Gigabyte has a fantastic overclock friendly product with the SOC Force. The board oozes and breathes tweaking. Unfortunately we have a processor sample that refuses to pass ~4.4 GHz, and that is the sheer reality as not a 375 EUR costing motherboard will change that, and yeah that is the reality of the SOC Force, it is a very expensive motherboard. The good enws is that Gigabyte X99 motherboards start at toughly 200 EURO. Bit the enthusiast space will be expensive alright. Specs and features wise there is also very little to complain about. This motherboard can be the infrastructure for you 2/3/4-way SLI or Crossfire build. We however do miss Wireless LAN WIFI big-time. Also just one Ethernet Gigabit NIC seems little for a product in this price class. You do receive ten 6 Gbps SATA 3 ports, a Sata Express port as well as an M.2 interface, this round ticking in on a faster 20 Gbps link. There are many USB 3.0 ports assigned to the board so you will not lack them at all. Interesting to see is the improved audio segment with an extra preamp for headphones. Motherboards are slowly reaching audiophile levels, we like that.
The Platform Experience
The motherboard manufacturers simply went berserk with their motherboard designs, and I believe that 2014 has to be the best year of them all if you look at what the motherboard manufacturers did and now are offering. The overall per core performance remains seriously nice but is at the level of pretty much any previous Nehalem architecture based processor ore, Turbo 2.0 kicks in nicely up-to 3.5 GHz per core for the Core i7 5960X. For the professional user who uses heavily threaded software like content creation, that's where Haswell-E will make nice difference. Add to that quad-channel DDR4 memory will offer retarded bandwidth and plenty of PCIe lanes and you'll have a platform that will be hard to beat. The Intel X99 chipset is by all means a huge plus with this release you receive huge amounts of SATA3 and USB 3.0 ports among others. The motherboard manufacturers have gone through great length and offer the most luxurious products. It is a feast to the eyes to see and experience really.
Combined with eight SATA 6Gbps ports we can hardly argue anything. SATA Express is supported in two-fold, but I for-see that'll be an un-used connector as I do not see and expect SATA Express taking off anytime soon. More interesting I find to be the all new M.2 interface, pop in a M.2 compatible PCI-E SSD and you'll see your SSD quickly perform in the 700/800 Mb/sec range. Overall your SATA and M.2 connectivity is plentiful and top notch when it comes to performance. Great to see is that the slow has obtained a x4 PCIe interface connection allowing it 32 Gbps of bandwidth to work in. To compare a little, your SATA3 port has 6 Gbps available,so that small form factor SSD solution now is very future proof. The vertical positioning of the native slot is weird, but we like weird :)
We like that Gigabyte decided to make a move towards the orange black design with the SOC series. It will however be a little difficult to combine with other components colors wise, then again if you stick to a graphcis card that is all black including the cooler, it might look mighty ! But the sheer looks overall are sweet and in a dark chassis with a inner dark paint-job would look sweet for sure.
The tweaking performance of this motherboard was on par with what our sample can handle, and we do have a poor CPU sample in terms of tweaking. Realistically at 1.30 Volts you should be able to get the Core i7 5960X at roughly 4400~4500 MHz on all cores. However we need 1.40 Volts for that. And even though that seems a little shy as a tweak, it remains to be almost 4400 MHz on 8 physical CPU cores. We learned from others that they have been able to reach 4.5 GHz on all 8-cored with just a 1.25v Vcore. Some clock great on low voltages, other behave like a pig, in our case where we needed 1.4 Volts to reach 4.4 GHz and have gotten the pig. Regardless, overclocking wise, you will have plenty of headroom to fool around with. It really is a fun processor to tweak with and the motherboard certainly isn't preventing a bad overclock, contrary the this board was designed to offer all features needed and quickly get you up-to snuff tweaking wise.
Other then its price of 375 EURO there is very little to dislike about the X99 SOC Force. This thing is chucked full with cool stuff. The motherboards offers all that is needed for a long time, features like the 10 SATA 6 Gbps ports, the improved 7.1 channel HD audio circuitry as delivered by the high-end Realtek ALC1150 codec in conjunction with an amplifier you get support for quality headphones that have an impedance of up to 600 Ohms. This motherboard is multi-GPU ready up-to 2/3/4 way SLI/Crossfire. Then you can add features like the many on-board buttons, diagnostic LED, a great design, USB 3.0, SATA3, PCI-E Gen 3.0, ease of tweaking. The one thing it lacks is Wireless LAN, other then that the X99 SOC Force is a terrific product with everything included and then some more. We can surely recommend the Gigabyte SOC Force X99 for the terrific features, cool looks and a build that will last you a long time with your DDR4 / Haswell-E build. Very nice, really.
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