Three-Way X99 LGA 2011-v3 ATX Motherboard Shootout

Gigabyte X99-UD4

For a few dollars more than ASRock’s board, Gigabyte’s X99-UD4 upgrades buyers to four-way SLI capability, dual M.2, one onboard SATA Express connector, and an added pair of USB 3.0 ports. You'll even find a Wi-Fi antenna bracket to use with your M.2 Wi-Fi card.

Those previous three words are important to note, as the second M.2 slot is PCI Express-only, and designed exclusively for notebook wireless cards. The only real-world advantage I can find over the earlier mini-PCIe standard is that it’s a little narrower, though I’m sure the M.2 name will win over some customers. And I thought the point of M.2 was to simplify the whole mini-SATA-versus-mini-PCIe debacle.

The upper M.2 slot is the real deal, and by that I mean it’s for storage. It’s not an “Ultra M.2” PCIe 3.0 x4 device, so it won’t steal valuable lanes away from any four-way SLI configuration. On the other hand, being limited to either two SATA or two PCIe 2.0 lanes means that its “M.2_10G” label indicates a noteworthy bandwidth disadvantage compared to the Ultra slot on ASRock's board.

The only way to break the X99-UD4’s four-way SLI capability is to install a Core i7-5820K, since it only gives you 28 of the platform’s 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes.Downgrading from a 40- to 28-lane CPU also drops the X99-UD4 from x8/x8/x16/x8 to x8/x8/x8/x4 mode. Remember, SLI requires at least eight lanes per card. Conversely, AMD's CrossFire technology runs on four PCIe 3.0 lanes without protest.

Hardware limitations imposed by sharing are mostly confined to the “M.2_10G” slot, with both SATA ports and both PCIe ports also connected to the board’s SATA Express connection. And, since SATA-E uses two standard SATA connectors, your SATA Express cable fills two of the board’s 10 SATA 6 Gb/s ports.

It's nice that Gigabyte doesn't force us to explain a cluster bomb of resource conflicts. But that’s not to say that there aren’t any mechanical conflicts with four-way graphics arrays. Gigabyte places the X99-UD4’s only front-panel USB 3.0 header at its bottom edge, where it'd get covered by the heat sink on almost any graphics card. The inflexibility of USB 3.0 cable ends means that anyone who wants this feature will essentially be stuck with a three-way motherboard.

And then there’s the occasional front-panel audio connector problem, where the cables of some cases are just a little too short to reach the motherboard’s bottom-rear corner. Case manufacturers carry most of the responsibility for this issue, but some motherboard designers previously slid the connector forward a little to compensate for a case maker’s poor judgment.

Gigabyte generously  includes two three-way SLI bridges at different slot spacing, a four-way SLI bridge, along with two-way CrossFire and SLI flexible bridges in its X99-UD4 installation kit. On the other hand, a mere four SATA cables don’t represent the same completeness. And while some motherboard manufacturers have added multiple CPU power connectors for extreme overclocking power loads, Gigabyte beefs up its single eight-pin input and adds a three-to-one power combiner cable.

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24 comments
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  • dgingeri
    "LGA 2111-v3"??

    Did something change?
  • west7
    In the 3D gaming page it should been i7-5760x not i7-4790 and fix the LGA 2111-v3 typo and why there in no SLI/crossfire test?!
  • Amdlova
    12 Phases Six Phases Eight Phases what!
  • Daniel Ladishew
    Can't wait for them to review some of the other manufacturer's products in the X99 category. The ASUS board especially.
  • chiefpiggy
    Noob question: would my socket 1150 i5 4670k work with one of these motherboards or do I need one of the Haswell-E processors?
  • sportfreak23
    1637560 said:
    Can't wait for them to review some of the other manufacturer's products in the X99 category. The ASUS board especially.


    +1
  • InvalidError
    312980 said:
    "LGA 2111-v3"?? Did something change?

    LGA 2011 uses DDR3 while LGA2011-3 uses DDR4 so the sockets are different to prevent people from putting the wrong CPU in the wrong motherboard.

    I think there were other changes but this is the big obvious one.
  • firefoxx04
    it should be mentioned (and maybe it was, just not on the first page) that you only get the 40 pci e lanes if you purchase the two higher tiered haswell-E chips. The lowest end model does not support 40 lanes, I think it supports 28.
  • dgingeri
    I was commenting on the typo of "2111" vs "2011".
  • vincevdc
    The MB grid on page one shows that the MSI X99S Gaming 7 mb has an Intel Z97 Express chipset. This is a typo...
  • Computer LVR
    @west 7 and Thomas Soderstrom it should be 5960x not 5760x
  • Crashman
    1335368 said:
    12 Phases Six Phases Eight Phases what!
    There aren't any lines to separate columns, only spaces. Editors can't fix that. Hopefully you'll be able to separate things visually using the spaces.

    1637560 said:
    Can't wait for them to review some of the other manufacturer's products in the X99 category. The ASUS board especially.
    Asus won't come back for this price range, but I expect they'll want to be in the higher-priced and lower-priced roundups.

    1476856 said:
    Noob question: would my socket 1150 i5 4670k work with one of these motherboards or do I need one of the Haswell-E processors?
    1150 is less than 2011. The socket is smaller, mostly because it has 2/5 as many lanes and 1/2 as many DRAM channels.

    211300 said:
    it should be mentioned (and maybe it was, just not on the first page) that you only get the 40 pci e lanes if you purchase the two higher tiered haswell-E chips. The lowest end model does not support 40 lanes, I think it supports 28.
    There was a whole paragraph on the first page dedicated to this limitation. Second one below the chipset diagram.
  • Gurg
    Question I have when looking at this is why don't manufacturers design a board that addresses what standard users need with a 5820. How about sufficient usb3s for mouse, keyboard, printer backup drive, bluetooth and maybe a couple extra. How about sata6 for four internal drives. How about just two 16/16/8 for crossfire/sli. Wouldn't this provide high performance gaming with a 5820 while keeping costs reasonable?
  • Azotsky
    LGA 2011-3 = LGA 2008
    I see what you did there Intel :P
  • Crashman
    1279836 said:
    Question I have when looking at this is why don't manufacturers design a board that addresses what standard users need with a 5820. How about sufficient usb3s for mouse, keyboard, printer backup drive, bluetooth and maybe a couple extra. How about sata6 for four internal drives. How about just two 16/16/8 for crossfire/sli. Wouldn't this provide high performance gaming with a 5820 while keeping costs reasonable?
    You mean a cheaper board? Because the ASRock board has the stuff you were looking for, if you ignore the Ultra M.2 slot, but you have to pay more.

    It has the features you need because your keyboard and mouse are USB 2.0, not "USB3".
  • Eyeshield
    MSI definitely improved so much and should be an elite brand!
  • Crass Spektakel
    Gigabyte fixed BULLSHIT.

    The Firmware-Downgrade-Bug is present since P55 boards and I saw it on EVERY generation, be it 50, 60, 70, 80 or 90 series boards. Not necesserilly on every version of the chipset, e.g. I saw it on a P65 but not on a G61 chipset. But if you have the bug then rest assured they will NEVER fix it.

    The P65 was especially nasty, it downgraded the bios even when actually nothing went wrong and all BIOS settings were "default". EG I once pressed Reset and voila, back to F3. Also happens if I disconnect from power, even if the system is actually already shut down. Only way to avoid this is to power down the system safely by the OS. But then you have to switch the system on at least every couple of days or it will downgrade to F3 immediatly after power on.

    Gigabyte? No thanks.

    (writing this from my old P35 gigabyte system, my last gigabyte in private use)
  • Crashman
    1467218 said:
    Gigabyte fixed BULLSHIT. The Firmware-Downgrade-Bug is present since P55 boards and I saw it on EVERY generation, be it 50, 60, 70, 80 or 90 series boards. Not necesserilly on every version of the chipset, e.g. I saw it on a P65 but not on a G61 chipset. But if you have the bug then rest assured they will NEVER fix it. The P65 was especially nasty, it downgraded the bios even when actually nothing went wrong and all BIOS settings were "default". EG I once pressed Reset and voila, back to F3. Also happens if I disconnect from power, even if the system is actually already shut down. Only way to avoid this is to power down the system safely by the OS. But then you have to switch the system on at least every couple of days or it will downgrade to F3 immediatly after power on. Gigabyte? No thanks. (writing this from my old P35 gigabyte system, my last gigabyte in private use)
    Gigabyte occasionally released a firmware update that modified the detection scheme so that BIOS downgrade is less likely to happen on past products. As you've indicated, they haven't fixed every board and the fix doesn't work for every configuration.

    Gigabyte also has true dual-BIOS motherboards at the high-end, where the forced downgrade can be disabled. You've probably just missed that little tidbit if you think all Gigabyte boards are like this one.

    This is the worst board Gigabyte has sent in a long time, and the first one that I've had to recommend against buying. It's been a few years since I've had a Gigabyte board fail after continuous forced-downgrades.
  • akula2
    I'm interested in Asrock X99 WS and Asus X99-E WS. But I don't find the latter in the market yet. Anyone knows when will it arrive? Thanks
  • dgingeri
    8708 said:
    Gigabyte occasionally released a firmware update that modified the detection scheme so that BIOS downgrade is less likely to happen on past products. As you've indicated, they haven't fixed every board and the fix doesn't work for every configuration. Gigabyte also has true dual-BIOS motherboards at the high-end, where the forced downgrade can be disabled. You've probably just missed that little tidbit if you think all Gigabyte boards are like this one. This is the worst board Gigabyte has sent in a long time, and the first one that I've had to recommend against buying. It's been a few years since I've had a Gigabyte board fail after continuous forced-downgrades. Gigabyte obviously doesn't like that we told you any of this. But to not tell you would be to lie. Its PR are nice people, but I can't lie for them, so it looks like they'll probably pack up their toys and go home.


    Gigabyte PR people might be nice people, but there's only so much one can do about pumping up poor hardware design.

    I've had four Gigabyte motherboards, and I've had hardware compatibility issues with them all. I've had bios issues with three, where I've needed a new bios to support a new generation of processors, but the new version doesn't work well. The latest one was my x79-UP4 board, where it didn't like my EVGA GTX 680 with the F2 bios, and the F4 bios caused the screen saver and power saver features to never turn on, and it took their support nearly two weeks to get me a program that would allow back dating the bios to the F3, which finally worked. The audio plugs never detected when speakers were plugged in, so I couldn't use the on-board audio. Finally, after 9 months of annoyances, it stopped giving power to the USB ports and the PCIe x1 slots, so I lost access to pretty much everything. It was a slow, horrible death for a bad motherboard. I'm not buying a Gigabyte product again.

    They don't need PR. They need to get their heads on straight and engineer their boards better, and test better. Testing is a basic necessity for any technology design. I am a systems admin for three test labs for enterprise level hardware and software. I have seen how many bugs we find and exterminate through our testing, and I have seen how it has affected the quality of our products as management decided to reduce the complexity of our testing. Above all, I have seen how it has affected our sales. Gigabyte has never been very good at their testing. If they want to compete, they need to get off their high horse and confront the criticisms for what they are: a chance to change. If they're pulling their products from being reviewed on this site because of these criticisms, then they have shown their attitude, and nobody should be buying from them anyway.

    The response from APC on the power strip teardown shows how a successful company reacts to criticism. Gigabyte's reaction will show if they're up to the task of staying in business.
  • g00ey
    Well I've had a lot of issues with MSI motherboard. I have RMA:ed all motherboards I've ever bought from them and I've heard a lot of stories from people with MSI laptops. I wonder where we are with MSI today, my expectations are not very high though.
  • lp231
    It's pointless to create a new thread for every x99 board that comes out, so I'll post this here
    Asus x99 Pro
  • Eric Schwartz
    My Asrock X99 Extreme 4 board is truly an amazing board. Overclocking, features and stability are rock solid!
  • Gurg
    Initially bought an Asrock but had a bent CPU pin. RMAd for the Gigabyte which after a bios update has worked great.