Gigabyte X99-SOC-CHAMPION (1)

At CES 2015, Gigabyte showed off a board they’d been working on behind the curtain. Not having a black-and-orange board for their overclocking range on the X99 platform was a bit of a let-down, but now they’ve gotten their ducks into a line with the X99-SOC Champion. It is ever so pretty, don’t you agree? Hit the jump for an overview of the board’s features and some more hardware porn.

Unlike most boards for the X99 platform, Gigabyte is hoping to keep this one sort-of cheap and affordable, but has not settled on a launch price just yet. Somewhere in the $250-300 range is likely, but that price belies the effort Gigabyte went through with this board. One of the features that helps it match offerings from its main competitor, ASUS, is a custom LGA 2011-3 socket, just like ASUS’ OC socket found on boards like the X99 Deluxe.

Instead of the regular 2011 pins, there are an extra 72 pins that allow for monitoring extra sensors, bypassing the built-in voltage regulator and doing some other nifty tricks that aren’t available on standard sockets.

Gigabyte also says that they’ve put the DIMM slots closer to the CPU and shortened the traces but… I’m not sure anyone can back that up without doing measurements and cutting up this fine board.

Gigabyte X99-SOC-CHAMPION (2)

On-board you can see Gigabyte’s dual-heatsink setup covering a 6+2 power phase arrangement cooled by the massive heatsink arrangement covering four areas of the board.  To the right of the board is a set of knobs and switches for overclocking without being in the BIOS and a range of voltage measurement points that you can use with a multimeter to check the motherboard’s electrical readings.

For those of you looking for better onboard sound, Gigabyte pairs their AMP-UP technology with the Realtek ALC1150 chip  separated from the rest of the PCB for cleaner audio.

In between the four PCI-Express slots is the 20Gb/s Ultra M.2 connector for PCI-E-based storage. Because the board doesn’t have a full complement of SATA ports, two are eaten off the X99 chipset to make room for the M.2 connector. Keep in mind, though, that the X99 chipset tops out at 32Gb/s of available bandwidth. All of the other connectivity like the USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, the lone SATA Express port and the eight SATA 6Gb/s ports have to share the remaining 12Gb/s of available bandwidth. The top row of SATA ports is RAID-capable but the bottom row is not, so you’re limited to five-disk arrays.

The X99-SOC Champion should be available in the coming weeks in the US, Canada and Europe and here’s hoping that it lands in South Africa in the not-to-distant-future. Budding overclockers may have to wait a bit for RAM prices to go down as DDR4 is still too expensive to be adopted without worrying how it’s going to lighten your wallet.

Review: Anandtech