GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming Motherboard Review

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by Rob Williams on November 24, 2016 in Motherboards

Building a powerhouse gaming or workstation PC requires a solid motherboard as a base, and GIGABYTE’s X99-Ultra Gaming has proven to be just that. This ~$249 offering is packed to the gills with features, including at the very least a plethora of LEDs that can spice up any build.

Performance & Final Thoughts

Unlike most of our other motherboard reviews, this one isn’t going to compare the X99-Ultra Gaming to a similar motherboard from GIGABYTE’s own lineup, or even a competitor’s. That’s simply because this is likely to be our only X99 (v2) look, as what’s sure to have more interest going forward are boards updated for Intel’s Kaby Lake lineup (eg: Z270).

That said, without a comparison to a similar motherboard, I’ve opted to compare GIGABYTE’s X99-Ultra Gaming when equipped with a 10-core Core i7-6950X against ASUS’ first-gen X99-DELUXE, equipped with the 8-core i7-5960X.

Given this odd route we’re taking, this testing is clearly not apples-to-apples; it’s more of a way to show the differences between these two high-end platforms, with the ultimate goal being that we can see GIGABYTE’s board hold up, and deliver the results we’d expect.

Test Systems
ProcessorIntel Core i7-5960X – Eight-Core, 3.00GHz (3.5GHz Turbo)
Intel Core i7-6950X – Ten-Core, 3.00GHz (3.5GHz Turbo)
MotherboardASUS X99-DELUXE (i7-5960X; BIOS: 3101)
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming (i7-6950X; BIOS: F5)
Memory4GB x 8 Kingston HyperX Fury @ DDR4-2133 15-15-15-36
8GB x 4 G.SKILL Trident Z @ DDR4-2133 15-15-15-36
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (GeForce 373.06 Driver)
AudioOnboard
StorageKingston HyperX 3K 480GB SSD
Power SupplyCorsair AX1200
ChassisCorsair Obsidian 800D Full-Tower
CoolingCorsair H100i v2 (i7-6950X)
Thermaltake WATER3.0 Extreme (i7-5960X)
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro 64-bit

One way vendors could improve their performance positioning is by giving their BCLK a small, seemingly insignificant boost. No such thing is done across these two boards. The memory is even run at the exact same speeds, automatically.

BCLK ValuesMemory SpeedMemory Timings
ASUS X99-DELUXE99.94 MHzDDR4-213315-15-15-36
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming99.98 MHzDDR4-213315-15-15-36

With that validated, let’s get into some test results.

General System Performance

To take a look at the “overall” performance of our PC configuration, we rely on dual Futuremark suites: PCMark 8 and 3DMark (2013), as well as dual SPEC suites, SPECwpc and SPECviewperf, and also Unigine’s Heaven.

SPECwpc 2.0MediaFinancialDevelopmentEnergySciencesGeneral
ASUS X99-DELUXE 12.812.052.113.192.740.95
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 23.452.912.343.823.190.92
Higher results are better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
SPECviewperf 12CATIACreoEnergyMayaMedicalShowcaseSNXSW
ASUS X99-DELUXE 151.4033.846.14102.3531.8160.135.9145.06
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 251.4334.196.14102.3431.6556.825.9445.33
Higher results are better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
SPECapc 3ds Max 2015CPUGPULarge Model
ASUS X99-DELUXE 15.684.364.32
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 26.414.504.47
Higher results are better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
PCMark 8 Suite ScoresHomeWorkCreative
ASUS X99-DELUXE 1510555157837
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 2517356197692
Higher results are better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
3DMark (2013)3DMarkGraphicsPhysics
ASUS X99-DELUXE 1113871312815912
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 2116171303920523
Fire Strike test. 3DMark results in points; higher is better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
Unigine Heaven 4.01920×10802560×1440
ASUS X99-DELUXE 1100 FPS56 FPS
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 299 FPS57 FPS
Higher results are better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)

Considering the fact that the i7-6950X offers 25% more cores over the i7-5960X, we can use that as a performance ballpark. That’s a safe bet, although in some cases, it doesn’t quite live up, whereas in other cases, it exceeds what we’d expect. In SPECwpc’s Financial test, for example, the 10-core proves 40% faster. In most others, though, the average gain is around 20%.

There’s a slight improvement in 3DMark to be seen, although it’s likely largely to do with the multi-core capable physics test. In Unigine, both chips are identical in performance.

Rendering & Image Manipulation

Writing files to disk or reading a website doesn’t do much to exercise our CPU, so for that, we turn to a few common scenarios – image editing, video rendering, music conversion, and 3D rendering.

Adobe Lightroom CC (2015.7)Result
ASUS X99-DELUXE 1234 s
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 2214 s
Results in seconds; lower is better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
Adobe Premiere Pro CC4K EncodeMusic VideoPPBM9
ASUS X99-DELUXE 199 s123 s77 s
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 2100 s103 s68 s
Results in seconds; lower is better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
Autodesk 3ds Max 2017Naomi Renderiray Render
ASUS X99-DELUXE 1731 s1395 s
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 2619 s1021 s
Results in seconds; lower is better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
Cinebench R15OpenGLCPU
ASUS X99-DELUXE 1156.35 FPS1328 cb
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 2161.58 FPS1791 cb
Higher results are better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
dBpoweramp R15FLAC to MP3
ASUS X99-DELUXE 1137 s
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 2111 s
250 FLAC to 320Kbps MP3. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
HandBrake 0.10.5.0H.265 EncodeH.264 Encode
ASUS X99-DELUXE 1532 s90 s
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 2414 s74 s
Results in seconds; lower is better. 4K encode. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
POV-RaySingle-ThreadMulti-Thread
ASUS X99-DELUXE 1328.532694.18
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 2348.853563.82
Higher is better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)

GIGABYTE’s X99-Ultra Gaming holds up well when containing the beast that is the 10-core i7-6950X. The differences between the 8- and 10-core are not enormous – especially not to warrant a $600 premium over the 8-core, but when you need to have the best, you can expect to see solid gains across most workloads.

Sub-system Performance

For memory and CPU testing, we utilize SiSoftware’s Sandra 2016 SP3.

Sandra 2016 SP3 (Memory)BandwidthLatency
ASUS X99-DELUXE 147.91 GB/s30.2 ns
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 244.91 GB/s29.8 ns
Bandwidth results; higher is better. Latency results; lower is better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
Sandra 2016 SP3 (Arithmetic)Dhrystone (Integer AVX2)Whetstone (Single Float)
ASUS X99-DELUXE 1206 GIPS175 GFLOPS
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 2267 GIPS240 GFLOPS
Higher is better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)
Sandra 2016 SP3 (Multi-Media)IntegerSingle-float
ASUS X99-DELUXE 1696 MPix/s650 MPix/s
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming 2793 MPix/s804 MPix/s
Higher is better. (1 i7-5960X; 2 i7-6950X)

Interestingly, the memory bandwidth result saw a decline on the i7-6950X, although it might possibly have something to do with the fact that 8 DIMMs were used instead of 4. Nonetheless, this memory bandwidth is huge, so it’s incredibly unlikely that anyone would notice the difference in the real-world, outside of server workloads.

In the arithmetic tests, the i7-6950X performed better than an increase of 25%, thanks to architectural enhancements. Smaller gains were seen in the multi-media tests, though.

Final Thoughts

There’s not too much to dislike about GIGABYTE’s X99-Ultra Gaming, and in fact, I’m having a hard time coming up with a major complaint. It’s not hard to find things to like, though, and with what’s provided, the board’s suggested price of about ~$250 is almost impressive – this thing is packed.

At the forefront, the X99-Ultra Gaming doesn’t hold anything back with regards to the functionality. It includes 10x 6Gbps SATA ports, SATA Express, M.2 for storage and Wi-Fi, as well as U.2. It also includes 6x USB 3.0 ports at the back, as well as 3.1 Type-A and Type-C ports, with further expansion provided through internal connectors.

A note on Thunderbolt: support will have to be added with an add-in card, and as it happens, GIGABYTE makes one. However, I couldn’t find that card in stock anywhere but one website that was selling it for nearly $70. My recommendation: if you require a Thunderbolt port, look at motherboards that are certified for Thunderbolt 3.0 out-of-the-box. If Thunderbolt isn’t needed, the USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C ports should suffice, offering up to 10Gbps of bandwidth each. That’s a lot of breathing room.

gigabyte x99 ultra gaming example build

Beyond things like connectivity, GIGABYTE’s X99-Ultra Gaming includes a solid EFI (though I think some improvements would be nice – a mouse should never be needed!) and software stack, and packs the board to the gills with bling. The biggest part of that is with the customizable LEDs: changing their color to better match the rest of your build is only a couple of mouse clicks away.

Other nice features include the Killer E2400 networking chip, along with its related software, “Armor” for the memory DIMM and PCIe slots, a headphone amplifier, dual “Hybrid Fan Headers” (able to control pump and fan separate), and what I’d consider a great board design. The only thing I’d personally complain about lacking is the BIOS LED readout, which is useful for debugging (sometimes, anyway).

Overall, I am left extremely impressed with GIGABYTE’s X99-Ultra Gaming, and given its price point and all of it offers, I can easily recommend it to anyone looking to build a new X99-based build.

Pros

  • Lots of SATA and USB, includes USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C.
  • Includes M.2 for storage and Wi-Fi, as well as U.2.
  • Onboard customizable LEDs are a great touch.
  • Includes dual LAN solutions: Intel and Killer.
  • EFI and software stack are well-designed and useful.
  • Great board layout / design.
  • Well-priced.

Cons

  • No LED BIOS code readout.
  • No onboard power/reset buttons.
  • EFI leaves a bit to be desired. PC Health screen doesn’t show temperatures.
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming Motherboard - Techgage Editor's Choice
GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming Motherboard

Rob Williams

Rob founded Techgage in 2005 to be an 'Advocate of the consumer', focusing on fair reviews and keeping people apprised of news in the tech world. Catering to both enthusiasts and businesses alike; from desktop gaming to professional workstations, and all the supporting software.

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