A solid board that’s hampered by little niggles.
Following the RGB trend, this board makes ample use of it with four RGB LED lit areas around the board.
One area in particular is questionable though. Between the first and second PCI-E x16 slots Gigabyte cram in: a PCI-E x1 slot, an M.2 slot, the Wi-Fi module and BIOS battery. All of which (apart from the PCI-E slot itself) is covered by a facia plate that requires a tiny screw driver to remove. It looks good in a display case, but in practice this is simply annoying to work with as the M.2 slot and BIOS battery aren’t immediately accessible. Not only that, but one of the RGB lit regions lies there too, directly under the top PCI-E slot, meaning it is blocked by any dual slot graphics card you pop in. Not a well thought out area.
A board at this price point having a complete lack of on-board physical power/reset buttons, indicator LEDs or BIOS error code display was eyebrow raising too. There are two redeeming features unique to this board, though.
The first is that it’s the only board to provide full PCI-E x16 lane allocation in triple graphics card setups. Which despite having five full length slots because of the layout, no more than three dual slot cards can actually be installed. The second is that it was also the only board offering dual U.2 ports.
What’s in the box
Installation guide and user manual, IO face plate and software/driver DVDs are present and accounted for.
Six SATA cables with a nice cloth weave are accompanied by some colourful sticker labels and two Velcro straps for cable management.
A 2-way and 3-way SLI bridge are included, but no HB SLI bridge.
There’s also; a 2×2 Wi-Fi antennae with magnetic base, an RGB LED extension cable, chassis wiring insertion aid, a short DisplayPort cable, a 3-into-1 CPU power connector for shunting extra power into the CPU’s 8-pin power connector, and finally two Ultra Durable brand case stickers.
BIOS, XMP and Turbo Boost 3.0
This motherboard gave us the most trouble of all those tested. On the XMP + Turbo Boost 3 front, we discovered early on that no matter what BIOS changes we made, enabling XMP always caused our CPU to run at a constant 4GHz. Conferring with Gigabyte revealed that this is actually intended behaviour by their design. Realising this meant we couldn’t fairly benchmark this board against the others which were running at stock speeds, Gigabyte kindly gave us a once-off beta BIOS which removed the issue.
The beta BIOS with XMP enabled meant it ran at 3.4GHz (100MHz less than the other motherboards) and is a big factor in why their benchmark numbers don’t look so great, but far fairer than what all cores running at 4GHz would’ve been. With that issue largely solved, getting Turbo Boost 3 working to allow a single core to boost to 4GHz also required the C3 State option to be enabled before this motherboard finally started operating the way we desired.
We must mention that future BIOS updates will not be based off our special beta BIOS, so don’t expect to be able to run Turbo Boost 3 correctly alongside XMP on this motherboard in the future.
On top of all this, using the keyboard to navigate up and down the menus was sluggish and laggy. Hold down the arrow keys for a couple of seconds you then wait 5 seconds as the UI catches up, the same with altering values with PgUp and PgDwn. We were constantly overshooting desired values or menu options.
Finally, the inbuilt BIOS Update function in the UEFI didn’t work at all. We could see BIOS update files on USB or OS disks but selecting the file to begin the procedure always resulted in a system hang, ultimately requiring a reboot. Only via Gigabyte’s Windows Update software were we able to update the BIOS properly. These are issues that need ironing out in future updates.
Gigabyte GA-X99-Designare EX
“This motherboard gave us the most trouble of all those tested.”
Dual U.2 ports • one M.2 slot • five x16 gen3 and one x1 gen2 PCI-E slots • 4x USB3 ports • 2x USB3.1 ports as a Type-C and Type-A port.
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