Gigabyte uses a three-pronged approach to attracting Haswell-E buyers to its X99-based motherboards. First, its Ultra Durable boards cater to the widest cross-section of potential buyers, with models ranging from the budget-oriented X99-UD3 up to the high-end X99-UD7 Wi-Fi.
Next, the Overclocking series of boards are for extreme overclockers aiming to push clock speeds, and consequently voltages, to dizzying heights. Buyers of these boards can expect voltage measurement points, sub-zero cooling, and competitive benchmarking tools.
Finally, the G1 Gaming series of boards is designed to appeal to, well, gamers. Gigabyte outfits these boards with beefed-up onboard audio, gaming-focused networking controllers, and LEDs-a-plenty. One such board is the X99-Gaming 5P. Read on to find out how this board stacks up.
The X99-Gaming 5P is decked out in the same familiar red-and-black color scheme as Gigabyte’s other 9-series gaming boards. A pure-black PCB combined with Gigabyte-exclusive jet black Nippon Chemi-Con capacitors (which Gigabyte has branded as “Durablack” caps) gives the board a stealthy look. If it weren’t for the high-end Nichicon audo capacitors and the gold EMI shield covering the Creative audio codec, we’d have a handful of red shards in a sea of muted blacks and greys.
To deliver power to the CPU socket, Gigabyte taps International Rectifier for both its digital PWM controller and PowIRstage ICs. PowIRstage combines the three components of a power phase—the driver, high side MOSFET, and low side MOSFET—into a single package. This setup offers better efficiency and better thermal performance than a VRM whose power phases use discrete components. “Server-level” inductors and Durablack caps act as the VRM’s output filter, smoothing power delivered to the CPU.
A full allotment of DDR4 DIMM slots flanks the socket. Firmware revision F2c gives the board support for 16GB DIMMs, so the Gaming 5P can handle up to 128GB of memory. As is common on boards that have the DIMM slots butting right up against the top PCIe x16 slot, the DIMM slots themselves have locking mechanisms on only one end, which saves you from having to remove your video card to swap DIMMs.
Although the X99 Gaming 5P’s E-ATX form factor affords it an extra 0.8″ (2 cm) in width, those PCIe slots are still close enough to the CPU socket that there’s potential for clearance issues with large aftermarket CPU coolers. We’ve taken some measurements to help you figure out which components can safely fit together on the board:
Thankfully, the memory slots closest to the CPU socket only need to be populated when maxing out the system with eight DIMMs. More common four-DIMM setups will use the quartet of slots further from the CPU socket.
To the north of the CPU socket, the VRM heatsink sits closely, while to the south, the first PCIe x16 slot is nearest. The heatsink and slot placement make for a fairly crowded socket area. The benefit of this layout is that Gigabyte can cram seven expansion slots into the remaining space.
The X99-Gaming 5P gives us four double-spaced PCIe x16 slots fed with Gen3 lanes from the CPU. If your Haswell-E CPU has the full 40 lanes of PCIe connectivity enabled, both SLI and CrossFire configurations with up to four video cards are supported. If you’ve opted for the 28-lane Core i7-5820K, your SLI aspirations will top out at 3-way setups. This limitation doesn’t apply to CrossFire, where 4-way configs are still supported on the budget Haswell-E model.
For dual-card setups, the first and third x16 slots from the left are used. This arrangement gives breathing room not only for a pair only double-wide cards, but also for two triple-slot beasts. In fact, installing two triple-slot cards still leaves the middle x1 slot unobscured. The right-most x16 slot is used for three-card configs, and as expected, all four slots are needed for 4-way setups.
The number of lanes going to each slot for the different possible multi-GPU configurations will depend on whether your slice of Haswell-E silicon has the full 40 or only 28 PCIe lanes enabled. Rather than attempting to paint you a picture with prose, we’ve instead mapped out how PCIe lanes are assigned to slots in diagrams. Click the buttons to toggle between the two possible processor options:
All four x16 slots are usable, no matter how many PCIe lanes your CPU provides. The processor choice just governs how many lanes each x16 slot gets: for models with 40 lanes, the four slots will have lane arrangements of x8/x8/x16/x8, while those running Core i7-5820Ks are looking at x8/x8/x8/x4. The PCIe x1 slots separating each of the x16 slots are each connected to a single Gen2 lane coming from the chipset.
Between the second and third x16 slots lie two low-slung M.2 sockets. The lower one of the pair has a single Gen2 PCIe lane from the X99 chipset, and the upper gets two chipset lanes for double the bandwidth. These two slots are meant for mini Wi-Fi cards and storage devices, respectively.
On that note, let’s take a look at the details of the Gaming 5P’s storage features.
Storage, audio, and lights
Storage connectivity on the Gaming 5P is clustered at the bottom right-hand corner of the board. All of these ports are right-angled, facing the Gaming 5P’s edge.
Within the gray SATA Express connector are two standard Serial ATA ports and a pair of backward-compatible SATAe ports. This gives the board a grand total of 10 6Gbps SATA ports. These ports are labeled as SATA3 0-5 and sSATA3 0-3. Gigabyte isn’t trying to convert us to a base-6 number system—rather, that designation is pointing out that only the four gray SATA connectors and the rightmost two black ports above, labeled SATA3, can be combined into RAID arrays using Intel’s drivers. The leftmost four SATA ports, labeled sSATA3, operate in either IDE or AHCI mode only. This arrangement is a fundamental limitation of the X99 chipset. That said, it doesn’t preclude you from using OS-managed or third-party software RAID if you’d like.
As in most Intel 9-series boards, two of the chipset’s flexible I/O lanes drive not only the M.2 storage slot, but also the SATA Express connector and the dual 6Gbps SATA ports embedded therein. This sharing setup means that only one of those three storage connections can be in use at any point.
The Gaming 5P’s rear port cluster looks fairly standard on first glance, but splashes of yellow and white on the USB ports and the gold-plated audio jacks let us know that there’s more here than meets the eye.
First up, we have the white USB port. In addition to serving as a standard USB 3.0 port, this white connector works in concert with an onboard embedded controller—the iTE 8951E next to the CMOS battery—to let you update the firmware using only a power supply and a thumb drive. Gigabyte calls this feature Q-Flash Plus. Although it’s not something you’ll use every day, it can save you from having to beg, borrow, or steal a supported CPU just to update the firmware so that your CPU of choice will boot.
This white port, along with the three blue USB 3.0 ports above it, is connected to a Renesas uPD720210 hub chip, which is fed from one of the X99 chipset’s USB 3.0 ports. For USB 3.0 ports directly linked to the chipset, you’ll need to look toward the two USB 3.0 ports below the Gigabit Ethernet jack or the two available via an internal header.
The four leftmost USB 2.0 ports are yellow because they feature isolated power. As a result, the 5V output from these connectors may be cleaner than average: Gigabyte claims the isolation results in two times less line noise than regular USB ports. While this feature is included primarily for users with USB DACs, cleaner power in general can hardly be seen as a bad thing. Without the help of an oscilloscope to verify these claims, we’ll have to take Gigabyte’s word for it. Four more standard USB 2.0 ports are available via internal headers.
Whew. Here’s a graphical representation of all of that information:
Since this is a gaming-focused motherboard, Gigabyte has foregone Intel’s Gigabit Ethernet controllers in favor of Qualcomm Atheros’s Killer E2201 chip. The Killer comes with traffic prioritization software that aims to improve ping times under conditions where multiplayer games are competing with other applications for bandwidth. While packet prioritization is nice in theory, it doesn’t help if the network congestion is occurring at some point outside of the PC. Of course, this Ethernet jack is colored red, because, well, gaming. Gigabyte also includes an antenna bracket for M.2 Wi-Fi cards on the rightmost side of the port cluster, a nice touch.
Gigabyte has beefed up the Gaming 5P’s onboard audio in terms of both components and signal quality. Underneath the golden, Sound Core3D-emblazoned EMI shield lies a Creative CA0132 audio chip. This chip contains the audio codec and four independent DSPs that Creative’s software stack uses for various voice and audio effects.
Creative’s chip is backed an upgradable op-amp that drives the gold-plated rear audio jacks, along with a second headphone amplifier for the front panel audio header. An onboard switch adjacent to the op-amp selects between a 2.5x or a 6x audio gain, which can be useful for high-impedance speakers or headphones. High-quality audio capacitors from Nichicon’s MUSE ES series, seen on the first page in green, round out the audio hardware.
The audio components themselves are only half the picture. It’s nice to see that Gigabyte has focused on analog signal quality, as well. All of the audio components have been isolated to their own section of the board to minimize interference from other noisy digital signals. The trace lengths from the Creative chip to the audio capacitors, through the op-amp, and into the output jacks have also been minimized. Finally, the left and right audio channels are run on separate PCB layers to eliminate crosstalk.
All of this adds up to an onboard audio implementation that my ears were happy with. I couldn’t hear any interference under both system load and idle conditions, and hissing and pops were pleasantly absent.
The Gaming 5P ships with a cushioned I/O shield, which is a nice system-builder perk, but it gets better: the shield also has embedded LEDs. By default, these LEDs provide a bright, solid glow that can light the way to a particular port at the back of your PC.
If a solid glow just isn’t going to do it for you, there’s also a pulsing mode and a party-in-your-case mode that responds to music. (Gigabyte calls it “Beat Mode,” but I like my name better.) This mode lights up the I/O shield, chipset heatsink LED, and audio LED trace path in time with any audio piped through the onboard stereo output. Here’s a video that Geoff took of this phenomenon for the X99-UD4 review:
On the X99-Gaming 5P, both the chipset heatsink LED and the audio LED trace path lighting are red, but you get the idea. If all of this lighting is too much to stomach, it can be completely disabled.
Here’s an idea for Gigabyte’s suggestion box: a fourth,
useful interesting lighting mode could tie the intensity of the LEDs to one of the system temperatures. As the system starts to heat up, the lighting could grow brighter for an at-a-glance assessment of the system’s status.
Motherboards may have moved to UEFI-based firmware, but Gigabyte’s DualBIOS name is here to stay. The firm’s boards have been fitted with backup firmware chips for years, and the X99-Gaming 5P is no exception. Unlike some of Gigabyte’s top-end motherboards, the Gaming 5P lacks a hardware-based shortcut to enter the firmware. This omission is a little irksome. With the ultra-fast-boot option enabled, no amount of key-mashing on boot-up will get you into the firmware. Thankfully, Gigabyte provides a software solution via its Fast Boot utility, which has a handy “Enter BIOS Setup Now” button that reboots directly into the UEFI.
The Clear CMOS header is tucked between the chipset heatsink and the front-panel header, but there’s still plenty of room to get at it with both fingers and tools. That said, the X99-Gaming 5P does an excellent job recovering from unstable overclocks on its own. Should the system fail to boot for some reason, the firmware pops up a Boot Failure Guard screen that can reset the board to its firmware defaults or allow one to enter the firmware interface to fix any follies. Not once did we have to resort to shorting these two pins.
When it comes to accessories, Gigabyte throws in a few interesting add-ins. The provided SATA cables are sheathed in woven housings, just like the wiring on sleeved power supplies, and there’s a three-to-one adapter for the CPU’s auxiliary 12V power input. This power adapter is supposed to allow heavily overclocked Haswell-E processors to be supplied current from multiple rails without tripping the power supply’s over-current protection (OCP).
Another nifty feature can be seen around the motherboard mounting holes. Gigabyte has deliberately kept a wider region than normal free from onboard components to prevent sloppy screwdriver use from causing damage. We can probably thank Gigabyte’s RMA department for this safety net.
Even with all of these nice little tweaks, we’re let down by the lack of front-panel wiring blocks. This omission isn’t isolated to the model we’re reviewing here though—none of Gigabyte’s boards ship with them. That said, the front panel header is nicely color-coded which gives us some hints when wiring up these fiddly connections.
Now, on to the firmware.
The three faces of firmware
The X99-Gaming 5P has the same UEFI as Gigabyte’s own X99-UD4, which is in turn, almost the same as Gigabyte’s other 9-series boards. Users are presented with three firmware interfaces: a novice-friendly Startup Guide, an enthusiast-oriented Smart Tweak UI, and an old-school Classic Mode. Here’s what Smart Tweak UI looks like on the Gaming 5P:
One interesting feature of the Gaming 5P that I haven’t yet covered centers around a little onboard switch, CPU Mode, next to the internal USB 3.0 header. This switch can be toggled between a default mode and an OC Mode. That’s all that the user manual has to say about it, apart from a warning next to OC Mode that says “Please note that using may result in incompatibility.” Once OC Mode is enabled, six extra voltage settings, VL1 – VL6, are unlocked in the CPU Core Voltage Control tab of the firmware:
The CPU socket on the Gaming 5P actually has 2,083 pins rather than the usual 2,011. My guess is that switching to OC Mode enables the extra pins in the CPU socket. This setup might give us control over Haswell-E’s fully integrated voltage regulator (FIVR) and the voltages it produces for the different functional units on-die. Or I could be completely wrong. In any case, we’ve reached out to Gigabyte for more information on what’s going on here: what are these extra voltage options actually affecting, and under what circumstances would one modify them? We’ll update the review when we hear back from them on this point.
Apart from that mystery and intrigue, the firmware is pretty much the same as the X99-UD4’s. Thus, I’ll point you towards Geoff’s review of that board for the full details of what the firmware offers. I will reiterate a few gripes that I have with Gigabyte’s 9-series firmware, in the hope that if I repeat them enough we’ll see things changed in the future. It worked for Geoff and fan speed controls, after all.
At first glance, it appears the Smart Tweak and Classic Mode interfaces offer equivalent functionality, but closer examination reveals that Smart Tweak’s coverage of config options only extends to the board’s overclocking functionality. This config is apparently by design, but it’s a shame. Smart Tweak is a much more modern firmware interface, complete with 1080p support and handy status panes bordering the main area of interaction. It would be nice to have support for all the available knobs and dials in the new interface.
Classic Mode, shown above, has gotten a fresh coat of paint for Gigabyte’s X99 boards compared to what we saw on the Z97 models. It also has smoother cursor tracking than what I experienced on the Z97-HD3’s Classic Mode firmware interface. This change is welcome. If you ever have to adjust platform options related to storage and I/O, or CPU features like virtualization, you’ll be dropping back to Classic Mode and its associated 1024×768 resolution.
The good news is that unlike the X99-UD4, the X99-Gaming 5P does provide memory multipliers higher than 26.66. The bad news is that we couldn’t get them to work right. When we enabled the first XMP profile on our Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 DIMMs for operation at 2800MHz, the firmware chose a CPU base clock speed of 127.3MHz with a memory multiplier of 22. This setting did work, and it was stable thanks to the Haswell-E platform’s normal base clock strap of 1.25x, but it’s not ideal. Manually keeping the base clock at 100MHz while setting a memory multiplier of 28.00, as we had done on Asus’ X99 Deluxe, led to a POST failure.
When we pinged Gigabyte for some help with the situation, we were advised not to use the 28.00 memory multiplier with the default base clock speed. Instead, Gigabyte told us to use the default XMP profile’s 127.3MHz base clock setting if we wanted our DDR4 clocked at 2800MHz. Buyers aiming to pair this motherboard with DDR4 running faster than 2666MHz will apparently have to overclock their CPU’s base strap, and that’s not ideal. Not all CPUs may respond equally well to having their base clocks bumped.
One more quick gripe: if the memory speed is changed or an XMP profile is enabled, the firmware overclocks the CPU by applying the highest turbo multiplier—normally only used if up to two cores are busy—to all turbo states, no matter how many cores are active. For a Core i7-5960X, this tweak means that if more than two cores are active, you’ll be running at 3.5GHz rather than 3.3GHz. A lot of modern boards play games like these with multipliers, but what makes the Gaming 5P’s behavior more troubling is that the firmware shows the default non-overclocked Turbo multipliers while actually using the overclocked ones. Nasty.
Apart from these gripes, the firmware is a pleasure to use, and it caters to newbies and seasoned overclockers alike.
Software that’ll have you seeing red
As with the board’s firmware, the X99-Gaming 5P’s included software is essentially the same as what the X99-UD4 offers, except for one small difference: this is a gaming board. As a result, the interface wears a coat of red paint. Once again, I’ll point you to the appropriate section of Geoff’s X99-UD4 review for a detailed overview of the software. If you’ve got a pair of anaglyph 3D glasses handy, look through just the red lens so you can get the full gaming effect.
Unfortunately, my simple mind associates red with entering the danger zone. Upon starting Easy Tune on the X99-Gaming 5P, a brief moment of panic set in for me. Once that wore off, Easy Tune functioned exactly as it does on Gigabyte’s other 9-series boards. Tweaking options are grouped under Advanced CPU OC, Advanced DDR OC, and 3D Power tabs. Just remember that the Advanced DDR OC tab only has settings for memory timings—memory voltages are found under Advanced CPU OC.
Fan speed controls live in Gigabyte’s separate System Information Viewer application, and they’re excellent. The user may configure an ideal fan response curve by adjusting five points on a graph of system workload versus temperature. There’s also a calibration function that ensures each fan has an accurate profile by measuring the actual speed ranges of the fans connected to the board. This functionality is miles ahead of what’s available for fan speed controls in the Gaming 5P’s firmware. Hopefully, we’ll see this level of control migrate to the firmware in future boards, as well.
One minor weakness is worthy of note, though. The fan speeds key on the CPU’s utilization rather than its temperature. A more ideal control algorithm would adjust fan speeds directly in response to heat rather than CPU activity.
Modern premium motherboards often include a mobile monitoring app for one’s smartphone. Like the rest of Gigabyte’s 9-series boards, the X99-Gaming 5P is no exception. Gigabyte’s entry into the smartphone app race is called Cloud Station, and it requires a corresponding Cloud Station Server app to run on the host system.
The Cloud Station app turns an Android or iOS device into your motherboard’s trusty sidekick. It can monitor and tweak system settings, among other functions. With the X99-Gaming 5P, the tuner options let users modify settings like the base clock, CPU multiplier, and some pertinent voltages, while the monitoring options let users keep an eye on a handful of voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures. It would be nice to have the ability to set alarm thresholds and notifications for those variables, but simple monitoring is a good start.
A given processor’s top stable frequency is mostly determined by the limitations of that particular chip and the CPU cooler one has on top. The motherboard can have a huge impact on how you get to that top speed, though—will it be fun and easy, or arduous and painful?
Given the X99-Gaming 5P’s target market, we’d expect that most will pair the Core i7-5930K with this board. Since this chip has two fewer cores than the top-end i7-5960X, one might achieve a higher overclock before thermals become unmanageable. Very few games need more than twelve threads to run well, too.
Since we’re extremists, we used the eight-core Core i7-5960X with Cooler Master Nepton’s 240M strapped to it in our testing. The Nepton has a 240-mm radiator and $130 asking price, so it’s the sort of cooler one might expect to see in a system built around the X99-Gaming 5P.
Our first stop on the overclocking journey was the firmware. The Smart Tweak UI provides several CPU Upgrade options, with different presets for different processors. For the Core i7-5960X, we were presented with three options: 3.8GHz, 4.0GHz, and 4.3GHz.
Selecting the 3.8GHz CPU Upgrade option set all of the Turbo core multipliers to 38 and the CPU’s core voltage to 1.1V. With this configuration our Prime95 run passed with flying colors, and the CPU core temperatures peaked at 72° C.
We wanted more, though. Next, we tried the 4.0GHz CPU Upgrade option. This gave us Turbo core multipliers of 40 across the board, and a core voltage of 1.2V. Under these conditions, our Prime95 run passed and was stable, with no signs of thermal throttling. However, our Nepton cooler was starting to have trouble with all the heat—core temperatures maxed out at 87° C.
Throwing caution to the wind, we also gave the 4.3GHz preset a shot. As expected, the firmware set the Turbo multipliers to 43, with a core voltage of 1.25V. Given the temperatures we saw with the 4.0GHz option, we weren’t confident our cooler could handle the heat. Unfortunately, we didn’t get even get that far. We could boot into Windows, but starting a Prime95 run caused the system to instantly reboot.
At this point, it was time to try out overclocking in Windows with Gigabyte’s Easy Tune application:
Easy Tune gives the user a choice of either pre-baked overclocking profiles or an auto-tuning feature that increases clock speeds iteratively, testing stability along the way.
The Light profile tried for a 3.7GHz clock speed at a core voltage of 1.1V. This was completely stable under our Prime95 load, with core temperatures maxing out at 71° C. The Medium profile gave us 3.9GHz on 1.152V, which also proved stable, although core temperatures jumped to 79° C during our Prime95 stress-test. We didn’t observe any thermal throttling at these settings, though. The Extreme profile shot for 4.1GHz with a core voltage of 1.2V. These settings were also stable, but Prime95 got our Haswell cores up to 88° C. The chip still didn’t throttle here, but our Nepton was spinning its fans as fast as it could to keep temperatures at this level.
Once we exhausted the overclocking profiles, we turned to Easy Tune’s auto-tuning feature. During the tuning process, we saw the clock speeds jump from the stock 3.0GHz to 3.5GHz, then to 3.9GHz, followed by 4.0GHz. The program finished its tweaking at 4.1GHz.
The auto-tuner ran its own stability test at each point, but it clearly wasn’t running anything as torturous as Prime95. That test led to thermal throttling straight away. The auto-tuner had selected a core voltage of 1.35V, which sent our core temperatures through the roof and forced the CPU to downclock itself for safety.
With the board’s automatic overclocking features fully exhausted, we decided that it was time to turn off the autopilot and see what we could do with manual tuning. We started by tweaking the multiplier alone, with all the voltages left at “auto” defaults. Using this method, we got all the way to 3.7GHz with the core voltage at its default 1.065V. The first bump in core voltage that the firmware applied for us was at 3.8GHz, resulting in a core voltage of 1.1V. As we continued to push upward, the firmware applied 1.2V at a 40x Turbo core multiplier.
Prime95 caused core temperatures to push into the 80s at this point, so we decided to see how manual voltage tweaks compared to the firmware’s automatic mode. With core voltage under our control, we found that Prime95 was stable at 4.0GHz with a core voltage of only 1.15V. This kept our CPU cooler: temperatures peaked at 80° C, and we saw no signs of thermal throttling.
Continuing with our manual tuning, we ended up at a final stable overclock of 4.1GHz with a 1.20V core voltage. These settings were stable with our Prime95 stress-test, and no thermal throttling occurred. Pushing for 4.2GHz at 1.20V gave us Prime95 errors within minutes, and raising the core voltage to 1.225V caused our chip to throttle. In the end, we arrived at the same settings as Easy Tune’s Extreme profile.
While 4.1GHz on a Core i7-5960X doesn’t sound all that impressive, we got similar results on our Asus X99 Deluxe using the same Nepton 240M cooler. With that in mind, the Gigabyte X99-Gaming 5P is in good company.
It’s also worth pointing out that our Prime95 stress-test is using 256-bit fused multiply-add instructions from Intel’s AVX2 extensions. These operations put Haswell’s vector units under immense load, leading to the large amount of heat that Prime95 generates. That’s what makes it an excellent stress-test, of course. It’s also interesting to note that Haswell-EP chips actually have a base AVX clock speed that is lower than the standard base clock speed. I wonder if we’ll ever see something like this transition to Intel’s high-end desktop platforms.
Since so much former chipset functionality now resides on the CPU die, and since there are only a handful of third-party peripheral controllers out there, we rarely see meaningful performance differences between motherboards these days. That said, we still test performance, if for no other reason than to ensure everything is functioning correctly.
When it comes to testing motherboard performance, we’ve usually gathered benchmark results using the CPU’s peak stock memory multipliers. Since DDR4 is so new, however, and Haswell-E’s conservative 2133MHz maximum stock speed, we’ve taken to testing X99 boards with the memory clocked at the highest speed we can attain while keeping the CPU at its stock clocks.
We tested Gigabyte’s X99-Gaming 5P against another Haswell-E board, Asus’ X99 Deluxe, which Geoff reviewed last year. Asus’ board was able to clock our DDR4 DIMMs at 2800MHz while maintaining stock CPU clocks. The X99-Gaming 5P, on the other hand, had to boost the base clock to 127.3MHz in order to run our DDR4 memory at 2800MHz. Since we had to settle for a 2666MHz top speed on the Gaming 5P to play by these rules, these results aren’t strictly an apples-to-apples comparison. As you’ll see below, however, this makes very little difference to real-world performance. Using targeted memory benchmarks like Stream makes the difference easy to spot, though:
Since the X99 Deluxe is able to run our memory 5% faster than the X99-Gaming 5P, we should expect a synthetic memory benchmark to show a difference in performance. We’re not let down: Stream shows just more than a 6% higher sustained memory bandwidth for the copy test.
As expected, a 5% deficit in memory clock speed doesn’t put the X99-Gaming 5P at a disadvantage in real-world tasks. In fact, the board pulls out a decent win in our x264 encoding test. We’re not exactly sure what’s behind the higher x264 result for the Gigabyte board, but repeated testing shows a consistent 7% advantage over the Asus board. For the rest of the tests, the Gigabyte board is happily trading blows with its rival.
Boot times were remarkably close between the two boards, with both taking around 28 seconds to go from power-on to the Windows 8.1 desktop. With Z97-based boards boasting boot times in the low-to-mid teens, the above times may look long, but they’re not unexpectedly so. After all, Intel’s high-end desktop platforms borrow heavily from their two-socket server/workstation kin, which play in a market where boot time performance is rarely considered, much less discussed.
Unlike performance results, one’s choice of motherboard can have a notable impact on power consumption. We measured total system power draw (sans monitor and speakers) at the wall socket with our test system idling for a period of five minutes in the Windows desktop, and then under a full load combining Cinebench rendering with the Unigine Valley demo.
While the X99-Gaming 5P consumes only 3W less than the X99 Deluxe at idle, this difference grows to 25W under load. Asus’ LGA2011 boards have a history of higher power draw, but even so, that’s still a sizable difference. It seems unrelated to the difference in the boards’ respective memory speeds—when we run the memory at 2666MHz in the X99 Deluxe, the load and idle power results remain unchanged.
Perhaps we’re seeing the advantage of Gigabyte’s purportedly more efficient power delivery system here. That said, we do have to remember that the Asus board is powering more third party controllers, like extra SATA, USB, GigE, and Wi-Fi chips.
As part of our investigation into the above differences in power consumption under load, we took readings with both boards running the memory at the stock speed of 2133MHz. Interestingly, this config dropped load power consumption by 12.7W on the X99-Gaming 5P and by 13.3W on the X99 Deluxe. The corresponding idle power consumption dropped by 11W on both boards. Perhaps requesting an increase to the memory multiplier results in the firmware boosting some uncore voltage to ensure stability when clocking the memory this fast.
The following page is loaded with detailed motherboard specifications, system configurations, and test procedures. For those who take the path less traveled by not skipping straight to the conclusion, thank you. Those tables don’t populate themselves. You’ll also get to see pictures of the test components inside and out of the Antec P380 case we use to house our test rigs.
We’ve already gone over the X99-Gaming 5P’s most important details, but for completeness, here’s the full spec breakdown.
|Platform||Intel X99, socket LGA2011-v3|
|DIMM slots||8 DDR4, 128GB max|
|Expansion slots||4 PCIe 3.0 x16 via CPU
3 PCIe 2.0 x1 via X99
1 M.2 PCIe 2.0 x1 via X99
|Storage I/O||1 M.2 type 2242-2280 via X99 (x2 link)
1 SATA Express via X99
6 SATA RAID 6Gbps via X99
4 SATA 6Gbps via X99
|Audio||2/5.1-channel HD via Creative Sound Core3D (CA0132 chip)
TI Burr Brown OPA2134 op-amp (upgradable)
TI DVR632 headphone amplifier for front panel audio header
Support for Creative Alchemy and Sound Blaster Recon3Di
|Wireless||Add via M.2 PCIe slot|
|Ports||1 PS/2 mouse
1 PS/2 keyboard
4 USB 3.0 via Renesas uPD720210 hub chip connected to X99
2 USB 3.0 via X99
2 USB 3.0 via internal header and X99
4 USB 2.0 via X99
4 USB 2.0 via internal headers and X99
1 Gigabit Ethernet via Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201
1 line in/mic in
4 analog out ports (front, center, rear, headphone)
1 digital S/PDIF out
|Overclocking||All/per-core Turbo multiplier: 12-80X
Uncore multiplier: 12-80X
CPU gear ratio: 1, 1.25, 1.66, 2.5X
Base clock: 80-133MHz
Host/PCIe clock: 80-133.33MHz
DRAM multiplier: 8-40.00X
CPU voltage: 0.5-1.7V
|Fan control||2 x CPU (DC and PWM), 3 x SYS (DC and PWM):
Predefined silent, normal, and full speed profiles
Manual profile with five temp/speed points per fan (software)
Manual profile with PWM/°C slope (firmware)
The PCIe configurations are for 40-lane CPUs. With a 28-lane chip, the lane assignments are x16/x0/x8/x4 or /8/x8/x8/x4.
Our testing methods
As promised, here are the test components we used:
While performance testing and overclocking was carried out on an open-air testbed, we also installed our rig inside Antec’s P380 full tower case. You can read Jeff’s review of the case here.
Once assembled and powered on, here’s what the test system looked like:
We used the following configurations for testing:
|Processor||Intel Core i7-5960X|
|Cooler||Cooler Master Nepton 240M|
|Motherboard||Asus X99 Deluxe||Gigabyte X99-Gaming 5P|
|Platform hub||Intel X99|
|Audio||Realtek ALC1150||Creative Sound Core3D (CA0132)|
|Memory size||16GB (4 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 SDRAM at 2800MHz||Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 SDRAM at 2666MHz|
|Graphics||Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Boost with Omega 14.12 drivers|
|Storage||OCZ ARC 100 120GB|
|Power Supply||Cooler Master V750 Semi-Modular|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro x64|
Thanks to Antec, Cooler Master, Corsair, Intel, and OCZ for providing the hardware used in our test systems. We also extend thanks to Asus and Gigabyte for providing our test boards.
We used the following versions of our test applications:
- 7-Zip 9.20 64-bit
- TrueCrypt 7.1a
- Chrome 40.0.2214.115
- x264 r2431
- DiRT Showdown demo
- Fraps 3.5.99
- Cinebench R15
- Unigine Valley 1.0
Some further notes on our test methods:
- All testing was conducted with motherboard power-saving options enabled. These features can sometimes lead to slightly slower performance, particularly in peripheral tests that don’t cause the CPU to kick into high gear. We’d rather get a sense of motherboard performance with real-world configurations, though; we’re not as interested in comparing contrived setups with popular features disabled.
- DiRT Showdown was tested with ultra detail settings, 4X MSAA, and a 1920×1200 display resolution. We used Fraps to log a 60-second snippet of gameplay from the demo’s first race. To offset the fact that our gameplay sequence can’t be repeated exactly, we ran this test five times on each system.
- Power consumption was measured at the wall socket for the complete system, sans monitor and speakers, using a Watts Up Pro power meter. The full-load test combined Cinebench’s multithreaded CPU rendering test with the Unigine Valley DirectX 11 demo running with extreme settings in a 1280×720 window. We reported the peak power consumption during the Cinebench run. Our idle measurement represents the low over a five-minute period sitting at the Windows desktop.
- Our system build was done using all of the hardware components listed in the configuration table above. Completing this process as our readers would allows us to easily identify any pain points that arise from assembling a system with this particular motherboard.
The tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. All tests except power consumption, were run at least three times. Unless otherwise indicated, we reported the median result for each test. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.
For the X99-Gaming 5P, Gigabyte has built a board that lets owners tap into all of the potential of Intel’s high-end desktop platform. Should it be gamers’ X99 board of choice?
There are a few wrinkles to point out. To support memory speeds above 2666MHz, the X99-Gaming 5P relies on upping the CPU’s base clock automatically, which could affect system stability. The firmware’s fan speed control is rudimentary compared to what’s available in Gigabyte’s Windows software. The Smart Tweak UI only gives you access to the board’s overclocking options—for everything else, you’ll have to use the clunkier Classic Mode interface.
Despite those small complaints, the Gaming 5P’s feature list is impressive: just consider the full complement of eight DDR4 DIMM slots, the four PCIe x16 slots for setups like quad-CrossFire or SLI, the ten SATA ports, and support for next-gen M.2 and SATA Express storage. Gigabyte’s latest creation could be used to build a ludicrously powerful system. On top of the inherent excesses of the Haswell-E platform, Gigabyte has opted for an impressive Creative audio solution, a Killer Gigabit Ethernet controller, and a funky lighting scheme, all in the name of gaming.
What’s more, when it comes to overclocking, the X99-Gaming 5P is a breeze to use. Less seasoned tweakers will appreciate the pre-baked profiles and the auto-tuning feature in Gigabyte’s Easy Tune utility, and veteran overclockers will be right at home with the many buttons and levers to tweak in the firmware.
At $309.99 online, the X99-Gaming 5P is the cheapest member of Gigabyte’s gaming series of X99 boards. This makes it $65 more expensive than the non-G1-Gaming-branded X99-UD4. Provided you value the additions that this gaming-focused board brings and are willing to live with the few wrinkles that we found, this could be the next high-end board for you.