Motherboard Memory Lane: Intel X99, Rampage V Extreme and Intel Core i7 5960X

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Motherboard Memory Lane: Intel X99, Rampage V Extreme and Intel Core i7 5960X

We continue our Motherboard Memory Lane series today with a look at the Intel X99 platform. Arriving with a new and updated LGA 2011 socket and three new Haswell-E processors, the Intel X99 platform remains at the heart of Intel’s HEDT lineup today. Let’s take a look at the PCH itself and the feature that it brought, as well the most popular X99 motherboards, processor models and the outstanding scores that were made during the era.

Intel X99: Overview

First a recap. The Intel X-series of High End Desktop (HEDT) platform chipsets began with the X38 chipset in 2007 which was codenamed Bearlake. This was followed up by the Bearlake refresh X48 platform in early 2008. By the end of 2008 we had Tylersberg and the iconic X58 platform that dominated the HEDT space for years to come. In late 2011 we finally received Patsburg and the X79 platform. This was replaced by the X99 platform in 2014 which was codenamed Wellsburg.

The Intel X99 PCH is a single chip design that arrived with an updated version of the LGA 2011 socket that had debuted with X79. Dubbed the LGA 2011-3 socket, it was mechanically identical to its LGA 2011 predecessor but in fact electrically and logically incompatible This meant that Intel X99 motherboards did not support either previous generation Sandy Bridge-E or Ivy Bridge-E processors.

As with the previous X79 PCH, connectivity between the CPU and the X99 chip happens via a DMI 2.0 link with bandwidth of 20Gb/s. In terms of PCIe support, only two of the three Haswell-E processors featured a full complement of 40 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes, with PCIe configurations of 2×16 + 1×8 available. The PCH itself offered 8x lanes of PCIe 2.0 which was used to support six USB 3.0 ports plus fourteen USB 2.0 ports. Ten SATA ports, each upgraded to 6Gbps were also available. Most X99 motherboards offered PCI-based M.2 and SATA Express ports to help keep pace with faster storage mediums that were becoming available.

In terms of memory support, the X99 platform was the first consumer platform to use DDR4. This arrived in a quad channel configuration at stock speeds of 2,133MHz, a significant jump from stock DDR3 at 1,600MHz. It wasn’t long before memory vendors were offering kits of 3,330MHZ and beyond. With two DIMMs per channel most motherboard vendors offered boards with eight slots, which also offered higher peak capacities of up to 64GB.

The Intel X99 PCH was officially launched on the 29th of August, 2014. It was manufactured using Intel’s 32nm process, had a TDP of 6.5 W and measured 25mm x 25mm.

Most Popular Intel X99 Motherboards

In the era of the X99 platform we see ASUS once again prove to be king of the hill in the HEDT space. After a successful Z97 platform launch MSI manage to maintain their momentum with a strong showing here, while GIGABYTE again fail to show any traction in the upper reaches of enthusiast motherboard design. EVGA makes an appearance, but ASRock is nowhere to be seen.

  • -ASUS Rampage V Extreme – 25.09%%
  • -MSI X99S SLI Plus – 11.36%
  • -ASUS X99-Deluxe – 6.45%
  • -GIGABYTE X99-SOC Champion – 6.04%
  • -MSI X99S Gaming 7 – 3.57%
  • -ASUS Rampage V Edition 10 – 2.62%
  • -MSI X99A Sli Plus – 2.39%
  • -ASUS X99-A – 2.12%
  • -ASUS Sabertooth X99 – 1.82%
  • -EVGA X99 Classified – 1.82%

ASUS maintained its dominance with a total of five of the top ten X99 boards on the list. These five boards represent 38% of all X99 submissions. The most popular motherboard by far is the ASUS ROG Rampage V Extreme which doubtless built on the excellent reputation that the company enjoyed with its X79 predecessor the Rampage IV Extreme.

Here’s what Lvcoyote wrote for back in October 2014:

ASUS definitely went the extra mile with the Rampage V Extreme, and they seemingly never stop providing new features with every motherboard release. While the Rampage V Extreme continues the tradition of being one of the best extreme overclocking motherboards available…In the end, the Rampage V Extreme is an attractive option for extreme overclockers, enthusiasts, and gamers alike.

Going back to our top ten, MSI’s X99S SLI Plus underlines the company’s success in penetrating the high-end market, garnering 11.36% of all submissions. The fact that the company has three boards in the top ten, all of which account for 17.32% of all submissions, demonstrates the strength of their Gaming brand the strides that the motherboard team had made in terms of BIOS design and general performance.

GIGABYTE meanwhile have all but exited the high-end race it seems at this stage with only the X99-SOC Champion motherboard in the top twenty! This fact seems to exacerbated by the lack of availability of their X99 SOC Force motherboard in many regions. EVGA however enjoyed some reasonable success with the EVGA X99 Classified board, underlining their ability to compete with the bigger vendors in this space.

Most Popular Intel X99 Compatible Processor: Intel Core i7 5960X

With the launch of the X79 platform and Sandy Bridge-E processors we found that being the top, most expensive model did not earn you the right to be most popular. The Core i7 3960X demanded a fee of $999 USD, $400 USD more than the Core i7 3930K, the most popular choice of that era with enthusiasts on HWBOT. The value proposition just wasn’t there, with $600 USD giving you nothing more than a moderate clock boost.

With the X79 platform and Haswell-E, Intel has it seems, learned their lesson. The top model, Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition again command a thousand dollars, but this time it also gave you two more cores. It was the first consumer CPU to offer 8 cores and 16 threads, a fact that makes it the most popular CPU of this era, being used 33.70% of all X99 platform submissions.

The next most popular chip was the cheaper of the three Haswell-E offerings, the Core i7 5820K which retailed for $396 USD. It featured in 33.53% of submissions despite having only six cores and 28 lanes of PCI Gen 3.0 connectivity. The mid-range Core i7 5930K was used in 19.73% of submissions, retailing for $550 USD. It had six cores, a full complement of PCIe lanes and had a maximum boost clock of 3.7GHz compared to the Core i7 5960X at 3.6GHz.

It’s interesting to see that although Intel realized with the launch of Haswell-E that it had to offer more to command the higher prices of these HEDT parts, it didn’t quite work when it came to the subsequent Broadwell-E platform. The first ten-core CPU, the Core i7 6950X remains the company’s top offering. Compatible with X99 boards, it represents only 4% of all X99 submissions. No doubt the $1,600 USD price tag has played a major part in that fact.

ASUS ROG Rampage V Extreme: Record Scores

We now take a look at the highest scores posted using the most popular X99 platform motherboard, the ASUS ROG Rampage V Extreme.

Reference Clock

Reference clock overclocking was not the most important benchmark in the X99 era, but it remained a reliable way to determine a motherboard’s ability to clock highly. The highest reference clock submitted on HWBOT using an ASUS ROG Rampage V Extreme motherboard came from Poland’s Woomack. He managed a reference clock of 177.04 MHz, using an Intel Intel Core i7 5820K configured at 4,249MHz (+28.76%)

You can find the submission from Woomack here on HWBOT:

CPU Frequency

Even though raw CPU frequencies are not really treated as true benchmarks, they remain an important performance metric for most overclockers. The highest CPU frequency ever submitted to HWBOT using the ASUS ROG Rampage V Extreme motherboard came from Hong Kong’s Chi-Kui Lam who pushed an Intel Core i7 5960X to a 6616.82 MHz, an impressive +120.56% beyond stock settings.

You can find the submission from John Lam here on HWBOT:

SuperPi 32M

Finally we come to the classic SuperPi 32M benchmark, an important benchmark in terms of historical relevance. The fastest SuperPi 32M run submitted on HWBOT using the ASUS ROG Rampage V Extreme motherboard comes from Fugger from the US who completed a run in just 5min 8sec 954ms using an Intel Core i7 5960X ramped up to 6,066.9MHz (+102.23%).

Check out the submission from Fugger here:

Thanks for joining us for today’s trip down Motherboard Memory Lane. Return next week when we take a look at the Intel Z170 platform.

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