Gigabyte X170 Extreme ECC and Intel Xeon E3-1230 v5

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Final Words & Conclusion

Final Words & conclusion

The Gigabyte GA-X170 Extreme ECC is motherboard wise is a little gem in terms of design and features in relation to Xeon platforms targeted at the enthusiast consumer and prosumer. Realistically though the Extreme ECC is going to be a hard sell over say a Z170 motherboard with a Core i7 6600K/6700K. The benefits simply do not outweigh the negatives, unless you really are in dire need of some Xeon functionality. As good as this setup really is, you will be very limited in overclocking (if you use a Xeon) with maxed out multipliers, the loss of XMP and a fixed 2133 MHz data-rate for your memory.  As you have been able to notice any Intel Xeon E3-1230 v5 processor will have lower clock frequencies and multipliers opposed to the Core i7 series, hence the overall performance will be a notch lower as well. Performance however still is top notch, it's just that you cannot really tweak 'like you like it' enough with this kit.


If you are fine with the Intel Xeon E3-1230 v5 processor performance (and by all means it is more than plenty fast), then look at it from the other side, as there are benefits. You can use ECC error correcting memory, though we hardly ever run into a system crash based up-on error, ECC memory does help you there with its advanced error correction functionality. The system memory bandwidth you reach with a 2133 MHz kit is as fast as a regular DDR4 kit, so that's not at all a limiting factor. You will not be able to use snazzy XMP profiles and high frequencies though, you get JEDEC timings at 2133 MHz, albeit there's nothing wrong with that.

There's another benefit, power consumption with a Xeon is just terrific, even with a GeForce GTX 780 Ti (not gaming) we had a hard time passing 100 Watts and we are idling under 40 Watts, the Intel Xeon E3-1230 v5 has an 80 Watt TDP so that makes perfect sense. Then there is a third positive to mention, rock-hard stability Xeons have been binned for server load and usage, 24/7/365 workloads. And last but not least being binned and with the slightly lower clock frequency and TDP, these CPUs do not run warm or even hot at all (with proper cooling of course)). Do these positives outweigh the cost and perf loss over Z170 with say a Core i7 6700 ? Well, it it's a tough call to make alright. I guess it also will depend on your system and workload usage. For gaming we'd still go with a Core i7, but if you transcode a lot of stuff, virtualize OSes or even run a MySQL database in the backgrounds, that's where a Xeon setup makes a heck of a lot of more sense. I guess if there would have been a 6 or 8-core Xeon model on this socket over a 4 core Core i7, the dynamic would have been much more appealing and alluring.

One reality remains though, the Gigabyte motherboard is as good as it can get for a Xeon, I mean the board ticks all the right boxes and just offers a wicked design for a Xeon platform. For me this X170 oozes stability and reliability, heaps of USB 3.0/3.1 connectors, offers plenty SATA3 ports, super dual fast M.2. and a lovely, seriously lovely audio solution. Despite the Xeon performance is a notch lower over say a 6700K the default performance is definitely up there at a really proper performance level. Combined with ECC DDR4 (and you'll need a Xeon to be able to use ECC memory) memory this all does make sense. All features combined with things like nice Gigabit jacks, exemplary audio solutions on the new motherboards and things like USB 3.0 / 3.1. The overall platform experience is what it is all about for Skylake.


Okay I am not going to make Sabertooth puns here ... w00t I just did ! :)


Combined with a truckload of SATA 6Gbps ports we can hardly complain about anything. Nice are the recent developments on the 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 running over 2GB/s with a proper nVME M2 SSD. 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. And yes, two of these can be placed in RAID mode and create a fictional 64 Gbps. To compare a little, your SATA3 port has 6 Gbps available. So that small form factor SSD solution now is very future proof. 


As da Hilbman always sayzzz, taste differs per person, I do like how the X170 ECC Extreme in its camo design, albeit it is a little colorful. I love the LEDs and the RGB configurable LED located under the audio segment of the PCB. The motherboard creates a bit of a HALO effect due to the backside LEDs, I like that as well as the PCB traces that lit up, it makes the motherboard pop out of your chassis. But hey, anything visually is subjective I guess. This however is one of the better looking solutions for the enthusiast PC gamer. 

Performance & tweaking

If you pop in a Core i7 K model processor, you'll be able to tweak like you really like it ... But you will not purchase the X170 ECC Extreme to do that, no Sir, you want to run ECC memory and a Xeon processor. Overclocking will be very limited. The multipliers of the used Xeon E3-1230 v5 for example max our at 38. 38 x your 100 MHz BCLK is 3800 Mhz max on all cores. That's the easiest tweak. You will be able to tweak a nit on that BLCK though, yet you are tied towards your memory and the flexibility of your processor. Basically what i am trying to say is, if you wanna tweak and OC ... Xeon should not be your first choice. It's not impossible but there are many magnitudes of complexity added to a server class ECC running processor and memory.



The bottom line

The Gigabyte X170 Extreme ECC is a thing of beauty and offers something different from the rest, that fact alone makes it interesting. If you really need/want to run a Xeon platform with some ECC memory, the perf is as can be expected, and sure - ECC runs lovely. This will benefit you in stability, lower temps and lower TDP. Performance will not be at the level of say a Core i7 6700 but remains fairly close -- realistically the performance with the very affordable 300 EURO the Xeon E3-1230 v5 is more than enough for even a gaming rig. In the end it's all about choices and preferences. I can see myself using a setup like this as I like raw brutal stability. The reality that a Core i7 based Z170 on Windows 10 crashing on based on memory these days is pretty slim. Just like Einstein stated, it's all relative my man. If you need or want a Xeon solution based on max four cores, the Gigabyte X170 Extreme ECC is the proper way to go as quite honestly it ticks all the boxes in terms of modern age features from USB 3.1 to M2, to Sata Express and on and on. It's even a good looking product with a proper audio solution and both an Intel and KillerNIC gigabit Ethernet jack as well. No WIFI though, that would be my sole and only negative remark here. You will gain excellent features combined with nice performance and very decent energy consumption levels. Just for pure weirdness, design, Xeon, ECC, features and overall looks this motherboard is a win, I'll grant it our hard earned Top pick award, as it really is that, a top pick for a very specific end-user!

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