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GIGABYTE GA-X99-SOC Force Motherboard Overview and Overclocking Guide

By: Steven Bassiri | Guides | Posted: Oct 20, 2014 12:59 pm

Motherboard Circuit Analysis




With GIGABYTE's OC series of boards, we come to expect straight forward feature routing with little extra noise caused by a lot of circuitry. If you look at the block diagram of the motherboard, you will find that most features come directly from the PCH, and not third party controllers.




This is the routing diagram from the X99 SOC Force; you can find it by simply opening the manual. What really stands out is the lack of any third party controllers. This is a good thing for the performance of the individual busses; in fact, the only third party ICs used for connectivity are the two NEC USB 3.0 hubs that expand the four Intel USB 3.0 ports into ten.




The X99 PCH has a TDP of only 6.5W; this is lower than the TDP for the Z77 chipset, yet this chipset features much more PCI-E, USB 3.0, and SATA 6GB/s connectivity. If anyone remembers the days of X79, the PCH got noticeably warm; however, with X99, temperature shouldn't be an issue, and the PCH shouldn't need active cooling.


I decided to also include the image of the two Renesas/NEC D720210 USB 3.0 hubs. These are both one to four hubs, and should work well considering NEC is one of the leaders in the USB 3.0 network, and works with USBIF on development of USB standards. These two hubs provide all the USB 3.0 on the back panel, while the single, internal USB 3.0 header comes directly from the Intel PCH.




This is the Intel i218v, Intel's PHY for the integrated MAC in the PCH; many prefer the Intel NIC for its performance. GIGABYTE provides cFOS control software for Windows based bandwidth control.




GIGABYTE did upgrade the audio on the X99-SOC Force. Under that gold plated EMI shield is a Realtek ALC1150. The back panel and front panel outputs are both amplified by their own Texas Instruments NE5532 amplifiers. While there are two amps for the outputs, there are also two ASM393M. These are low power comparators, and somehow GIGABYTE is using them to control the LEDs on the underside of the PCB to provide different pulsating and beat modes.




The Texas Instruments NE5532 is an amplifier we are finding more and more on high-end motherboards from a range of manufacturers, as it has some pretty nice acoustic qualities. There are also a good number of backside LEDs on this motherboard, and they have four operating modes: off, on, slow pulse, and beat to music output.




Standard M.2 calls for two PCI-E 2.0 lanes; however, many manufacturers have expanded upon this by offering 4x PCI-E 3.0 lanes and calling it Ultra M.2. GIGABYTE decided that for the X99-SOC Force, they would instead route 4x PCI-E 2.0 lanes, and call it Turbo M.2. While this doesn't offer as much bandwidth as 4x PCI-E 3.0, it does double the standard M.2 bandwidth.




GIGABYTE decided to focus on PCI-E slot bandwidth this time around, as opposed to using the extra lanes from the CPU for other uses like M.2. Only four PCI-E 3.0 quick switches are used; this should help reduce latency, and marginally improve 3D performance in multi GPU arrangements. Four NXP L04083Bs are used for this purpose, and the slot arrangements for 40 lane and 28 lane CPUs are provided in the manual, and in the picture above.




GIGABYTE is using a plethora of ITE branded ICs to control everything from SuperIOs to BIOS control mechanisms. First off, we have the ITE8620E, which is a super IO in charge of CPU fan control and PS/2. Four NCT3941S are also used to expand fan control to the four fan headers. IT8792E is the first embedded controller (EC) we find on this board; its purpose is to expand OC features and fan control.




Dual 128Mbit BIOS ROMs are used on this motherboard for the traditional GIGABYTE dual BIOS; however, GIGABYTE added a feature they call QFlash+. QFlash+ is similar to other USB BIOS recovery tools in that all you need is a USB drive with the BIOS in a specific USB port, and then BIOS flashing is triggered. To provide this type of offline BIOS flashing, GIGABYTE uses an ITE8951E, along with a bunch of other ICs. This is another EC, and requires a lot more hardware, which can be found below.




These extra ICs are all labeled with the prefix ECB as the secondary EC chipset system. We can spot two of them near the BIOS ROMs, as well as an extra, smaller 4Mbit ROM for the ECB main controller, the ITE8951. A last ECB chip is found near the USB port that is used for flashing. These tiny chips are used for these ports and ROMs, possibly to power or control them.




These two ICs present two extra features of the X99-SOC Force. The first is the tiny IC near the dual K-type thermocouple input; it's a Texas Instruments ADS1118. This IC is a 16-bit ADC (analog to digital converter) temperature sensor that GIGABYTE's engineers customized to their own specifications (down to -200C). It uses the SPI bus to communicate with the primary EC. The second IC of interest is the IDT6349322, a clock generator used to enhance the standard integrated BCLK clock generator. GIGABYTE says it has an operating range of 90-200MHz, which should offer better BCLK ranges between dividers.




Being a student of engineering, I am a really huge fan of the SMT DIMMs, which GIGABYTE carried over from their Z97 SOC Force. The PCB is also an eight layer PCB with 2oz of copper in the power and ground layers.

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