Event Coverage

All of the Intel X299 boards announced so far: ASRock, ASUS, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI

By John Law & Koh Wanzi - 9 Jun 2017

ASUS

ASUS

On ASUS’ end, the Taiwanese company trotted out seven new motherboards, comprising models from its ROG, Prime, and TUF series. They are as follow:

  • ASUS Prime X299-Deluxe
  • ASUS Prime X299-A
  • ASUS TUF X299 Mark 1
  • ASUS TUF X299 Mark 2
  • ASUS ROG Strix X299-E
  • ASUS ROG Rampage VI Apex
  • ASUS ROG Rampage VI Extreme

 

ASUS ROG Rampage VI Extreme

The ROG Rampage VI Extreme sits at the top of the new X299 family. Designed expressly with custom liquid-cooling in mind, it has the usual plethora of fan and pump headers, including dual flow headers to monitor the flow of coolant in your loop.

It also supports the latest 802.11ad wireless standard (the only ROG board to do so), and is equipped with an onboard 10G chip for the fastest connections.

In addition, you can install up to three M.2 SSDs, and there is a U.2 connector for enterprise-grade PCIe SSDs as well. One interesting addition is something ASUS calls DIMM.2, and two of the M.2 sockets are actually mounted on a separate daughterboard that fits into an extra slot adjacent to the real DIMM slots.

This is a modified DDR4 slot that is wired directly to the PCH, and it will not support any memory modules.

ASUS actually went with this approach to solve the problem of M.2 throttling, and this allows you to cool the SSDs with a memory cooler or a separate fan installed on the bundled fan mount.

Another standout feature is the LiveDash OLED screen on the I/O cover. It can appear slightly gimmicky, but it will display useful information like system temperature, CPU frequency, and fan speeds. If you’re feeling whimsical, you can even set it to display an animated logo or figure, for instance that of a cute dinosaur, and ASUS says its working on allowing you to add custom animations.

ASUS ROG Rampage VI Extreme

As the flagship ROG product, it’s also no surprise that the Rampage VI Extreme has been dressed to look the part. However, instead of having LEDs peek out from under the PCIe slots and other components, ASUS has somehow integrated the lighting into I/O cover and the PCB shielding.

The result is quite impressive – when the board is powered off, those components look like solid, opaque pieces. But when it’s powered up, it comes to life, with a striking underglow emanating from the I/O cover, the area around the PCIe slots, and even the underside of the board.

And should you still find your rig too plain, the Rampage VI Extreme comes with three RGB headers – two standard 4-pin ones and a 3-pin addressable header. The latter allows each LED on the strip to be customized independently of the others, thus giving you greater control.

ASUS ROG Rampage VI Apex

ASUS also announced two other ROG motherboards, the Rampage VI Apex and Strix X299-E. While the Rampage VI Extreme is targeted at enthusiasts who want the most feature-rich board they can get, these two boards take a more focused approach.

The Rampage VI Apex is targeted at overclockers, and we don’t just mean tweaking your CPU multiplier while on air cooling. Instead, ASUS says it is a good fit for LN2 overclocking, and even rarer methods like liquid helium.

This board is a slightly quirky one, and is quite rough around the edges (we mean this literally). For starters, the left and right edges sport jagged cutouts, and the SATA ports on the right are actually angled upward for easier cable routing.

ASUS ROG Rampage VI Extreme

In addition, it features just four memory slots, as that supposedly allows for shorter and more optimized trace routing that improves memory stability at high overclocks. The four DIMM slots are then flanked by two DIMM.2 slots that will take a total of four M.2 SSDs.

On the other hand, the Strix X299-E serves as a more affordable way into the X299-based ROG series. This is also the only ATX board here, and the other two are larger E-ATX models.

ASUS ROG Strix X299-E

That said, there are still plenty of storage and connectivity options, such as dual M.2 slots, although one of them requires the drive to stick out straight from the board, which is a slightly awkward proposition. Of course, you could also just stick to the 8 SATA 6Gbps ports the board has.

There are also two onboard RGB headers, one of which is an addressable header like the one on the Rampage VI Extreme.

ASUS Prime X299-Deluxe

Finally, the Prime and TUF boards share certain features with their ROG counterparts. For instance, the Prime X299-Deluxe comes with 802.11ad wireless, an addressable RGB header, and a LiveDash OLED screen.

The TUF X299 Mark I is the higher-end of the two TUF boards, and it features the series' signature look with protective shielding all around the PCIe slots. There's even a 40mm fan built into the PCH heatsink to keep the M.2 SSDs cool, similar to what EVGA did on the X299 Dark. 

ASUS TUF X299 Mark 1

All the Prime and TUF boards also support Intel VROC (virtual RAID on chip) technology, as on the ROG motherboards. In a nutshell, VROC lets you set up bootable M.2 NVMe RAID arrays from the CPU PCIe lanes, theoretically eliminating the bottleneck of data passing through the chipset. The X299 chipset actually supports up to 20 drives in a bootable RAID partition with a Skylake-X CPU, and ASUS' own Hyper M.2 PCIe card will let you install up to four M.2 NVMe PCIe SSDs on a single x16 card, so you can technically continue adding drives in this manner as long as you have an available PCIe x16 slot. 

However, this will only work with Intel SSDs (third-party drives will work in RAID, but not as a bootable partition), so it does have rather limited applicability. You will also need to purchase a hardware key that plugs into a dedicated header on the board to use RAID 1 and 5 configurations (only RAID 0 is available by default).