August 06, 2016

Unboxing & Review: Gigabyte X99 Designare EX Motherboard

There is quite a number of the new revision of the X99 chipset motherboards that supports both Intel's latest Broadwell-E CPUs and previous generation Haswell-E CPUs has been announced before and during our visit to Computex 2016. The Gigabyte X99 Designare EX in particular, is the one that Gigabyte highlighted the most throughout the entire week of the exhibition.

We have the Gigabyte X99 Designare EX here at Tech Critter's lab today, special thanks to Gigabyte Malaysia for the provision of the review unit of course! With no further adieu, let's find out what kind of feature and performance can we expect from the Gigabyte X99 Designare EX!

(The Gigabyte X99 Designare EX retails at RM1,999)



The Gigabyte X99-Designare EX ships in an attractive looking box where the major function of the motherboard such as USB 3.1 connector, 3-way SLI support, ambient RGB, NVMe U.2, M.2 support highlighted at the front of the box. But that's not it, as you'll find more of the motherboard's features at the back of the box.

The accessories included; RGB LED cable, DisplayPort cable, 4 x SATA III cables, rear I/O shield, wireless antenna, label stickers, drivers CD, SLI bridge, velcro straps, user manual.

The X99 Designare EX is the latest addition to Gigabyte's Ultra Durable series motherboards with a brand new look and support for Intel's latest Broadwell-E CPU, NVMe U.2 and M.2 SSD, DDR4 memory support of up to 3600MHz, etc. Despite all the aesthetics and features the X99 Designare EX offers, the absent of Q-code display, power button, and reset button is a bit of a let down for a seemingly premium motherboard with a premium price tag.

The X99 Designare EX features 8 power phase design equipped with server level chokes and long lifespan durable black solid capacitors, 2+1 power phase design on the memory for the memory to ensure stable power delivery to the CPU for that uncompromised performance. 

The newly implemented 'Memory Armor' provide reinforcement on the memory slots to prevent PCB bending from the stress during memory kit installation.   

The X99 Designare EX supports not only the existing SATA III standard but also the SATA Express and U.2 standard for the next generation storage devices.

The new look on the chipset heatsink.  

The X99 Designare EX has 5 PCIe x16 in total, where the first 3 lanes runs at x16 speed and the remaining runs on x8 and x4 speed respectively, capable of supporting up to 3-way SLI where you'll get PCIe x16 lanes on each slot - do note performance might vary according to your configuration, as these PCIe lanes will be sharing the bandwidth with SATA Express, NVMe U.2, and M.2.

Just like the 'Memory Armor', the PCIe slots on the X99 Designare EX is equipped with these 'PCIe Armor' that is capable to withstand up to 1.7 times more shear resistant and 3.2 times more retention force than the traditional design. 

Moving forward to the on-board audio design, the X99 Designare EX is equipped a Realtek ALC1150, a high-performance multi-channel high definition audio codec, and high-quality Nichicon gold series audio capacitors for the best possible audio quality from the system. 

The rear I/O consists of 4 x USB 3.0 port, P/S2 keyboard mouse combo port, 2 x ethernet port, audio jacks, wireless antenna connector, USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 port, DisplayPort for daisy chain setup with multiple monitors and graphics card. 


Gigabyte has revamped its UEFI BIOS and we're now looking at a much cleaner and simple interface over the previous Gigabyte X99 Ultra Durable series motherboards. This is rather subjective but personally, we find that the user experience can be further improved if Gigabyte can unify the multipliers and relevant voltage into a single interface to make tweaking easier, rather than having to go back and forth through multiple menus. 

Software Highlight: APP Center

A pretty handy tool we'd say, the APP Center is Gigabyte's own application that gathers its own APP, Windows settings and 3rd-party software in one single place for your ease of access.

Ambient LED

The Ambient LED allows you to customize the RGB LEDs according to your preferred modes:
  • Still mode - The LED lights up in the selected color 
  • Pulse mode - The LED will pulsate every few seconds  
  • Beat mode - The LED will blink according to the rhythm of the music you're playing on the system


Gigabyte's EasyTune makes overclocking your system easier much easier by allow you to tweak the parameters such as the voltages, CPU multiplier, Uncore directly on the software without having to go through the hassle to reboot your system to access these parameters in the BIOS.

Overclocking Test
Test Rig Configuration
CPU Cooler
Raijintek Triton 240
Intel Core i7 6950X
Gigabyte X99 Designare EX
HyperX Fury DDR4 16GB
Primary Hard Drive
Crucial M500 120GB
Power Supply
Cooler Master V1200
Vector Benchcase

We put the overclocking capability of the EasyTune to test by using a HyperX Fury DDR4 2666MHz memory kit and Intel Core i7 6950X CPU to see how far we can push both the component with the Gigabyte X99 Designare EX.

Starting off with the CPU overclocking, the AutoTuning feature did a pretty good job as it managed to get the Intel i7 6950X running on 4.3GHz with 1.25V on the CPU voltage, much similar to the safe result we've achieved with manual overclocking method. By safe result, we mean that the CPU must be able to perform at its best without any signs of thermal throttle. We've managed to go a little bit further with 4.4GHz but our CPU cooler couldn't keep up with the heat.

Memory overclocking wise, we weren't able to hit the advertised speed of 3600MHz with our HyperX Fury DDR4 2666MHz kit but we're still pretty satisfied with the result of 3200MHz and timing of 15-16-16-38-2T at 1.35V.

Final Thoughts
The Gigabyte X99 Designare EX is what we would describe as the combination of both performance and aesthetics. While the use of high-quality components and solid construction of the motherboard pretty much met the standard of what a Ultra Durable series motherboard should be, we're hoping to see Gigabyte to actually include Q-code display, power button and reset button on the future revision of this board. It's understandable if the motherboard doesn't cost a whopping RM 1999, but that's not the case for the X99 Designare EX - you're paying a premium price tag for a motherboard.

Its premium price tag of RM 1999 might not be an attractive choice for the mainstream users, but there's still a plenty of reason to consider for the Gigabyte X99 Designare EX. We have a very good experience with the X99 Designare EX out of the box performance, which we would definitely consider recommending to others who is willing to fork out an extra budget for the features offered. Other than its surprisingly decent overclocking potential, Gigabyte has built the motherboard well and it is one of the very robust Intel X99 chipset motherboard revision with support for both Intel's latest Broadwell-E CPU and previous generation Haswell-E CPU, USB 3.1 interface, Thunderbolt 3, 3-way SLI/ CrossFire setup with x16 speed, latest storage device interface standard like the NVMe U.2 and M.2, and more of features you need on a future proof product. 

  • Improved EUFI BIOS with a much more simple and easy to use interface
  • Good overclocking potential
  • Use of high-quality components 
  • Sleeved SATA cables included
  • PS/2 port that will come in handy if USB fails to detect input device due to driver issue or failed overclocking attempt
  • WIFI ready with M.2 WIFI Card
  • Support NVMe U.2, M.2 SSD
  • Support up 3-way SLI / Crossfire setup with x16 speed on each lane
  • Support GPU input and Thunderbolt 3 output for daisy-chain up to 6 devices
  • PCIe Armor and Memory Armor (reinforced PCIe and memory slots)
  • On-board RGB LED and RGB LED header for the aesthetics
  • Rich featured and easy to use software bundle with Gigabyte App Center
  • Very costly
  • Lack of Q-code display, power button and reset button