Picking A Mid-Priced X99 Winner
Value is an important consideration in most round-ups. But it's not as simple a conclusion to reach as a performance-per-dollar chart might show. After all, these charts don’t reflect differences in on-board features or overclocking. These days, there's very little point to performance-per-dollar on a motherboard, and much more reason to judge based on functionality. Yet, when it comes to quantifiable comparisons, our options are few.
The X99S Gaming 7, for example, only needs a 10% “better” feature set than the X99 Extreme4 to claim realistic value leadership. We can’t arbitrarily call one feature 10% more valuable than another, but we can say that all of those added controllers and switches probably added 10% or so to MSI’s manufacturing cost. Buyers must make the final decision of cost-versus-worth. However, we see the X99S Gaming 7 and X99 Extreme 4 as a value tie at two slightly different equipment levels.
But what about the X99-UD4? It’s the only board in today’s round-up to properly support four-way SLI. This used to be considered the “killer feature” for any high-end platform. We even thought it might be the one capability to set the X99-UD4 apart for a higher award level. Unfortunately, you can’t use four-way SLI and front-panel USB 3.0 at the same time, and the latter of those two is a basic feature. May the Force be with anyone who tries to run DDR4-3000 on this thing. Your system might never boot again!
Gigabyte claims to have solved similar firmware-reflashing issues in past products through firmware updates, so our overclocking fiasco might just be unfortunate timing. After all, Intel did pull in the Haswell-E launch by almost two weeks, forcing vendors to hustle to hit the introduction. We’d probably consider re-examining the board after it gets a few firmware updates. But it's hard to forgive that one layout feature I keep harping on.