GIGABYTE X99-SOC Champion LGA2011-v3 Review
Although we had our hands on two GIGABYTE Super Overclock Series motherboards back in April, we haven't atually reviewed one since the original X58A-OC model that helped launch this hardcore motherboard series all the way back in 2011. Despite the relabel from OC to Super OverClock (SOC) to put the motherboard division in line with the company’s graphics card naming scheme, the fundamental ideas behind this series really hasn't changed. With their unique black and orange colour schemes, plethora of overclocking-focused features, top-quality components, and thoughtfully considered specifications lists, these purpose-built motherboards have always caught our eye.
Today, we have the privilege of reviewing the recently released GIGABYTE X99-SOC Champion. Now in many ways this new Champion model is a slightly stripped down version of the X99-SOC Force designed to hit a more affordable price point. Although this new model is missing a few of the Force's overclocking-oriented features, the most notable difference is obviously the fact that the Champion is the only full-size X99 motherboard on the market with only four memory slots. While this design feature alone might be a non-starter for some users, serious overclockers shouldn't count it out just yet since one of the results of this design is shorter pathways between the memory and the processor, and thus - at least hypothetically - better stability and overclocking potential.
Furthermore, GIGABYTE have chosen this model to introduce a custom CPU socket that contains 2083 pins (instead of the reference 2011) and can bypass the processor's onboard voltage regulation in order to improve CPU and DDR4 overclocking in extreme conditions. Another noteworthy feature is the addition of a 4-pin CPU power connector to supplement the usual 8-pin CPU power connector, which can be critical when pushing Haswell-E chips pass a certain point.
Even those without any overclocking ambitions might find the Champion intriguing since it not only features support for both 4-way CrossFire and 4-way SLI, but GIGABYTE's design allows for all 40 of the CPU's PCI-E 3.0 lanes to be diverted towards the PCI-E x16 slots for graphics use. That doesn't mean that they neglected the storage capabilities though. There is ample USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s connectivity, as well as one SATA Express port and a high-speed M.2 20Gb/s slot. Rounding things off is a Realtek-based onboard audio solution with a built-in headphone amplifier, and some pretty cool LED-powered lightning effects.
All in all, the SOC Champion can be considered a "stripper" X99 board, its feature list is long and its overclocking roots are deep. With a price of "just" $350, there are some serious ramifications for future motherboard generations if GIGABYTE's idea of an overclocker-focused yet relatively affordable product finds success. The odd thing about this is that as of the time of writing the Champion seems to have been pulled from retail channels without any evidence that it was ever available now that the initial batch has been sold off.
So does this motherboard have what it takes to entice the Haswell-E overclocking crowd? Let's find out.
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