marți, 16 august 2016

Asus X99-Deluxe II

Manufacturer: Asus
UK price (as reviewed):
£378.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $419.99 (ex Tax)

We have to say that Asus's Deluxe boards have been pretty impressive the last couple of years. The Z170-Deluxe and original X99-Deluxe are packed with features and have been nibbling away at some exclusive ROG offerings too, such as RGB lighting and EFI-based secure erase.There's also something exciting about opening the box of one of these boards, especially the X99 variety. The reason why they cost so much is that they're loaded with features and come with a ton of accessories too.Take the X99-Deluxe II, Asus's refreshed X99 board that we're looking at today, for example. You get an Intel Thunderbolt 3 PCI-E card, which sports Intel-powered USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C ports as well as a mini-DisplayPort header for Thunderbolt output courtesy of an included mini-DisplayPort to Displayport cable. There's also a PCI-E M.2 adaptor for PCI-E based SSDs plus a fan extension card with four 4-pin fan headers and three 2-pin thermal probe headers, all of which are controllable via the EFI. You get a desktop magnetic WiFi aerial, an RGB LED cable extension and an Asus 3-way SLI bridge too.
Of course, this could be considered tat if you won't be using it, but if you have a need for two M.2 drives (there's another PCI-E based port on the PCB itself) or need more fans or the benefit of Thunderbolt 3, then it has you covered. Thankfully, these aren't the only things that are here to explain the slightly eye-watering near-£400 price tag.
You get everything you need in terms of overclocking and testing tools - LED POST code display, power, reset and CMOS clear buttons and Asus has added a three-way switch that illuminated the right PCI-E slots to use for single, dual and triple GPU setups, plus there's an XMP-enabling switch too.
It's a decidedly busy PCB and once again we're presented with an extremely awkward primary 16x PCI-E slot lever that's practically hidden by the mid-board heatsink - good luck with that one. Thankfully, Asus has at least double-spaced this and the secondary 16x PCI-E slot so using two air-cooled graphics cards, even with rear backplates, shouldn't hamper cooling and result in throttling.
One area that usually sees improvement if you start spending more with X99 boards is storage, and it's no different with the X99-Deluxe II. You get two M.2 Socket 3/M Key ports for PCI-E M.2 SSDs - this makes sense as there's little point using a SATA-compatible M.2 SSD in a PC unless in super-small form factor builds. There are also two U.2 ports, although it's worth noting that one of these and the PCB-based M.2 port use vertical mounts.
The M.2 port especially can look quite unsightly and we also found it easy to knock - heaven forbid you should snap your Samsung SSD 950 Pro in half, although vertically mounting it is likely to improve cooling. That said, this and one of the U.2 ports do share bandwidth with the secondary 16x PCI-E slot, which will see its speed cut from x16 to x8 - this will only be an issue if you're using two graphics cards though, but there are more severe bandwidth changes if you don't use a 40-lane CPU .
RGB lighting is here again, although it's fairly limited compared to some of the board's we've seen recently, being reduced to the lower half of the PCB and around the PCH, PCI-E slots and audio circuitry.

Specifications

  • Chipset Intel X99
  • Form factor ATX
  • CPU support Intel Socket 2011-v3 (Broadwell-E,Haswell-E, Xeon)
  • Memory support Quad-channel, eight slots, max 128GB
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1150
  • Networking Intel I218V, Intel I211-AT, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Ports 1 x M.2 32Gbps, 2 x U.2 32Gbps, 1 x SATA Express 10Gbps, 8 x SATA 6Gbps, 3 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 8 x USB 3.0 (4 via header), 6 x USB 2.0 (2 via header), 2 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, Optical S/PDIF out
  • Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244
  • Extras 2-way/3-way SLI bridge, PCI-E to M.2 x4 adaptor, Asus 3T3R dual-band Wi-Fi moving antennas, fan extension card, thermistor cables

Test Setup

We use the same hardware to test all LGA2011-v3 motherboards. Due to the GPU-limited nature of many of today's games, we now use two AMD R9 390X graphics cards to allow CPU performance to come into play, especially once the chip is overclocked. AMD and XFX graciously provided two of their R9 390X Double Dissipation Edition graphics cards, and their coolers should prevent the GPUs from throttling when under load.
As many LGA2011-v3 systems will sport multiple GPUs, this is also representative system given the extra PCI-E lanes provided by Broadwell-E CPUs over their LGA1150 counterparts. As such, we also use Intel's Core i7-6850K, which has the full complement of 40 PCI-E lanes available to run both GPUs at x16 speed. It's also considerably cheaper than the two more expensive CPUs in the range, meaning it's a more likely choice for enthusiasts. At stock speed we load optimised defaults and then enable the XMP profile in the EFI, before checking the memory timings are set correctly. We don't change any other settings. Our Core i7-6850K requires at least 1.3V to get to its maximum clock speed - at least that we've found so far, of 4.4GHz. To overclock each board we set the vcore to 1.4V and work backwards to find the lowest voltage that allows us to run at 4.4GHz with stability. We also disable Intel SpeedStep as this can give a huge boost to performance in some situations with only modest increases in power consumption - exactly the kind of compromises you'd be making if you were overclocking anyway.

Test System

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-6850K
  • Memory: 32GB (4 x 8GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX 3,200MHz DDR4
  • Graphics cards: 2 x XFX Radeon R9 390X Double Dissipation Core Edition
  • PSU: Corsair AX860i
  • SSD: Crucial MX100 512GB, Samsung SSD 850 Pro 256GB (SATA 6Gbps speed tests), Samsung SSD 950 Pro 256GB (M.2 speed tests)
  • CPU cooler: Corsair Hydro Series H100i GTX
  • Operating system: Windows 10 64-bit
Thanks to Corsair for supplying the PSU, memory and CPU cooler, to Crucial and Samsung for the SSDs, to Overclockers UK for the CPU and to XFX for the graphics cards.

Tests:

  • PCMark 8 Video 4K encoding
  • PCMark 8 Photo Editing
  • Cinebench R15
  • Terragen 3
  • Ashes of the Singularity
  • Unigine Valley
  • 3DMark Firestrike
  • SATA 6Gbps and M.2
  • Rightmark Audio Analyser
  • Power consumption

Ashes of the Singularity

We use the built-in benchmark of Ashes of the Singularity, which runs through an automatic play-through scene in the game. We've selected the CPU-intensive benchmark option and used high settings with MSAA disabled abd also ticked the option for multi GPU support, all of which are located in the game's video options and benchmark menus. On startup we also select the DirectX 12 version, which is only available to use in Windows 10. We use a 30 second Fraps benchmark to obtain the minimum and average frame rate during the benchmark, beginning at the start.

Unigine Valley 1.0

Unigine's free Valley 1.0 benchmarking tool works well as a graphics benchmark as it is GPU-limited and is thus incredibly taxing on the GPU whilst placing the CPU under very little stress. Unigine's scoring system is effectively linear: a card with 2,000 points is considered twice as fast as one with 1,000 points, and half as fast as one with 4,000 points. As such, you can easily replicate and run the test on your own system to gauge roughly how big a difference an upgrade would likely make for you.

3DMark Fire Strike

Fire Strike is a showcase DirectX 11 benchmark designed for today's high-performance gaming PCs. It is 3DMark's most ambitious and technical benchmark ever, featuring real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today.

PCMark 8 Video Editing

Video Editing v2 Part 2 (Creative 3.0 test suite)


This workload uses FFmpeg to apply video enhancement filters to a high bitrate H.264 video and then encode it to a format suitable for distribution. The FFmpeg binary used is custom built by Futuremark using a development version of the source available from the project's code repository. The test applies a deshaking filter to a source video at 3,840 x 2160 (4K UHD) before scaling down and outputting at 1,920 x 1,080 (1080p).

PCMark 8 Photo Editing V2

This workload involves making a series of adjustments to a set of photographs using ImageMagik - an open-source image processing library to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and gamma. When a favourable balance is found, the changes are then applied to the rest of the images in the set. TIFF files up to 67MB in size are used.

Terragen 3


Planetside Software’s Terragen 3 is a highly realistic landscape generator used to create background images in films and games such as Star Trek: Nemesis, Stealth and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Our script renders a single frame of a snowy mountain scene at 640 x 480 on all the available CPU execution units.

Cinebench R15 64-bit

Cinebench uses Maxon's Cinema 4D engine to render a photo-realistic scene of some shiny balls and weird things (we miss the motorbike). The scene is highly complex, with reflections, ambient occlusion and procedural shaders so it gives a CPU a tough workout.As Cinema 4D is a real-world application - used on films such as Spider-Man and Star Wars - Cinebench can be viewed as a real-world benchmark.

Power Consumption

For the power consumption tests, we measure via a power meter at the wall, so the numbers below are of total system power draw from the mains, not the power consumption of a CPU itself. Measuring the power draw of any individual component in a PC is tricky to impossible to achieve. We use Prime95's smallFFT test to put the CPU under 100 load, while idle power results were taken with the PC sitting at a Windows Aero-enabled desktop.

SATA and M.2 Performance

We test SATA performance with a Samsung SSD 850 Pro, as this is one of the fastest SSDs we've ever tested, and it can saturate the bandwidth of SATA 6Gbps ports.For M.2 port testing, we use a Samsung SSD 950 Pro. This is rated at 2200MB/sec read and 900MB/sec write speeds - not quite saturating the M.2 PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface but enough to give it a good workout. We use CystalDiskMark's 32QD sequential test.

Rightmark Audio Analyzer

We use the Playback/Recording test, first adjusting levels so they're within the benchmark parameters and then using 24-bit 192KHz tracks, we connect the line-in to the speaker/line-out jack using a standard 3.5mm audio cable. Following feedback we felt it important to include some results given that on-board audio is a hotly fought-over area with motherboards at the moment.

Overclocking

We aim for a simple overclock with our test Core i7-6850K, by just increasing the vcore and seeing how far our Corsair H100i all-in-one liquid cooler will get us. We haven't had to go past 1.4V yet to get to 4.4GHz and the X99-Deluxe II managed this using a vcore of 1.36V - not the lowest or the highest we've seen, but this was enough for a lengthy prime95 smallFFT run and churning through our benchmark suite for an hour or two.

Software

The Asus X99-Deluxe II's software suite is practically identical to the X99-A II so to save repeating ourselves, we'll refer you to that review if you want to take a look as our review of it only took place in June and at a glance, all the software was the same.A quick rundown includes AI suite, which offered plenty of options for Windows-based overclocking and system cooling tweaking. You also get Aura - Asus's RGB lighting control software, which allows you to tweak the individual lighting zones or a group, apply different effects and of course pick from a mass of colour options. However, it's also worth noting that you can now do this in the EFI with the X99-Deluxe II, albeit with reduced colour options, but at least is saves you having to install yet more software if just red or green suffice.

EFI

Again there's very little difference between this board and the X99-A II, so we'll refer you back to that review but also provide some EFI screengrabs below.

Performance Analysis

There's something a tad controversial about Asus's recent boards, which is that once you've set the XMP profile, which we do for all stock speed tests, the boards boost quite aggressively. Our Core i7-6850K was rarely below 4GHz, even when idling and this did result in increased power consumption. With the XMP disabled, the idle draw from the wall was 101W but this rose to 124W after it was enabled. This is in line with other boards that do this, but those that are a little more traditional, such as the MSI X99A XPower Titanium, only drew 92W here.
Whether you agree with this or not, the result was a top spot at stock speed in every single one of our tests. This was admittedly not by much in some areas but a clean sweep shows that aggressive boosting and extra power consumption do make a difference. Once overclocked to 4.4GHz, it was still a strong motherboard with top or near top results in nearly everything, although its dominance was limited in the rendering tests. There were no issues with the storage performance, with the board sitting right on the money and managing to max-out our M.2 Samsung SSD 950 Pro too. Audio performance was a tad lower than some of the best boards on test, but just 1dBA is practically within the margin of error here.

Conclusion

If you're lucky enough to have the cash to afford an X99 system, then you need to carefully weigh up your options when it comes to motherboards. A lot will depend on the CPU you're using - there's little point opting for something lavished with generous storage and graphics options if you only have a 28-lane CPU. If you're building a standard system with a single GPU and M.2 SSD, then that further reduces the reasons to go for a board like the X99-Deluxe II - you'd be more than happy with something like the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon, Asus ROG Strix X99 Gaming or Asus X99-A II.
The latter costs £130 less than the X99-Deluxe II and that's enough to get a GTX 1070 over a GTX 1060 or get a much larger or faster SSD, and still have a board that looks the same, has RGB lighting and plenty of features. There's no doubt, then, that the X99-Deluxe II is a niche-appeal board due to its mass of extra features. However, if you're in genuine need of Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 or require several U.2 or M.2 ports and have the cash, then it's a fantastic choice for a monster system.

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