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ASUS X99-PRO Haswell-E Motherboard Review

SKYMTL

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Over the last few months we've had the opportunity to test a few X99 motherboards from most of the major manufacturers, and it's been pretty clear to us that ASUS is leading the pack when it comes to this enthusiast LGA2011-v3 platform. Not only do they have the most polished BIOS and software package, but their overall overclocking advantage is sizeable.

This was first demonstrated by the flawless X99-Deluxe, and then reinforced by the unquestionably impressive Rampage V Extreme. Those are two very pricey models though, both featuring price tags well in excess of $400 up here in Canada. And a result, we thought that it would be interesting to see what ASUS is offering at a slightly lower price point. This led us to the X99-PRO, which is positioned right below the Deluxe and is in many ways a doppelganger to its pricier sibling.

Coming at around $310USD/$380CAD, this X99-PRO is only about $50-60 cheaper than the X99-Deluxe, but impressively you really aren't being asked to give up much when it comes to actual functionality, features, and even aesthetics. Since they both share the same futuristic looking black and white design, you would be forgiven for mistaken the two, even up close. This similarity extends to the specs list too.



To put it simply, the PRO is a Deluxe with one less SATA Express port, better M.2 slot placement, a different PCI-E slot configuration, a few less audio filtering capacitors, and a less complex wireless antenna. More specifically, the X99-PRO has four physical PCI-E x16 slots, 3-way CrossFire and 3-way SLI capabilities, two PCI-E x1 slots, two 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, Thunderbolt 2.0 header, a dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi module with Bluetooth v4.0, Realtek's latest ten-channel HD audio controller, and a bunch of onboard buttons and switches.

So at first glance this motherboard looks to be every bit as promising as the Deluxe, but while it looks great on paper we are going to find out if the X99-PRO can actually meet our lofty expectations.
 
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SKYMTL

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Specifications & Features

Specifications & Features




Before we get up-close and personal with the new X99-PRO 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.
 
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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. Take the ASUS X99-PRO for example; it features a laundry list of must-have features for enthusiasts. It has 3-way SLI / Crossfire, one SATA Express ports, a x4 M.2 storage slot, an x4 M.2 PCI-E expansion card, a robust sound solution, integrated AC wireless support and the list goes on.

X99 boards are obviously some of the highest-end models around and the PRO’s $310USD/$380CAD price certainly reflects that. However, when the cost of the processor and DDR4 memory is also factored into the equation, upgrading to Haswell-E is always going to be an expensive proposition for those who need the best multi-threading performance or simply extra PCI-E lanes.
 
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SKYMTL

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories


Now that we have gone over the X99-PRO'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 six 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.



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The HYPER M.2 x4 expansion card is an awesome bundled accessory that allows you to install a second M.2 SSD in any of the PCI-E slots. For overall system performance - especially if you're running multiple graphics cards - you don't want to install this card when using a CPU that only has 28 PCI-Express lanes, like the Core i7-5820K.

This is a 2T2R antenna which means that it has 2 transmitter (T) and 2 receiver (R) antennas, which is less than the 3T3R one bundled with the X99-Deluxe, but it still has excellent wireless signal sensitivity and transmission range. This antenna works in conjunction with the ASUS Wi-Fi GO! module that supports dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth v4.0.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the X99-PRO

A Closer Look at the X99-PRO



As we mentioned in the intro, the X99-PRO is a dead-ringer for the X99-Deluxe, so we do have repeat that this is one of the most futuristic-looking motherboards that we have on thanks, largely thanks to the sleek white molded plastic shroud along the left side of the motherboard, matching trim pieces on the MOSFET and PCH heatsinks, and cool lighting effects. Even months later, it still looks great to us, and it will look great with some of the increasing number of white components (case, fans, memory kits, power supplies, etc) that are available nowadays.

Since it shares the general PCB layout as the Deluxe, the CPU socket area is still a little claustrophobic, but the rest of motherboard is thoughtfully laid out. In fact, the PRO has an improved layout since the chipset heatsink has been shrunken a bit and they have managed to relocate the M.2 x4 slot to this newly freed up real estate. 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 caught between the memory slots and the various heatsinks, the CPU socket area is a little more cramped than we are used to seeing. Having said that, we don't envision any compatibility problems with any of the air or liquid CPU coolers on the market right now. Also, since the MOSFET and the "northbridge" heatsinks are reasonably low profile, clearance should not be an issue there either. Having said that, do check out our Installation section for more information.

This PRO 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 rated for the job, but at this price point we do wish ASUS went with 10K-hour capacitors.


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Here is a close-up side look of the unique ASUS-only chokes that are covered - but not cooled - by the MOSFET heatsink. 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, and there is no heatpipe that extends to the MOSFET heatsink. It simply covers some of the controllers related to the rear I/O panel outputs, as well as the 2 phases that power two of the four 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 PRO for memory frequencies up to DDR4-3300 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.


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This little heatsink - that is located in the old school northbridge position - is really more of an aesthetic touch, since there is not much under it aside from four ASMedia ASM1480 PCI-E switches that split the processor's PCI-E lanes for the PCI-E slots.


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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.

Also, we can't forget about the excellent Hyper M.2 x4 expansion card accessory, which will allow you to install a second M.2 SSD in your system at the loss of one of the PCI-E x16 slots.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the X99-PRO pt.2

A Closer Look at the X99-PRO 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. There is also a

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-PRO 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, do make note of the fact that if you use the second PCI-E x16 slot, it will disable the onboard Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module. Ideally, you should probably avoid doing that since it is a fundamental (and fairly costly) feature of this PRO model.



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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 single ASMedia ASM1074 is a four-way USB 3.0 hub controller - connected directly to the X99 PCH - that adds five USB 3.0 ports to the rear panel. Although not pictured, there is a proven Intel I218V controller responsible for the gigabit LAN port.



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Although it's not as comprehensive as that of the Deluxe, this PRO 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 USB 2.0 ports, an Intel-powered Gigabit LAN port, six USB 3.0 ports, the Wi-Fi GO! module with its three antenna connections, 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.

The aforementioned ASUS Wi-Fi GO! module is a dual-band 2.4/5GHz part that supports the 802.11a/b/g/n/ac standards, as well as Bluetooth v4.0. It is capable of Wi-Fi transfer speeds of up to 1300Mb/s with the right 802.11ac router. As described in the accessories section, it comes with a capable 2T2R antenna should have excellent wireless signal sensitivity and transmission range. We haven't yet made the leap to the 802.11ac standard, but our 802.11n connection was always stable at 600Mb/s.


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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 "northbridge" or MOSFET heatsinks. 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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Nothing too complicated here, you just need to push and screw the antenna leads into their respective Wi-Fi 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.
 
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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.
 

SKYMTL

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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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SKYMTL

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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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