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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

Here are key points about the GIGABYTE X99-Designare EX.


What's Hot


Hidden PEX8747: Most motherboards with a PEX8747 chip show it off with a nice heat sink located in the middle of the motherboard, but the X99-Designare EX hides it near the PCH. The PEX8747 provides the same PCI-E layout for both 28 and 40 lane CPUs and allows for an M.2 slot and U.2 port to work with both CPUs. The advantage of having a 40 lane CPU on this board is an extra U.2 port directly linked to the CPU and 8x more bandwidth to the PEX8747. Overall, GIGABYTE's mixture of PEX8747 PCI-E slots and slots directly linked to the CPU provides flexibility for users when configuring their layouts.



Intel Alpine Ridge with Future Thunderbolt 3 Support: GIGABYTE equipped this motherboard with Intel's Alpine Ridge controller, and configured it with 4x of PCI-E 3.0 from the CPU, the proper Texas Instruments chip for TB3, a DisplayPort input for TB3, and BIOS settings for Thunderbolt 3. The only thing missing is official Intel certification, which will take a few months to get. Until then GIGABYTE will not officially advertise Thunderbolt 3, but all those enhancements are nowhere to be found on the X99-Phoenix, which also uses the same controller, so I would expect it in the future.


No Switching of Features: The X99-Designare EX can support both U.2 ports, a 32Gb/s M.2 port, all its PCI-E slots, USB 3.1/Thunderbolt 3, and it's NICs all at the same time. You will not have to compromise certain features for others on this motherboard, and that is rare for X99 motherboards because all the PCI-E 3.0 is in the CPU and the PCH does not have many PCI-E lanes for features.


Intel NICs All Around: Many enthusiasts dislike seeing non-Intel brand NICs on their high-end motherboards. GIGABYTE listened to them and has equipped the X99-Designare EX with dual Intel Gbit NICs and an Intel WirelessAC/Bluetooth 4.2 card.


GIGABYTE's UEFI Overhaul: GIGABYTE's new UEFI provides solid fan control, RGB control, and even added in the ability to enable or disable adaptive voltage mode for overclocking. All together you never have to install a piece of software to take full advantage of the motherboard's features or hardware.


VRM Performance: The VRM components GIGABYTE has used on the X99-Designare EX are top-notch regarding quality and performance. The true eight phase digital PWM controller provides great control profiles for the VRM, and coupled with the same brand integrated power stages, you will get top-notch performance. Thermal shots show that the VRM did not even get very warm under full load conditions with all cores at 4GHz.


What's Not


No POST Code or OC Features: While this is more of a power-user/workstation motherboard than an overclocking motherboard, everyone can make use of a POST Code display for troubleshooting. GIGABYTE has been good about including POST Codes on their other motherboards; I am perplexed as to why they did not include one here. I would have also liked to see some BIOS switches.



Final Thoughts


The X99-Designare EX is the reboot motherboard for the Ultra Durable series. It brings back the iconic blue color theme against an elegant white background and smooth black matte PCB. Its RGB LEDs add a nice touch, but I don't see myself changing the blue to another color since it matches so well with the color theme of the motherboard.


The PEX8747 adds in an unexpected but pleasant twist. Most users would not expect to see one on an X99 motherboard since there are so many PCI-E lanes from the CPU for PCI-E slots, but GIGABYTE is using it to not only expand PCI-E slot bandwidth but also U.2 and M.2. Some users might look towards U.2 for off-board NVMe drive connectivity, and having two U.2 ports is definitely a plus for those users.




GIGABYTE's new UEFI introduces some features many users found missing from GIGABYTE's previous iterations, and we can finally add fan control to the pros column instead of the cons when it comes to GIGABYTE motherboards. Overall, the motherboard not only looks and feels high quality but also performs like a $400+ motherboard should. It is high-end enough to give the 6950X a home it deserves. The $400 mark is where we are going to separate mainstream X99 motherboards from high-end X99 motherboards, and for this price, it is feature heavy.


If you are looking for a premium product to trust with your $1700 CPU, the X99-Designare EX is a finalist.

Product Summary Breakdown

TweakTown award
Performance (including Overclocking)92%
Quality including Design and Build95%
General Features95%
Bundle and Packaging93%
Value for Money92%
Overall TweakTown Rating93%

The Bottom Line: GIGABYTE has coupled high-end hardware with solid engineering and features to produce a motherboard worthy of its $400+ price tag.

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