Closer Look- Ports and Layout
In terms of packaging the Asus X99-A does not take any trophies home, it displays all necessary features and specifications and give a good idea of what the board would look like. I personally would have enjoyed a display flap similar to the Asus Republic of Gamer boards, the X99-A is up there with the price range anyway.
Once again, nothing out of the ordinary came with the X99-A in terms of bundled accessories, it is actually quite bare. Aside from the motherboard Asus includes a single 2 way SLI/Crossfire bridge, 4 SATA cables, drivers CD, manual, I/O back plate, and an Asus Q connector kit.
Aesthetics wise, Asus decided to go with a tasteful black and white scheme that can complement many cases and power supplies currently in the market. Although the heatsinks are not as noticeable in the X99-A as they are in the X99-Deluxe they still offer a significant appeal, many workstation motherboards capable of running Xeon processor have non-matching components and still look like technology from the early 2000s, with the X99-A Asus was definitely trying to appeal to the gamer and enthusiast crowd.
As far as overall layout goes, you are looking at your typical 2011 socket board, 8 RAM slots, 4 on each side of the CPU, and a humongous CPU socket with threaded holes to apply 2011 and 2011-3 compatible heatsinks. It is important to note that the Asus X99-A contains a 2011-3 socket which is not backwards compatible with non Haswell-E chips and their Xeon variants. Any processor you buy for this board will not contain a stock cooler so you will have to provide your own, between the socket and the cooler there is a significant amount of space, more than I have seen on other X79 boards to place any oversized coolers you may be fond of.
On the back panel we have 6 USB 3.0 and 4 USB 2.0 all powered by the decent but not amazing ASMedia chip, your typical audio connectors with digital optical, intel gigabit Ethernet controller, a PS/2 port and an Asus signature bios flashback. The bios flashback works in an unusual, it would seem like a CMOS reset or a sort of dual bios boot system to a stable legacy bios. Instead, the bios flashback it is simply to allow you to place the updated bios on a USB drive so that it can be loaded via specific USB slot after holding down the bios flash back button for three seconds, the entire system worked relatively well but was rather difficult to tell when it was finished loading. Overall, for the high end X99 chipset the X99-A does not introduce any revolutionary features in the I/O area.
Asus has included Crystal Sound 2 audio which is sounds amazingly well for onboard audio, take a look at the RightMark Audio Analyzer results in the benchmark section of this review.
Looking at the other end of the board we see 10 SATA 6Gbps ports 6 which support RAID via Intel Rapid Storage Technology and the others using a separate driver. One of the most exciting addition to the X99 chipset has been the addition of a M.2 slot capable of 4GB/s of bandwidth! On this side there is also the front panel USB 3.0 ports which are a pain to install due to the connector not being at a right angle, a big disappointment when having to deal with cable management.
For an enthusiast board the Asus X99-A only has 3 PCIe slots giving this board the capability of running three video cards in SLI/Crossfire, unable to take advantage of the 40 PCIe lanes that the Intel i7-5960X and i7-5930K each have.
Looking at the mosfet heatsinks on the Asus X99-A we see a similar color scheme to the X99-Deluxe but at a small scale, they are not as prominent and don’t take up as much space. Nevertheless, the Asus X99-A is a great board to look at.