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GIGABYTE X99-Designare EX (Intel X99) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 2011 in Motherboards | Posted: Jun 30, 2016 12:51 pm
TweakTown Rating: 93%Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Packaging and Overview




The X99-Designare EX's box is very colorful like the Phoenix's box, but its packaging is a little different. Accessories are protected in their little box, and the motherboard is secured in a foam container.




Accessories include WIFI Antenna, 2x Velcro cable ties, RGB LED extension cable, 1-to-3 8-pin power expander, G-connector, 3-way SLI bridge, 2-way SLI bridge, IO shield, DisplayPort cable, 6x SATA 6Gb/s cables, driver DVDs, and manuals.





Like other GIGABYTE X99 refresh models, the GIGABYTE X99-Designare EX has three types of fan headers. The first is circled in red and is a PWM-only CPU fan header. The two headers circled in green are 4-pin voltage mode headers that will control both PWM and voltage mode fans. The two headers circled in purple are four pin dual-mode (voltage or PWM mode) headers, and their modes can be set manually in the UEFI or software.


GIGABYTE has improved UEFI fan control with a new GUI. GIGABYTE has finally brought back blue with the X99-Designare EX, their original color for their Ultra Durable series of motherboards. Many users missed the blue, since there aren't any other blue and black motherboards on the market, and the X99-Designare EX brings it back in style. The back of the motherboard is bare except for some RGBs for the "XMP" writing on the PCB near the audio area.




The IO panel on the X99-Designare EX is feature rich and carries 5x USB 3.0 ports (the white port is for QFlash Plus), PS/2 keyboard/mouse, two antenna ports, USB 3.1 type-C, USB 3.1 type-A (red), two 1Gbit Intel LAN ports, DisplayPort input (for Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt3 in the future), and 7.1 gold plated audio output with S/PDIF TOSLINK.




Five full-length PCI-E 16x slots all have metal shielding that will protect them from sudden GPU pull outs and prevent damage from heavy GPUs. The PCI-E layout of the X99-Designare EX is one of the most complex so I will go slowly. For starters, the two U.2 ports, the M.2, and the Alpine Ridge each require 4x of PCI-E 3.0, so GIGABYTE is using a PEX8747 to expand lanes. Next up, both 28 and 40 lane CPUs provide 4x PCI-E 3.0 directly to Intel's Alpine Ridge USB 3.1/Thunderbolt 3 controller. CPUs with 40 lanes will get both U.2 ports; one is directly wired to the CPU, and the other comes from the PEX8747, but 28 lane CPUs won't have the U.2 directly wired to the CPU. Instead, they will get only one through the PEX8747. The third PCI-E 16x slot is a 4x electrical PCI-E 2.0 slot connected to the PCH. Next, for both 28 and 40 lane CPUs, the first slot is routed 16x of bandwidth, and the last slot gets 8x from the first slot if it is occupied.


Now, a 40 lane CPU will provide the remaining 16x of bandwidth to the PEX8747, and a 28 lane CPU will provide 8x to the PEX8747. The PEX8747 will output 32 lanes, even if it only gets 8x, so the PCI-E layout is the same for both lane count CPUs. The second to last PCI-E 16x slot (slot number four if we skip the 1x slot), gets 16x of bandwidth and will downshift to 8x if an M.2 drive is installed (it will give 4x to the M.2 slot, and 4x will just not be used). The second PCI-E 16x slot is given the other 16x from the PEX8747, and it will downshift to 8x if the first U.2 slot is used (4x to U.2 and 4x not used). If you need further clarification, please read the manual to determine bandwidth allotment and determine how to proceed.


It's clear that both 28 and 40 lane CPUs get the same PCI-E slot layout/bandwidth, but the 28 lane CPU gets one less U.2 port, and the PEX8747 will provide fewer lanes. With this layout, 40-lane CPU users will be able to use both U.2, M.2, USB 3.1/TB3, and all PCI-E ports simultaneously.




The M.2 slot is hidden under a metal shield that covers up the WIFI card as well. There are ten SATA6Gb/s ports from the PCH, the six towards the top of the motherboard can RAID. The two U.2 ports is a neat sight for a consumer motherboard.




Two USB 3.0 headers are located at the bottom of the motherboard adjacent the front panel headers. The motherboard also carries an RGB LED header for RGB LED cables. There are also two USB 2.0 internal headers for those who need them.




The audio section is covered by its own white and blue plastic shield and has translucent slits that RGB LEDs illuminate. The socket does have extra pins, but from what I have seen, they don't do much for Broadwell-E.




The PCH heat sink is attached to the PCH heat sink and uses a different thermal paste (a more effective one) than the PCH uses. The VRM heat sink is attached to the PCH/PLX heat sink through a nice heat pipe.

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