Despite X99’s reputation as a walletbusting party of tech that makes PC enthusiasts’ hearts flutter, our recent reviews of motherboards such as ASRock’s Fatal1ty X99M Killer show that you don’t need to spend more than £200 on an LGA2011-v3 motherboard to build an awesome system. However, Intel’s new CPUs and chipset do allow for some very lavish offerings and motherboard manufacturers have been going all out to tempt would-be Haswell-E system owners with cash to splash.
If one motherboard fits this stereotype perfectly, it’s Asus’ new X99 Deluxe. When you open the box, it takes a while to actually find the motherboard because there are so many add-ons. You get a desktop Wi-Fi antenna that hooks up to the included on-board 802.11ac module, along with a 4x PCI-E M.2 adaptor that offers up to 32Gb/sec speeds, plus a riser for a vertical M.2 port on the PCB itself.
Finally, you also get an Xtreme Upgrade Zone fan extension card – a 4-pin Molex-powered PCB that can power an additional three fans via three 12W channels; like the motherboard’s on-board fan headers, these can be controlled via the EFI or Asus’ AI Suite. The PCB is bristling with features too. There’s the full complement of overclocking tools, including a clear-CMOS button and LED POST code display, plus not one, but two USB 3 headers.
There’s a beefed-up Realtek ALC 1150- based on-board audio system too, with Asus claiming 112dBA stereo playback courtesy of a noise-isolated PCB and high-fidelity OP AMPs. Of the two M.2 ports, only the 4x PCI-E adaptor supports up to 110mm-long SSDs (Type 22110), while the on-board port is limited to 80mm (Type 2280).
However, you also get two SATA Express ports – one controlled by the X99 chipset and the other by an ASMedia 106SE controller. Plus, there are also 12 SATA 6Gbps ports, ten of which are provided by the X99 chipset, with four being shared with the SATA Express ports. Aesthetically, the X99 Deluxe looks great, with a bold black and white design, and a large white shroud covering the unsightly I/O panel and heatpipe-equipped heatsinks for the VRMs and chipset. It certainly makes a change from red and black or black and gold, although white may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Layout is superb too; all the SATA ports are angled, and the other major connectors are all positioned right at the edge of the PCB. In terms of expansion, there are five 16x PCI-E slots, and a single 4x PCI-E slot. All five 16x PCI-E slots can be filled, each running at 8x speed when paired with a 40-lane CPU such as the Core i7-5930K.
For two-way graphics setups, though, Asus has double-spaced the appropriate 16x PCI-E slots; for two cards, you’ll use slots one and three, providing a useful gap for air-cooled graphics cards, while using three will see you use slots one, three and five with a 40-lane CPU. However, the 28-lane Core i7-5820K can only use slots one, two and four.
If you’re not sure which slots to use for your two or threeway setup, there’s a small switch on the motherboard you can use to illuminate the correct ones. Small, white LEDs act as indicators above the slots, although this is arguably more about aesthetics than adding a genuinely useful feature.
Asus has also cunningly made use of the extra contact pads discovered on Haswell-E CPUs too, which offer control of VCCIO and VCCSA voltages and a higher vcore. The CPU socket, called OC Socket, has extra pins to make use of these pads, with Asus claiming it allows for low voltage droop and extreme memory overclocking.
Performance out of the box was blistering, and the X99 Deluxe posted the second fastest system core we’ve seen in the new Custom PC RealBench suite. Admittedly, we tested the X99 Deluxe with a much newer BIOS than the other boards in our last Labs test, but it’s clearly no slouch.
It was just ahead of the previous top scorer, the Rampage V Extreme, in Cinebench R15 too, and matched the top result in the Shogun 2: Total War CPU benchmark. Overclocking the X99 Deluxe was fairly painless, although like many other LGA2011-v3 boards we’ve tested, it certainly gets toasty as you go past the 4GHz barrier.
The EFI sports a clean, dark grey and yellow colour scheme that’s very similar to Asus Z97 motherboards we’ve seen, although it lacks many of the ROG EFI features such as SSD Secure Erase. In the end, our CPU topped out at 4.25GHz using a 1.2875V vcore, which is the second best result we’ve seen. Only the Rampage V Extreme managed more, getting to 4.3GHz but with considerably more voltage.
This overclock resulted in noticeable speed gains, with the RealBench suite system score rising from 164,091 to 185,142 – just behind the higher clocked Rampage, with the same being true in Cinebench R15. Power consumption was reasonable too, but the higher overclock and vcore resulted in one of the higher overclocked load power draws we’ve seen of 432W. Thankfully, at stock speed, the X99 Deluxe consumes a much more palatable 235W.
Spending £300 on a motherboard that isn’t ROG-branded might seem lavish, but Asus’ X99 Deluxe is a good overclocker and absolutely loaded with features. It also looks great, and has every base covered in terms of future storage such as M.2 and SATA Express, while offering decent on-board audio too. In fact, we’d have a hard choice choosing between the X99 Deluxe and the Rampage V Extreme; both have features the other lacks, but the X99 Deluxe costs £40 less too.
With both boards being great performers, the choice really comes down to your own priorities in terms of features. There are, of course, cheaper options too, but with its superb performance and huge feature set, the X99 Deluxe is worth its price tag if you’re gunning for an ultimate PC.