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ASUS X99-A Motherboard Review

SKYMTL

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So far the Intel X99-based motherboards from ASUS have left us with nothing but positive impressions, which is something that can't quite say about every manufacturer. From the enthusiast-oriented Rampage V Extreme, to the featured-filled X99-Deluxe, to the slightly more affordable X99-PRO, these models have impressed us not only because of their design and features, but also largely because of how polished they were with respect to their BIOS, software, and ease of overclocking.

Having said that, with a price range of between $380 to over $530, these models are priced outside of the reach of many enthusiasts. With this in mind, today we will be reviewing the X99-A, the most affordable model in the ASUS X99 lineup. It comes in at around $250 USD / $330 CAD, which is still more expensive than a few other competing X99 motherboards, but we are hoping that it should still have the qualities that make the ASUS X99 series standout from the rest.

While this A model is only about $50 cheaper than the X99-PRO, that is actually a pretty solid discount considering the fact that all you are giving up is the onboard Wi-Fi module, the Hyper M.2 x4 expansion card, a white plastic trim piece and a "northbridge" heatsink that doesn't actually cool anything. As a result, specs-wise the X99-A is still quite impressive thanks to its four physical PCI-E x16 slots, 3-way CrossFire and 3-way SLI capabilities, two PCI-E x1 slots, one M.2 x4 connectors, one SATA Express ports, eight SATA 6Gb/s port (plus the two on the SATAe port), six USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0/3.0 headers, one Intel-powered Gigabit LAN port, a Thunderbolt 2.0 header, Realtek's latest ten-channel HD audio controller, and a bunch of onboard buttons and switches.

Since we have been very impressed with this model's higher-end siblings thus far, we are entering this review with high expectations and we are going to find out if this ASUS X99-A motherboard is a no compromise alternative for those on a tighter budget.

 
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SKYMTL

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Specifications & Features

Specifications & Features




Before we get up-close and personal with the new X99-A through pictures, testing, and analysis, let’s take a look at this motherboard's specifications as per ASUS's website.



As mentioned in the introduction, this motherboard has quite a few noteworthy features, and we will be examining some of them in-depth in the coming pages, especially the excellent automatic overclocking functionality and a close look at the audio and storage sub-systems.
 

SKYMTL

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The X99 Platform; Enthusiasts Rejoice

The X99 Platform; Enthusiasts Rejoice


One of the main critiques leveled at Intel’s X79 was its similarity to the old-as-the-hills X58. As a matter of fact, from a specifications standpoint, that’s exactly what it was: an X58 chipset with a new coat of paint in the form of PCI-E 3.0 support. Since it didn’t feature current technologies like native USB 3.0 and only had two SATA 6Gbps ports, motherboards required third party controllers to attain those functions, and support wasn’t the greatest especially for key features like RAID and high speed USB throughput. That caused a serious problem for a so-called enthusiast platform when Intel’s own Z87 incorporated those elements into boards that often cost hundreds less than their X79 cousins.

X99 changes this equation in a big way towards compatibility that many thought should have been incorporated into X79 in the first place. Nonetheless, we are now (finally!) going to see native support for USB 3.0, SATA Express, and Thunderbolt 2 on Intel’s enthusiast motherboards.


Starting with the most obvious thing first: X99 chipsets will still use the LGA2011 socket but it has been updated for Haswell-E compatibility. This not only means new microcode but also support for the processors’ fine grain power distribution needs and higher current capability. In short, older LGA2011 boards will not be forwards compatible with these new processors, nor will this so-called LGA2011-v3 socket be backwards compatible with Ivy Bridge-E CPUs.

The X99 platform is of course headlined by the Haswell-E CPU which provides up to 40 PCI-E 3.0 lanes (the i7-5820K will only come with 28 lanes enabled) which can be distributed via up to three integrated slots. This means a x16 / x16 / x8 setup is possible as is a 5x8 setup via third party controllers should motherboard vendors decide to go that route. The processor also houses the quad channel DDR4 memory controller.

As with all Intel platforms, the PCH is where all the I/O fun happens and it is connected to the processor via a x4 DMI interface providing up to 4GB/s of aggregate upstream / downstream bandwidth. In this case the X99 supports up to 14 USB ports spread across six USB 3.0 and 8 USB 2.0 along with ten native SATA 6Gbps ports. Through the use of Intel’s refreshed architecture these can be paired with additional PCIe 2.0 lanes for SATA Express or 4x M.2 compatibility without needing to resort to a so-called “FlexIO” interface. Naturally, those lanes can also be used for additional controllers as well which typically provide Bluetooth, secondary LAN and WiFi features.

Past the obvious continuity of an integrated Intel LAN, all of the SATA 6Gbps ports are backstopped by Intel’s RST 13.1 infrastructure should a motherboard vendor choose to include it (most will be). Extreme Tuning Utility compatibility is also a requirement here whereas on Z97 it’s considered an optional feature.


Since this is considered Intel’s high-end platform, motherboard manufacturers are pulling out all the stops when it comes to board design. Although it is at the bottom of the company's roster, this ASUS X99-A still features a solid variety of must-have enthusiast features such as 3-way SLI / Crossfire, one SATA Express ports, one M.2 x4 storage slot, a robust sound solution, onboard power & reset switches, and the list goes on.

X99 boards are obviously some of the highest-end models around, but the X99-A’s $250 USD / $330 CAD price is starting to enter into the realm of reasonableness. However, when the cost of the processor and DDR4 memory is also factored into the equation, upgrading to Haswell-E is still an expensive proposition for those who need the best multi-threading performance or simply extra PCI-E lanes.
 

SKYMTL

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories


Now that we have gone over the X99-A's features and specifications, it is time to examine the new packaging and then crack open the box to take a look at the numerous bundled accessories. Let's check it out:


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This motherboard's packaging definitely shares its design with that of the ASUS Z97 series, which is obviously not a surprise since they are both Intel 9-series motherboards. Unsurprisingly, there are no fancy windows or flaps here. While the front of the box is adorned with the usual array of logos, the back is filled with a helpful layout diagram, a full listing of the specifications, and a focus on several of this product's unique features.


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Once you remove the outside packaging, you are greeted with an inner box that contains two separate sections, the top half holds the motherboard in an anti-static bag and the bottom half contains the accessories, software and documentation, as you will see below.


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As you would hope from a high-end motherboard, the Deluxe has an undeniably impressive accessories bundle. For starters, ASUS have included a user guide, installation guide, exclusive features booklet, drivers/utilities DVD, and a cool sticker.


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The accessories bundle comes with four SATA 6Gb/s cables, two Q-Connectors, a 2-way SLI connector, and the stainless steel ASUS Q-Shield rear I/O cover that features corrosion-resistant coating. This is a fairly sparse accessories bundle, but then again some corners do need to be cut in order to reach the lower price point.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the X99-A

A Closer Look at the X99-A



As we mentioned in the intro, the X99-A is basically an X99-PRO without the plastic white shroud and the "northbridge" heatsink. As a result, this A model has more of a barebones aesthetic, but otherwise the layout and the port placement is absolutely identical...including the cool lighting effects. Even with the few remaining white design pieces, it still looks good to us, and it will look even better when combined with some of the white components (case, fans, memory kits, power supplies, etc) that are available nowadays.

Although the PCB layout is identical to the PRO, the removal of the "northbridge" heatsink has actually resulted in a CPU socket area is still less cramped than on the higher-end models. As you will see more closely in the Installation Section, the rest of the motherboard is also thoughtfully laid out. This model is based on the traditional ATX form factor (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm / 12.0-in x 9.6-in), so there shouldn't really be any issues when it comes to installing it into most standard cases.


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As you might have already read about, ASUS have designed an exclusive custom CPU socket for this LGA2011-v3 platform. Dubbed the "OC Socket", it features 6 additional pins that supposedly help bypass the FIVR (Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator) that is found in every Haswell processor and as a result is supposed to offer superior CPU and DDR4 overclocking. It is difficult to actually these test claims, but since other manufacturers have started implementing their own custom sockets there's surely some truth here.

Since it is no longer stuck between a MOSFET heatsink and a "northbridge" heatsink, there is a huge amount of clearance room around the CPU socket. As a result, we don't envision any compatibility problems with any of the popular of the air or liquid CPU coolers on the market right now. Liquid nitrogen pots and phase-change heads should be also pose no installation challenges. Having said that, do check out our Installation section for more information.

This A model comes with a digital 8-phase CPU power design, Dr.MOS IOR 3550M MOSFETs, unique 60A Ferrite Chokes, and 5K-hour solid capacitors, all of which are part of the latest DIGI+ power design. We really don't mind the 8-phase CPU VRM, since the number of phases doesn't mean much as long as the individual components are capable of handling the load both at stock settings and when overclocking.


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Here is a close-up side look at the cool custom chokes that ASUS are using on their X99 models. They are slightly covered by the MOSFET heatsink, and it is behind this heatsink that you will find the single 8-pin CPU power connector.


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The heatsink on the left-side of the motherboard doesn't serve a cooling purpose. It is merely an aesthetic touch and it hovers over a few of the controllers related to the rear I/O panel outputs, as well as the 2 phases that power the left DDR4 memory channels.


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Thanks to this enthusiast platform's quad-channel memory architecture, this motherboard features eight DDR4 memory slots, which are fed by a 4-phase power design. ASUS have validated the X99-A for memory frequencies up to DDR4-3200 and up to 64GB of system memory. ASUS have also implemented enhanced DRAM overcurrent protection (OCP) and short circuit damage prevention, so you will be able to push those pricey new DDR4 modules as hard as you want without worrying that the memory slots will let you down, or worse actually kill your modules.

The MemOk! button initiates a memory compatibility tuning process if there are memory issues preventing a system from booting up. Like on all ASUS motherboards, this model features the handy Q-DIMM memory slots, which prevent any clearance issues that can arise between conventional memory clips and the back of any nearby expansion card. As always, the 24-pin ATX power connector is in its usual spot.


These two solitary SATA 6Gb/s ports are supplied by the X99 chipset, and they are located way up high simply because ASUS couldn't shoehorn them between the other SATA/SATA Express ports and the required mounting holes. The USB 3.0 header is also powered directly by the X99 chipset itself and thus should have excellent transfer rates.


Although the mounting holes are there, there is no little "northbridge" heatsink like on the PRO. That's a non-issue since as you can see there is nothing worth cooling in that area anyways.


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As you would expect, the new white PCH cooler features a design that closely matches the white shroud that adorns the left side of the motherboard. It's your standard low profile heatsink with shallow airflow channels, but it does feature a dedicated heatpipe that runs to the small heatsink located in the middle of the board

The eight total SATA 6Gb/s ports and the single SATA Express port (plus it's two SATA ports) are all supplied by the X99 chipset on this motherboard. This is great from a performance standpoint, however due to what ASUS describes as a chipset limitation all of the grey ports support RAID 0/1/5/10 and Intel Rapid Storage Technology, while the four black SATA ports do not. Whether this is noteworthy issue really depends on extensive and specific you particular storage needs are.


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One of the main benefits of this motherboard is that it supports the high-speed M.2 interface in all of its PCI-E 3.0 x4 glory - since it's getting that bandwidth straight from the processor instead of the X99 chipset - which means a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 32Gbps (4GB/s). We are pleased to see that the designers did not try to shoehorn the slot between the PCI-E slots, therefore it will get less heat radiated on it from the graphics cards. This is the second motherboard that we have reviewed that supports full-size 22110 (22mm x 110mm) M.2 form factor. It is a welcome feature, but realistically the majority of M.2 devices will be based on the shorter 2280 (22mm x 80mm) length. By the way, you will have to keep in mind that the fourth PCI-E x16 slot shares bandwidth with the M.2 x4 interface, so using one will disable the other.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the X99-A pt.2

A Closer Look at the X99-A pt.2



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The lower half of this motherboard is packed with switches, buttons, and headers of every possible type and function. Starting to the bottom left, there are the two internal USB 3.0 headers, followed by two USB 2.0 headers, and the front panel header which works in conjunction with the two user-friendly Q-Panel connectors. Right above the front panel header - but below the DirectKey and thermal probe connectors - are three switches that serve a few functions, such as selecting between the two TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) stages, enabling/disabling EPU (Energy Processing Unit), engaging your memory kit's XMP profile.

On the next image - again starting from left to right - is the five-pin EXT_FAN header for an optional ASUS fan extension card, COM port header, power and reset buttons, Q-Code LED display, and you can maybe spot a few pins of the TPM (Trusted Platform Module) header.


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The X99-A features four mechanical PCI-E x16 slots, but only three of them are dedicated to graphics use. The second PCI-E x16 slot is default set to PCI-E x1, but you can set it to x4 in the BIOS if you're willing to lose two USB 3.0 ports on the rear I/O panel as well as the first PCI-E x1 slot. Obviously that's not ideal, but that PCI-E x1 slot is going to get blocked by the graphics card in the primary PCI-E x16 slot anyways, and with four USB headers onboard we aren't too worried about running out of USB ports.

Keep in mind that the Core i7-5930K and i7-5960X both feature 40 PCI-E lanes, while the i7-5820K only has 28, and that has a serious effect on the variety and potency of the multi-graphics card configurations that this motherboard supports.

In the case of the i7-5930K/5960X, in a simple dual graphics card configuration, you will get full speed x16/x16 PCI-E 3.0 transfer rates. When three graphics cards are installed, the first and second card will run at x16, while the third operates at x8 (x16/x16/x8). Remember that if you use the fourth PCI-E x16 slot, it will disable the onboard M.2 x4 connector since they both share PCI-E bandwidth.

Those with a 28 lane CPU like the Core i7-5820K have to make due with x16/x8 in a 2-way configuration which is disappointing since it basically eliminates any graphical advantage this platform has over a mainstream Core i7-4790K/Z97 combo. What's worse - though it will effect much less people - is the fact that in a three-way configuration the PCI-E lane breakdown is x16/x8/x4 instead of the usual and more sensical x8/x8/x8 distribution. This weird x16/x8/x4 setup is not supported by SLI, and it simply doesn't cut it for a proper 3-way CrossFire configuration either, or at least is nowhere near optimal performance wise.

By the way, this motherboard does have two BIOS chips, one soldered and one socketed, which is a nice hybrid approach that should prevent any BIOS flashing disasters. And if the worst does somehow happen, you will be able to just get a replacement chip from ASUS. Next to the socket BIOS chip you will find the Thunderbolt 2.0 header. It's a fairly awkward spot for it, but since it's not exactly a common interface and there isn't any empty room along the edge of the motherboard, we can overlook this minor issue.



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As is the case on nearly all X99 motherboards, at the heart of this motherboard's onboard audio is the modern Realtek ALC1150 ten-channel HD audio CODEC. Next to the bank of Nichicon solid polymer capacitors is where you will find a Texas Instruments R4580 headphone amplifier, which has enough to grunt to power 300 ohm cans. Although not pictured here, the white shroud that we removed to take these pictures actually has a piece of foil that is serves as an electromagnetic interference (EMI) shield covering the Realtek CODEC. Likewise, the PCB isolation line surrounds the audio section of the PCB and protects it from the rest of the system. All of this serves to help to preserve the signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio and thus ensure the highest possible sound quality.


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The large Nuvoton NCT6791D chip monitors several important parameters such as power supply voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures, and as such it plays a key role in the functionality of the Ai Suite III utility. The ASMedia ASM1074 USB 3.0 hub controller and ASMedia ASM1042e USB 3.0 host controller are responsible for five USB 3.0 ports on the rear panel. The high-quality Intel I218V controller powers the gigabit LAN port.


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Although we have seen better, this A model does have a very solid amount of connectivity on its rear I/O panel. Starting from left to right, we have the USB BIOS Flashback button, PS/2 combo port, four highly compatible USB 2.0 ports, an Intel-powered Gigabit LAN port, six high speed USB 3.0 ports, and the six audio jacks which include an S/PDIF output. These rear I/O ports feature enhanced ESD protection in the form of ASUS ESD Guards, which should help prevent any rare electrostatic discharge issues.


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The rear-mounted CPU VRM components are protected and cooled by their own backplate, which is always a nice touch on a motherboard that will likely see occasions of very high CPU power draw. All the heatsinks and the shroud are attached with metal screws, which is what we expect from a high-end motherboard like this one. Since it's fairly visible, we might as well point out that one of the two TPU processors is located on the rear of the motherboard.



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Lastly, on the rear of the motherboard we also get a good look at some of the LEDs that are placed all along the PCB isolation line that surrounds the audio sub-system, and which produce a pretty cool lighting effect.
 
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SKYMTL

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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


In the Hardware Installation section we examine how major components fit on the motherboard, and whether there are any serious issues that may affect installation and general functionality. Specifically, we are interested in determining whether there is adequate clearance in all critical areas.


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When installed in the East-West or North-South orientation, our Prolimatech Mega Shadow had no issues physically clearing the MOSFET heatsink. Despite the fact that the CPU socket area is a little cramped, we don't foresee any obstacles with even the largest of coolers, but those who need to insulate the motherboard for LN2 use might have some work cut out for them.


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In the traditional North-South orientation, we surprisingly did not have any show stopping clearance issues when it came to the memory modules. Our cooler's fan clips did make contact with the nearest memory module, but it did not prevent installation or removal of the RAM. Those using a heatsink that is wider than 122mm or memory modules that are taller than 40mm will want to be careful, assuming a similar fan clip setup.


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Although there isn't a huge gap between the back of the graphics card and the memory slots, it really doesn't matter with the clip-less Q-DIMM memory slots that ASUS uses on most of their models. The 24-pin ATX power connector and the 8-pin CPU power connector are both ideally placed, so that makes assembling and disassembling the system just a tad easier.



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This board will hold two or three dual-slot graphics cards without issue. The cards overhang the motherboard, but the edge-mounted SATA connectors and various headers are still easily accessible. As on all motherboard, if you install a dual-slot expansion card in the bottom PCI-E x16 slot it will block the headers at the very bottom of the motherboards and make access to the various buttons difficult if not impossible.



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There are no clearance or installation issues when installing an M.2 SSD, but obviously the module does get covered up if you install a second graphics card.



The eight right-angle SATA ports are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed, as is the SATA Express port (and its two SATA ports).


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Like on all LGA2011 motherboards past and present, this model comes with its own CPU backplate, so there is really nothing to worry about back there.
 

SKYMTL

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


As you would expect, a new generation of motherboards brings forth a new UEFI bios. Although fundamentally similar to past versions, this new bios has been aesthetically revamped, reorganized, and bolstered with a bunch of new user-friendly features. Furthermore, and perhaps most impressively, this is a very smooth and responsive UEFI BIOS, noticeably better than anything we've experienced in the past. It's not necessarily lightning fast, since there are some deliberate/intentional transition delays when switching between the various sections, but none of the lag and stuttering that we've put up with in most other UEFI BIOS. The UEFI BIOS is divided across two distinct modes. The EZ Mode is simplified and features a mouse-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) for basic tasks, while the Advanced Mode has all the settings, options, and features that you could ever want. From within the EZ Mode you can switch to the Advanced Mode by pressing F7, and vice-versa to get back to the EZ Mode.



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The EZ Mode makes pretty good use of the graphical user interface (GUI) and was designed to be used with a mouse. It obviously does not have all the functionality of the Advanced mode, but it is not meant to. It simply gives novice users an easy way to visualize and alter some of the most common settings. The Q-Fan Tuning feature can be found in both BIOS modes, but fundamentally it gives you full manual or preset-based control over the systems fans. The EZ Tuning Wizard is particularly interesting since it brings overclocking to an even simpler level. Basically, the wizard asks you how you generally use your system, what kind of CPU cooler you have installed, and based on your answer it comes up with an appropriate tuning level for your respective system. It worked perfect during our short time toying with it, and the fact that it never actually mentions "overclocking" should help alleviate some of the fears less knowledgeable users might associate with the word.


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The My Favorites tab is a fairly new addition to the bios. As you might have surmised, it allows you to have all your most useful or most used settings in one place, so you no longer have to search through the whole bios to find what you need time and time again.


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The next tab in the BIOS is the Main section, which displays the standard storage devices and some basic system information. This System Information section lists some rudimentary specification info, including the BIOS date & version, the type of processor and the amount of memory installed. You can also set the system language, and an administrator and/or individual User password.


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Next up is the Ai Tweaker section, which is where all the fun happens. Once the manual option is selected in the Ai Overclock Tuner setting, the BIOS opens up to reveal all of the essential system clock control options: CPU multiplier with an all-core and per-core option, BLCK frequency, CPU strap, memory frequency, memory timing options, and all the voltage options.

The OC Tuner feature allows novice users to automatically overclock their systems without having to mess around with clocks speeds, multipliers, and voltages. The are two options in this feature, a multiplier-only tuning mode or a multiplier and BCLK tuning mode. You can read more about this automatic overclocking feature in our Overclocking Results section.


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As its name suggests, the DRAM Timing Control section is where you will find all the memory-related settings. Within this section you can select and change all the memory settings, and each memory channel has its own section, from which you can alter the primary and secondary timings. It has just about every memory modifier that an enthusiast or overclocker would need to fine-tune their modules. There's really an overabundance of options and it is quite impressive.


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The DIGI+ Power Control section has a whole slew of advanced power regulation settings for the CPU cores, CPU VTT and VCCSA (system agent/memory controller), and DRAM channels. This motherboard is setup well enough so that you should never actually have to tweak any of these settings though, unless you are really pushing the limits with phase-change or LN2 cooling. The exception to this is obviously Load-Line Calibration (LLC), which is a worthwhile feature that eliminates droopage on the CPU vCORE, and which we will take a closer look at in our Voltage Regulation section.


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The Internal CPU Power Management section is where you can enable or disable all the CPU-specific features like SpeedStep and Turbo Mode, as well as setting the Turbo limits. ASUS have really bolstered this section with an overwhelming array of CPU power tuning settings.


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Occupying the middle to bottom section of the Ai Tweaker are the prodigious voltage options. As you would expect, all the key system voltages are present and accounted for, as far as bunch of other voltage options that we have frankly never even seen before. For some of the key voltages like the CPU Core voltage and the CPU Cache voltage, ASUS have allowed four separate entry modes. The Auto and Manual modes are self-evident, the Offset Mode allows you to specify how much higher (or lower) the voltage should be in reference to stock level, so something like +0.10V or +0.15V. The Adaptive Mode allows you to set both a base voltage and higher Turbo Mode voltage that is enabled under heavy system loads. This helps minimize the amount of voltage running through an overclocked processor when it's not under load.

Usually we would now say that we wish there were more drop-down menus in this section. Although you can manually type in whatever you want, but that is not particularly useful when you don't know or don’t remember what the default voltages are. Thankfully, like on the Z97 models, ASUS have thought about this, and they have included real-time voltage readouts next to all the key system voltages.
 

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BIOS Rundown pt.2

BIOS Rundown pt.2




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The Advanced tab is where you can enable or disable all the CPU-specific features like the Thermal Monitor, Hyper-Threading, Virtualization, Enhanced SpeedStep, Turbo Mode, C-States, etc.




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The Advanced Tab is also where you can enable/disable or just find all the various settings and options for all the onboard devices like the audio, LAN, USB 3.0, SATA ports, etc.


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The Monitor section is dedicated to the monitoring of the various voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. This whole section is really quite impressive, it has all the essential temperature and voltage readouts, as well as truly excellent and comprehensive fan control functionality named Q-Fan Tuning.



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The Boot tab is essentially where you set storage device priority, select the boot drive, enable/disable the full screen logo, and ton of other boot settings that can help with the installation or troubleshooting of various OS installations.



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ASUS EZ Flash 2 is a built-in utility that greatly simplifies the BIOS updating process. You can easily update your BIOS from a ROM file located on your hard drive(s) or USB flash drive(s). It's quick, painless, and it takes the worry out of BIOS flashing.

The ASUS Overclocking Profile feature gives users the option to save and switch between BIOS profiles, for example an everyday profile and a benchmarking profile. Not only is this infinitely quicker than manually inserting every setting, but the profiles can be saved and shared among other X99 Deluxe owners.


Before you save your settings and exit the BIOS, there is a handy window that lists the changes you made during this session. It's a well thought out and implemented idea. The new General Help pop-up that you can find in the top-right corner is very handy for those who can't remember all the new function key tasks.
 

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Included Software

Included Software


Ai Suite III

The foremost utility in ASUS' vast software suite is the aptly named Ai Suite III. Whereas ASUS used to have a handful of standalone apps for different functions, many were consolidated under the Ai Suite moniker back in 2011. This system management utility is the hub from which you can monitor system clock speeds, voltages, temperatures, and fan rotation but more importantly it allows users to do both automatic and manual overclocking from within Windows. Although it's basic UI has been established for a while, ASUS constantly adds to the capabilities to this utility, so let's check it out.


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The 5-Way Optimization tab is where you will find the 5-Way Optimization automatic overclocking feature. You will also see very simplified information relating to the other five tabs, such as the Energy Processing Unit (EPU) power saving or performance profiles, Fan Xpert 3 fan speed optimization status, DIGI+ VRM optimization, awesome new Turbo App functionality, and some display-only information regarding TurboV Processing Unit (TPU).


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In the top-right corner of the Ai Suite utility is a downwards arrow that activates a dropdown screen when clicked. Here you will be features like Ai Charger+ and USB 3.0 Boost. When enabled, Ai Charger+ allows up to 3X faster charging of devices connected to USB ports, while enabling USB 3.0 implements the UAS Protocol (UASP) USB protocol that greatly enhances speeds while also lowering CPU utilization. The EZ Update tool allows users to update their motherboard's BIOS either directly from the internet or from a downloaded file. Ai Charger+ allows users to supercharge their USB ports, and enable up to 3 times faster charging of mobile devices.

System Information just contains a bunch of basic system information regarding your CPU, motherboard or RAM. You can also find you can find your serial number, BIOS version, etc. BIOS Flashback allows you to copy the content of BIOS1 to BIOS2, as well as force the use of BIOS1 or BIOS2.


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At the bottom is a static strip that displays live information on CPU and DRAM frequency, real-time voltage and temperatures measurements, as well as CPU and case fans speeds. You can also set safe thresholds for voltages, temperatures and fan speeds as well as setting alerts to warn you of any serious fluctuations. It is essentially a replacement for the Probe II utility.


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Clicking on the 5-Way Optimization button reveals the coolest part of the whole Dual Intelligent Processors 5 utility. There is a certain level of fan optimization functionality in this section, but what's really interesting is the automatic overclocking feature. You will have the option of 2 different overclocking levels and 2 different ways of achieving that overclock, depending on whether you have an unlocked processor or not. We don't want to reveal too much here, so go check out the Overclocking Results section to see how well this auto-overclocking feature worked.


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The TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) tab is where you can manually adjust the BCLK frequency or CPU strap (100/125/166/250MHz). You will also be able to change the CPU multiplier, either per core or as a group. There are also an impressive eight adjustable system voltages. You can adjust all these settings on-the-fly without having to reboot the system, except for the CPU strap since it does cause such a dramatic increase in all system frequencies.



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The EPU (Energy Processing Unit) tab is you will be able to fine-tune the various selection of power saving or performance profiles. This is a versatile feature for those who truly care about maximizing energy savings.



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The DIGI+ Power Control tab is where you will find the power options for the CPU, System Agent/Memory Controller, and RAM. There are adjustable settings for load-line calibration, current capability, voltage frequency, and phase control. There are different power controls for each memory channel since they are independently powered.


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The Fan Xpert 3 tab is, as you might expect, where you can fully manage and optimize your CPU and system fans. While there are now a series of four fan presets (Silent/Standard/Turbo/Full Speed), you can also manually adjust the full fan speed curve to your preferences, or simply use the fully automated Fan Tuning feature.


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The Turbo App section allows you set custom system configurations for any applications that you want. For example, if you know that your processor can withstand a higher clock speed in a lightly threaded application, you can see this utility to automatically adjust your system overclock every time you open that app, as well as tweak network priority and audio settings.
 

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