Give Me More (Of Everything)
Back when the platform launched, we noted that X99 motherboards were priced around $120 higher than Z97 boards if you compared add-in features. We also observed that the X99’s additional integrated extras only helped offset the more expensive hardware. Enthusiasts needing to run different data to a bunch of high-bandwidth cards would need the extra PCIe lanes of X99, while those looking to send the same information to multiple GPUs in SLI or CrossFire could get similar results from Z97 by purchasing a board with PLX’s $60 switch.
Even if the price difference dropped to $100, sales of X99 motherboards are highly dependent on power users needing more than four physical cores, more than 20 lanes of PCIe connectivity, four channels of (expensive) DDR4 memory or, ignoring third-party storage controllers, more than six SATA ports native to the chipset.
The X99’s price premium also means that high-end boards, which Z97 buyers might pay $200 for, cost X99 buyers over $300. We’re not talking about premium uber-geek stuff either. The extra features found in this price range typically include a PCIe-based SATA controller or two, secondary network controllers, mildly oversized voltage regulators and extra USB 3.0.
Asus goes one-better in its X99 Pro by bundling Wi-Fi, but at the expense of not adding an extra wired network connection.
|Asus X99 Pro Features|
|PCB Revision||1.01||Voltage Regulator||Eight Phases|
|Chipset||Intel X99||100.0 MHz BCLK||99.94 (-0.06%)|
|I/O Panel Connectors|
|P/S 2||1||CLR_CMOS Button||1|
|USB 3.0||6||Digital Audio Out||Optical|
|USB 2.0||4||Digital Audio In||None|
|eSATA||None||Other Devices||2x WiFi Antenna|
|PCIe 3.0 x16 (Core i7-5960X and -5930K)||3 (x16/x16/x8) SLI x3, CrossFire x3 M.2 disables x8 slot||PCIe 3.0 x16 (Core i7-5820K)||3 (x16/x8/x4) SLI x2, CrossFire x3 M.2 disables x4 slot|
|4-Pin Fan||6 (5x PWM/DC dual-mode)||3-Pin Fan||None|
|PCIe 2.0 x16||1 (x4, shares 1x PCIe x1, 1x USB 3.0 controller [2-ports])||PCIe 2.0 x1||2 (1x w/x16, 1x w/Wi-Fi)|
|FP-Audio||1||S/PDIF I/O||Output Only|
|USB 3.0||2 (4-ports)||USB 2.0||2 (4-ports)|
|Internal Buttons||Power, Reset, Mem_OK||Internal Switch||XMP, EPU (low-energy), TPU (auto-overclocking)|
|SATA 6.0 Gb/s||10 (2x shared w/SATA-E)||SATA Express||1 (Uses 2x SATA)|
|Diagnostics Panel||Numeric||Other Connectors||COM, TB_Header, EXT_FAN|
|Mass Storage Controllers|
|Chipset SATA||10x SATA 6Gb/s (Includes M.2, SATA-E)||Add-In SATA||None|
|Chipset RAID Modes||0, 1, 5, 10 (Ports 1-6)||USB 3.0||ASM1042e PCIe ASM1072 Hub|
|Primary LAN||WGI218V PHY||Secondary LAN||None|
|Wi-Fi||BCM4352 PCIe 802.11ac dual-band / BT 4.0||Bluetooth||BT 4.0/Wi-Fi Combo|
|HD Audio Codec||ALC1150||DDL/DTS Connect||DTS Connect|
The 802.11ac module is still a $40 part, typically before adding an extra ten bucks for antennas. Thus, anyone who would have bought this module for their build needs only compare the X99 Pro’s other features to those of $260 boards. Yet, we’re always looking for freebies or advanced design characteristics.
One of those advancements—enhanced DDR4 overclocking—had already given us an opportunity to get hands-on with the X99 Pro. Now we’re ready to see how it stacks up against those $260 boards in performance and CPU overclocking before arriving to a comprehensive value analysis.