Introduction & Closer Look
Here we have it, the GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming motherboard. It has more LEDs on its PCB estate than a small city put together, and it brings us some of that much loved white, red, and black (plus LED colours of choice) goodness that we have seen in the past with examples such as the Z170X-Gaming 7 that was reviewed previously by Play3r. When I first saw the product and was asked to review it by our GIGABYTE fella, I thought to myself ‘LEDs, LEDs everywhere‘ (a BvV original) … and you’ll see later on why that is the case as well. Is there ever such a thing as too many LEDs on a motherboard when it is aimed at gamers or enthusiasts? I’ll let you be the judge of that once you’ve seen the board in better detail.
What does the X99-Ultra Gaming offer that may sway you away from other manufacturers, and perhaps more importantly: is it the one to buy? Well, let’s run over the specs very quickly and see if we can decipher just what it is trying to be. It sports the ever popular Realtek ALC1150 sound processor (as do many other motherboards out there), dual gigabit Ethernet which are powered by the Intel and the Killer E2400 chipsets, and plenty of the native X99 features that you’d expect to find such as the M.2 port, combined with much more that will be covered in greater depth as we go through the relevant parts of our review. As times are obviously changing and new standards are constantly being introduced, it is nice to see that GIGABYTE is keeping up and is offering the latest technologies, as well as the aforementioned ports, such as USB 3.1 Type-C.
The GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming Up Close
First impressions are almost as important as any other factor when considering modern day products. A lot of us enthusiasts have cases with a window on them in order to show off our rigs. The GIGABYTE X99-Ultra Gaming has a black PCB, along with a silvery sheen that comes off of the various slots. It is said to add protection to the slots, and to stop EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) from affecting those signals as they are passed into the other connecting components. The rest of the board is complimented with a stylish and rather attractive looking white and red design, which can be found on the heatsinks and the IO cover. It may be a little difficult to hide it in a system where you aren’t wanting such a colour scheme, but if you are really going for that all important look factor, then you wouldn’t be choosing such a product anyway.
Feeding your CPU and its various components with the power it requires comes from an eight phase power design. While this is less than some other products on the market in this price range, it is sure to be enough for pretty much all of you gamers and/or enthusiasts that will be using this motherboard. Remember, more is not always better. It is best to have quality components over lots of poorly constructed ones.
As you know if you have read any of my previous reviews, this is where I like to undress (oh, yeah, I went there!) the motherboard and show off its heatsinks and/or various other shielding components on their own. As you can see, the ICH and VRM is connected by one single heatpipe, which helps to distribute the heat between both heatsinks for better thermals.
As the X99-Ultra Gaming is an ATX board rather than E-ATX, everything is just that little bit closer to the CPU socket in terms of its DIMM positioning. It’s actually a good thing as it often allows for higher overclocks and for higher overclocks to remain stable due to the shorter traces between the CPU and RAM module(s). As we can see, the X99-Ultra Gaming comes with four DIMM slots on each side of the CPU, giving us a maximum of 128GB of memory support, with frequencies that can run up to DDR4-3600MHz and beyond. Whilst this is almost certainly not going to happen due to various constraints, it’s nice to see the option there for the ever hopeful ones amongst us.
If you haven’t viewed the X99-Ultra Gaming on GIGABYTE’s website yet, you might be in for a pleasant surprise when you find out just how many LEDs are present on this board. I have taken an extremely short video and turned it into a .GIF (cool, huh?) for endless colourful enjoyment. My wall is typically white, but as you can see, it has changed it into a red wall from the glow which is illuminating from the underside of the board near the audio processor. Yes, it’s bright!
Ten SATA 6 Gbps ports are of course available on pretty much any X99 motherboard on the market as it is a standard X99 feature. There is only a single SATA express port available as well as the U.2 form factor for connectivity. I really don’t think U.2 is going to be around for long, but it still gets implemented regardless as it is a current-gen port. There are two USB 3.0 headers visible within the shot, one above the SATA ports and one below them.
Nothing ever really changes on an X99 motherboard with regards to the PCIe lanes, unless a PLX chip (or even two!) is involved. I won’t go into extravagant detail on what the lanes will do when a certain CPU is installed as the specs (next page) do that for us perfectly. It’s the general consensus that we will get x16/x8 from a 28 lane CPU and x16/x16 from the 40 lane CPUs. There are of course many variants in between, so feel free to check them out if you aren’t yet familiar with the way in which the lane division works on X99 platforms. Within the PCIe lanes, we can see a few ports hiding away. There’s the M.2 port for ultra-fast NVMe storage and there’s also another M.2 for Wi-Fi connectivity. The back of the X99-Ultra motherboard already has a location and bracket for the Wi-Fi antennas to connect into. There are two USB 2.0 headers for those of you whom still use them (I know I do!) and there is also an external power source for your graphics cards, in the form of a Molex connection. The TPM (Trusted Platform Module) header is on the bottom of the board as well as an LED header if you wanted to add even more brightness into your rig, you know, in case the LEDs on the board weren’t bright enough already. I jest, of course… adding LEDs into a system makes the system pop and takes it to a whole new level when done correctly.
Last but not least, we have the IO panel. It has plenty of connectivity options for all of the most enthusiastic gamers out there. The all important PS/2 port is still kicking and alive as ever, but that’s the eldest port you’ll find here. The other connectivity options consist of the two LAN ports, each are powered by a separate controller – Intel & Killer – and cannot be teamed together. The rest of the ports consist of a single USB 3.1 Type-C connector, a USB 3.1 Type-A connector, the Optical S/PDIF out and audio jacks, and six more USB 3.0 connectors to finish up the job. The Wi-Fi antenna connector holes are also there, which I mentioned previously. It should make installing a Wi-Fi card a little easier as the holes are pre-installed, but you may opt to use a PCIe card instead; the choice is yours!
Final pit stop, ladies and gentlemen – the accessories department! The X99-Ultra is not overflowing with parts in abundance, but it has a good selection to get you started at the very least. Here’s a list of bits and bobs that you can expect to find with your X99-Ultra Gaming;
1x G1 Gaming door hanger
1x User manual
1x Quick Start Guide
1x Driver disk
1x IO shield
2x Velcro cable management ties
1x EPS power booster cable (3x 8pin > 1x 8pin)
1x LED extension cable
1x SATA cable labelling pack
1x G1 Gaming case badge
1x Q connector
6x (4 pictured) SATA cables (silver)
1x 2-way SLI bridge (flexible)
1x 3-way SLI bridge (rigid)