GIGABYTE GA-X99-UD4 LGA 2011-v3 Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE’s new Haswell-E X99-UD4 motherboard offers a no-nonsense, no frills approach to the High End DeskTop (HEDT) market segment. While this certainly is an HEDT motherboard, GIGABYTE's approach to the feature set available on this motherboard has kept its price point in the $240 range.

Introduction

GIGABYTE was founded in 1986 and has grown to a 1.7 billion dollar a year company with over 7,000 employees. GIGABYTE has produced components for well known boutique builders such as Falcon Northwest, Alienware, and Origin PC. The GIGABYTE product portfolio began with motherboards and now includes graphics cards, PC chassis, laptops and more. GIGABYTE still remains best known for its motherboards above all else.

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The GA-X99-UD4 is based on the Intel X99 Express chipset and is designed for socket LGA2011-v3 processors which currently includes Core i7 5xxx series CPUs and Xeon E5 1xxx-v3 and E5 2xxx-v3 CPUs. The X99-UD4 utilizes an 8-phase digital PowerIRstage ICs and digital PWM controllers from International Rectifier with chokes from Cooper Bussmann. The capacitors on board the X99-UD4 are all black metallic solid electrolytic capacitors rated for 10,000 hours.

Thanks to the improved PCI-Express controller found on the Haswell-E based Core i7 CPUs there are enough PCI-Express lanes to forgo the use of additional PLX chips for lane multiplexing. The installation of Core i7 5820’s would limit your PCI-Express lane availability to 28 instead of 40. When a CPU is utilized with 40 PCI-Express lanes the X99-UD4 offers support for 4-Way SLI and 4-Way CrossfireX.

The X99-UD4 also allows for dual M.2 slots. One is used for SSDs and another slot is for M.2 WiFi cards. The CPU sockets, DIMM slots, and PCI-Express slots are adorned with 30آµ of gold plating. GIGABYTE is still utilizing its glass fabric 2oz copper PCB claiming lower temperatures, better power efficiency, lower EMI, better overclocking and ESD protection. New for the X99-UD4 is a larger copper ground pad around the screw holes for what GIGABYTE claims is "safer mounting holes."

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The packaging is basic and very small for an X99 motherboard. The sample arrived intact with the following accessories: User manual, driver disc, SLI bridges, a CrossFire bridge, SATA cables, power extension cables, and an I/O shield.

Board Layout

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Aesthetically GIGABYTE has adopted a somewhat bizarre tactic in that it has colored the X99-UD4 black and yellow. MSI and GIGABYTE both copied ASUS’ ROG line aesthetics but MSI reserved that color scheme for their mid-range "Gaming" motherboards. GIGABYTE copied ASUS more directly and used a similar logo and applied the same color scheme to the high end "G1" series motherboards. MSI still reserved its yellow and black color scheme for its XPower and MPower flagship motherboards. GIGABYTE on the other hand applies the yellow and black colors to its mid-range offerings like the X99-UD4. The ambient lighting or "Tron" lights as we call these are yellow just as these are on MSI motherboards. GIGABYTE does allow for pulse, still, and "beat modes." Or if Tron lights aren’t your thing you can always disable the lighting. Rear panel LEDs give the ports on the back of the system some extra style and also make these easier to see in the dark.

The motherboard itself has an excellent layout with no major flaws we can see. About the only complaint we can make is with regard to the CPU fan headers. At least with regard to my test bench these aren’t well placed and honestly we can’t see these working out a lot better in an actual chassis. If you’re using larger air coolers this location may be fine but if you are water cooling the connector may not always be convenient. Your mileage could easily vary on this but this is probably about the last place I’d have put this in the CPU socket area.

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The CPU socket area is remarkably clean despite the proximity of the memory slots and MOSFET cooling. You should be fine with cooling hardware of virtually any type on the X99-UD4. You may need lower clearance memory modules with some heatsink and fan combinations.

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The X99-UD4 has eight 288-pin DDR4 DIMM slots allowing for a maximum memory configuration of 64GB. Speeds of DDR4 3000MHz are supported through overclocking. The X99-UD4’s uses DIMM slots which only lock on one side making installation and memory removal easier with larger graphics cards installed.

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The chipset itself is adorned with a flat black and gold heat sink with yellow LEDs embedded in it. There is a heat pipe running from the chipset cooler to the MOSFET cooling hardware. Directly in front of the chipset are the motherboards 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports and SATA Express port. Behind the chipset are the M.2 SSD and M.2 WiFi / Bluetooth card slots.

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The PCI-Express expansion slot configuration allows for a 16x0x16x0 or 8x8x8x8 configuration and is compatible with 4-Way SLI and CrossFire. 3 PCI-Express 2.0 x1 slots are also available if necessary.

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The I/O panel has 4x USB 2.0 ports, separate dedicated PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports. 6x USB 3.0 ports, 5x mini-stereo jacks for audio output and an optical output port. A single RJ-45 LAN port is provided along with a bracket for attaching WiFi antennas to the I/O panel. Presumably off a M.2 WiFi card.