GIGABYTE X99 Phoenix SLI Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE’s X99 Phoenix SLI is another entry into the G1 Gaming lineup. While there is little to nothing that’s truly unique about the feature set, the combination of features and unique aesthetics are hard to argue with. The X99 Phoenix SLI offers good features and stellar looks at a reasonable price point.

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Motherboard Overclocking Software

Like its competitors, GIGABYTE includes a software suite with its motherboards. The software has a single common launcher common to the software suites used by motherboards in this market. While there are a lot of applications that are part of the suite, the bulk of them aren’t really all that important from the enthusiast’s point of view. Rather, several of the utilities available would make for a lengthy read that’s about as much fun as an insurance seminar. The most important applications accessible in the app center are the EasyTune, SIV and ambient LED. EasyTune enables the user to tune the system within Windows and monitor PC health. SIV allows for fan control and allows for the gathering of more detailed system information. The ambient LED application is more self-explanatory, as it clearly gets used for controlling the PCB mounted LED lighting on the motherboard.

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GIGABYTE’s EasyTune software underwent some aesthetic changes somewhat recently, although the core design of the interface hasn’t changed in quite some time. The updates to the design have coincidentally caused the program to resemble ASRock’s software quite closely visually speaking. For the most part, the software is intuitive and generally easy to use. After you get past the legal disclaimer about running your hardware out of spec, you can set the performance via tuning presets. There is also an auto-tuning option which allows the system to find the highest, and most stable overclock in theory at least. In practice the software doesn’t do anything more than achieve the highest OC preset which is tame compared to what you can get with conservative manual tuning.

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The software gives you some basic system information at the bottom of the application window for EasyTune. The information can be minimized or expanded as desired. You can also bring up a PC health monitor which appears in a separate dialog window. The list of monitored items varies by motherboard as some may have more fan headers or monitored zones than others. Tuning can be adjusted from the advanced CPU OC menu, which provides the basic and even more advanced settings required for overclocking. This menu also allows you to create or load profiles. Simple sliders allow for settings adjustment. Anything that gets changed by the user shows up in an orange-red color. The DDR OC menu is much the same as the CPU menu, although its less complex. Frequencies and timings are all that you can really adjust here, but by nature a CPU has more tuning options than RAM does. Latencies aside anyway. The advanced power menu lets you set PWM, thermal thresholds, phase control, and frequency switch rates. Voltage protection and VRIN load-line calibration are also found this this menu. The hotkey menu allows you to setup hot keys to trigger profiles.

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The System Information Viewer is seriously mislabeled. System Information Viewer would imply that this is a system info tool. While it does have this function, it is the least important of its functions. Primarily it controls the system fans and PC health alert thresholds. Fan auto-calibration is offered with profile presets for fan control. The new fan controls are a lot like the ones found in ASUS’ AI Suite III. Smart fan and RPM fixed modes are available. GIGABYTE still doesn’t offer the same level of fan control ASUS does. There are no spin-up and spin-down settings and you can’t reverse the fan flow to blow out dust. You can’t rename headers either or remap them to different locations in the PC chassis. The system alert function uses sliders to set warning thresholds for voltages fan speeds and temperatures. It is simple, but effective. Lastly, there is a recording option for recording health results and trending.

Ambient LED

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Ambient LED allows for control of the onboard LEDs on the PCB. This is one area where GIGABYTE is a bit behind the curve compared to ASUS and MSI. There is no zoning of individual LEDs and there are only three LED effect modes. That said, the actual light pattern on the motherboard is pretty cool and the software for it is easy to control.