packaging will not be included here. Gigabyte does not operate a web shop as it is, and thus we begin with the product packaging directly.

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In case you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, the PC DIY market has been all about RGB lighting as a new feature to get end users to upgrade/buy new. Motherboards are by far the most populated parts with RGB lighting now, and the Gigabyte x99-Phoenix SLI is no exception. The packaging alone makes this obvious when you see it with the product name and the bigger G1 Gaming branding printed in a color spectrum. The box is quite vibrant, if I do say so myself, with the company and product name on the front along with salient marketing features and compatibility listed out. In what seems to be a hint of things to come, this motherboard is listed under their G1 Gaming brand which now includes motherboards, GPUs, peripherals, cases and more but also has their UD (Ultra Durable) label which previously was a separate class of motherboards. It always struck me weird that Gigabyte was claiming one class of motherboards as ultra durable as opposed to others that were then under the question mark for no reason, and perhaps this new series of motherboards which have met their specific requirements to be both is the way to go. It certainly adds to another feature set that their marketing team would love to talk about.

On the back is a lot of useful information if this is the first time you are getting to know about the motherboard, with illustrations of the motherboard as a whole and also more specific features drawn out. In fact, this is the first confirmation that the x99-Phoenix SLI adopts an orange and white color scheme, along with the black everywhere else. I have mixed feelings about this- on one hand, I have associated Gigabyte with the color orange a lot, and on the other it pains me to see a 3 color motherboard with RGB lighting on a lot of different places as advertised. I would always go for a single color (be it a "boring" black or all white) and then let the RGB lighting help the end user adopt the color scheme of his/her choice to match everything else. But this prevents it somewhat and once again people are going to be forced to choose the motherboard and then other components around it to match the color scheme, if desired. Gigabyte is aware of this, and their OCN rep has also mentioned he wants to see this changed sooner than later.

More specifications, in various languages, and the product name + brand again on the sides. A single flap keeps the contents inside in check, locked in place by a smaller flap. I would have liked to see a seal here to assure the buyer he/she is opening a brand new product but we do what we can. As with a lot of motherboards, there is an inner flap which reveals a cutout window to get a good look at the motherboard inside without needing to open the box. This further helps confirm nothing major is wrong inside, and also helps out if you are in a physical store so you can see the motherboard better before making the purchase. A plastic handle is build into the box inside to help carry the whole thing around. Let's take a look inside this box now.

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As expected, this is the view from the cutout in the packaging wherein the motherboard is seen. It is held in place inside a thick, soft foam cutout that protects it from the sides and bottom and has a transparent plastic window on top thus giving a good amount of protection and yet allowing said window to view it. Overall, the packaging to the motherboard itself is fairly good but it will still rely on reseller packaging to get to you in one piece. Below this, and of course I will tease you further by going past the motherboard for now, are the included accessories in a separate compartment which is then further divided into 4 sub-compartments. Let's now examine what is inside, beginning with the top left:

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Included are 2 driver + utilities optical disks, which I generally recommend using only if you have an optical disc drive and are without internet access (the latter is quite possible in some cases if you need specific drivers) but otherwise it is always best to download the latest version from the product page here. In fact, while you are at it, you might want to download the latest BIOS as well if the motherboard is out of date, and we will cover this soon. Gigabyte supports Windows 7/8/8.1/10 which is nice to see, and I have manually downloaded and installed all drivers and utilities available from both the discs as well as the online copies to test and ensure they are working just fine. Again, some of the utilities will be explored later as we get to it. Aside from these, we get a a quick installation manual in multiple languages, a few case badges- both G1 Gaming and UD which further supports my hypothesis of the motherboard classes no longer being an exclusive identifier- for those wanting to display their affection for the brand(s), a Q-connector which is extremely useful when connecting case cables to the motherboard headers, 2 thick hook and loop ties for aiding in cable management, a sheet of pre-printed and pre-color coded labels for storage and optical drives to be used at various lengths along SATA data and power cables for identification with a black space for personal notes, and a very extensive user's manual an online copy of which can be found here . Do be aware that these are large files collectively, so if you are on a data capped internet plan then perhaps there is another reason to go with the included disks after all. As much as you would wish to do otherwise, please do go through the manual and keep it handy when building the system if only to help debug any issues.

In the top right sub-compartment, we have:

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a flexible ribbon style Nvidia SLI bridge with dual PCI-E slot spacing, and this also indicates that the motherboard has dual slot spacing recommended and spaced out for 2 GPUs. Thanks to Nvidia having recently released a new feature set with their Pascal GPU architecture supporting HB (High Bandwidth) SLI that uses two SLI fingers per GPU as opposed to one, these ribbon style bridges have been a point of discussion a lot more than usual. With all indicators pointing to the adoption of HB SLI, and its benefits being out of the scope of this review, it is up to you to decide if you wish to use the included ribbon bridge at all, get another one and use both simultaneously or go with your choice of HB SLI bridge made available from various companies, including Gigabyte as an optional purchase. We also see here the motherboard I/O shield which has the usual RF shielding and soft coating on the side facing the motherboard, and black nickel style finish elsewhere with a light glossy finish that does pick up fingerprints as you handle it but is also easy to scrub away. It does the job, and fits a standard ATX case cutout for the motherboard I/O as well as the motherboard's specific I/O ports well without interfering with the built-in I/O cover. Aside from the I/O itself which we will get to when we examine the motherboard, a small note of detail here is given to the hex style holes in the region that goes unused. There is in fact a cutout in the I/O cover as well to allow for air to escape from here, although how practical this ends up being is a question not many would be interested in knowing the answer to. The I/O shield is not backlit, and a change from the RGB LEDs everywhere else on the motherboard.

On to the bottom left sub-compartment now:

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We have here a Wi-Fi antenna (Gigabyte part number 12CR5-1ANTA1-11R) supporting 2x2 MIMO complaint with IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and has two gold coated female SMA (Sub-Miniature A) co-axial connectors that are to be used with the I/O on the motherboard for Wi-Fi network access. Also included is a 1-to-3 EPS 12V cable adapter (part number 12CF1-1PW035-01P) with 1 male 8-pin ATX connector and 3 female 8-pin ATX connectors. This is a weird accessory as well in that Gigabyte has included a single 8-pin EPS connector on the motherboard to power the CPU which is generally ok but recommends using this if you end up overclocking the CPU. How so you ask? Well, you connect the male connector to the motherboard and the 3 female connectors to 3 EPS cables from the PSU effectively giving the equivalent of triple 8-pin EPS power through it. Even assuming this is safe across all PSUs, I am not sure how many ~500 W PSUs as recommended by Gigabyte will support 3 8-pin EPS connectors. I would have much rather Gigabyte have dual 8-pin EPS connectors on the motherboard itself, especially if they are worried about power consumption from an overvolted, overclocked Intel i7 5960x/6900k/6950x CPU. Also included here is an RGB LED extension cable (part number 12CF1-1LED01-01R) to help connect RGB LED strips further away in a case to the RGB header on the motherboard. The extension cable is 18" long and should help in most ATX cases, but will require advance planning when laying down the RGB LED strips in the case as well.

Finally, in the bottom sub-compartment we have:

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3 pouches of SATA data cables, each of which has 2 cables. One has straight connectors on either end, and the other has a 90° rotated connector on one end to aid in use with HDD cages with muliplle drives stacked or with SSDs installed over the case motherboard panel with a cutout for cables. There are a total of 6 cables thus, and will generally suffice the bulk majority of end users. These cables are covered in a plastic insulation which does help with tight bends and routing in one direction, but not so along the other degrees of freedom. It is also translucent in color, and considering Gigabyte used to (or perhaps still does) include black sleeved cables before which matched better with most PC builds and were just as functional practically. No one needs to have cables that are rated to 80 °C and 30 V, and 26 AWG wiring inside is plenty enough too. Gigabyte, please go back to the black sleeved SATA data cables. It costs you an extra $0.5 per cable at most, and less than that in all likelihood. Also included here is a 3-way SLI bridge, which is a hard PCB style bridge with 2+1 PCI-E slot spacing between the three respectively. There being 2 SLI connectors available to be used per GPU, this may well end up giving a lot of the benefits that the HB SLI bridge provides based on information available at this point. The bridge is mostly black with a matte finish and will go with a lot of build color schemes as well.

Finally, in what seems to be a given these days, is a door hanger:

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Nothing to say here really. You will either use this or leave it in the box. Overall, there is a healthy set of accessories provided and on par with what I expected from a high end motherboard. There are some confusing choices made by Gigabyte, but nothing that is a deal breaker. There are also 3 optional accessories available for the motherboard to be purchased separately: a 2-port USB 2.0 bracket (part number 12CR1-1UB030-6*R), an eSATA bracket (part number 12CF1-3SATPW-4*R) and a 3.5" Front Panel with 2 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (part number 12CR1-FPX582-2*R).
 

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Great, but where am I going to get a USB C to C cable... All a mine are Type C to A
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Ohhh. I always forget aboot them. Mono converted to Canadian is megaprice though
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Call me VSG
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Discussion Starter #6
Unboxing and Overview- Part 2

Time for the motherboard itself. It comes in a foam package as seen before:

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Taking the motherboard out, and flipping the package gives a good base to start examining the board. There are plastic covers on the I/O cover and audio heatsink, and as always it is a pleasure to remove them.. slowly:

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Once removed, we get a better look at the x99-Phoenix SLI in its full glory:

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As is a norm these days, a matte black PCB is used with all other components soldered in place. The motherboard itself has multiple layers and traces go through, under and over the layers to help connect different components. The solder quality is good and there are very few outlying solder balls or spikes anywhere allowing one to hold the board without necessarily hurting themselves. There is no motherboard backplate- partial or whole- here unlike what a few others have adopted, but as we will see soon the reinforcement that comes from this has been provided separately elsewhere.

Let's go over the board now, beginning with the I/O section:

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No real surprise here given we saw the I/O shield before, but going from left to right we have:
  • A PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
  • Two USB 3.0 ports (Type A female, Blue) backwards compatible with USB 2.0/1.1
  • Two male SMA connectors to connect the WiFi antenna to
  • A USB 3.1 port (Type C female) backwards compatible with USB 3.0/2.0
  • A USB 3.1 port (Type A female, Red) backwards compatible with USB 3.0/2.0/1.1
  • Two RJ-45 Intel Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports (10/100/1000 Mbit)
  • Four USB 3.0 ports (Type A female, 3 Blue + 1 special white) backwards compatible with USB 2.0/1.1. The white colored USB port is compatible with Gigabyte Q-Flash/Q-Flash Plus technology allowing BIOS flashing via a USB drive
  • Audio section with support for 2/4/5.1/7.1 channel system using a Realtek ALC1150 codec with speaker/headset and microphone support along with an optical S/PDIF out connector
While it may look sparsely populated, there is a good feature set here and reliance on all Intel parts as much as possible. There is ESD protection provided for the USB and LAN ports which is nice to see. The USB 3.1 ports are handled by an Intel Alpine Ridge USB 3.1 controller, as opposed to an ASMedia controller which some competitors have adopted, and Gigabyte claims this gives a boost in the allowed max bandwidth to the ports. Either way, it is supported by PCI-E Gen 2.0 x4 for up to 20 Gbps bandwidth (not Gen 3.0 x4, as supported by the Intel z170 chipset) from the x99 chipset rather than the CPU, and this is shared between the two USB 3.1 ports. The rest of the I/O is handled by an iTE I/O controller. There is a plastic I/O cover which is for aesthetics alone and is not a heatsink. On the plus side, it is a separate piece and not connected to the VRM heatsinks thus allowing custom watercooling options for the VRM while yet retaining this cover. Oh, and there are RGB LEDs in here as well. More on that later.

On to the rest of the motherboard now. Let's go in a clockwise manner beginning from the I/O area itself.

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A single 8-pin EPS connector helps power the CPU. I would have really preferred to see dual 8-pin EPS connectors but this is a gaming motherboard and Gigabyte intends heavy overclocking be done on their SOC series of motherboards. That being said, I had no issues getting my I7 5960x to 4.5+ GHz on this where it is consuming well over 300 W itself so most will have no issues with a single connector. You may want to consider the provided 1-3 8 pin connector adapter cable as per Gigabyte's recommendation though. Alongside is a system fan header, and this is a 4-pin fan header. However, it is a voltage control only fan header with a Ground/Speed control/Sense/VCC pinout. So please be aware of this and do not connect PWM devices here expecting PWM control.

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8 DDR4 DIMM slots in total here with 4 on each side, for two separate quad channels that are color coded in black and orange colors to aid in installation. These DIMM slots have an open latch on the top of the motherboard alone, which helps in 2 things- installing and removing memory sticks with the first PCI-E slot occupied, and increasing compatibility for PCI-E devices with backplates that may otherwise hit an open latch. All 8 slots are reinforced with a stainless steel shielding which Gigabyte claims helps prevent PCB distortion. This I have a hard time believing to be functionally needed, as even their demonstration picture in the product page overview uses what seems to be a directed mass in the center of the slot to show said distortion. But they also claim that this shielding helps prevent ESD related component failure and, assuming this is true, makes it worth it in my books. Either way, it is there and you are paying for it. In between the slots are more RGB LEDs under a transparent housing. As far as DDR4 RAM compatibility goes, it is limited by the x99 chipset and the IMC on the specific CPU being used for all practical purposes so the claimed support for XMP 3400 MHz and more is to be taken as a reference more than an assurance of course. Do check the online manual (latest version) for a full list of compatible DDR4 sets.

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The Intel x99 CPU socket is as provided from Foxconn to most board partners, but there is some Gigabyte special sauce added. There is a 15 micron thick gold plating on the socket pins, for one. Secondly, despite this still technically being called an LGA 2011-3 socket, there are more than 2011 pins in the socket. This was first seen in some of Asus' x99 motherboards in 2014 (they called it an OC socket) and it helped with cache/uncore overclocking as well as stabilizing higher DDR4 overclocking compared to a standard Intel LGA 2011-3 socket. Other motherboard makers were working on their own version of this as well, and Gigabyte introduced it with their SOC series of x99 motherboards. This x99-Phoenix SLI gets it as well, and I can confirm it works just as well as the one of my Asus x99 Rampage V Extreme. In fact, here is the socket on the Asus board for comparison:

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The capacitors in the middle aside, it looks very similar if not identical. I have not counted the pins on both sockets, but feel free to do so at your interest/peril.

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The CPU_Fan header is located just under socket as viewed from the front, which is an awkward position and means that cables will be noticeable. It is a 4-pin PWM header with a Ground/+12 V/Sense/Speed control layout so we are at 1 voltage control, 1 PWM control fan header so far.

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To the right of the CPU socket and VRMs, as seen from the front, is the CPU_OPT header. This is one of two hybrid fan headers in that it is a 4-pin header capable of voltage and PWM control (chosen within the BIOS/utilities) with a Ground/Speed Control/Sense/Speed Control layout. Gigabyte calls it a fan/pump header, and it is definitely very handy.

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On to the right edge of the motherboard now where we have the 24-pin ATX connector, and also the first internal USB 3.0 header which is capable of providing two USB 3.0/2.0 ports typically on the case. Alongside, and slightly offset, is the Thunderbolt add-in card connector, in case you purchase a Gigabyte Thunderbolt add-in card separately. No power/reset physical buttons here which would have been great for testing purposes but then again this is in their gaming/UD class as I remind myself. That being said, I would encourage Gigabyte (and everyone) to include these and debug LEDs on any high end ATX class motherboard irrespective of the motherboard intended target customer base.

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There are a LOT of different storage options here. From left to right, we have four SATA3 ports backwards compatible with SATA2 and SATA1, a SATA Express connector, 6 more SATA3 ports (4 if SATA Express is used, but let's face it- it is practically dead on arrival as a storage form factor), and a U.2 port (previously called SFF-8639) to finish up this area. The SATA ports support hot-plugging, and the x99 chipset also helps support RAID 0/1/5/10. The U.2 port has support for NVME devices with PCI-E Gen 3.0 x4 support for up to 32 Gbps bandwidth- provided you have a CPU with 40 lanes of PCI-E Gen 3.0 support. Owners of an i7 5820k or 6800k will not be able to use the U.2 port at all. I am ok with this since the add-in PCI-E or M.2 form factors have been more popular and if anything had to go I would rather it be this.

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On the bottom right of the motherboard, as seen from the front, is the front panel header for the case complete with power and HDD activity LED headers, power and reset switch headers and a speaker header if your case has a built-in speaker. If you do, then good luck- this is the only real indicator of any issues during start up. There is no debug LED indicator on this motherboard which is a big deal in my books. I would have rather had it instead of some RGB lighting, but for me personally I can make do after having used the x99 platform for so long. Alongside is the second hybrid 4-pin header which can do both PWM and voltage control, and also the second internal USB 3.0 header. So the motherboard can support up to 4 USB 3.0 ports on the case (or elsewhere using adapter cables).

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If your case happens to have USB 2.0 ports, then you can use the provided two internal USB 2.0 headers for a total of 4 USB 2.0 ports. Alternatively, adapters and even USB 2.0 brackets/add-in cards will help provide more USB ports internally or externally. These will also be handy if using devices that need internal USB 2.0 headers including Corsair Link, NZXT CAM, Aquacomputer Aquasuite enabled devices. Also here is a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) header which does seem out of place on a gaming motherboard- especially with few TPM modules available as it is. Gigabyte does offer a TPM 2.0 compatible module for separate purchase for those interested. Oh, and the final fan header is here which is another voltage control only header. There are a total of 5 4-pin headers then, 1 PWM, 2 voltage control and 2 hybrid PWM/voltage control headers. I would have definitely liked to see more- especially the hybrid headers- and also more information about the headers themselves. As such, I can only assume they support the usual 1 A power rating each with some leeway for start-up boost. Indeed, they were each capable of powering a 10 W pump so they should be able to handle most fans/low power pumps.

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A full size MOLEX connector, rotated 90° to aid in cable management in standard ATX layout cases, is provided to help power the PCI-E slots when 2 or more devices are connected that draw power from the PCI-E slots. Can I just say here how much I would rather see a SATA power or PCI-E power connector here instead? Full size MOLEX needs to not be used as early as possible- it is flimsy, hard to sleeve, and has no practical benefits over SATA/PCI-E. Next to it are the lighting headers- an LED header to be used with the provided RGB LED extension cable, which helps control RGB LED strips conforming to the 5050 RGB (12V/G/R/B) standard and can power a 2 meter long LED strip up to 2 A (24 W) which will suffice for most cases. There is also a demo lighting header but it requires a special 2 pin adapter cable which can then go to a standard male USB Type A port and can be powered by even a power bank. The front audio header and a S/PDIF out header are right by the dedicated audio section on the PCB, and I recommend using the motherboard I/O for audio as it is. There is a heatsink on the audio section, which is also an aesthetic cover and extends to the I/O cover to cover the entire left edge of the motherboard as seen from the front.

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There are two M.2 expansion slots on the motherboard, but one (between full length PCI-E slots 1 and 2) comes pre-occupied by an Intel 8260NGW wireless communications module which is wired to the SMA connectors on the I/O. This has support for WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac on the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands supporting up to 867 Mbps data transfer speeds meaning your router and the path between it and the motherboard antenna will be the bottleneck anyway. It also provides a Bluetooth connection with support for Bluetooth 4.2 and backwards compatibility for Bluetooth 4.1/4.0/3.0/2.1. Given it is a short length M.2 port/device, there is ample space here for the CMOS battery and this makes removing it or changing it out very easy, if required.

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The second M.2 expansion slot is between full length PCI-E slots 2 and 3 (PCIEx16_2 and PCIEx8_1) and can accommodate any M.2 device of M key and 2242/2260/2280/22110 type with full PCI-E Gen 3.0 x4 support for up to 32 Gbps bandwidth. I do not have an M.2 device here other than the previously seen Intel wireless module so I was not able to test the port. Installation does seems to conform to the standard, using a two piece screw and nut for the various possible lengths.

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There are a total of 5 PCI-E expansion slots on the x99-Phoenix SLI motherboard. From top to bottom, we have PCIEx16_1, PCIEx1, PCIEx16_2, PCIEx8_1 and PCIEx8_2. The naming is fairly straightforward and tells us there are 4 PCI-E Gen 3.0 x16 full length slots here, with 2 providing the full 16 lanes and the other 8 capable of 8 lanes each. Again, this is contingent on the CPU used and also the number of PCI-E devices use/lanes occupied. With an i7 5820k or 6800k, the PCIEx1_2 slot operates in x8 mode and the PCIEx8_2 becomes unavailable, for example. There is a 3-slot spacing between PCIEx16_1 and PCIEx16_2, allowing for even 3-slot air cooled GPUs to be used in the first slot without many issues. This is also the slot recommended for single GPU use, although PCIEx16_2 will also work. There is support for up to 3-way SLI and Crossfire configurations here, although 3-way SLI is becoming a question mark off late anyway.

All the full length PCI-E slots are reinforced similar to the DIMM slots, with a stainless steel shielding to help support heavy GPUs and prevent PCI-E slot distortion. There are extra anchor points to the motherboard PCB to help distribute load better along the length of the slot, and this also aids in preventing the slot being sheared off the PCB due to extraneous circumstances. There are also two locks in each slot which are soldered to the back of the motherboard PCB to further keep the PCI-E device in place and prevent it from coming loose by accident if the lever is slightly out of position. Also note that there is ~4 mm of usable space behind the first PCI-E x16 slot for backplates before they hit the DRAM slots and the I/O cover. So users with thick backplates on GPUs in particular need to be aware of this and be ready to mod the backplates if there is conflict. Oh yeah, more RGB LEDs here as well.

Here is a cheat sheet layout guide for reference, as provided by the manual:

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Gigabyte has had a history of unannounced revisions to PCBs, with component changes that sometimes even affect compatibility with aftermarket products and cooling solutions. This particular board is from revision 1.0 and as always, check the bottom left corner, as seen from the front, to make sure you know what revision your own motherboard is from.

With the CPU and memory installed, it does begin to look very nice if I say so myself:

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Call me VSG
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Discussion Starter #7
Component Analysis

Let's remove the heatsinks and take a look underneath.

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4 spring loaded screws on the PCH heatsink and 2 more screws on the VRM heatsink secure them in place. As always, removing this is not recommended and may void warranty so please don't follow these steps without reason.

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The VRM and PCH heatsinks are metal (aluminum) with aesthetic top covers and paint on said covers, and both are connected by a single dark nickel plated copper heatpipe. There is very good contact on the thermal pad over the VRMs, and given that the x99 chipset only outputs 4-5 W of heat, the added heatsink area over the PCH is mainly to help dissipate the heat from the VRMs. The PCH itself uses thermal paste, and a lot of thick thermal paste at that:

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It is no different from any other Intel x99 chipset, and do be warned that the TIM is very hard to remove. Again, this is something I have seen all manufacturers do wherein a square sheet of TIM is used which dries up and is way too much for such a small die. There are a couple of RGB LEDs on the upper right side of the chipset die, which are seen through the slit holes in the heatsink cover.

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Gigabyte has gone with an 8 phase design for power delivery here. The VRMs are the excellent International Rectifier IR3556 second gen PowIRstage modules which are rated for an output current of 50 A at 25 °C. This means that at this temperature, and assuming a voltage draw of say 1.25 V to the CPU, these can provide a max of 50 x 1.25 x 8 = 500 W of power to the CPU. Of course things are not as simple as this in reality as voltage draw and voltage supply will also depend on the rest of the motherboard design, and operating temperatures will lower the max output current rating as well. This is why it is best to keep the VRMs as cool as possible. In my testing, I have found that even good airflow in a case (as mimicked by a hotbox) will suffice for most cases. I can't talk for situations such as an i7 6950x drawing >400 W though. Power delivery is also handled by an IR3580 digital PWM controller.

Helping out with power delivery are ferrite core Cooper Industry's Eaton Bussmann FP1007R3-R15 inductors which are from their 0.15uH Flat-Pac series and again are a good choice with a current rating of 76 A at 25 °C each, and one that are becoming quite popular in PC DIY PCBs these days. These are intended for high current server applications and will do the job well. Rounding off this section are Nichicon's Functional Polymer aluminum solid electrolyte capacitors (FPCAP) rated for 6.3 V and what seems to be 560 μFcapacitance each but I was not able to find this exact part in the FPCAP database. Either way, polymer solid caps are all good in my books as long as they are not under-rated for the power delivery design here. Oh, and there are more RGB LEDs between the inductors.

QKHQOJkl.jpg


Gigabyte uses a specialized ITE based controller setup for I/O, temperature sensing and fan control. Specifically, the Gigabyte-only ITE8620E is a super I/O controller and handles the I/O section while also helping with fan control on the CPU_FAN header. The auxilliary IT8792E controllers help with other fan headers and temperature sensors.

p1hvu2Vl.jpg


COGRIlDl.jpg?1


Intel's I211-AT Ethernet controller is used here along with the Intel I218-V network interface controller (NIC), and I much prefer Intel NICs over others I have used including Killer NICs. No issues whatsoever here in the 5+ weeks I have used this board so far.

pIp3VHAl.jpg


5g6utaJl.jpg


mk93G5jl.jpg


wuFXNpql.jpg


o8DawW0l.jpg


0hBMInnl.jpg


uiAuQhNl.jpg


q3T2b5al.jpg


kqAYKVpl.jpg


aALHkqZl.jpg


There is a translucent section in the PCB which has "XMP" spelled out, and has 2 RGB LEDs on the back of the PCB to light this up. 4 screws in total hold the audio and I/O "heatsinks" which are just aesthetic covers and nothing more- ABS plastic with paint on them. The two pieces lock together and are then held in place by said screws, and there is an RGB LED strip under the I/O cover with a wire.

yUMiQzUl.jpg


Ah, here is the hidden LED header to which that LED strip was connected to- behind the USB 3.1 Type C connector.

d443mwfl.jpg


bH8w81gl.jpg


LOTES has provided the physical I/O connectors to the audio and also the PS/2 and USB ports whereas Foxconn has provided the dual Gigabit Ethernet ports.

DXSDqzgl.jpg


0keWjaql.jpg


vDqefcLl.jpg


CpqxpWul.jpg


The audio section is separated from the rest off the motherboard via a well visible trace, and a Realtek ALC1150 codec helps with the 2/4/5.1/7.1 channel audio solution here. A Diodes Inc. AS358 op-amp and a Texas Instruments OPA1662 op-amp cover the high gain and low gain segments for the audio output. More Nichicon all Japanese capacitors here, each rated at 100 μF.
 

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Registered
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geggeg View Post

Component Analysis

Let's remove the heatsinks and take a look underneath.

uwogh2Vl.jpg


UiQhmDkl.jpg


qnGjYqKl.jpg


4 spring loaded screws on the PCH heatsink and 2 more screws on the VRM heatsink secure them in place. As always, removing this is not recommended and may void warranty so please don't follow these steps without reason.

08w1knBl.jpg


dlem1A8l.jpg


RULc1jsl.jpg


4pjvTNfl.jpg


The VRM and PCH heatsinks are metal (aluminum) with aesthetic top covers and paint on said covers, and both are connected by a single dark nickel plated copper heatpipe. There is very good contact on the thermal pad over the VRMs, and given that the x99 chipset only outputs 4-5 W of heat, the added heatsink area over the PCH is mainly to help dissipate the heat from the VRMs. The PCH itself uses thermal paste, and a lot of thick thermal paste at that:

D0l0y04l.jpg


It is no different from any other Intel x99 chipset, and do be warned that the TIM is very hard to remove. Again, this is something I have seen all manufacturers do wherein a square sheet of TIM is used which dries up and is way too much for such a small die. There are a couple of RGB LEDs on the upper right side of the chipset die, which are seen through the slit holes in the heatsink cover.

aslvdhUl.jpg


npRRAUfl.jpg


Pe6s5Ocl.jpg


Gigabyte has gone with an 8 phase design for power delivery here. The VRMs are the excellent International Rectifier IR3556 second gen PowIRstage modules which are rated for an output current of 50 A at 25 °C. This means that at this temperature, and assuming a voltage draw of say 1.25 V to the CPU, these can provide a max of 50 x 1.25 x 8 = 500 W of power to the CPU. Of course things are not as simple as this in reality as voltage draw and voltage supply will also depend on the rest of the motherboard design, and operating temperatures will lower the max output current rating as well. This is why it is best to keep the VRMs as cool as possible. In my testing, I have found that even good airflow in a case (as mimicked by a hotbox) will suffice for most cases. I can't talk for situations such as an i7 6950x drawing >400 W though. Power delivery is also handled by an IR3580 digital PWM controller.

Helping out with power delivery are ferrite core Cooper Industry's Eaton Bussmann FP1007R3-R15 inductors which are from their 0.15uH Flat-Pac series and again are a good choice with a current rating of 76 A at 25 °C each, and one that are becoming quite popular in PC DIY PCBs these days. These are intended for high current server applications and will do the job well. Rounding off this section are Nichicon's Functional Polymer aluminum solid electrolyte capacitors (FPCAP) rated for 6.3 V and what seems to be 560 μFcapacitance each but I was not able to find this exact part in the FPCAP database. Either way, polymer solid caps are all good in my books as long as they are not under-rated for the power delivery design here. Oh, and there are more RGB LEDs between the inductors.

QKHQOJkl.jpg


Gigabyte uses a specialized ITE based controller setup for I/O, temperature sensing and fan control. Specifically, the Gigabyte-only ITE8620E is a super I/O controller and handles the I/O section while also helping with fan control on the CPU_FAN header. The auxilliary IT8792E controllers help with other fan headers and temperature sensors.

p1hvu2Vl.jpg


COGRIlDl.jpg?1


Intel's I211-AT Ethernet controller is used here along with the Intel I218-V network interface controller (NIC), and I much prefer Intel NICs over others I have used including Killer NICs. No issues whatsoever here in the 5+ weeks I have used this board so far.

pIp3VHAl.jpg


5g6utaJl.jpg


mk93G5jl.jpg


wuFXNpql.jpg


o8DawW0l.jpg


0hBMInnl.jpg


uiAuQhNl.jpg


q3T2b5al.jpg


kqAYKVpl.jpg


aALHkqZl.jpg


There is a translucent section in the PCB which has "XMP" spelled out, and has 2 RGB LEDs on the back of the PCB to light this up. 4 screws in total hold the audio and I/O "heatsinks" which are just aesthetic covers and nothing more- ABS plastic with paint on them. The two pieces lock together and are then held in place by said screws, and there is an RGB LED strip under the I/O cover with a wire.

yUMiQzUl.jpg


Ah, here is the hidden LED header to which that LED strip was connected to- behind the USB 3.1 Type C connector.

d443mwfl.jpg


bH8w81gl.jpg


LOTES has provided the physical I/O connectors to the audio and also the PS/2 and USB ports whereas Foxconn has provided the dual Gigabit Ethernet ports.

DXSDqzgl.jpg


0keWjaql.jpg


vDqefcLl.jpg


CpqxpWul.jpg
The audio section is separated from the rest off the motherboard via a well visible trace, and a Realtek ALC1150 codec helps with the 2/4/5.1/7.1 channel audio solution here. A Diodes Inc. AS358 op-amp and a Texas Instruments OPA1662 op-amp cover the high gain and low gain segments for the audio output. More Nichicon all Japanese capacitors here, each rated at 100 μF.

Man you do the absolute unboxing reviewing work I have ever read!!!
thumb.gif
I unfortunately had nothing but problems with my Rampage Edition 10 ended up returning three of them, selling my 5960K, and moving to Skylake.
biggrin.gif


After reading the last Corsair ML120 write I think those maybe my next fan purchase. You and @fast fate are keeping the watercooling community informed.
 

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Awesome review of this Gigabyte board.
I realy appreciate the cirquitry analytics you have done on this board good job!
thumb.gif

Also the VRM designs on the Gigabyte X99 Ultra Gaming and Designare EX are pretty much identical.
 

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Call me VSG
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12,852 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Thanks again, I am back from a small vacation so I will wrap up the BIOS and software section soon to wrap this up.

Update: Not possible here. Full review will be elsewhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ckoons1 View Post

how do you like the x99 phoenix compared to the r5e ?

thx
This has more features owing to an year of updates, but at the same time misses out on a debug LED and a start button. The latter is easy to deal with, but the former is proving to be a challenge more and more as a test bed system. Thankfully, I have now become experienced with this board to the point where I can tell what's the issue now. If you don't want the RGB, a second hand RVE might be better.
 

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i currently have a gigabyte x99 soc champion board but came across a deal for the x99 phoenix at microcenter and was wondering if worth swapping for

thx

smile.gif
 

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Call me VSG
Joined
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12,852 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by ckoons1 View Post

i currently have a gigabyte x99 soc champion board but came across a deal for the x99 phoenix at microcenter and was wondering if worth swapping for

thx

smile.gif
Not worth it, seeing how you already have one of their better boards.
 

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Call me VSG
Joined
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12,852 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by MadOver View Post

I wonder if you could review the X99 Taichi, looking to buy this one..
Great job
thumb.gif
Now that sponsored reviews are okay on OCN, let me see. I don't plan on buying another x99 motherboard just for review though.
 
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