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GIGABYTE X299 Designare EX Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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The X299 Designare EX motherboard is GIGiABYTE's latest flagship product offering support for Intel's HEDT chipset and processor line. With it's late entry into the fray, GIGABYTE was able to tweak its layout and feature set to make the Designare board a more appealing product over previously introduced boards. Built around the Intel X299 chlipset, the board supports the Intel LGA2066 processor line, including the Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processors, with support for Quad-Channel DDR4 memory running at a 2667MHz speed. The X299 Designare EX can be found in retail with an MRSP of around $500.00.

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GIGABYTE integrated the following features into the X299 Designare EX motherboard: eight SATA III 6Gbps ports; three M.2 PCIe Gen3 x4 32Gbps capable ports with Intel Optane support built-in; dual Intel Gigabit RJ-45 ports - Intel I219-V Gigabit and Intel I211 controllers; an Intel 8265 802.11ac WiFi controller; five PCI-Express x16 slots; Realtek® ALC1220 8-Channel audio subsystem; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support. GIGABYTE also integrated there steel-based armor slots for the board's PCIe and memory slots, giving them added strength and durability.

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For added strength, rigidity, and underside protection, GIGABYTE integrated a metal armor under plate onto the board's underside much like that seen on ASUS' TUF board line. The under plate also acts as a secondary heat dissipation path. Further, GIGABYTE integrated a metal rear I/O Shield over the rear panel components, adding out of the box protection for those normal exposed ports.

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To power the board, GIGABYTE integrated integrated a 13-phase digital power delivery system into the X299 Designare EX's design. The digital power system was designed with IR digital power controllers and PowIRstage ICs, Server Level Chokes, and Durable Black capacitors.

Continue reading our preview of the GIGABYTE X299 Designare EX motherboard!

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GIGABYTE integrated two zones of RGB LEDs into the surface of the X299 Designare EX - integrated into the audio chipset and rear panel housing and into the chipset cooler. The LEDs can be configured in up to nine pre-configured operation modes or configured for independent operation using the Advanced mode. GIGABYTE supports LED configuration via the UEFI or the RGB Fusion Windows applet. In addition, LED strips attached to the board's headers can be configured to operate in up to 10 different modes.

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For the integrated audio solution, GIGABYTE paired the board with a Realtek ALC1220 HD audio processor, a dedicated headphone AMP, and high-end WIMA and audio capacitors for a superior integrated audio experience.

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The board's rear panel contains the following integrated ports: a hybrid PS/2 port, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and 3.1 ports, Intel I219-V and I211-AT RJ-45 GigE ports, dual Intel 8265 802.11ac antennae ports, dual DisplayPort input ports (for use with the Thunderbolt 3 pass-thru capabilities), and both digital and analogue audio ports.

Technical Specifications (taken from the GIGABYTE website)

CPU Support for Intel® Core™ X series processors in the LGA2066 package
L3 cache varies with CPU
Chipset Intel® X299 Express Chipset
Memory 8 x DDR4 DIMM sockets supporting up to 128 GB of system memory.
* Support for up to 512 GB of system memory when using Registered DIMMs.
* Supported when using a 44-lane or 28-lane CPU (6-core or above).

4 x DDR4 DIMM sockets supporting up to 64 GB of system memory.
* Supported when using a 16-lane CPU (4-core).
4 channel memory architecture.
* Supported when using a 44-lane or 28-lane CPU (6-core or above).
Dual channel memory architecture.
Supported when using a 16-lane CPU (4-core).
Support for DDR4 4400(O.C.) / 4333(O.C.) / 4266(O.C.) / 4133(O.C.) / 4000(O.C.) / 3866(O.C.) / 3800(O.C.) / 3733(O.C.) / 3666(O.C.) / 3600(O.C.) / 3466(O.C.) / 3400(O.C.) / 3333(O.C.) / 3300(O.C.) / 3200(O.C.) / 3000(O.C.) / 2800(O.C.) / 2666(O.C.) / 2400 / 2133 MHz memory modules
Support for non-ECC Un-buffered DIMM memory modules
Support for Registered DIMM 1Rx8/2Rx8/1Rx4/2Rx4 memory modules (operate in non-ECC mode)
* R-DIMM is only supported by BIOS version F3 and earlier versions.
Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
Onboard Graphics Integrated Graphics Processor+Intel® Thunderbolt™ 3 Controller:
2 x Intel® Thunderbolt™ 3 connectors, supporting DisplayPort and Thunderbolt™ video outputs and a maximum resolution of 4096x2304@60 Hz

* Because of the limited I/O resources of the PC architecture, the number of Thunderbolt™ devices that can be used is dependent on the number of the PCI Express devices being installed. (Refer to Chapter 1-7, "Back Panel Connectors," for more information.)
* Support for DisplayPort 1.2 version.

Audio Realtek® ALC1220 codec
Support for Sound BlasterX 720°
High Definition Audio
2 / 4 / 5.1 / 7.1-channel
Support for S/PDIF Out
LAN 2 x Intel® GbE LAN chips (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Wireless Communication module Intel® Wi-Fi 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac, supporting 2.4 / 5 GHz Dual-Band
BLUETOOTH 4.2, 4.1, BLE, 4.0, 3.0, 2.1+EDR
Support for 11ac wireless standard and up to 867 Mbps data rate

* Actual data rate may vary depending on environment and equipment.

Expansion Slots 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1, PCIEX16_2)
1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8)
2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x4 (PCIEX4_1, PCIEX4_2)

(All of the PCI Express slots conform to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)
* The PCIEX4_1 slot shares bandwidth with the M2M_32G connector. The PCIEX4_1 slot becomes unavailable when a device is installed in the M2M_32G connector.
* Refer to "1-6 Setting up AMD CrossFire™/NVIDIA® SLI™ Configuration," for the installation notices for the PCI Express x16 slots.

Storage Interface Chipset:
1 x M.2 connector (Socket 3, M key, type 2260/2280 SATA and PCIe x4/x2 SSD support) (M2P_32G)
1 x M.2 connector (Socket 3, M key, type 2260/2280/22110 PCIe x4/x2 SSD support) (M2M_32G)
1 x M.2 connector (Socket 3, M key, type 2242/2260/2280 SATA and PCIe x4/x2 SSD support) (M2Q_32G)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3 0, 1, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10

* The M2M_32G connector must work with an Intel® VROC Upgrade Key to support RAID configuration.
* Refer to "1-10 Internal Connectors," for the installation notices for the M.2 and SATA connectors.

Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready

ASMedia® ASM1061 chip:
2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3 2, 3), supporting AHCI mode only

Multi-Graphics Technology Support for NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ and 3-Way* /2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ technologies
Support for AMD Quad-GPU CrossFire™ and 3-Way* /2-Way AMD CrossFire™ technologies

* Supported when using a 44-lane or 28-lane CPU (6-core or above).

USB Chipset+Intel® Thunderbolt™ 3 Controller:
2 x USB Type-C™ ports on the back panel, with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support

Chipset+ASMedia® USB 3.1 Gen 2 Controller:
1 x USB Type-C™ port with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support, available through the internal USB header

Chipset+Realtek® USB 3.1 Gen 1 Hub:
4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports on the back panel

Chipset:
4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports available through the internal USB headers
6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB headers)

Internal I/O Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
2 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connectors
1 x CPU fan header
1 x water cooling CPU fan header
4 x system fan headers
2 x system fan/water cooling pump headers
1 x digital LED strip header
1 x digital LED strip power select jumper
2 x RGB (RGBW) LED strip headers
3 x M.2 Socket 3 connectors
8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
1 x Intel® VROC Upgrade Key header
1 x front panel header
1 x front panel audio header
1 x S/PDIF Out header
1 x USB Type-C™ port, with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 headers
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header (2x6 pin, for the GC-TPM2.0_S module only)
1 x power button
1 x reset button
1 x Clear CMOS button
1 x OC button
2 x temperature sensor headers
Back Panel Connectors 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2 x DisplayPort In ports
2 x Thunderbolt™ 3 connectors (USB Type-C™ ports, with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support)
4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports
2 x RJ-45 ports
2 x MMCX antenna connectors (2T2R)
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Line In, Line Out, Mic In)
I/O Controller I/O Controller
iTE® I/O Controller Chip
H/W Monitoring Voltage detection
Temperature detection
Fan speed detection
Water cooling flow rate detection
Overheating warning
Fan fail warning
Fan speed control

* Whether the fan (pump) speed control function is supported will depend on the fan (pump) you install

BIOS 2 x 128 Mbit flash
Use of licensed AMI UEFI BIOS
Support for DualBIOS™
Support for Q-Flash Plus

* The USB flash drive used must be a USB 2.0 flash drive.
PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.7, WfM 2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI 5.0

Unique Features Support for APP Center
* Available applications in APP Center may vary by motherboard model. Supported functions of each application may also vary depending on motherboard specifications.
  • 3D OSD
  • @BIOS
  • AutoGreen
  • BIOS Setup
  • Color Temperature
  • Cloud Station
  • EasyTune
  • Easy RAID
  • Fast Boot
  • Game Boost
  • GIGABYTE HW OC APP
  • ON/OFF Charge
  • Platform Power Management
  • RGB Fusion
  • Smart Backup
  • Smart Keyboard
  • Smart TimeLock
  • Smart HUD
  • System Information Viewer
  • USB Blocker
  • V-Tuner

Support for Q-Flash
Support for Xpress Install

Bundle Software Norton® Internet Security (OEM version)
cFosSpeed
XSplit Gamecaster + Broadcaster (12 months license)
Operating System Support for Windows 10 64-bit
Form Factor ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm

June 15, 2018 | 02:55 PM - Posted by Paul A. Mitchell (not verified)

Good job, Morry.

Question: did you happen to notice if the BIOS/UEFI
supports bifurcation? e.g. "4x4" (ASRock nomenclature)
and "x4/x4/x4/x4" (ASUS nomenclature) on PCIe x16 slots.

For the large amount of money, I would require that specific
feature; otherwise, I'll pass on the high price of this
motherboard.

June 15, 2018 | 06:46 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

It does not support user configuration of that unfortunately.  The PCI bus bandwidth per slot is auto-configured by the BIOS based on the processor and slots that are popupulated.  There is a list of values that the board supports on page two of the review, about halfway down the page...

June 15, 2018 | 09:25 PM - Posted by Paul A. Mitchell (not verified)

Thanks, Morry. Excellent review!

June 15, 2018 | 03:12 PM - Posted by kbohip (not verified)

Wow. Never thought I'd see the day when we have $500 motherboards. It's nice but it definitely isn't THAT nice!

June 15, 2018 | 11:28 PM - Posted by doctajones (not verified)

yes, i cant agree more. $200 is my limit.

i need the other $300 for RAM :P

June 15, 2018 | 05:10 PM - Posted by SBS (not verified)

Where does one obtain an adapter for the "1 x USB Type-C™ port, with USB 3.1 Gen 2" found on the motherboard, for those that don't have a brand new case and instead have the older 19-pin USB 3.0 connector?

June 16, 2018 | 04:00 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

you can find them at amazon...

June 17, 2018 | 05:41 PM - Posted by Nick999 (not verified)

Are there any other motherboards that have "DP in" that routes the video through the USB-C connection?

I want to build a computer that I can quickly disconnect and bring to my VR area without having to un-plug and plug more than a few connections.

June 17, 2018 | 10:51 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

There are a few, but most ship with TB3 AIC (add-in card) capabilities because of the cost involved with implementing an integrated Intel-TB3 chipset.  Most board use ASMedia-based USB 3.1 ports, negating their use as TB3 style pass throughs...

June 17, 2018 | 05:41 PM - Posted by Nick90 (not verified)

Are there any other motherboards that have "DP in" that routes the video through the USB-C connection?

I want to build a computer that I can quickly disconnect and bring to my VR area without having to un-plug and plug more than a few connections.

June 25, 2018 | 09:34 PM - Posted by djotter

Does the Designare logo spell out Designare all smashed together?

June 26, 2018 | 01:57 PM - Posted by ScarletP (not verified)

I have this board; it's been inside my PC for about three weeks now - no nasty surprises so far...
I didn't have the opportunity to test thunderbolt yet.
For me the biggest drawback is inability to disable wireless card in the BIOS. I wonder what would happen if I just physically remove it from the slot?
Also the latest BIOS "anti-Specter" firmware is a beta released in March.
P.S. Almost forgot, during the installation process the board didn't recognize one of the four identical 16GB Crucial DDR4 modules (XPM). Strange thing was: the board showed 56GB during boot and CPU-Z showed all 64GB but in triple channel configuration(!?). What helped, was switching placement of two DIMM's with each other (!!???).

July 22, 2018 | 04:13 AM - Posted by B_Dubb_B (not verified)

Will the Noctua NH-D15S cover up my Trident Z RGB RAM completely or will the RGB at least still be visible?

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