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Gigabyte x99 Phoenix SLI motherboard- 1

Gigabyte does not operate a web shop as it is, and thus we begin with the product packaging directly.








In case you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, the PC DIY market has been all about RGB lighting as a new feature to get end users to upgrade/buy new. Motherboards are by far the most populated parts with RGB lighting now, and the Gigabyte x99-Phoenix SLI is no exception. The packaging alone makes this obvious when you see it with the product name and the bigger G1 Gaming branding printed in a color spectrum. The box is quite vibrant, if I do say so myself, with the company and product name on the front along with salient marketing features and compatibility listed out. In what seems to be a hint of things to come, this motherboard is listed under their G1 Gaming brand which now includes motherboards, GPUs, peripherals, cases and more but also has their UD (Ultra Durable) label which previously was a separate class of motherboards. It always struck me weird that Gigabyte was claiming one class of motherboards as ultra durable as opposed to others that were then under the question mark for no reason, and perhaps this new series of motherboards which have met their specific requirements to be both is the way to go. It certainly adds to another feature set that their marketing team would love to talk about.

On the back is a lot of useful information if this is the first time you are getting to know about the motherboard, with illustrations of the motherboard as a whole and also more specific features drawn out. In fact, this is the first confirmation that the x99-Phoenix SLI adopts an orange and white color scheme, along with the black everywhere else. I have mixed feelings about this- on one hand, I have associated Gigabyte with the color orange a lot, and on the other it pains me to see a 3 color motherboard with RGB lighting on a lot of different places as advertised. I would always go for a single color (be it a “boring” black or all white) and then let the RGB lighting help the end user adopt the color scheme of his/her choice to match everything else. But this prevents it somewhat and once again people are going to be forced to choose the motherboard and then other components around it to match the color scheme, if desired. Gigabyte is aware of this, and their OCN rep has also mentioned he wants to see this changed sooner than later.

More specifications, in various languages, and the product name + brand again on the sides. A single flap keeps the contents inside in check, locked in place by a smaller flap. I would have liked to see a seal here to assure the buyer he/she is opening a brand new product but we do what we can. As with a lot of motherboards, there is an inner flap which reveals a cutout window to get a good look at the motherboard inside without needing to open the box. This further helps confirm nothing major is wrong inside, and also helps out if you are in a physical store so you can see the motherboard better before making the purchase. A plastic handle is build into the box inside to help carry the whole thing around. Let’s take a look inside this box now.





As expected, this is the view from the cutout in the packaging wherein the motherboard is seen. It is held in place inside a thick, soft foam cutout that protects it from the sides and bottom and has a transparent plastic window on top thus giving a good amount of protection and yet allowing said window to view it. Overall, the packaging to the motherboard itself is fairly good but it will still rely on reseller packaging to get to you in one piece. Below this, and of course I will tease you further by going past the motherboard for now, are the included accessories in a separate compartment which is then further divided into 4 sub-compartments. Let’s now examine what is inside, beginning with the top left:






Included are 2 driver + utilities optical disks, which I generally recommend using only if you have an optical disc drive and are without internet access (the latter is quite possible in some cases if you need specific drivers) but otherwise it is always best to download the latest version from the product page here. In fact, while you are at it, you might want to download the latest BIOS as well if the motherboard is out of date, and we will cover this soon. Gigabyte supports Windows 7/8/8.1/10 which is nice to see, and I have manually downloaded and installed all drivers and utilities available from both the discs as well as the online copies to test and ensure they are working just fine. Again, some of the utilities will be explored later as we get to it. Aside from these, we get a a quick installation manual in multiple languages, a few case badges- both G1 Gaming and UD which further supports my hypothesis of the motherboard classes no longer being an exclusive identifier- for those wanting to display their affection for the brand(s), a Q-connector which is extremely useful when connecting case cables to the motherboard headers, 2 thick hook and loop ties for aiding in cable management, a sheet of pre-printed and pre-color coded labels for storage and optical drives to be used at various lengths along SATA data and power cables for identification with a black space for personal notes, and a very extensive user’s manual an online copy of which can be found here . Do be aware that these are large files collectively, so if you are on a data capped internet plan then perhaps there is another reason to go with the included disks after all. As much as you would wish to do otherwise, please do go through the manual and keep it handy when building the system if only to help debug any issues.

In the top right sub-compartment, we have:






a flexible ribbon style Nvidia SLI bridge with dual PCI-E slot spacing, and this also indicates that the motherboard has dual slot spacing recommended and spaced out for 2 GPUs. Thanks to Nvidia having recently released a new feature set with their Pascal GPU architecture supporting HB (High Bandwidth) SLI that uses two SLI fingers per GPU as opposed to one, these ribbon style bridges have been a point of discussion a lot more than usual. With all indicators pointing to the adoption of HB SLI, and its benefits being out of the scope of this review, it is up to you to decide if you wish to use the included ribbon bridge at all, get another one and use both simultaneously or go with your choice of HB SLI bridge made available from various companies, including Gigabyte as an optional purchase. We also see here the motherboard I/O shield which has the usual RF shielding and soft coating on the side facing the motherboard, and black nickel style finish elsewhere with a light glossy finish that does pick up fingerprints as you handle it but is also easy to scrub away. It does the job, and fits a standard ATX case cutout for the motherboard I/O as well as the motherboard’s specific I/O ports well without interfering with the built-in I/O cover. Aside from the I/O itself which we will get to when we examine the motherboard, a small note of detail here is given to the hex style holes in the region that goes unused. There is in fact a cutout in the I/O cover as well to allow for air to escape from here, although how practical this ends up being is a question not many would be interested in knowing the answer to. The I/O shield is not backlit, and a change from the RGB LEDs everywhere else on the motherboard.

On to the bottom left sub-compartment now:










We have here a Wi-Fi antenna (Gigabyte part number 12CR5-1ANTA1-11R) supporting 2×2 MIMO complaint with IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and has two gold coated female SMA (Sub-Miniature A) co-axial connectors that are to be used with the I/O on the motherboard for Wi-Fi network access. Also included is a 1-to-3 EPS 12V cable adapter (part number 12CF1-1PW035-01P) with 1 male 8-pin ATX connector and 3 female 8-pin ATX connectors. This is a weird accessory as well in that Gigabyte has included a single 8-pin EPS connector on the motherboard to power the CPU which is generally ok but recommends using this if you end up overclocking the CPU. How so you ask? Well, you connect the male connector to the motherboard and the 3 female connectors to 3 EPS cables from the PSU effectively giving the equivalent of triple 8-pin EPS power through it. Even assuming this is safe across all PSUs, I am not sure how many ~500 W PSUs as recommended by Gigabyte will support 3 8-pin EPS connectors. I would have much rather Gigabyte have dual 8-pin EPS connectors on the motherboard itself, especially if they are worried about power consumption from an overvolted, overclocked Intel i7 5960x/6900k/6950x CPU. Also included here is an RGB LED extension cable (part number 12CF1-1LED01-01R) to help connect RGB LED strips further away in a case to the RGB header on the motherboard. The extension cable is 18″ long and should help in most ATX cases, but will require advance planning when laying down the RGB LED strips in the case as well.

Finally, in the bottom sub-compartment we have:







3 pouches of SATA data cables, each of which has 2 cables. One has straight connectors on either end, and the other has a 90° rotated connector on one end to aid in use with HDD cages with muliplle drives stacked or with SSDs installed over the case motherboard panel with a cutout for cables. There are a total of 6 cables thus, and will generally suffice the bulk majority of end users. These cables are covered in a plastic insulation which does help with tight bends and routing in one direction, but not so along the other degrees of freedom. It is also translucent in color, and considering Gigabyte used to (or perhaps still does) include black sleeved cables before which matched better with most PC builds and were just as functional practically. No one needs to have cables that are rated to 80 °C and 30 V, and 26 AWG wiring inside is plenty enough too. Gigabyte, please go back to the black sleeved SATA data cables. It costs you an extra $0.5 per cable at most, and less than that in all likelihood. Also included here is a 3-way SLI bridge, which is a hard PCB style bridge with 2+1 PCI-E slot spacing between the three respectively. There being 2 SLI connectors available to be used per GPU, this may well end up giving a lot of the benefits that the HB SLI bridge provides based on information available at this point. The bridge is mostly black with a matte finish and will go with a lot of build color schemes as well.

Finally, in what seems to be a given these days, is a door hanger:



Nothing to say here really. You will either use this or leave it in the box. Overall, there is a healthy set of accessories provided and on par with what I expected from a high end motherboard. There are some confusing choices made by Gigabyte, but nothing that is a deal breaker. There are also 3 optional accessories available for the motherboard to be purchased separately: a 2-port USB 2.0 bracket (part number 12CR1-1UB030-6*R), an eSATA bracket (part number 12CF1-3SATPW-4*R) and a 3.5″ Front Panel with 2 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (part number 12CR1-FPX582-2*R).

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