It was 2019 that i discovered the world chinese X99 boards.
I was already using consumer ES (engineering sample) versions of 8700 / 8700t as my processors of choice for hackintosh build, being extremly cost, energy and enviromentally effective; these are pre-production units that are used for validation by motherboard makers and maybe even software developers, and are then supposed to be destroyed.
Used Xeon CPUs similarly come from decommissioned server farms, come in thousands of units to china to be recycled for materials; both find their way into market platforms such as Aliexpress instead.
As the most power in the life cycle of consumer cpus – wich usually run full power for limited amounts of time – is in extraction, refinement of materials and manufacturing and then disposal, saving them from waste is extremly good for the enviroment.
ES also usually run at slightly lower frequency than retail final parts – thus making them much more efficient as the general rule for desktop CPUs; Xeon cpus are also usually tuned to run at lower speed compared to consumer parts, as they are ran 24/7 and efficiency there becomes very important
The issue with used Xeons is they don’t run on regular consumer “Z/B/H” motherboards, but instead require much more expensive (and by 2018 also out of production) X boards; therefore, chinese brands such as Huananzhi started to salvage also the chipsets from older server boards (wich are not useful for personal use) and place them into normal end user products with standard ATX format. This made a whole new market for both theused cpus and the motherboard vendors.
Both “X79” (Sandy and Ivy Bridge arch) and “x99” (Haswell and Broadwell arch) were made – i focused on the latter as it had much better efficiency and IPC, getting very closer actually to the Coffee Lake counterparts.
The RAM on these builds was also savaged from the same servers, usually ECC Registered; one interesting find was that some V3 Xeons, supposed to run only on DDR4, were also capable of using DDR3 providing even more cost saving. In fact, my first purchase was a Shark X99 8D3 and a 2669 v3 “Es” cpu for testing in june 2019. After summer testings with windows, a perfect forum thread on Insanelymac also provided files to use with MacOs.
I spent 1 month in Australia in the end of 2019 where i worked on the X99 platform extensively at CombatXComputers lab. Came back back with tons of great memories – and many GB of ECC REG memory sticks and ES Xeon V3 from TaoBao – as prices of chinese used goods to Australia was crazy cheap.
I proceeded to buy a huge stock of boards from Jingsha factory and that’s how my production started.
The first run went great, and when boards ran out i started to buy more from Aliexpress. Sadly, the one i got from sellers in mid 2020 were not stable and i had to switch to Huanazhi X99 TF – with the help of the amazing youtuber Kostiantyn / Miyconst – to use my huge stock of DDR3 ECC REG and 2678v3 i had bought in the meanwhile.
Production went on – X99 TF from huanan.plwere overall much better, provided more frequency headroom for CPU and RAM and i was happy.
Now, X99 V3 had the huge dual advantages of DDR3 compatibility and Turbo Unlock, but in 2021 some huge stocks of ddr4 also started to appear on the market and made V4 cpus briefly interesting, but the chinese motherboard market had now become hell. X99 TF and similar Huanan boards rose in price, and all the vendors started to cut costs in various ways, usually making different revisions of the same boards with broken functionalities as a result.
In summer 2023 i tried my last attempt at the platform with the 4655 v4 and 2643 v4 QS CPUs for cheap (around 15euros each): these adorable low clock, low core count, 14nm cpus have HUGE cache and are incredibly efficient for gaming – can be run on any crappy vrm and cooler.
Sadly, the Huanan X99 QD4 boards i purchased for this new test run failed with both dying on test bench just 10-15 days after assembly.
Wih the fall of the only reputable brand left on the market, and the incredible uplift in performance that was finally provided by Intel with 12th gen, comes the end of the X99 journey for me. As much as i love