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ASUS X99-A Intel Motherboard Review

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Overclocking With The X99-A

As has been their practice for some time now, ASUS provides many different overclocking and performance enhancing features, whose operations covers the gamut from “simple enough for a rank beginner” to “challenging the experienced overclocker”. Frankly it’s gotten a little confusing, as it’s not always obvious how the various systems interact. Here’s what you have to work with– and decide upon:

Hardware Switches

  • EZ XMP
  • EPU
  • TPU I / TPU II

BIOS

  • EZ System Tuning
  • EZ Tuning Wizard
  • AI Tweaker

Windows utility

  • AI Suite 3 / DIP 5
  • Manual control of TPU and EPU

That’s eight different overclocking mechanisms, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I missed a couple. In general the hardware switches have the highest priority: any settings the switch changes will be reset to what the board thinks they should be every time you turn the computer on. For example, if the EZ XMP switch is on, and you go into the BIOS and disable XMP, it will be on the next time you boot the system. This makes sense but it gets more complex when it’s not obvious exactly which settings a switch changes. For example, the TPU I settings doesn’t change BCLK, but the TPU II setting does.

The rule here is that if you’re using any of the software overclocking mechanisms, set all the hardware switches to the Off position. Otherwise the hardware switches will have precedence the next time you boot.

In my previous review of the ASUS X99-DELUXE motherboard, I had problems with the EZ Tuning Wizard and EZ System Tuning features in the BIOS, both of which resulted in an unbootable system. I’m happy to report that both of the options worked perfectly on the X99-A (and I see there have been two BIOS revisions for the Deluxe since I reviewed it, and I’d bet that they work perfectly on this board now, too.)

With the Intel-supplied Core i7-5960X Haswell-E CPU, I settled on four overclocking profiles: stock (none), TPU II, the settings achieved with the 5-way optimization sequence from AI Suite 3, and the best manual overclock I was able to achieve. Here are the settings for each profile:

BCLK Mult XMP? CPU GHz CPU Volts
Stock 100 35 No 3.5 1.1
TPU I 100 39 Yes 3.9 1.17
TPU II 125 31 Yes 3.875 1.2
DIP 5 100 44 (all cores) No 4.4 1.3
Manual OC 100 44 (all cores) No 4.4 1.3

Note something amazing here: for the first time, a motherboard’s auto-overclocking feature was able to achieve the same performance I could manually: in this case, all cores at 44x under load running with a CPU core voltage of 1.3v. I achieved this result by setting the DIP 5 tuning parameters as shown below:

asus_x99a_opt_2

Previously, the X99-DELUXE had come close, but only ran four cores at 44x, dropping down to 43x with 5-8 cores loaded. Also, the X99-DELUXE voltage was slightly lower at 1.25v.

asus_x99a_opt_9

This is humbling. The difference is that AI Suite 3 reached these settings in less than 10 minutes, whereas it took me over an hour. Also, the DIP 5 feature also optimized power usage, cooling, and sound by determining the characteristics of each fan attached to the system.

So how was the performance? Let’s see in the next section.


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