When Unlocked head honcho Josh Ray swings open the doors with a FedEx box in his hands, you know you’re in for good times. “Hey,” he says, “want to do a build with GIGABYTE’s new X99 Phoenix?” Be still, thy component-building heart. Alas, we only had a day to do a build before GIGABYTE needed the motherboard back to take it to Computex. But that didn't stop us from throwing a build together to try out the sweet Broadwell-E action on GIGABYTE's latest X99 creation.
Also, be sure to check out all our Broadwell-E Coverage here.
If you’re late to the party, the X99 Phoenix is one of GIGABYTE's new X99 motherboards meant to take advantage of Intel’s latest extreme CPU generation, codenamed Broadwell-E. Aside from supporting a monster chip, the GIGABYTE X99 Phoenix features all the X99 goods: up to 128GB of quad-channel DDR4 RAM across eight slots, both NVIDIA and AMD’s 3- and 2-way multi-gpu solutions, double Intel-built gigabit Ethernet ports, as well as new Intel 3.1 USB controller for both Type-C and upcoming Thunderbolt 3.
Also, the board features a U.2 (pronounced “u dot two”) connector. U.2 you ask? Currently, only the Intel 750 U.2 model is available for the unusual plug, but since all the new X99 boards feature U.2, it’s clear Intel is pushing U.2 as a replacement for SATA.
Even outside of all those features, the Phoenix strikes a pose. GIGABYTE outfitted this motherboard with lots of white trim where possible, and – which we’ll see later – LEDs, which line every conceivable line segment along the ram, cards and other areas. In fact, if you ever use one in an open bench-type build, don’t be surprised if insects start attempting to use it as an airport.
Silent Orange 6850k Build
GIGABYTE Phoenix FTW
SLAMMING TOGETHER A SYSTEM
Since we just got our Broadwell-E CPUs, we only had time to raid our horde of spare cases, PSUs and other parts. Ideally, we'd keep it all in the family -- case, PSU and cooler -- but we want to get Broadwell-E up and running.
First, let’s start with an Intel Core i7-6850k. It’s built on a 14nm manufacturing process, and features six blistering cores with a 3.8GHz boost clock, though you’ll notice the “k” so this is an unlocked CPU. With the highest clock of the new Broadwell-E CPUs, I'm guessing this will be one of the most popular models.
As for a case, we have the German-engineered be quiet! Silent Base 600 Orange Window model, just waiting to be stuff to the gills with cutting-edge hardware. You might not have heard of be quiet! outside of what a librarian tells you to do when you’re trying to use Siri in a public place, but their cases have a well-earned reputation of living up to their namesake, as well as being built sturdy and strong. We’ll get into the details in a bit, but it’s certainly a unique case.
As for storage, we grabbed an Intel 750 400GB PCIe model. These new PCIe SSDs are over 400% faster than traditional SSDs so, yeah, it should do the trick.
Oh and we also had an NVIDIA GTX 1080 Founders Edition just lying around. We’ve heard it’s a kind of fast card that a couple people are excited about so we put it in. It’s the first card based on NVIDIA’s new PASCAL architecture, and has performance gains across the board that are worth looking at. Like massive freaking gains. While we would have loved to pop in a GIGABYTE 1080 Windforce with its silent fans, the Founders is the only model available at the moment. Yeah, life is hard.
For cooling, we had a LEPA EXllusion 240 floating around the office. With its clear tubes and 400w cooling, it’s a perennial favorite for builds where black tubing just doesn’t cut it. It also features red, green and blue dyes, which you can add to the cooler for more of a spectacle. We’ll have a review of this cooler later.
Finally, a RAIDMAX Vampire PSU is in for review so, well, in it goes. Alas, no sleeved cables here, our collection is in another build, so it's all stock cables for the Phoenix.
Now that we’ve collected our parts, it’s time to evaluate how they came together, and what you need to look out for when installing all of this awesome hardware in one place.
In a phrase, our X99 Phoenix build turned out great. We booted into Windows 10 with no issues, and proceeded to get the machine up and running on a beautiful 35” Acer Predator Z35 monitor.
Despite being cobbled together on a whim with none of the custom touches this monster PC deserves (sleeved cables, custom loops, etc.), the performance was stellar. For those looking for orange-themed extreme build, the GIGABYTE Phoenix‘s LED show was pretty impressive and begs for 12v LED strips to be included in a custom build. And while we didn’t have time today to test it, we imagine all of the dye-infused fun we could have had with the EXllusion 240. Between that cooler and the LEDs, it’s certainly a colorful beast.
This build was very quiet too. That’s because of the be quiet! Case did its job to suppress the fans from being audible to the world outside.
That said, the Founders Edition 1080, with the lower airflow of the be quiet! case, was causing some thermal throttling issues. These issues seem to be the result of NVIDIA's less-than-perfect launch drivers. When GIGABYTE releases their custom cards, we expect much higher performance.
In the end, this is one killer combo with the i7-6850k processor and GTX 1080. It should be, it's seriously expensive. We didn’t get around to overclocking the CPU or going for SLI action on the Phoenix. But the future looks bright, especially with all the GTX 1080 cards landing and some huge AAA titles appearing this fall.
Alas, we only had the Phoenix for a hot second before GIGABYTE came by to pry it out of our sweaty hands.