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Tuesday, 1 September 2015


Gigabyte X99 SOC Champion Motherboard: Review and Specifications

So here I am again, with another Gigabyte Motherboard (honestly they should hire me as their Brand Ambassador) This time I have the champion of champions, the Gigabyte X99 SOC Champion for review. As the name suggest, it is based on  the X99 Chipset that supports the LGA2011-3 CPUs.
Now, before taking a look further in its various features, I would like to highlight one most important detail that no one can overlook ie, unlike most X99 based boards that have eight DDR4 DIMM slots, the SOC Champion has a total of four slots supporting up to 32 GB of system memory. Since Gigabyte is advertising it as a board that is for Overclocking needs and not a workstation board, I think the four RAM slots are completely justifiable, as noone actually needs more than 32 Gb of RAM. Plus the XMP profile that supports upto 3400 Mhz of memory read/use compensates for the lesser RAM slots well.
One key feature that truly makes it an enthusiast grade board, in my books, is the CPU_MODE dip switch located right next to the SATA connectors. Flipping the CPU_MODE switch to “on”, enables all of the 2083 PINs on the CPU socket. Having a switch to enable or disable the OC socket is a nice feature as it allows you to run your CPU within normal specs when not Overclocking.
Lets take a detailed look of other features of the SOC champion:

What's in the Box

Since the aim of Gigabyte was to provide features to overclockers in budget, the cost cutting can be seen in the packaging. The box has nothing special to offer and the motherboard is packed in a plastic bag.

The first thing that strikes me on opening the box is the beautiful colour scheme offered by Gigabyte. The X99 SOC champion has an Orange and black color combo and appears powerful just by the looks. It comes with:
  • Four SATA6G cables
  • 2-way, 3-way and 4-way SLI and CrossFireX bridges
  • One I/O shield
  • One driver DVD and manuals

Layout and Closer Look

Starting with the Heatsink, the new heatsink design gives SOC champion a sleek and premium look. On removing the heatsink I found out that all the three heatsink are inteconnected through a single copper tube which s chrome plated to increase thermal conductivity and keep the CPU cool even during extreme overclocking sessions justifying the SOC champion as the Overclocker's Board. The board has a total of five fan headers but only the CPU fan header supports PWM control. The back-panel I/O features a 1GBit NIC, four USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 keyboard and mouse, and a 7.1 TOSLINK for audio with S/PDIF out.
As far as PCIe slots, there are a total of four full length x16 physical slots with three PCIe x1 physical slots between them. The first PCIe slot is directly wired to the CPU, bypassing any switching. So, be sure to put your single GPU in that slot for best performance. When using multiple GPUs, three way SLI/CrossFireX is supported on this board with a 5820K (28 lane CPU), but it breaks down to a x16/x8/x4 configuration, which is not optimal and also happens to not be supported by SLI in the first place. If you want to run more than two cards, I would suggest getting a 5930K or 5960X (40 lane CPU).
Even though it is a budget segment motherboard, I was surprised to see the Ambient LED feature in the X99 SOC champion. There are LEDs on the backside that illuminate the PCB isolation, upgraded Nichicon audio capacitors, and an amplifier for the back-panel headphone port. Lets move on to other specifications.

Features & Specifications

The features offered by the Gigabyte X99 SOC Champion are:
  • Supports New Intel Core i7 Processor Extreme Edition
  • Support for DDR4 XMP up to 3400MHz
  • Genuine All Digital Power Design with IR Digital PWM & IR PowIRstage ICs
  • Exclusive GIGABYTE OC Features
  • Server level Chokes
  • Gold Plating for CPU socket, Memory DIMMs and PCIe slots
  • Extreme 4-way SLI and CrossFire support
  • Turbo M.2 connector for up to 20 Gb/s data transfer
  • SATA Express support for 10 Gb/s data transfer
  • Intel gaming networking
  • Realtek ALC1150 115dB SNR HD Audio with Built-in rear audio amplifier
  • Long lifespan Durable Black Solid caps
  • APP Center including EasyTune and Cloud Station utilities
  • Thunderbolt Ready

Support for DDR4 XMP up to 3400MHz

 The Gigabyte X99 SOC champion supports a total of 32GB of DDR4 RAM through only four DIMM slots with XMP profile. Now what is so cool about this feature? Well basically, DDR4 memory modules are available at a stock frequency of 2133MHz, but memory vendors encode XMP profiles which can automatically modify the frequency and timings of the supported memory modules to work in par with your CPU.
Gigabyte is offering a tested and proven platform that ensures proper compatibility with profiles up to 3400Mhz for the X99 SOC Champion.

IR Digital PWM and IR PowIRstage ICs

This new generation of IR digital power controllers and PowIRstage ICs feature Isense technology, which provide more precise current sensing accuracy. This helps evenly distribute the thermal loading between the PowerIRstage ICs, preventing the overheating of each individual PowerIRstage, resulting in longer lifespan and better reliability.

Long Lifespan Durable Black Solid Caps

Gigabyte X99 series motherboards integrate the absolute best quality solid state capacitors that are rated to perform at maximum efficiency for extended periods, even in extreme performance configurations. This provides peace of mind for end users who want to push their system hard, yet demand absolute reliability and stability, with ultra-low ESR no matter how high the CPU loading.

Exclusive OC Buttons

The Gigabyte X99 SOC Champion features a careful selection of some of the most critical OC Buttons found on the X99 SOC Force motherboard. The design philosophy behind these OC Buttons is simple; to help enthusiasts and overclockers not only get the most performance from their hardware, but also the absolute most enjoyable OC experience.

Gold Plated CPU Socket

Gigabyte X99 motherboards come equipped with gold plating for the CPU socket, which means that enthusiasts can enjoy better connectivity, absolute reliability and longevity for the diverse connectors overtime, without having any concerns about corroded pins.

Realtek ALC1150 115dB SNR HD Audio with Built-in rear audio amplifier

The Realtek CODEC achieves a 115db SNR while providing 10 DAC channels. It will simultaneously support 7.1 channels through the rear outputs and 2 channel independent stereo playback through the front panel. It has a built in headphone amp as well.

Intel GbE LAN with cFos Internet Accelerator Software

Untill now, Gigabyte was providing us with Killer E2200 in all the Gaming series and UD series but in SOC Champion we have the Intel GbE LAN for Connectivity. cFos Speed works in a similar way to an OS driver, monitoring network traffic packets at the application layer, allowing optimization and improved network performance for specific applications.

Gigabyte App Center such as EasyTune and Cloud Station Utilities

The Gigabyte App Center gives you easy access to a wealth of Gigabyte apps that help you get the most from your Gigabyte motherboard. Using a simple, unified user interface, Gigabyte App Center allows you to easily launch all Gigabyte apps installed on your system, check related updates online, and download the latest apps, drivers, and BIOS.
Gigabyte EasyTune is a simple and easy-to-use Windows-based software application that allows users to fine-tune their system settings.
• Adjust system and memory clocks and voltages in a Windows environment.
• System-related information display without the need to install additional software.


The X99-SOC Champion has the same UEFI as Gigabyte's other 9-series boards including the UD5 WiFi which I'd reviewed earlier. Users are presented with three firmware interfaces: a novice-friendly Startup Guide, an enthusiast-oriented Smart Tweak UI, and an old-school Classic Mode, all switchable to one another by pressing F2. Here's what Smart Tweak UI looks like on the SOC Champion:

Upon entering the 1920×1080 (dependent upon your monitor’s resolution) UEFI, Gigabyte opens the frequency page. The interface packs large amounts of information into a single screen by virtue of its 1920×1080 resolution. Voltages, frequencies and other monitoring parameters are consistently scattered around the outside of each page.

Entering Classic Mode provides everything included in Startup Guide and Smart Tweak, plus an even more detailed set of options. The look and feel of Classic Mode is a little old school, but it works well and is easy to navigate. When entering Classic Mode, you first land in the M.I.T. (Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker) area where everything you need to overclock is found. There are six sub menus where you can access frequency, memory, and voltage settings. The sub menus also contain your system monitoring, fan control options, and a few other miscellaneous options.

Load Test and Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7 5960X (OC at 4.7 GHz) 
Motherboard: GIGABYTE X99 SOC Champion 
RAMs: Corsair Vengeance LPX 2800Mhz 16GB DDR4 (4x4) 
CPU Cooler: Corsair H110 CPU Liquid Cooler 
Graphics card: Gigabyte R9 290X windforce 3X OC 4GB DDR5 
Hard disc: ADATA SP920SS 256 GB SSD 
Power Supply: Cooler Master V1200 1200W 80+ Platinum 

Super Pi Moded

This test shows that the X99 SOC Champion is a very capable motherboard and is able to harness all the power of the i7 5960X. It also shows that there is no real memory bandwidth issues.

Intel XTU

Intel® Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel® XTU) is tweaking and monitoring software used not only for benchmarking a system but also is a handy over clocking tool. On an over clocked Intel 5960X at 4.7Ghz an impressive score of  was obtained

CineBench R15

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.

3D Mark

3DMark Firestrike is Futuremark’s latest creation for testing the GPU performance of high-end gaming PCs using Direct X 11 graphics.


We put the SOC Champion through the very popular and reliable AIDA64 benchmarking and stress tool.
The results obtained were impressive and the board passes with flying colors.

Assasin's Creed Unity

Due to its poor PC port optimization the AC Unity puts heavy load on both the CPU aswell as the GPU of any configuration so we used it to see what FPS range our system could produce on the Gigabyte X99 SOC Champion. The results were great and we obtained good FPS on Ultra Settings at 1080p resolution.

Crysis 3

Every PC enthusiast knows that the Crysis 3 is very punishing game for any configuration especially when you set all the settings to maximum. We did the same and the results were more than impressive!

My Verdict

Now it time to give Gigabyte X99 SOC Champion its report card, and I must say it passed with flying colors!  Overall, I was impressed by the ‘made-for-overclocking’ more than anything else approach they took. Few festures were missing but for an entry lebvel motherboard in the Overclocking division, Gigabyte has done the job well. Appearance wise, its a beautiful looking board and I really like the black and orange theme they have going on in their overclocking lineup.
With priced at around $280 its a steal deal as its competitors are providing Overclocking Motherboards at much higher price. I would say its value for money and any overclocking enthusiast whose on budget should go for the Gigabyte X99 SOC Champion without second thoughts. I would give it 8.5/10.
Shivani Mishra
About the Guest Author:
An Engineer by profession and a writer by passion. Trying to solve others problems and learning in the due course.

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