GIGABYTE X99-SOC ChampionFor years on end, GIGABYTE�s orange and black overclocking boards have been legends of sorts within the community. From the original X58-A right up to the latest X99-SOC Champion, they have always been met with great expectations and for the most part they have risen to expectations.
Unfortunately as we had feared when the X99 chipset was introduced, most vendors including GIGABYTE had a good motherboard, but there was the Rampage V Extreme which stood lightyears ahead of the rest. It seemed we were destined to have a repeat of the X79 lifecycle with no alternatives to a single motherboard, forcing everyone to either buy that or pretty much give up on the platform as a whole.
Fortunately, GIGABYTE had been working on a better motherboard, the X99-SOC Champion. This motherboard was in the works for a very long time, in fact as soon as four weeks after the launch of the chipset, this was the motherboard that was set to supersede the X99-SOC Force, which is still the premium X99 motherboard from GIGABYTE on retail shelves. How the SOC Champion is different isn�t obvious for the most part. One is likely to notice the lower price, simpler layout and perhaps a few buttons missing from the OC button area which was previously laden with all kinds of switches and diagrams.
The motherboard is stripped down, in fact it only has four memory banks as opposed to eight. Where previous motherboards packed as much as they could onto their offerings this one is sparsely populated, ticking only the basic boxes such as offering SATA Express connectivity (as single port), the usual SATA 6Gbps ports, a single M.2 2280 expansion slot and the ALC1150 powered audio we�ve seen on every GIGABYTE motherboard of late. There�s a single Intel Gigabit LAN controller, support for a PS2 mouse and keyboard and only four USB 3.0 ports at the rear, with the other two sticking to the normal USB 2.0 spec. There�s no quick BIOS flashing button, there�s no CMOS reset at the rear; in truth this motherboard Is pretty barren.
Yet, despite all this there�s one switch which gives It all away that this is the X99 motherboard that rivals the Rampage V Extreme and In many ways Is actually far better. There is an ??-Socket switch at the edge of the board where your graphics card would extend to essentially. This switch makes it possible to selec which socket you choose to use, be It the standard 2011 pins or the enhanced 2083 pin socket. This may come as a surprise to you but there are more than 2011 pads on the underside of all 2011-V3 CPUs. These pins were previously unused and general consensus was that these are not necessary as they are for debugging and various other testing that Intel would perform on their CPUs. It turns out that these may be useful for overclocking related endeavours. This doesn�t mean the normal socket one finds on every other motherboard is lacking � they are not.�It�s just that if you really want to push the CPUs on the platform these additional pins may make It much simpler.
For Instance the SOC Champion much like the Rampage V Extreme, will allow northbrldge clocks above 4GHz and If the CPU is cooled with dry ice and even better, liquid nitrogen, this may see frequencies In excess of 5.6GHz. This clock makes a massive difference In synthetic benchmark scores and has a real tangible effect on the available system bandwidth. On the previous boards this was limited to 3.5GHz, but even with air coolers, the SOC Champion allows one to reach speeds up to 4.5GHz depending on your particular CPU sample.
Matching this newfound ability to overclock is the memory frequencies which the SOC Champion is capable of reaching. At the time of writing it was the only motherboard that had managed to validate and operate memory at 4GHz across all four channels in tandem. Usually memory overclocking feats or achievements are performed with only a single stick of memory occupying a single channel which is great, but doesn�t speak of the motherboard�s ability to overclock very well in the hands of an amateur, or even stability. Having it run 4GHz on all four channels Is a feat that at the time of writing had only been achieved on this motherboard. For more reallstic, everyday usage scenartos, the SOC Champion is more than capable of operating memory at 3,333MHz. It truly Is a remarkable motherboard, which does away with so many luxuries, and Instead gives the highest overclocking headroom and flexibility.
For outright performance and tuning this is the motherboard to buy given that it retails for less than half the price of the Rampage V Extreme in the markets where it�s been made available. It is without question the motherboard to buy for competitive overclocking or if you�re one looking to maximise the performance of your 2011-v3 CPU. You�re not going to find a motherboard that can claim to overclock better regardless of how much more you choose to spend and, when It comes to performance, the SOC Champion certainly delivers the goods.
The only downside to this motherboard is that there�s nothing on the packaging or anywhere from GIGABYTE that may suggest to one that this Is actually the company�s highest performing X99 motherboard. Looking at the SOC Force, and the other boards from the Ultra Durable range, it�s easy to overlook It and pick the others especlally because they have many more features and a higher price tag. You would however be doing yourself a disservice if performance Is what you are after. We would gladly sacrifice everything else that Is offered on the alternatives for a chance to maximise the performance of the platform on this board because it really does deliver there and it is very simple to configure. With memory kits getting faster by the quarter, this motherboard will be able to handle them Just fine and there will be no artificial bottleneck as there would possibly be with the other boards. If you�re in need of better audio than what this motherboard provides, then you may look at a discrete audio card, but there�s pretty much nothing that would make this motherboard worth passing up on should you be in the position to buy it.
The SOC Champion Is truly a motherboard worth owning and there�s nothing else on the market quite like It. This Is easily the fastest and most exciting X99 motherboard we have come across to date. It is a definite must-have. Neo Sibeko

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