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EVGA X99 Micro Motherboard Review: Haswell-E And MicroATX

Getting To Know The X99 Micro

Intel’s X99 PCH is packed with enough features that most users won’t need a bunch of added-on controllers. Four of the chipset’s six USB 3.0 ports are found on the I/O panel, and two connect to a front-panel header. Perfectly adequate for things like game controllers, mice, keyboards and printers, USB 2.0 serves the other six I/O panel ports.

Nestled among those ports, a CLR_CMOS button helps overclockers get out of a mess.

The X99 Micro has only one front-panel USB 2.0 header though, and some of our machines have four ports (or two ports and a front-bay card reader). That means the only reason we might really need more USB 3.0 ports on the rear is to free up space for another USB 2.0 header internally. As an add-in, USB 3.0 is more fashionable than its elder sibling.

A status code display, Power, Reset and CLR_CMOS buttons along the X99 Micro’s front edge ease overclocking outside the case. EVGA also adds its Probe-It header, though this motherboard doesn’t output a voltage signal from any of the CPU’s internally-regulated circuits. Most important of those missing outputs, CPU core voltage can only be read from software.

A mere six SATA ports makes the X99 Micro appear as though it might be a revamp of an unreleased X79 design, since the former chipset had only six exposed ports. A closer look reveals that there just isn’t any room to break out the platform controller hub's remaining four ports along the front edge of a microATX motherboard. This isn’t even a limitation for most builders, since most microATX cases can’t hold more than six total drives.

We’d still have liked to see an M.2 storage slot on the board, if only to use up two of those leftover ports. We instead find a “Key-E” M.2 that’s compatible only with notebook-style Wi-Fi cards. In spite of its promise, M.2 turned out to be a cluster of conflicts.

The X99 Micro could potentially hold a pair of triple-slot cards, though SLI mode would require a 40-lane version of Haswell-E (Core i7 models -5960X and -5930K) to enable this mode through the third slot. And even then, the six slots those cards consumed would require a full ATX case. That kind of math leads me to not worry about whether a bottom-mounted graphics card would block the front-panel USB 3.0 header. Instead, I'll treat the X99 Micro as a two-slot solution that supports only double-slot graphics cards.

Other than a few SATA ports (hey, EVGA could have added eSATA), the only thing noticeably missing from the X99 Micro is the second set of memory slots. A quad-channel platform, placing only one 8GB DIMM on each channel still gets builders to 32GB.

The X99 Micro includes four SATA cables—the same number supplied with most full-sized motherboards—plus an SLI bridge, Probe-It connector cable for volt meters, I/O shield and cosmetic port cover. Made of black-anodized aluminum, the cover can only be seen from above the board (generally speaking, in a windowed case).

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.