Up For Debate - Are X99 Chipsets Worth Buying

Written by Kyle Echols on Sun, Jul 12, 2015 6:00 PM

It's been roughly a year since Intel's X99 arrived, but the question still remains as to whether there is value now in the platform. There are those of us who do not have excessive money kicking about to make a poor PC build decision. I, for one, had to make such a decision recently, and one wrong move can leave your PC performance and upgrade plans crippled for the next years. 

What that in mind, let’s break down the pros and cons of X99 and what you can expect from it. Firstly, it should be said that Intel X99 supports the Intel Core i7 Extreme and Intel Xeon E5-16xx Haswell-E processors, so the number of CPUs it's compatible with is actually extremely limited. What X99 did bring to the table, however, was the first DDR4 memory support.

DDR4 Memory

Despite sky-high prices this time last year, DDR4 is clearly becoming mainstream. With prices of DDR4 plummeting fast, you can easily find a wide range of ultra-performance RAM for reasonable prices. 16GB of DDR4 memory clocked at 3000MHz for $160, which isn't too much of a premium over the $120 you can expect for pay for 16GB of DDR3 clocked at 2400MHz.

However, DDR4 memory runs at 1.2v rather than the 1.5v standard for DDR3. It won't make too much of a difference on a gaming PC, equating to just 10-20W saving, but every little counts. Secondly, those speeds. DDR4 is typically much faster, as indicated by the clock speed. This means data can be transferred quicker. Ironically, this also causes a few problems - the latency of RAM is measured in ms, and is known as CAS. DDR4 is commonly CAS15, while DDR3 operates from CAS9 to CAS11. These two things counterbalance one another, giving an overall net boost in performance.

Ultimately, DDR4 is better, as you'd expect. That's the very reason it's been created. The DDR4 RAM you buy will be useful for many more years, since DDR3 is steadily being phased out. If DDR4 seemed like a waste of money before, the drop in prices means the reverse should now be true.  DDR4 RAM is much more valuable in the long-term.

X99 Motherboards

To go with X99 you need an X99 motherboard. These are still on the expensive side - you're typically looking at $240 - $340- but there are some very nice boards that can be had for the $160 range if you keep your eyes peeled for sales and rebates. More than that you should keep in mind that X99 CPUs offer the PCIe lanes on the CPU itself now. This means the motherboard should not have nearly as many overclocking limitations as previous boards, which will add more life to any quality CPU+Mobo combination. A penny spent is a penny earned? Perhaps.

CPUs Needed For X99 Builds

Last but not least, picking up an X99 motherboard means you're going to need a new processor to go with. As you saw earlier, both Intel Xeon E5-16xx  and Intel Core i7 Extreme Haswell-E processors are compatible. The former are designed for servers and workstations and aren't applicable to gaming, while the latter is enthusiast-tier gaming processors. 

An X99 i7-5820K 6-core behemoth can be had for as low as $299 if you are near a Microcenter for in-store pickup and ~$400 if bought online. This price easily competes with the top-tier i7 Haswell quad cores selling for only slightly less, such as the Core i7-4790K, which can be had for $340.

From a future-driven perspective, there’s likely no way a 6-core CPU will become obsolete within the next 5 or so years, bar something drastic happening. This is especially true considering how DirectX 12 will make systems less reliant on the CPU for gaming. 

X99 Example Build

  • CPU- Intel Core i7-5820k, Microcenter walk-in $299 (Link)
  • Cooler- Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO, at Amazon $31.24 (Link)
  • Motherboard- ASRock X99 Extreme3, at Newegg $156.98 with $40 promo (Link)
  • RAM- G.SKILL Ripjaws 4 16GB (4x4GB) DDR4 3000MHz CAS 15, at Newegg $169.99 (Link)

Total- $626.28

Z97 Example Build

  • CPU- Intel Core i5-4460, at Superbiiz $166.95 (Link)
  • Cooler- Included with CPU (Link)
  • Motherboard- Asus Z97-A ATX LGA1150, at NCIX $144.99 
  • RAM- G.Skill Ares Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-2400, at Newegg $89.99 (Link)

Total- $401.93

The price for the X99 build is around $220 more, but it's worth bearing in mind that the 4460 will not be able to overclock and the DDR3 RAM will not make the jump into future upgrades. However, does the $220 saving make it worth it to you? What would you do with that money if not placed into the CPU+MOBO+RAM? Let us know in the comments below!

Are X99 gaming rigs worth paying the extra cash for?

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19:01 Jul-17-2015

ill take a 790i over a x99 anyday

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13:53 Jul-17-2015

alittle surprised the answer was no! tbh

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05:02 Jul-17-2015

it's obviously not worth it but it pushes the technology to advance

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14:16 Jul-13-2015

I'd say only if you are upgrading or have the money for it. It costs the same as the 4790k, so I'd just rather go for the 5820k

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14:53 Jul-13-2015

Yeah, X99 Chipset are not really "Worth It" on Price ..

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14:56 Jul-13-2015

price difference between my cpu+mobo+ram and 4790K + 32GB DDR3 + ASUS Z97 Deluxe is about 100$ :)

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18:18 Jul-13-2015

yea since price difference is not that much, I would just go for the 5820k, it has more cores/threads and it will certainly last a long time. I've been seeing more people with 5820k's and I think this will be my next upgrade to combine with my 970's for even more frames on 4k res

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13:24 Jul-13-2015

i'd get a i7 4790k with a good cooler and 32 GB of ram with that money but I'd much rather save that money for a rain day as my rig is still fine

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13:15 Jul-13-2015

well it is lga 2011 so if ya cpu or mb breaks unless they go crazy and change **** you can replace those parts
HOWEVER i dont see them with a sensible tdp (&#60100W)

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09:30 Jul-13-2015

I can't help thinking it isn't fair pitting an i5 against an i7 when the argument is cost discrepancy, the i7 4790K should have been used instead of the i5-4460 - but that's just me.


Still, great article - I'd say that whether or not its worth the premium totally depends on what your doing - if you are solely gaming, probably not, but if you are video editing and such then well, it just may be.

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11:23 Jul-13-2015

I guess you can adjust for the price difference depending on your situation. If you never would have bought an i7 if you were going for a z97 build, then it's a good enough comparison.

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11:33 Jul-13-2015

Fair point :-)


I'm obviously too cheap when it comes to CPUs to bother with Intel anyway haha (I've never bought an Intel CPU) :-P

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18:24 Jul-13-2015

I've also never had an intel cpu on my pc before. My previous PC had an Athlon 64 x2 with a radeon hd 4350, so my current PC is a HUGE upgrade, but I guess you get what you pay for.

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18:48 Jul-13-2015

Heck of an upgrade indeed, very nice rig!! :-)

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09:03 Jul-13-2015

Well imagine the total price of paying for an I7 4790k + mobo+ ram now and then for an hexacore + mobo +ddr4 ram in two or three years ( when games will really use 6 cores and up).
I kinda think that it's worth it actually, for futureproofing.

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08:41 Jul-13-2015

Still waiting for PCIe 4.0 and nvidia's new video cards...

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08:07 Jul-13-2015

For those who disagree about if x99 is worth it because it's too expensive I think that x99 is worth it if you want a truly future proof gaming PC. I think the performance gains with x99 are very noticeable if speaking of DDR4 and i7 6700k.Of cource if you already have a descent gaming PC then the upgrade isnt worth it

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08:09 Jul-13-2015

I think many people don't realize they can barely push i7-4790K or i7-6700K few 100's MHz higher, but I pushed i7-5820K 1GHz higher on all 6 cores and 1.1GHz on 3 cores load, so the OC value potential is really incredible

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08:13 Jul-13-2015

the i7 4790k i got runs happily at 4.8 which is pretty good. obviously the percentage increase is less as its starting point is 4.0 with 4.4 being boost speeds, returning and moving to the i7 5820k tho i want those 4 extra threads :)

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08:20 Jul-13-2015

one of things which made me want 5820K is the heat transfer efficiency, there is no crappy paste between chip and heatspreader, so the chip doesn't overheat within the cpu, also thanks to being about 2x bigger than 1150-socket cpus it allows slightly better transfer to cpu cooler heatsink :)

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08:27 Jul-13-2015

that does make alot of sense and would be better for ur chip in the long run :) im far to excited now to be running 12 tasks instead of 8 in boinc lol (gota admit i do like the idea of better multi gpu support to, adding afew cheap cards for more task threads would be cool)

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11:28 Jul-14-2015

That gets me a little mad everytime I read it. It's just Intel being cheap, they used to not use the paste for any of their processors.

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03:08 Jul-14-2015

Not to be rude, but there's literally no such a thing as a future proof gaming PC. At the rate tech keeps advancing there's just no way to do it. Look back a very short 10 years ago and it's pretty clear. The GPU top dog back then was along the lines of a 7800 GTX. Currently, the 7800 would be completely dominated by a very low-end GTX 750. When I check the 7800 GTX page here, my GPU by comparison is 1267% better.

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03:17 Jul-14-2015

Similarly massive performance differences would be found across all components from then compared to now. Even if you look back only 5 years it's much the same; one of the top GPUs at the time was the GTX 580, and today it's still easily beat by a low-end GTX 760. With the GD comparison, the current 980ti is 171% better than the GTX 580.


And it's only going to change more and more quickly. Top GPU today will likely be surpassed by low-end GPUs in 3-4 years.

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08:01 Jul-14-2015

that's true :)

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19:08 Jul-17-2015

But it doesnt seems to apply the same way with cpu, which lately, seems to be way more futureproof in gaming.

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07:21 Jul-13-2015

Currently, nope imo. Just look at the price.

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06:57 Jul-13-2015

X99 isn't worth it for the price, your build ost $627.... But a local online shop by me the cpu alone cost $494. I didn't even bother looking at other prices knowing the ram would be near the $355 mark. I can build a decent mobo+cpu+ram for $466

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08:08 Jul-13-2015

i7-5820K + ASUS X99-S + 32GB DDR4 ram cost me about 1100$ here, but it's really worth the price for me, since I really needed workstation rig :)
i7-4790K + ASUS Z97 Deluxe + 32GB DDR3 ram would cost about 1000$ here so not a big difference actually

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06:51 Jul-13-2015

X99 is entirely pointless for gaming unless you wish to SLi/Crossfire 3 or 4 cards, where the PCIe lanes will be required but then I would never recommend more than 2 cards as scaling is terrible and frametime variance make the experience less enjoyable even at higher framerates. X99 is ideal for productivity or "pro-sumer" activities like Adobe Premier, rendering, editing videos etc.


http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Intel/Core_i7-5960X_5930K_5820K_Comparison/5.html

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08:04 Jul-13-2015

aand Adobe After Effects and Vegas Pro eat 16Gigs of ram within eye blink :D

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11:24 Jul-13-2015

That too ;)

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05:34 Jul-13-2015

Still rocking an X58 chipset. Just keeps going and going and going....

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05:09 Jul-13-2015

Shouldn't use microcenter prices for one build and not the other. Cpu prices are crazy there and there are less than 30 stores in the US. A 4690k is $200 as I type at microcenter. That would have been a better comparison over the 4460. Also, the z97 Mobo is needlessly expensive. You could get a asus Z97-e for $100 for example and have almost the same board.

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03:52 Jul-13-2015

X99 specs aren't exactly something to shrug off for the most part. Support for LGA-2011v3 processors, USB 3.1, and Quad-Channel DDR4 are all nice features and would doubtlessly perform quite well.


If I were building my PC now, as opposed to nearly 2 years ago when I did, my choices would come with a similar cost. Sabertooth X99 (420$), Core-i7 5820k (490$), 32gb Corsair Vengeance DDR4-2666mhz (360$). For those 3 core components, just under 1300$.

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02:46 Jul-13-2015

Here, an X99 build costs muuuch more than any other build... so, nope.

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02:15 Jul-13-2015

Looking forward to Dx12 & the games that will be supporting DDR4 memory optimization in the future I would say "It is worth it".


However... for right now with only Dx11 & the current library of games available I would say "Why not just wait a little longer for those prices to go down a little more"

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01:43 Jul-13-2015

Maybe not with gaming but maybe with a workstation build it's worth paying the extra money. But when DX12 launches, the 5820K is gonna benefit more than say a 4960K at gaming so it's gonna be a better option if you want a system to last longer without having to upgrade. But that's just my opinion.

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04:37 Jul-13-2015

Yep. I am planning a later dual 5930k build for light workstation use. probably 6 to 7 months from now.

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06:20 Jul-13-2015

I might be a bit behind but they have dual X99 boards now?

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08:02 Jul-13-2015

not X99 chipset but 2011-V3 socket yes, for ex. ASUS Z10PE-D8 WS

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01:25 Jul-14-2015

Yep. X99 is consumer level products, which is why there are no dual CPU boards for it. But I want to use, at least right now, dual 5930k chips because they are a lot cheaper than xeons. I can buy 2 5960x even for half the price of a 16 core xeon. But there are some things xeons add, but i dont need. Still researching

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00:30 Jul-13-2015

The situation is that if someone gives the money i will buy it, If not, I sure i am not on the side of this

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