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GIGABYTE X99-SOC Force and X99-UD7 WiFi Preview

X99

Goood morning hardware fans!!! The sun is shining in the sky, the birds are singing, and as the end of summer comes upon us, so does the launch of Intel’s Haswell-E behemoth. And you know what that means, right? A whole new army of motherboards for the eager tech aficionado, tens of models to choose from, dozens of new features and colors, hundreds of marketing claims and overall a whole bunch of questions regarding the new X99 platform, DDR4 and Core i7 5960X.

Well, today I will not answer these questions. No sir, you will still have to wait a few more days until you can see Haswell-E and DDR4 at work. However, until then I can still show you two new motherboards from GIGABYTE, namely GIGABYTE X99-SOC Force and GIGABYTE X99-UD7 WiFi. Interested? I bet you are…

What’s the fuss about the new platform? Well… this time there are quite some important new things involved, like the first desktop 8 core CPU, and the new generation of RAM, DDR4. This is the beginning of a new era, and we will start our journey, as always, with motherboards. GIGABYTE X99-SOC Force is the overclocking model, and we have great expectations from it, and GIGABYTE X99-UD7 WiFi is the all rounder most people will buy. So let’s buckle up and let’s see how the new motherboards look.

Intro

Packaging & bundle

The package follows the same design lines as the Z97 series and the bundle is also not that different. Inside the box we can find “classic” accessories like the user’s manual, the DVD with drivers, the I/O shield and the black S-ATA cables, but there are also more interesting things in there…

We have one SLI bridge and one CrossfireX bridge, one 4Way SLI connector and two different 3Way SLI connectors. One of them is a regular 3Way SLI connector, while the second is spaced like a 4Way connector so you can mount the third VGA card on the last PCI-E slot. We can also see some 8 pin PCI-E adapters, the small connectors for measuring the voltages straight from the motherboard and of course the OC Brace.

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PCB & connectivity

Ah…the good old black and orange… a nice sight for an overclocker, if you remember the history of this color scheme and the first motherboard from the GIGABYTE OC Series, the beautiful GA-X58A-OC beast… GIGABYTE X99-SOC Force is the direct descendant of the old X58 behemoth, and of course we will have to see if the performance will rise to the level of the old OC monster.

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Until then, let’s see what the engineers from GIGABYTE packed in with X99-SOC Force. Of course, the first thing we see is the OC Button area, which allows us to change settings like the multiplier on the fly, without using any software. Of course, we meet some old friends like OC Ignition (the function that keeps power in the motherboard and fans even if the system is turned off), the PCI-E switches, that allow us to manually shut down the slots we are not using at that moment, the good old debug led and of course the OC Trigger switch and the measuring points.

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Taking a look a little bit to the left, we see the S-ATA connectors area, with S-ATA Express and all the goodies, but we also see something else which is very interesting. You see those 4 tiny holes near the S-ATA connectors? No, Intel didn’t go crazy with yet another type of connector for hard-drives, those are ports for connecting two K-Type temp probes.

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Another new addition, in the frontal connectors area, is the Thunderbolt header. Yep, I think this might be the first time I see a Thunderbolt header on a motherboard… or at least on an overclocking motherboard. We can also see that GIGABYTE X99-SOC Force has 2 PCI-E x16 slots, 2 PCI-E x8 slots and 3 PCI-E x1 ports. And here comes the fun part – using all 40 of the PCI-E lanes from the CPU, GIGABYTE X99-SOC Force can accommodate multi-card configurations like this:

x16 for single card, x16 / x16 for two cards, x16 / x16 / x8 for 3 cards and x16 / x8 / x8 / x8 for 4 cards. So all you need now in order to enjoy full speed SLI are two GTX 780Ti… or 3…or maybe 4… Piece of cake…

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And it doesn’t stop here. Taking a step away from the legacy of X58A-OC, GIGABYTE X99-SOC Force is also gifted with a Realtek ALC1150 HD Audio with built in Rear Audio Amplifier and independent right and left audio channel PCB layers. Well, that’s cool but it is not exactly what I am looking for when I run SuperPi or 3DMark…

A…and I almost forgot… everything is gold plated. The CPU socket is gold plated…the DDR4 slots are gold plated….the PCI-E slots are gold plated… gold, I tell you, gold everywhere.

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Backpanel & VRM

The backpanel looks like it should be on a high-end gaming motherboard, not a spartan overclocking one, but that’s fine. We have 4 USB 2.0 ports, one PS2 port for the legacy overclockers like me, who use a KVM switch between more platforms and only one keyboard, the OC Button, the Dual BIOS switch, Clear CMOS, 7 USB 3.0 ports, one QFlash Plus USB port, the RJ45 connector and the usual audio connectors.

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The VRM is fully digital and it has 8 stages, each comprised of one PowIRstage IC, one Copper Bussmann choke and one PosCap capacitor. The digital PWM that controls the CPU VRM is the International Rectifier IR3580, a 4th generation digital PWM controller that was launched earlier this year.

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Cooling

Well, this is something I haven’t seen in a while… 3 massive heatsinks connected with one long heatpipe take care of cooling the most important components on the motherboard (the chipset, IC’s etc). It’s like somebody is expecting this platform to be pretty hot…

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Packaging & bundle

Now that we have seen the overclocking beast, it is time to take a closer look at a motherboard built for those who do not dream dreams of liquid nitrogen and world records, GIGABYTE X99-UD7 WiFi. We don’t see any OC Brace in this package or any measuring point accessories but we still have all the multi-card connectors we found in X99-SOC Force’s package and plus – we have the WiFi antennas.

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PCB & connectivity

If we leave the color scheme aside and don’t mind the WiFi/BT 4.0 adapter that populates one of the M2 slots, the PCB design is pretty similar. Probably when you have a giant socket with 4 DIMMs on each side there is not much room left for diferent designs…

We have the same PCI-E configuration we saw on X99-SOC Force, the same sound solution, S-ATA ports and even the same Thunderbolt header. The OC Button zone is different, of course, and we have less buttons and functions on X99-UD7 WiFi, but still enough to work with without any problems.

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Backpanel & VRM

The backpanel is different, we still find 7 USB 3.0 ports, the QFlash Plus USB port, the PS2 connector, the sound connectors and the OC Button. However, in this case we have 2 USB 2.0 ports instead of 4, but we have Dual LAN ( 2 x RJ45 connectors), headers for the WiFi antennas and a Fastboot button.

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The VRM is similar with the one we saw on X99-SOC Force but there are some differences. The VRM is fully digital, using the same IR3580 PWM controller and similar IC’s and chokes, but in this case the PosCAPs have been replaced with regular solid caps.

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Cooling

In this case we have a 4 piece cooling system connected with two heatpipes. The difference comes from the 4th radiator that is used to cool the two extra chokes above the first PCI-E slot.

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Final thoughts

Well….how did you like the new GIGABYTE motherboards? Interesting enough? Well, the new CPU and new RAM is exciting enough, and GIGABYTE put in some interesting features on their motherboards, and of course there are some features that I didn’t mentioned, like the new design for the mounting holes (more space around them, so the risk of damaging a small part with the screwdriver is reduced) of the led lit I/O shield we can find on the UD7. Also, both motherboards have leds in the chipset heatsink.

But these are small features, compared to the fact that all the new technologies we have seen in the last year, like M2 or S-ATA Express are integrated on a new high-end platform, along with Thunderbolt, more PCI-E bandwidth and of course DDR4 and some new CPU monsters.

The new high-end platform is looking good and pretty soon you will be able to see all the performance numbers and of course prices. Also, there is another interesting thing to be seen once this new X99 platform is ready. Overclocking wise, GIGABYTE won the Z97 battle with the excellent Z97-SOC Force and Z97-SOC Force LN2. Will they be able to repeat the performance with X99? Will Asus strike back hard with Rampage V Extreme? What are MSI and Asrock up to? That is something that we will have to wait and see, but I am glad the the performance battle between the motherboard giants is on more then ever, because in the end this means more features and more performance for us!

Outro

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