Learn about DDR4 X-99 Chipset
Last Updated On: August 10, 2015
In this article, we dive down into the X-99 chipset rabbit hole to examine the features of motherboards supporting this chipset. DDR4 motherboards will all support the Haswell-E platform and the x99 chipset. These two features are required in order to use DDR4 memory. A cursory glance over the available DDR4 memory shows that at 16GB per module we should expect to get a staggering 128GB of memory. With that much memory you could load your entire hard drive (assuming a 128GB hard drive of course) into memory. I doubt that any consumer will have a real, legitimate need for this much memory in their computer.
For storage, there are 8 SATA ports. This means that a maximum of 8 hard drives can be connected directly to the motherboard via SATA ports. With drives reaching up to 3TB in size at reasonable prices, you could put up to 24 TB of storage in this computer. That amount is simply insane for a consumer desktop. Midsize companies don’t even have storage systems that large. You might think that with this much capacity you would have to trade-off for speed. Not true. This chipset supports up to 10 gigabits per second data transfer rates via the SATA express port.
The X-99 chipset unlocks the full power of the Haswell-E platform and is available with the Intel Core i7 line of processors. This chipset launched in the third quarter of 2014, so it is still brand new to the market. This chipset supports USB 3.0 and 2.0, and supports up to 14 USB ports. With that number of ports, you should have no problem connecting all of your devices. With 6x USB 3.0 ports and 8x USB 2.0 ports, if you run out of USB ports on this chipset, you have too many devices.
Need storage? No problem. With 10 SATA ports you should have no problem connecting up enough hard drives and optical drives to solve any storage needs in any configuration. With the integrated gigabit networking this chipset makes a great foundation to build a media server or file server on, while making the same computer pull double duty as a gaming platform.
HD Audio, Rapid Storage, and Rpaid Start technologies all round out an already exciting platform for building computers. Some people might say that lack of an integrated graphics chip is a shortcoming in this design, but I say who needs integrated graphics? If you are looking at this chipset there is a strong chance that you already have your eyes on a sexy video card to round out the performance of this system.
This chipset supports overclocking its memory up to DDR4 3200. This is blazing fast for memory access. This speed means that data zips in and out at Autobahn speeds. The faster that data moves in and out of memory, the faster that programs can react to that data, and the higher the perceived performance of a computer system is.
Another feature of this board in the integrated wireless networking. Finally, a desktop motherboard that can access Wi-Fi without needed to install an expansion card. It may not seem like a big thing, but having Wi-Fi on board in a desktop gives you automatic network redundancy in case your pet cat happens to chew through your patch cable during your long awaited gaming session.
Should you upgrade?
Finally, we get to the nagging question of whether or not to upgrade a current system to the new chipset. As we saw earlier, X-99 chipset is only supported on DDR4 motherboards, and those boards only support the Haswell-E processor architecture. If you don’t currently have the right processor, you will need to replace it, the motherboard and the memory. At this point, you are essentially buying a whole new computer.
If your current workstation is meeting your needs, then upgrading just for the increased performance of X-99 chipset will not add that much benefit to your current setup. In this case, you might be better off simply by overclocking your computer.
If you were already planning on a CPU upgrade, then changing out the memory and motherboard will not take all that much more effort. In this case, I would say to go ahead and make the change. If you are on the fence about upgrading, then I say to take the plunge and do it.
The main thing to remember is that unless your computer is currently so starved for memory and performance that it runs like a first generation Windows XP computer, you might not notice a large performance increase from using the X-99 chipset. This is especially true for casual users who just surf the web, read emails, and post pictures of their cats on Facebook. If this use case fits how you use a computer, I would learn more about benchmarking and use a benchmarking tool to compare performance between the old setup and the new setup. Of course, if you need the USB ports or SATA ports that this chipset supports, then the decision to upgrade becomes really easy.
Wrapping it all up
In this article, we talked about the feature set of the X-99 chipset. The large number of USB ports and SATA ports give motherboards on the X-99 chipset a large range of flexibility for different configurations. Possible configurations can run from storage heavy home media servers to lightning fast gaming rigs to highly connected digital creation stations.
With mobile devices almost all using USB-based charging cables, the large number of USB ports on this chipset can change your PC into a mobile charging station. If you are anything like me, you likely have a tablet or two as well as a smartphone that all need to sync data to your PC as well as keep the battery charged. The ample number of USB ports on this chipset make it possible to connect all your mobile devices, external hard drives, digital cameras, and other peripherals without having to use USB hubs or play musical cables with your devices.